Robert Murray McCheyne said, ‘The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus.’
In these posts, I want to share some reflections on joy and where, as Christians, we can find our joy.
Finding Joy in the Church
29th March 2021
It seems so apt that this is my subject for today when church gatherings just resumed yesterday. And I hope that those of you who gathered for worship yesterday experienced the joy of being with brothers and sisters in Christ. While we have tried our best with technology when church was closed, it is impossible to recreate the joy of gathering together as the family of God. Just as we have missed our own families over this difficult year, we have also dearly missed our church family. The joy of the Lord is experienced when we are together with our church family and that I trust we will rediscover this joy over the coming months as we are increasingly able to be together.
One of the dangers in our Christian life is that the individualism that infuses every part of our western culture creeps into our faith. The Christian faith is not an individual faith – it is certainly not an individualistic faith. Rather it is the story of God and his people. And so, the joy of the Lord is found in his church. Joy that is found when we look around and see our brothers and sisters growing in their love for Jesus. Joy that is found when we see them use their gifts for the glory of God. Joy when the church loves and serves one another. And joy when we see churches united for God’s glory.
I rejoice to see you walking in the truth
The apostle John speaks of this joy in 2 of his letters. In 3 John he says,
For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 3-4)
And in 2 John he repeats this sentiment when he says,
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. (2 John 4)
In our studies in 1 John, we have seen that John was exhorting the Christians to remain in the truth. This wasn’t an unfeeling, arbitrary instruction. It was a loving, pastoral instruction. And so, when we heard that they were walking in the truth, he was filled with joy. John says that his greatest joy is found in seeing the church holding onto the truth of the gospel.
The same can be true for us. When we see our brothers and sisters holding onto the truth of the gospel; when we see our children and young people being taught the truth of the gospel; when we see people growing in their knowledge of the gospel, we are filled with joy.
I rejoice to see your love for one another
There is another example in scripture where we see the church being the cause of joy. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes,
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. (2 Corinthians 7:13)
Paul had been critical of the church in Corinth because they were not living as the church ought – they were divided and lacking in love for one another. Titus visited the church later and he was filled with joy because the church in Corinth had changed for the better. They were now seeking to be a loving community of God’s people and this brought Titus joy and it brought Paul joy also. Again, when we see the church living as it ought – loving one another, serving one another, praying for one another – we are filled with joy.
I rejoice to see your unity
Paul encourages the church in Philippi to,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)
Paul identifies that there is joy to be found in the unity of the church. However it is important to remember that Paul doesn’t simply equate unity with agreement. In the church, unity is equated with humility. Unity is found, Paul says, when each person counts others more significant than themselves. When each person operates within the church for the good of their brothers and sisters and for the glory of God.
And when we see this kind of humble, sacrificial service taking place in the church, we are filled with joy. Filled with joy because this kind of unity is evidence and fruit of our salvation. We experience joy because it is clear that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus because if it was not for the work of the spirit, we would not humbly sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the church.
So whenever we look at our church family, whenever we think of them, whenever we gather with them, what do we see? If we see them as Christ sees them – sinners saved by God’s outrageous grace; as God’s workmanship being sanctified to do good works for his glory; as those who sacrifice and pray for us as we sacrifice and pray for them – we can be filled with joy for all that God has done for them and is doing through them.
Next week - 'Continuing in Joy'