Sermons

Five Marks of a Christian: Joy (John 15:11)

Pastor Jon TruaxPastor Jon Truax, September 17, 2017
Part of the Five Marks of a Christian series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

Five Marks Of A Christian: Joy
John 15:11

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

You could say that Northeastern Ohio was a pretty JOYFUL place this week. The Cleveland Indians just concluded a 22 game win streak, setting a new record and (have nearly) clinched their division. The fall weather is beautiful. Even the Cleveland Browns weren’t atrocious in their home opener. (Oh, they still lost, of course, but not in an exceptionally embarrassing way.) We take Joy wherever we can find it!
That’s because JOY is so compelling!
You ever watch the game shows on daytime TV? I catch little snippets of them here and there. Whether it’s “The Price Is Right” or “Family Feud”, those contestants leap up and jump and dance around and look like if they were any more excited or happy they would faint! There’s one game show in particular where the contestants really get into it, and it may be familiar to you: Let’s Make a Deal!
We’re going to play a little Let’s Make a Deal this morning! Who watches that show? On the old version, they used to have “quickie deals” that the host would make with members of the studio audience, offering them prizes in exchange for something that they might have on their person. Want to give it a try? Now you have to be all excited and happy if I’m going to call on you. You know, on the show they wear crazy costumes and outfits and get-ups to attract attention.
Do you have any life savers in your purse? I would trade you $10 if you do. Would you make that deal?
Do you have a quarter with one of the state backgrounds? If so, I will trade you $5 for it. Would you make that deal?
Do you have a Science Hill Community Church pen on you? I’ll trade you $20 for it if you do. Would you make that deal?
Do you have Jesus Christ in your heart? Are you saved? If so, I will trade you $50 for it! Would you make that deal? No? How about if I sweetened the deal to $100? Would you make that deal? What amount of money would you be willing to trade your relationship with God in Jesus Christ for?
If you’re like me, the answer is nothing. That’s the biblical answer. There is no amount of money – literally nothing in the world - that is worth trading our eternal salvation for! As Jesus says in Matthew, “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world - yet forfeit his soul?” Even if the whole world were offered in trade for our salvation in Christ, we would never make that deal! That’s how much it’s worth!
I want you to think about that for a moment. It’s amazing, isn’t it? You possess, in your heart, something worth more than a million dollars. More than a billion dollars. Some people feel that if they could just win the lottery, they would finally be happy. My friend, you have something this morning, right now, worth more than the greatest lottery prize in history. You have an inheritance as a child of God of inestimable worth!
Jesus talked about the value of the kingdom of God like this in a couple of His parables. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his JOY went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
There is an undeniable biblical link between salvation and JOY. Many of you know the three parables in Luke 15 about the lost being found. A sheep, one out of a hundred, is lost and then found. A coin, one out of ten, is lost and then found. A child, one out of two, is lost and then found. In each case, Jesus describes the great joy and rejoicing that takes place when the lost is found! There’s a party thrown in heaven and celebration takes place whenever someone comes home to the Lord!
So if you are saved, my friend, if you have that life-giving relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross, you must be filled with JOY this morning! Shouldn’t carrying around something that valuable make you immensely JOYFUL? Shouldn’t that JOY just radiate out from your inmost being?
And this is a JOY we can have without being fearful that it will be stolen from us. Salvation can’t be taken from you. In Romans 8 we read, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I think this security is what Jesus was getting at in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There is no security like heavenly security! All of this should fill us with JOY!
Why are we talking about JOY this morning? We are starting a new series called “Five Marks Of A Christian.” Now, the number five may be kind of arbitrary. You could probably find 7 or 9 or what-have-you. But I found five that I think we would be blessed to focus on over the next month. Maybe we’ll do more later.
And why “marks” of a Christian? What are marks of a Christian? No, I’m not talking about Theresa and Chris and Nick and Nathan… I’m talking about those character traits, those adjectives that described Jesus, His original disciples in the Bible, and what should describe His disciples today. These are traits that should mark us today as followers of Jesus Christ. They are characteristics we should strive for!
If we had one overarching scripture verse for this series, it would be Ephesians 4:15 where Paul writes, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Focusing on these five marks will help us grow up in every way into him who is the head, and one characteristic that we see in Jesus is JOY.
Now that may come as a surprise to you. We have many mental pictures of Jesus. Shepherd. Teacher. Suffering Servant. Prayerful. But not many of our images are ones of a JOYFUL Jesus. I think that is unfortunate. Jesus was filled with JOY! And He wants His followers to be JOYFUL, too. He wants His JOY within us.
Our scripture reading today took place during the Last Supper in the book of John. Now you know that scene was serious, solemn, dark, foreboding. Jesus was about to go to the Garden to pray and then through a painful trial, and finally suffer death upon the cross. But even on that last night of his life, Jesus talked about his JOY and his desire that the disciples share his Joy, that it might be in them: “I have told you this so that my Joy may be in you and that your Joy may be complete.” He doesn’t just want us to be Joyful; He wants us to have complete Joy!
To leave no doubt, Jesus repeated this same expression a little later in John 16: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your Joy will be complete.” Complete JOY. Can you believe that is one of the promises that Jesus gave us as He was preparing to leave this world?
This is not the only time we find Jesus and his disciples talking about joy. One of my favorites is from Luke 10. The scene is that Jesus had just sent out 72 of his followers, two by two, to the towns and villages in Galilee with the message of the kingdom of God. When they return to Him, with their mission accomplished, how does the Bible describe their countenance? Were they scared, depressed, rejected?
No, the Bible says that “The seventy-two returned with JOY and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’”
The disciples were filled with JOY because they found out that Jesus’ message had power! He had equipped them and authorized them – deputized them, as it were – to go out and do His work of ministry, and they found that they were really empowered to do it! They were even about to do exorcisms. And so they were filled with Joy about this.
But Jesus offers a bit of a corrective here. He explains to them the real reason that they should experience Joy: “[Jesus] replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not Rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but REJOICE that your names are written in heaven.’”
In other words, Jesus is saying, that’s great – you recognize that you do have this power and authority. I have it, and I’ve given it to you. But don’t REJOICE simply in the power that you have – REJOICE in the love that you have! You should be filled with JOY because of the salvation you have in my name!
If you have a hard time seeing Jesus as a joyful person, consider what the Bible says immediately following this exchange, “At that time Jesus, full of JOY through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’”
The disciples eyes are blessed because of what they see. Our eyes are blessed because of what we see, and our ears are blessed because of what we hear. Maybe that’s why the rest of the New Testament runs with the theme that Christians should be full of joy, marked as a disciple of Jesus.
Paul, in particular, has a lot to say about Joy. In his letter to the Philippians, he gives this command: “REJOICE in the Lord always; again I will say, REJOICE!” Is Joy really a choice? Can we genuinely help it if we are joyful or not? Paul seemed to think so, for he also wrote in I Thessalonians, “REJOICE always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We can choose to pray; we can choose to give thanks; I believe we can choose to REJOICE always as well!
But fast forward to today. Sadly, Christians are NOT known for our joy. We have a reputation for being killjoys rather than being joyous faithful. Christians are regarded and depicted in the media as dour and humorless. I remember hearing the story of a man introduced to another guest at a party. “Pardon me,” asked the guest, “But do you happen to be a Christian?” “No,” said the man, “I just don’t feel very well today.”
What if Christians today were instead known for being joyful? What if we radiated a thrilling, contagious passion for God’s good will in the world? That’s not a sacrilegious thought you know – Joy is a fruit of the Spirit! All Christians ought to have a positive disposition if, for nothing else, looking forward to the coming of Christ.
I’d like to end the message this morning by having us sing a song together that probably most of you know, having learned it at a young age: “I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” {Song}
The next time you’re feeling down, ask yourself: What would you trade your salvation for? If the answer is nothing, do you realize that you already have the most important thing in the world?

Tags: Character, Christian, Delight, jesus, joy, Rejoice, rejoicing, Spirit

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