Today we are talking about having a good time. Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating festivals and celebrations.
The enemy is working overtime to suppress our joy. He doesn’t want us laughing when we’re supposed to be laughing. He doesn’t want us walking in joy when we’re supposed to be joyful.
He gives us an imitation. He gives us something that wouldn’t really give fulfillment. We’re hanging our life on a hook that will never really help us or bring a sustaining joy. The enemy works every day through addiction, through pain, through grumpiness, through problems, through stress relational conflicts, he works to suppress our joy.
You hear his voice enter in, “Should you really be this happy right now?” This is why we celebrate Christmas every year. To remind ourselves of this joy and good news. That’s why it’s a great tradition to read through the Christmas story every year.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 NLT
When the birth of a king happened it was happening in a manger and a pasture. There’s an interesting point of history here. It was these fields outside of Bethlehem where the temple flocks were kept.
These were the flocks of sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple, as an offering for the sins of the people. Here are the shepherds hearing about the savior who will be a final perfect ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The angels are essentially telling them that they’re going to be put out of a job. Because no longer will we need a sacrifice for our sins.
Every sheep that was sacrificed that was pointing to this ultimate sacrifice, the death of Jesus. How beautiful that this was who the announcement was to. This is the birth announcement.
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:13-20 NLT
There is so much joy and celebration. Something changed in the shepherds and it can change in us, too. When Jesus was older, he had a word for shepherds and people who understand that occupation.
Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:9-10 NIV
The word thief means like a pick pocket. The thief who is coming to steal our life and joy, he’s not wearing thief on the front of his shirt. Sometimes we can’t tell that he’s there in those situations.
He sneaks up in our life, marriage, work, dream or hope and he begins to take things from us, but Jesus said I came to stop the thief of joy. I’ve come to stop him and give you full joy.
If that’s going to happen there’s got to be new decisions and choices. There is some divine order to JOY.
Divine Order of JOY
Joy doesn’t just come from anywhere. There’s a divine order to it. We want to be on the right pathway, the right order in how to find it, sustain it and express it to other people. There was even a divine order to Christ’s joy, so there can be a divine order to our life.
When Jesus went to the cross, scripture says it was the joy that was set before him, there was joy on the other side of the cross. One of the reasons He could endure the pain and the problems and hurt and rejection is that He knew there was a joy on the other side.
Not all the time are we going to feel joy. We have to make decisions to walk in obedience and step into that commitment. Joy is right on the other side of that commitment.
The manger wasn’t pretty. The cross was not a happy place it was a place of death and sacrifice. Jesus went through with it because of the joy set before Him.
Jesus knew that if He went through the cross and there was resurrection power on the other side of it, He would pay the price so that He could purchase us in our pain so that we could go to heaven with him and experience eternal life.
There was a prize. There was something on the other side that was salvation. There’s a divine order to joy and you can find that order in the word joy itself.
J — Jesus
It begins with Him. Jesus first. If Jesus is not first, then you’re out of the divine order, and we need divine joy. All of our joy can’t be based on the here and now. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Jesus at the center.
Joy is in Jesus at the center of our life.
O — Others
It is more blessed to give than to receive. We must help the weak and notice others. Our whole life can not revolve around me, myself and I. You won’t find joy when it’s all about you.
There’s no other way to find joy on the pathway or me, myself and I. You’ll discover joy when you put yourself down on the list. When we live to get, God changes our life to live to give.
Y — Yourself
So you’re not first, guess what, you’re not even second. You’re third on the list. If you want real purpose and real joy, put yourself after God and others.
He’ll take care of us. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. He’ll take care of everything you need. This order is actually how your needs are met.
You can experience real joy this Christmas. In this verse in Isaiah speaks to everyone no matter what place in life you are in.
Israel going through a hard time here. Most news was bad news, one thing after another. Have you ever lived a day where you thought, “I don’t think anything could be worse.” This kept happening to Israel. Sometimes we feel that way in our life that things keep getting worse.
God spoke a truth and God saw some things they were not able to see. God saw that there could be joy even though there were pain and problems in their current situation and he could speak above and beyond that.
Where is Joy this Christmas?
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV
The only way a warrior gets a victory is to go through a battle.
God gives hope to the people of Israel. So often we think the battle is the problem, it’s how we’re dealing with the battle is the problem. If God is there for us tellin us He will increase our joy. That when we go through the battle we will bring something out of it. He tells us we won’t come out of hte battle empty-handed, we will have increased joy.
That’s encouraging because if we’re going through the valley, we certainly want to come out of it with a victory. If we’re going through pain, let it have some purpose. If we’re going through a battle let it bring joy to someone else’s life.
Increase our joy, Lord!
Could there be more joy than what we’re experiencing in our life, our marriage, our parenting?
Lord, let there be a victory, increased joy!
Let’s be people that pray that the longer we’re married, the more joyful we become. That the older the kids get, the more joy we experience.
Lord, help us be the people that the longer we’re in church the more joyful we are. The longer we lead a small group the more excited we become. Let us be people that the longer and more we give money to God, the more joy we experience.
Let there be an increase in joy, not less.
There’s always more joy in God than in anything else. Are you looking for more joy in all the wrong places? Where is more joy to be found?
1. Joy is beyond circumstances
More joy is not going to be found in good things happening in your life. We see it in Jesus, the manger, the cross, he still had joy set before him.
Joy is found in the Holy Spirit inside of us. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It’s love, joy, peace… See how joy is tethered by love and peace?
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT
Joy is not going to be found in your circumstance this Christmas. It’s going to be found in the Holy Spirit beyond your circumstances.
2. Joy is with others
It’s why we constantly encourage you to get others in your life. Joy is not found on the pathway of living for ourselves.
Serving together, giving together, making a difference… we find life-changing joy in others. There’s fullness of joy. Joy is meant to be full.
In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three stories. One is the most famous parable in the Bible, the prodigal son. A father gives his two sons their inheritance, one son stays with him, the prodigal son leaves, sins against him and blows the money and ends up eating with pigs.
Eventually he comes to his senses, and when he comes home the father runs out to meet him and throws a big celebration. That was a good time!
Another of the three stories is of a woman who loses a very valuable coin and she drops everything to look for it. As soon as she finds it, she calls all of her friends to throw a party.
The third a story about a shepherd who has 100 sheep, but one has left the fold, and is lost. Instead of being content with the 99, he leaves the 99 found sheep to find the one that is lost.
Have you ever noticed what sparks Jesus to tell the stories? There’s the salvation part which is very beautiful, and Jesus is making a big point about salvation and that He cares about the lost. But the reason he starts telling the story is because the Pharisees and teachers of religious law were complaining, being grumpy and rebuking Jesus for celebrating, having a good time and eating with sinners.
So, what Jesus does in these stories is rebuke them for their mindset. Each story ended with a celebration in what was found. Joy is the fruit of maturity. Not skepticism, not doubt, not cynicism, not grumpiness, but joy.
“When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:6 NLT
3. Joy is in repentance
Repentance is when we turn our mind and our actions back toward God. When the prodigal son came to his senses in that pig sty, he got up and went home. That’s repentance.
But not everybody likes the joy. The brother who stayed with his dad became very cynical, and actually didn’t like that they were throwing a big party for the son who came home. But his dad said, God says,
“‘We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:32 NLT
When we live for just ourselves, we fall short. There’s got to be more joy than that. There’s got to be more joy than just me! All of the sudden if we’re not careful, we just start living for the next thing or the fun things in the world. We only get excited about the fun stuff happening.
A new pair of shoes we can’t wait to have and then six months later you’re cutting grass in them. If we could just have that person, that thing… and we begin to build our joy on more stuff. More things.
There’s go to be more joy than that because it’s so fleeting. How many of us are basing their joy on that? Could there be more?
Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead for us to have one moment. He didn’t come for us to base our life on the experiences of this world. Jesus died and rose so we could have joy that could be sustained through the storms and the troubles and the valleys. There is a sustaining joy in Jesus! There’s more joy in Jesus! It’s in Him we live, move and have our being.
Jesus said, every time someone chooses Jesus as their Lord, all of heaven throws a party.
Jesus: “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 MSG
When someone says, “I no longer depend on me, myself and I. I no longer depend on the things of this world. I may have a past or a hurt but I find my identity in Christ and the joy I find in Jesus.” We celebrate!
The thing we celebrate the most here at Rock Brook is when we get into these moments and someone says, I believe in Jesus and they get baptized. It’s fun.
Maybe you’re going from one fake celebration to another, trying to be cheered up by things that actually bring consequences, not joy.
Maybe you’re walking with a spirit of heaviness, and feel far from God. Do you feel broken on the inside? This can be your prayer:
Heavenly Father, free me and restore joy into my life through Jesus. You are the best part of my life. There is nothing like you anywhere. No author could fully express it, no inventor could ever imagine, no sculptor could ever create, no poet could ever capture your wonder, your strength and your beauty. We fall short. Just one glimpse of you could change everything. Help me see glimpses of you all around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Check back on your discussion from last week, a good time for giving. Have you noticed God opening any doors of generosity in your life? Have you taken any risks of generosity?
Hear the Word
Many people think the more cynical and skeptical someone is, the smarter and wiser they are. Yet, the Bible depicts our God rejoicing over us with gladness, initiating celebrations and sending angels to bring us good news of great joy.
Therefore, abundant joy is a by-product of putting God first. While the world binge-hunts for the ever-elusive joy, we can have it every minute of every day because we have Jesus. It’s not circumstantial joy either. It’s a lasting joy which pushes through and prevails, regardless of what’s happening around us. We are free. We are liberated into biblical joy and a clear conscience, which frees us from past hurts, guilt, and shame.
Read: Luke 2 & 15
Jesus: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:9-10 NIV
- What stood out to you in this message?
- Describe a time you remember laughing really hard.
- In what areas of your life might you be losing your joy and your laughter?
- What does it mean to have abundant joy? How do you define joy?
- “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 (MSG) What is something you need to turn over to God this Christmas?
Prayer Focus: Thank God for his good news that causes great joy. Ask God to give you a fresh sense of love, joy and peace this Christmas.
Tell Someone Else
Share with the group who you’re praying will respond to invite to a Christmas service at Rock Brook this year.