REJOICE BECAUSE YOU KNOW JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
11 DECEMBER 1994
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 John 1:4
The understanding of what true joy is all about, and how it is acquired, is something that must take place in the spirit and soul of the person.
Joy is an eternal state of being, much in the same way love is.
You can't buy it.
You can't sell it.
You can't even borrow or lend it.
Joy is a gift of God we should receive when we are born again.
If I would say to someone who has just lost a loved one "Be happy!" they would think I was crazy, because they are very sad.
But when I say "Don't let your grief take away your joy" then, if they are a believer, they usually say something like, "I won't. I know the Lord is with me."
Joy and happiness are not the same things.
Happiness, as well as sadness, can come and go as situations change.
We think of having happy marriages but, as all of us who have been married a long time can tell you, not every moment is happy; but the joy of that relationship can always be there.
When Paul was in prison, he wasn't happy, but he was joyful.
He wasn't joyful about being in prison; he was joyful because he knew the Lord was with him and would carry him beyond his troubles.
Listen to what he says in Philippians 4:4-7.
4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5. Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Did you hear what he said?
"The Lord is near."
So, if the Lord is near to us in our soul and spirit, then we will understand in our mind and body.
And when we come to understand in our mind and body, we are able to forbear, or see beyond any present problem.
Here, also, Paul tells us to do the same thing that John told us last week (1 John 1:4):
4. And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
And Paul said, "Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men."
When we tell others about what the Lord has done in our lives, our own joy is made complete.
Now, with these thoughts in mind, let's look back to the rest of what Paul is saying.
6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
He says, "Be anxious for nothing."
Don't worry about what the other person did.
Don't worry about what the other person didn't do.
Don't worry about your lack of money.
Don't worry about what you’re going to do with all your money.
Don't worry about your health.
Don't worry about when you’re going to die.
Just don't worry about anything.
But one thing we are to do, though, is count our blessings.
We are to be thankful for what we have.
And being thankful for what we have is part of our joy.
That's why Paul is telling us to pray with thanksgiving, for when we do, then, as Paul says, "…the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
This is living in a state of joy!
During the reign of King Josiah in Judah, the Prophet Zephaniah spoke forth to try to get the people to reform.
His message was of the coming judgment of God, which is a two-fold prophecy: the first being when they were destroyed and captured by Babylon, and the second is yet to come in the tribulation period.
Now, this sounds quite depressing, doesn't it?
Such a message seems to have anything but joy in it, but that lack of joy is only for the non-believer.
For the true believer, there is always joy, as is evidenced in the last recorded words of Zephaniah's prophecy, 3:14-20; because he saw beyond the present hypocrisy, and the judgment to come, to a better world, as should we.
14. Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
When we look around our community, and around the world, and we see all the cruelty and hardness of heart, things can become very depressing, can't they?
Zephaniah saw these things just as we see them, but even in the midst of seeing this, he still calls upon believers to rejoice, not at what they see around them, but because they should be able to see a better world to come.
And remember, many people cope with this hardness of heart by becoming hard of heart themselves.
But the people of God retain their broken hearts, for the evil we see hurts deep into our souls and spirits.
But just because we feel this pain in our hearts, doesn't mean we have to lose our joy; to the contrary, it should increase our joy, not over the evil we see, but in the hope and assurance that God will soon bring this all to an end.
15. The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
16. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
"Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
17. "The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Do you hear how joy and love tie together?
If we live in a state of love with God, we will share that love in this world.
If we live in a state of love with God, we will see beyond the evil times to the good times, and share that vision with others.
If we live in a state of love with God, we will show the world a better way of living, for we will set the proper example of kingdom living, even in our own time.
And when we live this way, the Lord Himself rejoices over us, and in His joy, we have abundant joy.
It is this joy, which is seen in us, that encourages others.
18. "I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts-
They came from you, O Zion;
The reproach of exile is a burden on them.
19. "Behold, I am going to deal at that time
With all your oppressors,
I will save the lame
And gather the outcast,
And I will turn their shame into praise and renown
In all the earth.
20. "At that time I will bring you in,
Even at the time when I gather you together;
Indeed, I will give you renown and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,"
Says the Lord.
And it's God's love in and around us that gives us the power to accomplish this state of being, just as Zephaniah knew, and just as Paul knew when he gave the following outline to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a):
4. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8. Love never fails;
Let's take a closer look at this outline for living.
Love is patient, but when we are not patient, we can lose some of our love and, thus, some of our joy.
Thus we must learn to see beyond the present, and relax, for we know things will work out.
Love is kind, but if because of the unkindness we see around us, we decide not to be kind, we lose some of our own love and joy.
Even if no one else is kind, we should always be kind.
Love is not jealous.
So when we allow ourselves to become jealous, we are actually setting aside our love and joy.
We need to learn to trust.
Even if other people fail us, we can still trust in God, and thus retain our love and joy.
Love does not brag and is not arrogant.
So, if we act this way, we are not showing our love, for in the process we can hurt others.
Love does not act unbecomingly.
If we show our love and joy, others may gain some hope, too, and find true love and joy.
Love does not seek its own.
If we love, we will speak of the wonders of God and of what He has given us, and not how wonderful we are.
Love is not provoked, and does not take into account a wrong suffered.
This can be a hard thing for most people, for when someone does something against us or against those we love, it's all too easy to get angry, and want to fight back.
In the process, we have a tendency to hold grudges.
And all this accomplishes is to make ourselves miserable, thus causing us to lose some of our love and joy.
Let the evilness of this world rest upon the heads of the evil ones.
Our love is stronger than their evilness, and in this assurance we can remain joyful.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.
We are not to rejoice over the fact that one person does evil against someone else's evilness.
In other words, two wrongs don't make a right, and we are not to rejoice over that kind of action, for it destroys the true meaning of love.
But we are to rejoice with the truth, when we see evilness exposed for what it is.
Love bears all things.
If we love and have joy in our hearts, then we should bear all things, and not just the things we want to bear.
Love is not selective; it is unconditional.
Love believes all things.
This is one of the “Pollyanna” conditions of love.
Accept what others tell you, until it is proved to be wrong.
We are not to put up our guard so tightly that we keep out the good words, while protecting ourselves from lies.
If others lie, that’s their problem, and not ours.
Why should we allow what others do and say to take away our love and joy?
Love hopes all things.
And the biggest thing to hope for is the return of Jesus Christ, for then we will be living in a complete state of love and joy.
It's as Isaiah tells us in 11: 9.
9. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
Shouldn’t such a promise of love cause us to hope all things?
Love endures all things, too; and this is learning to have the eyes of the prophet, and to be able to see beyond what is wrong to the way things should be.
Love enables us to speak out to others in the hope of their changing their ways.
But our joy should never be affected.
Love never fails.
No, it doesn't!
And if love never fails, neither should our joy.
This is what Christmas is all about.
It's really the celebration of God's love for us, even when we were yet sinners.
For God saw beyond our evilness, to the people He created us to be, in the hope that we would change our ways.
This is the same love that allowed Jesus to take upon Himself our sins and to endure the cross.
And this is the love that will fulfill the promise of Jesus Christ's return.
How great our joy should be!
Your Comments are welcome
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