I always talk about “joy in Christ”. What does that mean? What does it mean to have joy in Christ? I’m always promoting that the first step to receiving joy in Christ is to be a part of Christ first. Our joy in Him must first be accessed by accepting him as our Lord and Savior. Only he can forgive and wash away all our sins, clean the “slate”, make us new and fresh, and lead us into a richer, more satisfying life.
Jesus told his disciples, “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you,” John 14:20. To access the things, especially the deep things, of God, we must be gifted with the Holy Spirit. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, he gives us the Holy Spirit.
That’s when things get interesting.
That’s when we become a threat to the enemy. When we’re living our lives not walking with Christ, we are no threat to the darker forces of the world. We are part of those forces. You may be asking, “Me? Part of a dark force? I’m a good person, good mother, good friend, good citizen, good community member, etc.” That may be, but remember, Satan was the MOST beautiful angel that was kicked out of Heaven along with other prideful angels. The enemy presents himself as beautiful, something that satisfies, especially satisfies the flesh, something that seems harmless, something everyone else is doing and seem just fine. Just fine until nothing is just fine.
For example, look at the popular reality shows. Glamorous characters with money, fine cars, fine homes, fine community status, revered in their communities, but....
They’re constantly gossiping, arguing, getting drunk, back stabbing one another, sad, depressed, anxious, experience low-self-esteem, constantly looking for approval “out there” - social media, “seats at the table”, who’s invited to who’s party, and so forth. And they all consult one another about their problems, but they don’t seem to realize they all have problems. No one seems to be able to find a place of constant permanent peace. That on which they place their value must always be refortified by more or by something bigger, better, new, etc. And we often witness these same issues in our families and among our social circles.
Laying everything down at the throne of Christ, so he can take over, is our most important decision we’ll ever make in our entire lives. It determines the biblical mandate of where we’ll ultimately end up. Jesus spoke more about hell than he did Heaven.
Now, some people accept Christ, and, yes, they are saved. But that doesn’t mean things are going to be smooth sailing. In fact, chances are things can get worse for a bit because when we begin to follow Christ, we become a threat to the enemy. Look, if we are not for Christ that means we are against Christ, hence antiChrist. When we choose Christ, we no longer choose the things of the world to provide our joy; we learn to replace the temporal things that provide us joy with his permanent joy that he freely gives. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I do give to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let if fear.” John 14:27 Joy and peace are internal constants. Not fleeting things that pump up our happiness then dissipate.
It’s up to us to cultivate that peace that he’s already given us. The more we pursue him on a daily basis, the more he makes himself known to us, the more we perceive, the more we learn, the more we discern, especially on to what we should be attending, as opposed to what we had been attending that wasn’t doing it for us. “She who accepts my commandments and obeys is the one who loves me. And because she loves me, my Father will love her. And I will love her and reveal myself to her.” John 14:21
When we cultivate time each day to spend with him for these beautiful things to happen, it is then we begin to understand the nature of his joy in us as opposed to the joy we pursued in worldly, earthly pleasures. Now, God is not about denying us what we love. Afterall, He designed us. Within us He created desire, endorphins, sexual pleasure, enjoyment of delicious food, beauty, and the like. But how we engage them is another matter. All we do should align with scripture, should align with His perfect and Holy will. We are called to place Him first before all else. If we don’t, we engage in idol worship, whether it’s things or people. When we invest our all-in things or people, we invest in what is created, what is finite, not the Creator. Thus, what we can expect in return cannot compare to the glorious riches Christ provides that ultimately extends out from us to uplift others.
Think of something you are doing that once brought pleasure but now doesn’t. Could be a relationship, spending too much money, indulging in too much food/drink/medication, a job, anything that once served as a “fix” to keep you satisfied but is now weighing you down, has become encumbering, maybe even like a “prison”. You are now seeing, feeling, witnessing the emptiness, futility of it.
And herein lies the heart of the matter.
When we choose Him, we choose the highest form of wisdom in the universe. When we choose Him, we choose to dislodge ourselves from the meager pleasures of the world and allow Him to fill us with the kind of pleasure that is incomparable to that which we pursued when we weren’t abiding in Him. That means relationships are much more healthy, abundant, flourishing, and oh so satisfying. That means our daily activities in which we engage become much more fulfilling because we are pursuing that which He placed on our hearts, not what we think we should be doing or what seems to be the popular, approved-by-the-media, or entertainment industry way.
When we choose Him, we choose supreme joy over murky, lukewarm joy we’ve tried to produce in our own minds, our own flesh. But we don't get to that level of joy without really wanting a beautiful relationship with Him. If we put Him second, third, fourth, we can expect our joy and peace level to be second, third, and fourth. But when we put Him first; that is the game changer. It frees us from the ties, power, oppression of people and things that work against us.
And it’s a win-win because God is about expanse. He’s not about filling us up and calling it good. When we are filled with His joy, when our lives become more peaceful, fulfilling, and healthy, to say the least, we naturally want to share that with others. And thus, we praise Him to others, and in doing so it is a beautiful form of worship, which is a beautiful form of obedience that naturally occurs because He is so good.
As we pursue our joy in Him, we will eventually encourage others with ease and joy to join us, as we begin to understand what true joy in Christ means. It’s never something we want to keep for ourselves.