THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH
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THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

22 JANUARY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Nehemiah 8:1-12
Luke 15:3-10
John 15:9-11
Colossians 1:9-14

Today, we're continuing in our series about how we acquire power and strength through our commitment to God.

Two weeks ago, we discussed the power of praise and how our praise helps us remain focused upon the Lord; and how, in turn, we receive the power to remove mountains of sin.

Last week, we continued by discussing how, with this same power, we can overcome the evil around us, and how we must use this power for our inner strength, and leave room for God to punish the evil people of this world.

Today, we're going to discuss how to be in a state of joy, and how the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Jesus gives us a very practical place to begin our understanding of how to continually have the joy of the Lord with us.

Note what we are told in John 15:9-12.

9. "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

10. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.

11. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

12. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

Just as God the Father loves His Son, Jesus, and just as Jesus loves us, so are we to love each other.

This is really a simple commandment to follow.

We don't have to buy anything.

We don't have to spend a lot of time or effort working at something.

All we have to do is receive the free gift of God's love, and then pass it on to others just as freely as it was given to us.

Love is a state of being that we should live in.

Do you like to take showers, and just linger in the warm water coming down upon you?

And consider also that you didn't have to worry about the cost, or running out of hot water.

That's what itís like to live in God's love.

It's always raining down upon us, it never runs out, and it really feels good.

Love cannot be the well at the church, where you come once a week with your bucket to fill up.

For you can't take enough home to satisfy your weekly needs and keep yourself clean; for by the end of the week you will be left thirsty, dirty, and smelly.

Just as it is with water, so is it with love.

That's why the Lord says in verse 11, "Öthat your joy may be made full," and not will be made full.

For our joy to remain full, we must desire to remain in the continual shower of God's love.

Now, this love / joy relationship won't fully work if our spiritual container is corroded and full of holes, because of the sin in our lives.

Even with only a few small holes, love and joy can leak out.

In the parable Jesus gives us in Luke 15:3-10, we get a view from heaven, as to how this joy fully flows to us.

As we look at these verses remember that Jesus said, "Öthat My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."

He is speaking of heavenly joy flowing down to us.

Hear how this joy is made in heaven:

3. And He told them this parable, saying,

4. "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?

5. "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

7. "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8. "Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

9. "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!'

10. "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

It is our sin that corrodes and makes holes in our spiritual container, in which we are to hold our love and joy.

It is our repentance that repairs and rust proofs our spiritual container, and makes it suitable to receive the abundance of love and joy flowing down from heaven.

The church is like the shepherd, and the people are like the sheep; if one of us is lost to sin, does not it weaken us?

But if a sinner should come in, or one who strayed away comes back, does not our joy strengthen us?

Similarly, we are like the coins; if one is lost, isnít our collective wealth less, and doesn't that take away from our joy?

Likewise, doesnít our wealth increase when we have more coins?

And so it is with repentance and joy.

But how do we get started on this spiritual journey?

Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians; how he, and the others with him, prayed for them (Colossians 1:9-14).

9. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Paul's prayer is that the people of the church may be filled with the knowledge of God's will.

If we simply read our Bible every day, we will soon be filled with the knowledge of God's will.

But there is more; thus, Paul prays for something more. He prays that their knowledge of God's will be in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

We can be filled with all kinds of knowledge, but if we don't understand how to use it wisely, it profits neither us nor anyone else.

And why do Paul and the others pray this way?

10. so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11. strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously

12. giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Did you hear the inner results of our growing in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; and of our being able to apply the word of God to our lives?

We are strengthened with all power, not just some power, but all power, because it is according to God's glorious might.

And it's in this power that we should be steadfast in the things of God, and have patience.

That we don't get upset as easily as we used to.

That we allow God to work in the lives of others, just as He has worked in our lives.

That we are content with what we have, and trust God for what will come in the future.

Now, we are not to just sit back and do nothing, while we wait upon the Lord.

On the contrary, we are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord our God, and bear much fruit.

And when we do this, we are filled with the joy of the Lord.

And we should be...

13. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

14. in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Here is where we make the full circle.

We are filled with joy and spiritual strength when intentional sin is removed from our lives.

This is what happened in Israel after the people returned from captivity in Babylon.

Listen to what we are told in Nehemiah 8:1-12.

1. And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.

2. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.

This is why I like to see children of all ages in our services, for they do have understanding; but they need to grow in wisdom, and it is God's word that can give it to them, when they really begin to listen.

3. And he [Ezra] read from it [the Book of the Law] before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

Think about the difference between them and us.

They remained attentive to the word of God for more than four hours.

4. And Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.

5. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

6. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place.

8. And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.

Isn't this what we do in our service and Bible study?

Don't we talk about the word of God, and what it meant to the original listeners, and how we are to apply it to our lives today?

What should be the results in our lives?

They should be the same as it was for the Israelites.

9. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.

The people were convicted about their sins, and it brought sorrow to their hearts and souls.

And that sorrow is their repentance.

10. Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

And we should note that the word "fat" used in this verse means "the best of", or "a rich dish". 

It does not mean the fat of an animal, for true repentance and joy never causes another living being to suffer.

This repentance is what God wants to bring about in all our lives.

But we are not to remain in our sorrow; we are to rejoice, because our loving God has forgiven us.

Now we can be strong, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

11. So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved."

12. And all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.

Just as the people of Israel were to share their food, so are we to share the spiritual food we receive.

I know this message is longer than usual, but it's a whole lot shorter than Ezra's was.

But I believe it's important for us to understand the great gift we have been given by the Lord our God.

That we no longer need to live in fear or sorrow, but now we can live victoriously, no longer subject to the whims of the devil, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Let us rejoice!

Amen.

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