Do you enjoy being a Christian? Are we supposed to enjoy it? Assuming the answer to this question is "Yes", what can stop us from having the joy we are meant to have? Finally, what are the consequences?
It seems that our Lord and Paul agree that joy should characterise the Christian. This does not mean that we should walk around with a permanent silly grin, although there may be seasons of this when God has touched us. We all face difficulties of various kinds, and need to be real with ourselves, with others and with God. So no pretending!
On the other hand, we need to avoid being like those who read that they should have joy and then conclude that what they have is joy even when it doesn't feel like it to them or look like it to others. We cannot be grumpy, judgemental and negative yet claim we have "deep joy" - so deep that it cannot be seen!
I will mention three things which come from this Last Supper discourse. There are others too! The first is disobedience - see John 15:9-11. Obedience means we remain in his love, and then we have his joy. There are two aspects to obedience. The first aspect relates to God's general instructions. Have we disobeyed Scripture? Is there unconfessed sin? The second aspect is saying "No" to God after he has given us specific instructions (like Jonah!). Have you said "No" to God at some point in the past?
The second issue is whether we are as full of the Holy Spirit as we should be and could be. See John 17:13 - Jesus has told us all these things so that we may have the "full measure of his joy". This suggests that it is possible to have a part-measure. What things has he been talking about? There are a number of themes here. We have already mentioned obedience. Another theme is unity. He has said a lot about the Holy Spirit (see John 14 and 16). Romans 14:17 links joy with the Holy Spirit, and contrasts this with trying to follow rules and regulations. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be continually filled with the Spirit (and contrasts this with being drunk!). If Paul is telling us to do this, then it must be something we must do rather than something which automatically happens to us. It is not a once-off event, as many seem to claim (either at conversion or subsequently). How do we do it? Simple, just ask - see Luke 11:13. Jesus is teaching about prayer, and uses the Holy Spirit as an example of a good gift which we can ask for. Some people say this refers to conversion, but I disagree. The picture here is of children coming to their father, so there is already a relationship in place. Their request is on the basis of that relationship. Also, he said this to his disciples, not the crowd. We need to ask for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Then we need to avoid grieving him by disobedience (and also quenching him by ignoring his activity).
The third issue is whether we realise how astonishingly privileged we are. John 15:16 tells us that the choice for us to be Christians was made by God, not us. The Father planned our salvation before Creation. He knew that Adam would sin and that a rescue plan would be needed. He arranged for Jesus to die for us, then he arranged for the church to tell us the good news. He quickened our dead spirits and enabled us to respond with repentance and faith, which itself is a gift. So even for the Arminian there was not much that he had to do. For the Calvinist (like me) the whole thing was God's doing. Recognising this should lead to joy and humility.
I will mention three:
Are we supposed to enjoy being Christians? Yes! What can stop us? Disobedience, failing to be as full of the Holy Spirit as we could be and should be, not realising how privileged we are. The consequences: we glorify God, we worship from the heart, our witness is natural and real.
This is an outline of a sermon preached at Colmworth Mission on 28 June 2009.
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created 1 July 2009