Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 7

This is the last post in a series on Christian joy.

I can have extraordinary joy as a Christian because Christians pray instead of worry.

It’s hard to have joy and worry in the same life.  It’s hard not to worry with all the trials we have in this life. 

Ph. 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Can any of us get out our telephones and call the president of the United States?  Do you realize that we can pray to the God of heaven, the creator of the universe, the Father, we can pray through Jesus our mediator.  We don’t have to wait until nights or weekends when the rates are cheaper.  We have a direct line for our worries and concerns at any time, or anywhere.

When we say don’t worry about anything, it means we must be willing to turn everything over to God!  We have this ability through our adoption as His children.  I heard an interview with Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton.  He was talking about being in the hospital undergoing surgery for a brain tumor.  He said that one night a nurse came in and spoke with him about prayer and asked – what do you pray about.  Scott said that he thanked God for His goodness and blessings.  The nurse suggested to Scott that as our Father, God wants it all.  We want our children to come to us with problems and concerns, hurts and desires.  As our Father, God wants to hear those things from us.  We are His children.

A person who literally does not have a care in the world doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking care of responsibilities or are negligent, but is someone who is able to turn over all trials, burdens and temptations over to God –I Peter 5:7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”– that will be a joyful individual.

How wonderful that I have an avenue of communication with God, what joy that brings.

We can draw so much strength and encouragement for joy from the book of Philippians.  

Rejoice!  God has given us so many reasons for joy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 6

The next several posts will be focusing on joy from the book of Philippians. 

I can have extraordinary joy as a Christian because the Lord is near to help me with my problems. 

Philippians 4:5 – “The Lord is at hand.” 

Philippians 4:9 “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

What did Jesus say at the end of the great commission?  Matthew 28:20 “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Jesus is with us everywhere!

We sing Anywhere with Jesus, I can safely go, anywhere He leads me in this world below – if we cling to Jesus and never let Him go, we can make it through any circumstance.  

Hebrews 13:5&6 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say:  The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” 

Jesus knows our hurts and heartaches.  Psalm 56 was written when the Philistines had captured David in Gath.  Ps 56:8 “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?”  Have you ever thought about God collecting your tears in a bottle?  Even those we’ve cried when no one knows of.  Rejoice!  The Lord is at hand!  He is nearby. 

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning, Ps. 30:5

If your joy is in the material possessions and all the goods of the world can that be taken from you?  Yes, in a second!  If your joy is in Christ, THAT is secure.  No one can steal our joy … because if the world can steal our joy, it was the world’s to take.  We don’t sing Blessed Assurance with our fingers crossed!  We can have confidence not because of our own goodness, but because of God’s promises. 

When we are scared, and surrounded by darkness and troubles.  Our Father is there to hold us in the hollow of His hand. 

Christians can rejoice because Jesus is nearby.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 5

The next several posts will be focusing on joy from the book of Philippians. 

Christians can have extraordinary joy by knowing that our name is written in the book of life. 

Philippians 4:3-4 “I urge you, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!”   

Rev. 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”  What joy that will be to hear Jesus say our name in front of God!

In Luke 10:17 We have the 70 disciples who had gone out and come back, reporting to Jesus “Then the 70 returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.  And Jesus said to them (vs. 20) Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Sin robs us of joy, but salvation gives us joy.  Acts 8 – The eunuch, as he came up out of the waters of baptism,  went on his way rejoicing! 

Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” 

This song says it best:

No tears in heaven, no sorrows given.
All will be glory in that land;
There'll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.
Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder,
Where we shall spend an endless day;
There with our Savior, we'll be forever,
Where no more sorrow can dismay.
Some morning yonder, we'll cease to ponder
O'er things this life has brought to view;
All will be clearer, loved ones be dearer
In heav'n where all will be made new.
No tears in heaven fair
No tears, no tears up there,
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears in heaven fair
No tears, no tears up there;
No tears in heaven will be known.

How thankful we should be that we have the reason for rejoicing if our name is written in the book of life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 4

The next several posts will be focusing on joy from the book of Philippians. 

Christians can have extraordinary joy by not dwelling on the past, but by looking forward to the future. 

Many times, Christians will focus on their past allowing those sins committed to hide the joy from their lives.  If you are a person who is prone to dwell on those mistakes of the past, if you can’t let that go even though God has forgiven you, you are going to miserable.  Faithful Christians have that assurance that God has forgiven us!  God offers us a brand new start, a clean beginning as a Christian.  The world doesn’t give us such an opportunity, the world consistently wants to remind us of all our mistakes and short comings, but a child of God has forgiveness and a God who will forget. 

Ph. 3:13  “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; (Paul knew he had not reached perfection) but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” 

When we think of Paul, and his ability of having joy, looking back at his past would definitely be something that would keep joy from him.  What did Paul have to forget about?  A lot, actually.   What about Stephen?  Do you think Paul could remember standing there, with the clothes of others at his feet, while watching and consenting Stephen be stoned to death?  Do you think Paul ever had memories of the Christian families he had committed to prison just because they believed on some man called Jesus?  Acts 8:3 says “as for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”  Can you imagine the memories of the past Paul had?   However he chose to look forward instead of behind.  Paul says – I’m not perfect, but this one thing I do – forgetting and pressing forward.
We must remember that if we are willing to repent, then God is willing to forget.  Jesus said in Luke 9:62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  We can’t look back, with guilt, with regret, or with longing eyes, at our lives of sin. 

Your past is not your past if you are still allowing it to impact your present.

How wonderful that we can have joy by not dwelling on our past.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 3

The next several posts will be focusing on joy from the book of Philippians. 

Christians can have extraordinary joy because we aren’t overly concerned with self. 

Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” 

Selfish people are not joyful, it takes developing a servant heart to be joyful. 

The world says that joy is found in self-indulgence.  This idea assumes that sin doesn’t really exist.  If it feels good, do it!  Whatever feels right must be right, anything goes, just be happy!  This excuse is used to justify anything and everything. 

Paul mentions 4 personal examples of having a servant attitude in Philippians chapter 2. 

If we continue reading there in Philippians 2:5 we see “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus was a servant – “who, being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”

As Christians, we are working by learning from God’s word how to bring our lives and our minds as close to and equal to the life and mind of Christ.  That is the goal for us in Bible study, sermons, etc.  We want to act like Jesus acted and do the things He did.  At every opportunity, Jesus sought to serve other people, despite the fact that He is the creator!  Jesus didn’t die on the cross because He was looking out for #1, but because he was looking out for the billions of people that weren’t even alive yet! In John 13 we read the account of washing the apostle’s feet.  Jesus was teaching the lesson of service and self-sacrifice.  The more Christ-like your actions become the more joy will show. 

Paul himself is an example in service.  2:2 – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  Paul wanted the Philippian brethren to share that mind of service with him and with Christ.  Paul was concerned about the Philippians.  He said – if you want to make me joyful, be like minded, be of one accord, be of one love. 

In vs. 19 we read of Timothy.  “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state for I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the thing which are of Christ Jesus.  But you know his proven character.”  Paul wanted Timothy to go and report back to him about how Philippians were doing.  Timothy was a servant – his job was to minister to the needs of his brethren. 

Finally in vs. 25-29 Paul mentions yet another servant – Epaphroditus, his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier who ministered to my need.  Epaphroditus wanted to go to Philippi because he was concerned for the brethren, he wanted to show that he wasn’t sick any longer and that they could be joyful.

Christians find joy in not being self-centered, but being servants.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Joy of Being a Christian - part 2

The next several posts will be focusing on joy from the book of Philippians.  

Christians can have extraordinary joy because of our fellow Christians. 

Philippians 1:3-6 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

I can have joy because of Christian fellowship.  The togetherness that should be a part of the Lord’s body brings great joy.  Sometimes we have a misunderstanding when we hear the word fellowship.  Fellowship does not just mean that once-a-month potluck after morning worship.  Normally, we are so busy setting up, eating and cleaning up that there isn’t much time for real fellowship! Fellowship means a joint participation, an association.  We all know people everywhere we go.  My family makes fun of me because I am on first name bases with Kevin & Jeff in the produce department, or Henry at the post office, who held my hand on 9-11.  I am acquainted with these people.  In our years in our community, I have associates in many places – the school systems, doctors’ offices, through my business but I am not related to them by blood like I am related to my fellow Christians.  I am related to Christians by blood, that blood of Jesus Christ.  You see, Christians are a family and Christians have fellowship because of that blood. 

Paul had joy just thinking about the Philippian brethren.  Christians should want to be together – it should not be a burden to be in each other’s company.  However, many assume that punching the time clock of church attendance satisfies all requirements and those who take that mindset, lose out on the joy that comes from Christian fellowship.
Fellowship can be found by doing a variety of activities together.  Working together brings joy – having a project, like this ladies day, causes us to spend more time with each other and helps us to draw closer towards each other.  It is a joy to see a project begin and grow and see positive results.  Fellowship should be happening in our homes also.  Brother Tom Holland said about fellowship “I want to get to know the people better that I will be spending eternity with!”  Shouldn’t that be the case?

Another area of seeing joy is the spiritual growth and fruitfulness in each other.  Perhaps it’s in your children or someone you taught in Bible class or in a private study.  Perhaps it’s in your spouse.  Seeing the change and growth in others causes great joy.   

We can also have that joy of Christian fellowship through prayers.  Prayer lists are not just to have your name up in front of a congregation for recognition.  We are to bear one another’s burdens, and the only way we know those burdens are to share them with each other.  Paul would pray for his fellow Christians with joy and he knew that the Philippian Christians were praying for his deliverance from prison!  This brought him great comfort and joy.  How wonderful to know that our fellow Christians are bringing our names and concerns in front of God on our behalf! 

Joy can be found in our fellow Christians.