2 Places in the JOYful Journey

What does a growing Christian really look like?

The “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22). This fruit stands in opposition to the works of the flesh in verses 19-21.

The primary evidence of our faith is love. Without love, we’re merely making a bunch of hypocritical noise! Without love, we’re settling for a self-made joyless religion.

Building upon love, the Spirit lays the evidence of joy.

This starts with Jesus as He says in John 15:9-11, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

What is biblical joy? The original Greek word is “chara” (pronounced kara) and is derived from “charis,” which is translated as grace. So, joy is not human-based but produced by God’s grace. This is why Nehemiah said, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (8:10).

JOY and happiness can coincide. But happiness is temporary, while JOY becomes the growing Christian’s permanent disposition. Biblical JOY is God’s grace gift, which brings inner contentment and confidence that His plan for my life means everything’s going to be alright despite my current circumstances.

Biblical JOY is robust evidence of your faith in Christ.

But many professing Christians lack joy. Do you? God designed our JOY to be an internal closed system between Him and us. But we often cooperate with outside forces to redesign it. And that redesign brings about leakage. How about you? If you look on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the fullest and 1 being depleted, how full is your joy tank? What’s your gauge reading?

Think about where joy can be increased in your Christian journey.

1. There is JOY in the journey of Christian living.

A misconception among many is that Jesus only wants to forgive us of our sins. The truth is Christ must become Lord of your life. You can only experience “the joy of the Lord” when He is your Lord. But when He is my Lord, He’s the producer and director of the flick formerly known as my life.

Another big misconception is that some people believe Christianity must be joyless. They can’t see the difference between happiness and joy. And they haven’t learned that you can have fun without the “pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Those “works of the flesh” will have their payday, and they don’t end in “fullness of joy.” But if you follow Jesus and live as the Bible teaches, you’ll find joy exceeding anything you’ve ever experienced. And there’s no shame and guilt like you get with the “passing pleasures of sin.”

2. Most importantly, there is JOY in the journey of Christian choosing.

Recall John 15:11. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Even though this disposition of joy is grace produced, I must carefully guard it. Child of God, grace has never meant that no human effort is involved. So as a steward of Jesus’s joy, I receive a transfer of ownership from “My joy” to “your joy.”

For joy to “remain” and “be full,” daily choices must be made. I must refuse to loiter where the “lusts of the flesh” are present. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Some of you think there’s no freedom from the willful sins called the “works of the flesh.” That homemade doctrine didn’t come from a careful reading of the New Testament. Where willful sin is practiced, “the joy of the Lord” is absent. Every time you choose willful sin, you cooperate with the devil’s plan to destroy your joy.

So how do Christians resist sin and selfishness? “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You can choose to “walk in the Spirit.” You can choose to be “led by the Spirit,” and you can “live in the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:16-26).

Biblical JOY is robust evidence of your faith in Christ.

When a growing Christian finally gets this joy of the Lord settled, it’s like this old toy I remember. It was a toddler’s version of a punching bag. This balloon-like plastic toy sat on the floor, taller than your average toddler. The surprising thing about this toy is that it had a concealed weight in its internal base. The child can hit, kick, and punch this buoy-like toy, and it will return to the standing position. So, regardless of the external pressures that attack it, it will eventually return to the upright position.

That’s the power of biblical joy. No matter how hard your circumstances hit you, in time, you will bounce back! Your ability to recover is inherent because your life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). You have weighted joy on the inside.

This is the secret power of growing Christians.

Trials come, and trials go, but we “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

The devil might have been recently attacking you, and you might need to confess that you’ve cooperated with him for too long. KNOW THIS, a joyless Christian life is not God’s will for you.

I’ve got good news for you. As soon as you ask for God’s forgiveness, you’ll receive it. As soon as you repent of the willful sin you’ve been indulging in, the Holy Spirit will reseal the system leakage and refill your joy tank.

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