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Holy Sweat - Part 5

The Discipline of Joy

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(8/11) There have been a lot of movies about the life of our Lord Jesus in my lifetime. To name a few: King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Campus Crusadeís Jesus Movie, The Gospel of John, The Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, The made for TV movie, Jesus (with the guy from Law and Order), and movies that included Jesus like Ben Hur, and The Robe. But a few years ago I saw a VHS series called the Gospel of Matthew, with Richard Kiley and Bruce Marchiano playing Jesus. It was a unique telling of the Gospel of Matthew. Richard Kiley is Matthew recounting the story of Jesus. Every one of the movies I mentioned portrays a serious and sanctified Savior, that occasionally but rarely smiled. Bruce Marchiano, however, portrays a Jesus who smiled, laughed, wrestled with the apostles, and even when expressing disappointment he would rub their heads and hug and kiss them. He portrayed a joyful Jesus.

Now at first, I will be honest, I thought, what is He doing? Saving the world is serious business. But then I watched it again and I thought, that is a great portrayal and a refreshing image of Jesus. Watch this clip.

How often do we think of God as Holy and He is. In fact, Holy is the most descriptive word in the Bible for God. We know that God is Love as we see in 1 John 4. We know that He is Righteous, Just, Merciful, Gracious and Good, but did you ever think of God as loving to laugh, and celebrate? Our Lord Jesus told us that there is joy in heaven and a celebration in the presence of the angels when anyone repents (Luke 15), and responds to Godís grace. Question, "Who is celebrating in the presence of the angels?" And then in a parable about the lost sons, He describes their father, who clearly represents God, as throwing a party for his son who repented.

When the angels announced the birth of the Christ to the Shepherds, they said they brought Good Tidings of Great Joy.

In John 15:11 our Lord told the disciples to abide in Him so they could bear much fruit and glorify God and then He said this, 11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. John says the same thing in 1 John 1:4, "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."

In one of the lesser known books of the Bible, God says this in Zephaniah 3:16-17, "In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing."

Psalm 16:11 says that "In Godís presence is Fullness of Joy." In the parable of the Talents, Jesus our Lord told the faithful servants to, "Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matt. 25:21)

Psalm 100, considered the Thanksgiving Psalm, starts by saying, "Make a joyful shout to the Lord all you lands."

Rev. 19:7, "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready."

I believe with all my heart that God has a sense of humor. He made the porcupine and the platypus, and He made you and me. I believe that He enjoys a good laugh. I know that He enjoys loud music and celebrations of good things, like the birth of children and weddings, and when His children do wise things. When He sent His Holy Spirit to live in us, one of the things He wanted to happen is for us to have joy down in our hearts, which is why one of the characteristics of the presence of God in our lives and the fruit we are to produce is Joy (Galatians 5:22) It is second to love in that list.

In our study of Holy Sweat, training to become more like Jesus, we need to pause and drink in the fact that God wants us to experience and express joy. I believe that the world has seen enough of long faced, lemon sucking expressions of being a Christ-Follower. Jesus expressed joy, experienced joy, and is joy, and He wants us to be as well.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said this in 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" "Guys, donít take yourselves so serious." Like the Christian Comedian Ken Davis says, "Lighten up and Live." This isnít a suggestion this is a command that Paul says, bears repeating. If it is a command, than it is a decision that I have to make to obey. It isnít always automatic. I chose joy.

A Definition. So what is joy? Joy is a deep down in my soul delight that may or may not depend on my circumstances. It is like the old hymn, because all is well with my soul. So no matter what is going on in the world around me, inside me I am smiling. You must understand this. I want to spend the rest of our little bit of time giving you some suggestions about training yourself to express joy.

1. Stop waiting for something to happen tomorrow. Determine to express Joy today. How would you fill in the blank? I would be happy if_______________! I will be happy when _____________! Soon as ___________ is finished I will be happy! Stop waiting for tomorrow and be joyful today.

2. No matter what your circumstances are letís pause and look back in to our past. That may not be pleasant to some of you, but remember the day you heard about Jesus and experienced His cleansing forgiveness, and His acceptance of you, and you knew that the God of the universe loved you. Remember when He answered that prayer for you. I am okay today because of that day in the past. "Oh Happy Day, When Jesus Washed, He washed my sins away, Oh Happy Day."

3. Or, No matter what you are going through today, focus on your future. "I have a home in glory land that outshines the Sun." and Psalm 16:11 reminds me that in Godís presence is fullness of joy. There are going to be rewards, there is the face of Jesus, all the saints of all time, our saved loved ones, new bodies, no sin, no Satan, no more cancer, heart attacks, death, politics, or darkness, just the light of Jesus. When the author of Hebrews was encouraging Christians He said, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (12:2). The Psalmist said that, weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). That is why Horatio Spafford could write, "When Peace like a river attends my way, or when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my soul."

4. Focus on your present. James would tell us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." Letís turn and look at 1 Peter 1:3-9. I can express and experience Joy when I know that God has a good plan even if I donít understand. He is working this for me to become mature and Christ-like, and bear fruit for His glory. I know that He is with me and will never leave me, not under any circumstance.

5. Make a deliberate choice to rejoice every day. Paul commands us to rejoice. Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." Itís a new day, a new chance to do something good. Hereís an important lesson, you canít control your circumstances but you can control how you respond to your circumstances. It is said the Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a German concentration emanated joy in the presence of the other prisoners, as did Mother Teresa as she ministered to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. These chose to rejoice regardless of their circumstances.

Nehemiah asked the Priest Ezra to come and preach a Revival service in Nehemiah 8. The people listened to Godís word and then they mourned over what sin had cost them, in being conquered, exiled and then their repentance and Nehemiah told them to stop it. Letís listen in, "8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. The Law revealed their sins and Godís holiness, but it also revealed His grace and goodness, in bringing them back to their land as he promised in Jeremiah. The wall was built and it was time to rejoice. Solomon reminds us in Eccl. 3:4 that, "Thereís a time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;

6. Express your Joy with Good Music, and Sing. I will never tell you what kind of music to listen to or not to listen to do. But make sure that music is encouraging and reflects the beauty and truth of God. God loves good music and He loves loud music. And He loves to hear you sing. I donít think He wants us to just sing funeral marches. Listen to Psalm 150. Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!

7. And by the way, itís okay to use body language to express joy. Psalm 47:1 says, "Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph." You can raise your hands, itís okay. But sometimes we are afraid of what people will think or becoming too charismatic. Let me ask you a question. When Jesus went to the wedding at Cana, do you think He just sat in a corner? I think he danced like in Fiddler on the Roof, or Zorba the Greek. Last week I watched Manny Machado hit a walk off home run and the whole team came out of the dugout and jumping up and down with their arms raised. Why, because God built it in us to express our joy with our bodies, not in the lewd pelvic swinging manner that became popular with Elvis and beyond. Why do you think children automatically begin to bounce to music? God intended us to express our joy with body language. Too many Christians are like Michel who criticized David for expressing joy in dance when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem. Jeremiah 31:13 says that the dance is an expression of joy, and Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4 also says to "Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp." Now donít shoot the preacher, but donít ignore the scriptures. Itís kind of like the way you dress. You are to dress modestly, not exposing the body that is to be covered. Likewise, dance is to be expressive of joy and not sensual or lewd expressions of self - centeredness.

8. Hang out with Joyful people. There are some people that are just a pleasure to hang out with because they laugh, and they see the glass as half full, and they express positive attitudes. Find a joy mentor. They are usually people that have been able to do what I have already expressed to you above. Joy is contagious. If you think not, try not to laugh when you enter a room of people who are laughing. You will start laughing and you wonít even know why.

And its Healthy! Proverbs 15:30 says, "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health (NLT). One author said, "A recent study says that a smile is so contagious that if we even see a picture of someone smiling we tend to smile back. Smiling and laughter produce relief from stress by releasing pain killing, euphoria producing endorphins, enkephalins, dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline." Proverbs 17:22, says, "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.

9. Celebrate special occasions. God gave us Holidays to remember and to celebrate. Christmas, Easter, Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Thanksgiving. Too much of our holidays have become void of remembering Godís provision and we focus on our selves. Celebrate God and His provision. Celebrate special occasions of friends and family; the birth of children, the marriage of our children or friends, anniversaries, birthdays. Paul says in Romans 12, to rejoice with those who rejoice as well as weep with those who weep.

10. Turn the TV, Computer, I-Thing off and play a game or sing with your family. First off too much news is depressing and draws us away from the Good News of our relationship with God. View all the news in light of the Gospel. There is bad fun, just as there is like bad dance, and bad cloths. Paul speaks of it in Ephesians 5:1-7. But laughter, smiling, joy, rejoicing is Godly and we are to do it. It is good medicine for the heart and soul. If you canít fast from the TV, turn on the retro stations and watch Lucy, Cosby, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, or the like, and laugh at clean comedy.

11. The last one, to quote Charles Stanley, "Obey God and Leave all the results to Him." This brings us back to where we were last week. God blesses obedience and part of the blessing is the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, etc Paul quotes our Lord Jesus as saying, "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Letís close by looking at John 15:9-14, "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Fatherís commandments and abide in His love.1 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down oneís life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

God is a God of Joy. I believe that creation gave Him great joy. I believe that every sunrise and sunset, brings Him a smile. As does every time one of His children expresses and experiences joy. Jesus expressed joy and He wants you to as well. Watch the Gospel of Matthew. The whole movie is on YouTube. And with some Holy Sweat, determine to express and experience joy. You will show the world what Jesus is really like and you just might live longer and healthier.

Letís pray,

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman