On this final day of the third week of advent I thought it would be fun to take a look at three different passages that encourage us to be a people who embrace joy. I believe that the joy of belonging to God, the joy of knowing God, and the joy of understanding His promises can all help us remain devoted and faithful to God as we await the return of Jesus when all God’s promises will be fulfilled and we will reign and rule with Jesus in the Kingdom of God.
Belonging to God
As children copy their fathers you, as God’s children, are to copy him. Live your lives in love—the same sort of love which Christ gives us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us in sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 (PHILLIPS)
This passage doesn’t use the word joy to describe anything, but I believe that there is great joy in knowing that when we choose to believe in Jesus as Messiah that we are adopted by God into His family as His children and, therefore, belong to Him. We not only feel secure, loved, and protected, but because of our joy in belonging to God, we therefore choose to live our lives in such a way that imitates God.
The best way that we can know how to imitate God is to fix our eyes on Jesus and pay attention to how he lived a life of love. Jesus told us that he only did and said things that he saw his Father doing. So, when we look at Jesus we see God and can imitate Him.
Jesus said to them, “I assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. What the Son does is always modeled on what the Father does, for the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does himself… – John 5:19-20 (PHILLIPS)
“After Jesus had said this, he lifted up his eyes to heaven. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘the moment has come. Glorify your son, so that your son may glorify you. 2 Do this in the same way as you did when you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he could give the life of God’s coming age to everyone you gave him. 3 And by “the life of God’s coming age” I mean this: that they should know you, the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah, the one you sent.” – John 17:1-3 (NTE)
The passage above has always been a favorite of mine. Over the past year or so my joy in knowing God has increased primarily because I have been learning what it means for me to love God with all of my mind.
I love how Jesus equates knowing the only true God with the life of God’s coming age. In some ways this seems to be kind of confusing, but in other ways it makes complete sense. For me, I have begun to understand how God’s promised inheritance to Abraham and all of his descendants and all who believe in Jesus is a huge part of my hope for the age to come. And so, there is no life in the age to come without the God who will make it all happen and His Messiah, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Knowing God is what it means to enjoy life in the coming age.
The Promise of God
“Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne. Think constantly of him enduring all that sinful men could say against him and you will not lose your purpose or your courage.” – Hebrews 12:1-3 (PHILLIPS)
This well-known passage is our final stop today. There’s a lot for us to consider in these verses, however I only want to focus on the part about Jesus enduring a cross and thinking nothing of its shame because of the JOY he knew would follow his suffering.
So, what was this joy that Jesus knew would follow his suffering on the cross? It must’ve been amazing for him to endure such pain and sorrow, and not to mention, the end of his life.
My thought is that there were two main things that made up the joy that Jesus is talking about. First, I believe it’s obvious that part of his joy was knowing that through his faithful, obedient life and sacrificial death he was God’s agent to inaugurate and offer new life to those who believe in him and the coming kingdom. This is the new covenant God has made with the world through Christ.
I also believe that another part of Jesus’ joy was believing that God would do what he promised, raise Jesus back to life on the third day. This was part of Jesus’ hope and joy, that he would be the first of all creation to become immortal, and as God’s Messiah, he would then be given a place of honor and seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus had great joy in the promises of God and we can follow his example and live with this same kind of joy believing in the promises of God that are yet to be fulfilled. As we await Jesus’ return and all things becoming new, we wait with a living hope and with great joy!