If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Now, if you haven’t been around here the last couple of weeks, we’ve started a summer sermon series entitled, Living by the Spirit. And it’s all about how we can follow the command given by the Apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatian churches: “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Now that’s our focus. And during the first message, before talking about a spiritual kind of life, we looked at what “the desires of the flesh” were all about. And we reached the conclusion that they came from a misuse of the freedom we have in Christ. And this leads to a mess of character flaws, which, when taken together always results in a bunch of broken relationships. That was the first message. And last week, we focused on the first sign of a spiritual life, namely love. And we talked about how the kind of love about which Paul wrote is both a decision, not an emotion, and an obligation, not an option. And this morning, we’re going to look at the second trait shown by folks who are living by the Spirit: namely joy.
But my favorite Christian song about joy is the one that starts like this (and I won’t sing it): I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (someone say ‘Where?’) Down in my heart (Where?) Down in my heart. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.” Now, brace yourselves, we’re going to sing it a little later in the service. Let’s just say, we sing about joy a lot in the church, again the feeling, not the person.
And to do that, well, I think it’s pretty important to understand exactly what it is, and of course, I’m talking about joy. And to do that, we’re going to open our Bibles and take a look inside, because when we do, I believe Paul offers three characteristics of the kind of joy that the Spirit brings and that believers can show. And I’ll tell you, we can find all three in what he wrote in his letters.
And I’ll tell you why I think that connection is important. Sometimes I think we assume that joy, that happiness just comes and goes. There are times when we’re happy, probably when things are going our way, and there are times when we’re not, and that’s just the way it is. But that’s just not true if Paul was right and Christian joy is grounded ultimately in faith, you know, trust in God. I mean, while good times may come and go, we can decide to believe that God is in control. And we can decide to trust that through Jesus Christ our past has been cleansed and our future secured. And we can decide to have faith that the Holy Spirit is a constant source of inspiration and strength. And because joy in grounded in faith, when we make that decision, and it’s something we make not just once but over and over again, if Paul was right, it’s through that decision that we’ll experience joy. Now that’s one thing I think he believed.
And I’ll tell you, that’s still important for us right now. I mean, without an awareness that we’re not alone, without a sense that the future holds something more than what we’re experiencing right now, and without a feeling that we are a part of something greater than we can even imagine, it’s easy for discouragement to slip into despair. But if we can claim the joy that comes from faith, we’ll be able to keep our heads up when life is pulling us down. Joy can help, and that’s number two.
But I’ll tell you, this presents us with a pretty clear challenge I’m not sure we can avoid. Listen to me, if we’re not a church that knows how to rejoice in everything we do and if we don’t feel happy when we’re worshiping and when we’re working and when we’re just hanging out together but instead we grumble and gripe and complain, I’m telling you, if we have decided that we’re not going to experience joy, brothers and sisters, “Houston, we have a problem.” And it’s one we better solve before we find ourselves standing before the Judgement Seat of God. Joy must be shared among Christians; therefore, it must be present here. And that’s three.
And I’ll tell you, that’s something we need to remember, if we’re serious about living by the Spirit. You see, regardless of what we sing, for the Apostle Paul, Christian joy always is grounded in faith. It always helps when we face suffering. And it always is shared among Christians in this community we call the church. That’s the way it was, is and always will be, amen. And so, as Christians who want to live spirit-centered lives, let’s start bearing some joyous fruit from that seed which was planted down in our hearts, and I’m talking about joy, joy, joy.