Be Joyful!

As Christians, we should be the most hopeful and joyful of all people on this planet because we serve a sovereign God who is still reigning on His throne. What is joy? Here is my best attempt at a definition: Joy is that deep sense of peace and confidence in the Lord in where we trust in Him no matter what our circumstances and He produces a settled delight in our hearts that rests in His sovereignty and love.

            Notice first of all that joy is deep. It is not a surface emotion like happiness that is fleeting, but a deep confidence and sense of peace in Christ alone.  Secondly, joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. We can be joyful in times of trials and sufferings and we can be joyful in times of great blessing.  Thirdly, this joy comes from the Lord where He produces this settled or satisfied or contentment in our hearts that is solely based upon His sovereign love.

            As Christians, it is an affront to the very gospel of Christ to walk around mopishly, sad, depressed, and defeated without the joy of the Lord. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” Have you put your hope in this sovereign God who rules and reigns in absolute sovereignty?

Have you prayed to the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit deeply in your soul—especially joy? Can you say like Ezra in the book of Nehemiah 8:10: “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  Do you have a deep, settled contentment in your soul because our lives, our nation, this universe, are in the hands of all sufficient and sovereign Saviors?

Brothers and sister in Christ, may we be the voice and face of hope and joy in this culture? May a lost and confused and dying world look to us as those who have a deep sense of joy because we know that Christ has overcome and won the victory? Jesus has come to give us joy that is full in John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In John 16:22, Jesus gives us an indestructible joy that cannot be taken away: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

May we be lights shining in the dark shadows of this confused and befuddled world as we hold out the hope of Christ in the gospel of salvation?

The CREDO in Exodus 34

In Exodus 34:6–7, we find one of the most glorious truths in the entire Old Testament: “The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Let’s look in detail at these attributes of God and let them sink into your soul. Read them and think about them as if you’ve never heard of these before. Imagine that this is your first time to hear about the glory of God.

The LORD is merciful. The imagery conveys the way a nursing mother shows compassion toward her helpless baby. In the same manner, our tender-hearted LORD reveals himself as a loving, gracious parent who looks with compassion upon us as weak and needy sinners. In our sin, we have nothing to offer God, so he condescends to our utter spiritual bankruptcy and meets us at our point of desperation.

The LORD is gracious. God as the sovereign King bends down to rebels who in no way deserve his love or mercy. Overwhelmed by our sin, we cry out to him for help. He doesn’t owe us anything but justice, but instead he acts liberally and graciously toward us, knowing all along we can never pay him back.

The LORD is slow to anger. God expresses extreme patience in snorting in exasperation. He does not execute immediate justice or discipline, but shows great restraint because he has a high threshold of tolerance for our disobedience. Aren’t you thankful for the endless patience of our holy God?

The LORD is abounding in steadfast love. This Hebrew word, hesed, describes God’s tenacious fidelity and resolve to maintain a relationship with sinful people. Our LORD obligates and swears upon himself that he will be faithful to his covenant and promise to love his people whom he has chosen. Hesed is the most beautiful and powerful expression of God’s unfailing love for sinners in the entire Old Testament.

The LORD abounds in faithfulness. The image implies that God holds us in his strong arms the way a parent would hold a helpless infant. God proves trustworthy as we can count on him as a firm foundation. He is immovable as our strong tower of confidence and hope.

The LORD is a forgiving God. He cancels the debt against us by wiping the slate clean. He tosses our sins and rebellious actions to the bottom of the sea. God forgives our sins as far as the east meets the west. He forgives us on account of the death of Christ on the cross.

The LORD is also a just and righteous God. Listen to this warning. God is loving, merciful, compassionate, faithful, and forgiving, but not indiscriminately. In the end, everybody doesn’t, in fact, go to heaven. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ whereby you have trusted him alone as Savior and Lord and have repented of your sins, you are still under God’s righteous condemnation.

I love the parental imagery that describes God as our Father. We are helpless babies who can’t offer him anything, yet God lovingly takes us in his arms, cares for us, and shows us mercy. I remember the first time I held my firstborn son. His umbilical cord was tied around his neck when he was born, so he immediately had to go to an oxygen tent for a few hours. Neither my wife nor I got to hold him directly. I reached down in the tent, and he grabbed my finger. As a concerned father, I looked down on him with compassion and tenderness, praying for him in those first few hours of his precious life. And then I got to hold him for the first time! In this beautiful moment, I understood how God treated me as his child. I realized how helpless, clueless, and powerless of a sinner I was, someone who was entirely dependent on my heavenly Father for everything. That’s just a small picture of how our great God loves us. We are imperfect parents, but we still love our children. How much more does God, the perfect parent, love his children immensely?

Think about the thoughts and feelings rushing through Moses’ heart after this intimate encounter with the LORD in the cleft of the rock. He had seen the backside glory of God and heard God’s goodness recounted to him in this credo. In light of all this, how did Moses respond to the glory of God in his midst? Exodus 34:8 says, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped.” As God revealed his powerful, unchanging, miraculous character to Moses, Moses passionately bowed in worship.

Would that be your response as well? Would you urgently and passionately bow your entire life to the great I AM who is worthy of all your worship, and glorify his name in all the earth?

True Satisfaction

One of the most basic needs of human life is to have our thirst quenched. And we live in a culture where we can get Gatorade, PowerAde, flavored water, sparkling water, Culligan water. We are in no shortage of water.

In John 4, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well in the heat of the day. In that culture of the ancient near east water was a hot commodity in those desert climates. John 4:13–14 reads, “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ”

Picture in your mind a gross, stagnant mosquito infested cesspool of filth that only brings disease and impurity. That is the picture of the human heart without Christ. Our hearts are cesspools of wickedness. Our hearts are stagnant, dead, cold and sin-infested that lead to spiritual disease and impurity. We cannot fix this.

Jeremiah 2:13 states “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. So what do we need to overcome this sin? We need the satisfying gift of eternal life that only Jesus can give us.  Psalm 36:9 read, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Isaiah 12:3 echoes this truth: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

What are you spending time, money, and energy on to satisfy your deepest longings?

What did this woman spend time satisfying herself with? Relationship after relationship with men and it only left her dry, parched, lonely, and ashamed. She was never truly satisfied. She was a sinner whose heart was darkened by a stagnant cesspool of wickedness. She needed the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit to invade her heart and create living waters that alone can satisfy and give her eternal life. Only Jesus can satisfy the cravings of a sinner with His satisfying gift of eternal life.

You and I desperately need this living water of eternal life. We need to come to Jesus and receive this free gift. The prophet Isaiah gave an imagery of God as a water salesman in the ancient deserts of Israel offering the gift of water: Isaiah 55:1–2“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Have you received this gift of eternal life? Has your dead, lifeless, stagnant corrupt heart been renewed with streams of living water welling up inside to eternal life? Are you satisfied, I mean truly satisfied, with Jesus? Does He alone quench you thirst? Does He alone give joy to your soul? Are you finding in Jesus your ultimate passion, desire, fulfillment and purpose? Turn from your sin and then turn in faith to Christ today to receive the satisfying gift of eternal life.

Jesus transformed this woman at the well from a lonely, guilty, immoral sinner who found satisfaction in men into a worshipper who encountered the great I AM—Jesus the Messiah. The great I AM Jesus stand ready to receive you today just like this woman. Would you too experience this wonderful transformation and find your ultimate satisfaction in the living waters of Christ and His salvation?