February 28, 2016
Who is the most joyful person you know? For me two people come to mind. My grandmother was a very joyful person. She would sing her way through the day. It’s not that everything went well for her, but she was joyful. The other person is the late Dallas Willard. I met him a number of times. Angie and I were privileged to have him in our home. I think he is probably the most joyful person I have ever met. Both my grandmother and Dallas were filled with joy because of their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
We are looking at grace gifts from Jesus to us. Why would anyone want to follow Jesus? Well, it is because Jesus brings forgiveness of sins, life in the kingdom of God, the indwelling Holy Spirit, peace, love and today we consider his gift of joy. You can know deep joy in your life. This isn’t just a nice idea. This is a reality for those who are in Christ. Jesus offers to give his abiding joy to his followers.
I. DISCOVER THE JOY OF FINDING THE TREASURE. Mt.13:44-46
The first question that comes to my mind is what do the words “kingdom of heaven” refer to. This is important because our first inclination is to think about heaven as a place where we go when we die. Heaven is someplace where we are not. Heaven is a place that we will eventually go to, but it is only something we look forward to. Heaven is above. And for sure, all this is part of the story. In Jn.3:13 Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” Ascending and Descending gives the idea of going up and down.
But there is more to this story. Jesus spoke about entering into the kingdom of God. In Mt.3:2 Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus taught us to seek first the kingdom of God. In Mt.13:18 Jesus tells the parable of the soils. He talks about those who receive the word of the kingdom and bear fruit. The teaching about the kingdom of God is that we can enter into it and live in it today. The kingdom of God is the good rule of God, where what God wants done is accomplished. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Another way of talking about entering into the kingdom of God is to talk about life with Christ. Those who turn in faith to become followers of Christ are given his eternal life to begin living out today.
So, here in Mt.13:44, Jesus describes a person who is walking in a field and happens to discover a buried treasure. It was not uncommon to bury one’s wealth for safe keeping. This person finds a treasure and with joy he sells all that he has to buy the field because the treasure was more valuable than all he had. In the second story a pearl merchant finds a very valuable pearl and again, he joyfully sells all he has to gain the pearl. What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is telling us that entering into the kingdom of God by embracing him as Savior-King is the most valuable life one could ever gain.
In the Bible Jesus is referred to as the Savior, because in Mt.1:21 we learn that Jesus saves from sin. Well, if there is a good God who defines what is morally good in the Ten Commandments, is there really anyone who has not broken one or more of the Ten Commandments? We are accountable to God who created us. Jesus came to bring the forgiveness of sin. We should not be offended at the thought that we are all sinners. We see the reality of sin played out every day, even in our own lives. Instead of being offended we ought to rejoice that God cares enough to send the Savior who brings forgiveness.
Jesus also came to offer to new eternal living to all who embrace him as their King. Eternal living has to do not just with longevity of life, but it has to do with knowing God by embracing Jesus, God in the flesh. Life comes from God and eternal life is found only through Jesus Christ. Those who look to Jesus and become his followers enter into his good life.
So how does one enter into this eternal life with Jesus Christ? Let me put it this way: Begin to attend to all that Jesus said and did and orient your entire life around Jesus. So think about that. In these verses, the man who bought the field, the merchant who bought the pearl, sold all they had. In other words they left what they knew. They left what had previously defined their lives in order to get the treasure. In getting the treasure they were entering into a new life. In one sense they had nothing left from their previous life. They were starting all over again with the treasure. That’s what repentance is. It is leaving our self-directed life, our self-centered life and embracing Jesus and his new life.
Is Jesus Christ and the life he has to give so valuable to you that you would leave everything behind to follow him? They didn’t sell all they had because there was some law that said they had to do that. They sold all they had because the treasure was so valuable and selling all they had was the only way they could gain the treasure. They found great joy in letting go of their previous life. Let me ask those of you who profess to know Christ, have you left everything to follow Jesus? Is gaining Christ and his life that valuable to you?
What is joy? Let me read a definition: “Joy is a pervasive sense…of overall and ultimate well-being…It is deeper and broader than any pleasure.” We’ve been talking about grace gifts from Jesus to us. Two weeks ago we considered the gift of peace. When we are at peace we are not striving. We are not anxious. We are resting. Through Christ we have peace with God. We are secure in God. Last week we considered the gift of God’s love. God desires our wellbeing. He wants the best for us and God sent Jesus Christ to enable us to receive his love. To be at peace with God, to enter into the love of God is to enter into a life transforming relationship with God and this brings great joy to our lives. Have you discovered the joy of finding the treasure of life in Christ?
II. ENTER INTO THE JOY OF FAITHFUL LIVING. Jn.15:11; Mt.25:21
What things did Jesus speak? In v.7 he speaks about abiding in him and having his words abide in us. In v.8 he speaks about bearing fruit. In v.9 he tells us to abide in his love. In v.10 he says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. All of these things bring fullness of joy to our hearts when we are full participants in living our life with Christ.
Or consider Jn.16:23. There Jesus says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Here Jesus is referring to the time after his ascension and before his second coming. In these days we have the privilege of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus and receiving answers to our prayers. That brings fullness of joy.
Then consider Mt.25:23. This is the story of the talents. The two servants who were faithful in carrying out the orders of the master were commended. In v.23 the master says to the servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Followers of Christ receive joy as they seek to be faithful to the Lord in living their lives. We cannot do this on our own, apart from the Holy Spirit. This is why in Jn.15:26 the Holy Spirit is called the Helper.
Now of course it is not always easy to be faithful. But when we are faithful to the Lord there is a joy that fills our souls. I’m going to ask Lena Hartshorn to come up and we are going to have a conversation about the joy of faithful living. (Interview)
As you seek to live a faithful life, you also have joy in the knowledge that you are walking in the way of Christ. Your life is bearing fruit to the glory of God.
III. FOCUS ON THE JOY SET BEFORE US. Heb.12:1-2; Lk.6:22-23
In Heb.12:1-2 we read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In our life with Christ there is joy to be found not just at the commencement of our life with Christ, not just as we seek to live faithful lives of obedience to Christ, but there is joy set before us. Peter tells us in 1Pt.1:1-2 that believers have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” That is part of the joy set before us. The day is coming when we will be with the Lord rejoicing in our inheritance in Christ. In other words, like Jesus, as we live our lives we fix our eyes on Jesus and the joy set before us. We have a future orientation. This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers in this world.
This sense of future joy is important because Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble. Bearing the name of Jesus often puts us at odds with the world. In Jn.15:20 Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
And that’s exactly what happened. In Acts 5 we read that the Jewish leaders put the apostles into prison. The apostles were doing many miracles. People were turning to Jesus, and the Jewish leaders were jealous. When they were hauled before the Jewish Council, they were questioned, beaten and warned not to preach in the name of Jesus. Acts 5:41 says, “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
This is in keeping with what Jesus taught in Lk.6:22-23. “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
While there are many believer who are suffering persecution today, you and I have not had to suffer in these ways because of our living with Christ. But that day may come before we know it. Either way, we are to fix our eyes on Jesus. The joy set before us will stand us in good stead as we walk with Christ in this dark world.
I know a person who lives in another state, whose spouse died some years ago. This person grieved deeply to the point that she was not able to open birthday and Christmas gifts. She felt guilty, as if it would be wrong to have joy. Healing came slowly. Maybe you have been hindered in receiving and opening the grace gifts that Jesus offers. Perhaps you feel guilty and don’t deserve them. Perhaps you don’t believe that the gifts are really for you. Dear friend, Jesus invites everyone to discover the joy of finding the treasure of eternal living by coming to him and receiving his life. Jesus encourages everyone to orient their life around him, His word, His love, and His commands. Jesus urges us to fix our eyes on him and the joy that will be ours when we are with him forever. You do not have to wait to find joy in heaven. In Christ the joy of heaven comes to us now. His joy is in us. Amen