Friday, September 2, 2016
What it means to have the fruit of joy
Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
What does it mean to have the fruit of joy in the Christian life? In past posts, we looked at the fruit of the Spirit that is described in Galatians 5:22-23, with specific focus upon the first of such fruit: "love" (see the link to that post here: http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2016/08/understanding-fruit-of-spirit-love.html). We labored in that post to grasp how the Holy Spirit connects the Christian to the love of God and its varied expressions that we find throughout scripture. We also noted that in so far as the fruit include love and the other eight virtues supplied by the Spirit, the responsibility of the Christian is to exercise these virtues by obedience and service to others. The Holman Christian Standard Commentary on Galatians 5:22 notes the following about the fruit of the Spirit: "This fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a faithful Christian. In other passages of Scripture, we are commanded to fulfill the individual characteristics. The answer to this seeming paradox, I believe, is that only the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit; but he will not do so unless we are striving to the best of our ability for them in faithful obedience."
Today we want to consider the second "fruit of the Spirit" mention in Galatians 5:22-23, "joy". As we already mentioned, we want to grasp what it means to have the fruit of joy. What is it that the Holy Spirit does in connecting us to such joy in the Christian life? What does such joy look like when I am regularly walking in it? Such questions are practically important, since there are times even in my life when joy seems to elude me. If we understand joy to be more to do with an internal condition of the heart regulated by the Spirit, then perhaps one's experience of joy has more to do with how aware one is of the work of joy the Spirit is operating within them. Hence, perhaps it is not so much the fruit of joy that eludes me as it is my day-to-day partaking of His work or being more distracted by the things around me. At any rate, let's note the following headings:
1. Joy in God
When we talk about "joy" in the spiritual Christian walk, we must begin with the fountain head "joy of all joys" - namely joy in God Himself. Pastor John Piper has defined the idea of Christian joy as follows: "Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world" (see link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-you-define-joy ).
When we do word studies on "joy" in the original languages of the Bible, ideas emerge such as "delight", "shouts of praise", "thrilling exuberance" and "delightful contentment". God Himself is the only being that can bring cause for joy apart from whatever benefits He may be able to do for us. In other words, the source of joy for the Christian is found in God Himself. If God were never to do one other thing for us, we would find just as much joy in Him as when He does the countless things of goodness towards us. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, begins her prayer by saying in 1 Samuel 2:1: "My heart exults in the Lord...". In the New Testament, we find Mary beginning her "Magnificat" in Luke 1:46 "My soul exalts in the Lord". The Apostle Paul urges us in Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice".
God is worthy of rejoicing. God is the source of joy due to the fact that He possess great-making properties such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, all-goodness and beauty. It requires the Person of the Holy Spirit to convince us and make clear to us that this is so. Once the Holy Spirit comes to us in conversion, the grace He brings includes this component of rejoicing in the Lord. Jesus notes in John 7:37-39 "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." As Jesus was asserting this truth, He undoubtedly was referring back to Old Testament promises and predictions such as Isaiah 12:2-3 “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation." The Holy Spirit connects us to God, which brings us joy in God. Thus to have the fruit of joy means we have the ability and desire to rejoice in God, which supplies the believer with strength for daily living (Nehemiah 8:10).
2. Joy in salvation
As we rejoice in God, we find scripture urging us to rejoice in His works. We could talk about His work in creation, which can indeed be cause for joy due to how creation demonstrates His power, glory and honor (Psalm 10:1-6; 104:1-4). We could also talk about the victories He grants as cause for joy (1 Samuel 19:5; Isaiah 41:16). God's works are often appealed to by the Biblical authors to encourage further joy in God (Psalm 66:3-5). The particular work which seems to elicit the greatest cause for joy is God's work of salvation. In 1 Samuel 2:1, we find Hannah rejoicing in God and in the salvation He brings. Psalm 40:16 states - "Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let those who love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!” In Luke 10:21, Jesus Himself rejoices in His Father and the unfolding purposes of salvation He is revealing through Him: At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight."
So many more passages could be cited, but the point is well made with respect to rejoicing in God's salvation. Joy marks the converted heart (Romans 5:1-5) and is delivered to us by the Holy Spirit. He is the One who delivers such joy not only in conversion but in the Christian's growth in sanctification. Paul writes in Philippians 3:3 "for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh." So we see that having the fruit of joy entails joy in God, His salvation and thirdly...
3. Joy in His Word.
The scriptures are ever needed when it comes to converting the human soul (Psalm 19:7; James 1:18) and sanctifying the Christian (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But what about our joy? Do the scriptures deliver to us the joy of the Lord or joy in the Lord? We find the following verses that assert the link between the Christian's joy and the scriptures:
Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."
Psalm 112:1 "Praise the Lord!
How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who greatly delights in His commandments."
Psalm 119:14 "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches."
Psalm 119:111 "I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart."
Psalm 119:162 "I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil."
Jeremiah 15:16 "Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts."
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Acts 2:41,47 (41) "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (47) "praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Today we considered that second virtue that is listed by Paul in his presentation of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, namely "joy". We first of all considered that such joy, as delivered by the Holy Spirit, connects us to joy in God. Since the Holy Spirit is a member of the blessed Trinity, as well as being Himself truly and fully God, then it follows that He could directly connect us to joy in God. Second, we saw that the fruit of joy also leads to joy in our salvation. Then lastly, we noted how the scriptures, and our rejoicing in them, feeds and cultivates our joy.