Joy - Fruit of the Spirit by MELVIN NEWLAND
Galatians 5:22-23 (TEV)
22 But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.
A. Last week we began looking at Galatians 5:22 where Paul speaks about the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Listen as I read it once again. Paul says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-?control."
Now the very first "fruit" that Paul mentions is love. And as we considered it, we realized that we live in a world that talks a lot about & glorifies the subject of love, but too often real love is missing. As a result, people are looking for love in all the wrong places. So the church needs to become a beacon & an oasis of love in a love-starved world.
B. Now the next "fruit of the Spirit" that Paul mentions is joy. And I ask you, "Do you have that joy?" It’s obvious that many people don’t. And you’ve been around them, haven’t you? They’re grumps, they’re gripers, they’re very negative about virtually everything that happens in life, complaining almost all the time. As a result, they just aren’t much fun to be around.
ILL. One of my favorite stories about a person with a grumpy personality begins with a man going into the doctor’s office. As he walked in, he was met by the receptionist. He told her that he had a sore on his chin that he wanted the doctor to examine.
She said to him, "Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes." "But ma’am," he said, "it’s just a sore on my chin. I don’t think all that is necessary." She repeated, "Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes." "But ma’am," he said. "Down the hall, first door to the right, & take off your clothes."
So he went down the hall, took the first door to the right, walked in & saw another man already sitting there in his boxer shorts, shivering. He said to him, "Boy, that receptionist is really something, isn’t she? I just have a little sore on my chin & she told me to come down here, go through this door & take off my clothes." The man in the boxer shorts said, "You think that’s bad? I’m the UPS delivery man."
SUM. There are some difficult people, aren’t there? And what they need is a personality transplant.
C. Let me give you a definition of "joy." "Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in your life." If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then this fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.
Now don’t mistake happiness for joy. It’s easy to do that. The Bible mentions "joy" or "rejoicing" 330 times. But it only mentions "happiness" 26 times. Happiness depends upon what happens to you. So if all the circumstances are right, then you can be happy. But joy comes from inside.
PROP. This morning we’re going to identify some enemies of joy. Then we’ll look at a perfect example of joy, & finally, consider the question, "How do we experience that kind of joy?" Now, what are some enemies of joy?
I. SOME ENEMIES OF JOY
A. Sometimes we’re robbed of joy by the differences between generations. There have always been generation gaps, but it seems to me that generation gaps are more obvious now than they’ve ever been before.
ILL. Now, I can’t use myself as an example because, as most of you know, my parents were missionaries & I spent the first few years of my life living in China. Then we were separated, & my parents spent most of WW2 in a Japanese prison camp. So my childhood memories are not the same as most others.
But listen to what a friend of mine remembers about his childhood. He says, "I grew up in a home overshadowed by worry. Our country had come through a world war & a depression, & now was engaged in a second world war. My father was busy working two 8-hour shifts at the factory, building heavy equipment to help our boys win the war. My uncle was in the marine corps & we talked in hushed tones, wondering if he would return home alive.
"There wasn’t much laughter in our house. And when you went to church, that was a pretty somber time, too. There was a lot of reverence & prayer & deep concern, but not a lot of laughter. And those of us who are older grew up in that kind of environment."
But times have changed. And if you just looked at circumstances you would think that we would be the happiest people in the world because we’re richer than any other generation, & our quality of life is better than ever before. We ought to be extremely happy. We’re not, but we ought to be.
Times are different & the younger generation sees church as a place to rejoice. Young people want to sing peppy songs & clap their hands, while most older folk want to be more solemn & restrained.
Now neither is wrong & neither is completely right. But it is wrong when we cause dissension & banish joy because of our different points of view.
B. A second enemy of joy is unresolved guilt. A lot of people are unable to accept themselves, & to accept the forgiveness of God.
You may have come through a divorce & you feel that you’re inferior in the sight of God. Or you may have had a brush with the law & you feel that you’re not welcome in God’s house. Or that people would not understand if they knew the secrets of your life.
ILL. David was the same way in the O.T. He had committed adultery, & he felt enormous guilt over it. He wrestled with the guilt & finally came to God in Psalms 51:12 & prayed, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation..."
C. A third enemy might be a wounded ego. A lot of us walk around with our feelings exposed, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing or not to say anything at all. And it happens. People don’t always act the way we would like. They don’t always say the right things. Sometimes they offend us, & our feelings are hurt. We feel unloved & unneeded & left out.
D. The fourth enemy of joy is unpleasant circumstances. All of us, I think, begin life with unrealistic expectations as to what life is going to be like. I know that I started out thinking, "Well, I’ll marry the perfect woman." And I did. "And we’ll have perfect children." And we do. And that we would live in the perfect house, & make lots of money. Which we haven’t. And we would be wondrously happy all of our lives, & there would never ever be any problems.
But problems do come, & they come to everybody. You may lose your job. Your children may disappoint you. There may be heartaches. Your health may break. Problems do come.
SUM. But here’s the good news. Even though the circumstances are unpleasant, God still wants to give you joy, to change who you are, & the way you think.
II. A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF JOY
A. Secondly, let’s look at a perfect example of joy in John 15:5-11, & see what we can learn from it. But first, listen as I set the stage for you.
It’s the night before the crucifixion of Jesus. He is in the upper room with His apostles. Soon He will be going to Gethsemane. Soon He will be arrested & tried & convicted of crimes He did not commit. Soon they will be laughing at Him. They will put a crown of thorns on His head, & mockingly call Him "the king of the Jews." They’ll slap Him, & spit upon Him, & whip Him with a cat o’ 9 tails. Soon His body will be nailed to a cross, & He will die. And He knows that all of this is going to happen. It’s not a very joyful time, is it?
B. But listen to what He says in John 15:8-10, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands & remain in His love."
Now listen to vs. 11; "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you & that your joy may be complete." On the last night of His life, facing the cross, Jesus talks about love & joy. And the next day He goes to the cross & dies for us.
The writer of Hebrews looks back at that & writes these words in Hebrews 12:2; "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross & scorned its shame."
SUM. How can there be any joy in a cross? I hope before this sermon is over we’ll understand how that can be true. Listen carefully now, as we consider the question, "How can we experience that kind of joy?"
III. HOW CAN WE EXPERIENCE THAT KIND OF JOY?
A. I believe, first of all, that we need to develop & maintain a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 15:5,6, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me & I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away & withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire & burned."
Jesus is saying that when we become Christians we’re like a branch attached to the vine. Jesus is the vine, & we’re the branches. As long as we’re attached to Him we’ll bear fruit.
That is where it begins. When we are attached to the vine it means that we have accepted Jesus as our Savior. If you’re here this morning & are not a Christian, then you need to become one. You can never have the joy that this passage talks about until you are attached to Him.
B. If you’re a Christian, & there isn’t much joy in your life, then you need to be reattached to the vine. One of my concerns about the church is that there are detached branches that are dying, but they don’t realize it yet. They look alive, they sound like they’re alive, but in reality they’re dead, because they’re no longer attached to the vine.
So you need to be reattached, & there are some basic things that you have to do to make that happen in your life.
1. First of all, you need to read the Word. You can’t know what God’s will is, or what God wants for you until you read His Word. So read the Word, & spend time in prayer. Seek His will in your life.
2. You also need to attend church. Now that’s pretty basic, I know. But there are people who think you can be a good Christian & not attend church. I disagree, because we need each other. We just can’t make it by ourself.
Until you’re rejoicing in the fellowship of believers, until you’re spending time with brothers & sisters in Christ, you’ll never have a firm attachment to the vine. So come to church. Learn from one another, & grow with one another. And the joy of the Lord will be your strength.
ILL. I listened to two men I have respected for many years speak at the NACC in Indianapolis. One is Bob Stacy, the other is Leroy Lawson.
Both of these men have lost grown children in the last few years. Bob Stacy’s daughter died because of a brain tumor. Leroy Lawson’s son took his own life. Both of them told of their grief. They never for a moment tried to disguise the tears still fresh on their cheeks, or the brokenness they felt inside, or the pain, or the grief. But in spite of all that, you could hear in their voices the evidence of God & the joy that was there.
Peter explains that in a wonderful way in the 4th chapter of 1 Peter. He says in vs’s 12-13, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed."
APPL. Right now things may be tough, but one of these days we will see the glory of God, & we’ll be overjoyed because of it.
B. Secondly, we need to give ourselves in service for others. One of the biggest problems in our world today is that we have become so self?centered that we no longer experience the joy of serving others.
Do you want to know why the writer of Hebrews says, "He endured the cross, scorned the shame because of the joy that was set before Him?" Do you want to know why the cross was an object of joy for Jesus?
Here’s why, because He didn’t do it for Himself. He did it for us. He went to the cross for us. And there’s joy even in a cross when you’re doing it for someone else.
APPL. So call up someone who’s lonely. Go to a nursing home. Visit someone. Mow somebody’s grass who can’t do it for themselves. Write them a note. Give some money away. Become less focused on yourself, more focused on others. Jesus said, "If you seek to save your life you’ll lose it. But if you give it away, then you’ll find it."
C. Thirdly, "Focus on the eternal & not the temporal." The reason Jesus could endure the cross is because after the cross came the resurrection. As we go through the experiences of life we need to see that one day there’s going to be a glorious resurrection when we will be with Jesus, too.
Paul writes, "Therefore we don’t lose heart. Though outwardly we waste away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light & momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" [2 Corinthians 4:16-18].
Look in the mirror & you’ll see yourself wasting away. Look at your material possessions, & you’ll see them wearing out. The whole world is winding down. Everything is wasting away.
But inwardly, we’re being renewed every day. So don’t look at the things you can see. Look at the things you can’t see, because they last forever.
ILL. My greatest joy as a father & grandfather is to see my children & grandchildren laughing together, enjoying each other’s company. My greatest concern as a father & a grandfather is when my children & my grandchildren bicker & don’t get along with each other.
If that’s true with me, isn’t it also true with God? His greatest joy is when His children love each other, & rejoice together, & laugh together, & enjoy each other’s company. And His greatest sadness is when we don’t get along, & the joy is gone.
SUM. The fruit of the Spirit is love expressed in joy. It’s the evidence of God’s presence in your life.
CONCL. If you’re here this morning & you’re not a Christian, we extend to you an invitation to come to Jesus. That must come first. Establish that relationship, develop it, & maintain it.
Whatever your decision is, we extend God’s invitation & He stands ready to meet your needs as we stand & as we sing.