Sermon – JOY: Little Word, Big Meaning (Galatians 5:13 – 5:26) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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The Fruit of the Spirit

A New Fight Club Series for 2018

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Sermon 3 of 10

JOY: Little Word, Big Meaning

Ben Read, Galatians 5:13 - 5:26, 25 February 2018

Galatians 5:13 - 5:26

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Escalations chapter 5, and we're starting at verse 13. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh? Rather serve 1 another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this 1 command, love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say live by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other. So that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the spirits, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of god. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirits. Ben. Thank you, Rory. Or good evening, everybody. Let me add my welcome.

My name is Ben Reed. For those who don't know me, I'm a member here at Cornerstone. And it's good to see. Please keep those bibles open in front of you, because we're gonna be needing them. It is a privilege to open god God's word with you tonight and continue our series looking at the fruit of the spirit.

We began 2 weeks ago where we had an introduction to the fruit of the spirit. And last week, we kicked off, looking at love. And tonight, we're gonna look at joy, as part of this series. So let me let me pray as we begin. Heaveney father.

We we thank you for your word. We thank you for the fruit of the spirit. Please buy your spirit. Speak to us tonight. Help us to listen.

Help us to have soft hearts and to be changed. In Jesus' name we ask, Carmen. So have you ever come across a word that you swear you've never heard before or or a word that's so kind of obscure that you think I'm never gonna need to know or or see that again. And then in the days that immediately follow, you see it everywhere. Has that ever happened to you?

Can you can you relate to that? I remember reading the word salient at university. I was gonna do a quick show of hands to see who knows that word, but mate, no, I won't do that. I I I learned that university. It came across in an article I was reading, and it means the most notable or the most important and and as I was reading this article, I came across it and I I could I could figure out the meaning of the the sentence without needing to know what it was.

So I kind of skipped over it and then came up again and I could just about get by. Then it came up a third time and I thought, right? I need to stop being lazy here. I need to actually find out what this word means. And I looked it up, I saw that it meant the most notable or the most important, and I kind of just thought to myself, why why wouldn't you just say the most important or the I was thinking, maybe that's just academia for you or or the richness of the English language.

But the funny thing was I then started seeing that word salient in every article that I read that day. Right? And not only that in my lecturers slide, PowerPoint slide, the next day it was there. And to my surprise, it even started emerging in the assignments that I was writing, I was like, I've become 1 of these people. The salient finding of this study was, and it was there in front of me.

I couldn't imagine my life without it. Is that ever happened to you with a word? Well, since being assigned the word joy, for this fruit of the spirit series we're having, I've had a really similar experience to learning the word salient. Right? Obviously, I knew what the word joy meant before, but I've really been tuned in to hearing it and seeing it everywhere.

Right? It's in the songs that we sing. It's, it's all over the Bible from beginning to end this word. It's in the sermons I'm hearing to the books that I'm reading. It's even in the conversations that we we have and the things that we say to each other, isn't it?

We we say things like, oh, it's a real joy to see so and so at church the day, but it was such a joy to see the youth in the church growing in their faith, or more recently, what a joy it was to to go to each other's houses during media fast and to read scripture, and to eat together. It was a genuine joy having dinner and thorough goods house. That's definitely for sure. Or actually, what I've told people that I'm doing joy tonight, they then have proceeded to sing songs about joy back to me that they learned as a kid. Right?

I've had like, I've got the joy joy joy joy deep in my heart. And give me joy in my heart. Keep me present. You know those songs? Yeah.

And I actually joked this morning that I should basically just sing those songs to you tonight, and that was gonna be tonight's sermon. That's like Joy covered. Let's do the next 1. So it's everywhere, this word joy, right? But not only have I been seeing the word everywhere.

I've also been tuning into what it means and realizing the importance of it in the Christian life. I listened to, a labrie lecture about join, from a guy called Philip Samsung, and he said this about it. He said the chief end of creation is to worship its creator, and the form of this worship is joy. So effectively, what he was saying was the ultimate purpose for creation, for me, and for you, the whole reason we're made is to have joy. And I was at my parents church 2 weeks ago where a portion of a sermon entitled a life in Christ Jesus was spent on joy the preacher was making the point that actually joy is 1 of the things that distinguishes a Christian life.

A Christian life will be characterized by joy. And he also capitalized joy, j o y, in every slide he had, because he said it was a small word with a big meaning. And I've nicked that for my sermon title tonight. But joy is also a fruit of the spirit, right, which is what we're looking So it's something that god himself wants to cultivate in us, so that we more closely reflect his image. And perhaps 1 of the most striking things about joy is that we are commanded to be joyful.

Right? It's not merely a nice to have or kind of a pleasant part of the Christian life that some people experience sort of, regularly while the rest of us deal with the drips and drabs as as they come along. You know, the people who always seem to be really blessed with joy, really happy, kind of filled with energy. They find it easy to worship and all of that. But the thing is it's not just some people.

All of us are commanded to have joy in god. Philippians chapter 4 verse 4. Says rejoice in the lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice.

So joy, it's what we're made for. It's an essential mark of the Christian life. It's a fruit of the spirit that god is cultivating us, and we're commanded to do it. Right? I hope you agree with me that it's an important thing to understand and to get right.

So what is joy? Let me ask you this at the opposite. What do you think joy is? What does it look like to you? What is it based on?

Where does it come from? How long does it last? And what does it cause you to do? Or if that's a bit too philosophical, then imagine when if at all in the last week or the last month that you've had joy. What about the last year?

Whenever you had joy in the past year, or even this, who is the most joyful person you know? So with that in mind, is your definition of joy or the idea jump to in your head. Is it closer to what the Bible says joy is or perhaps to what the world says joy is? Well, well, let's see. What does the world say, about joy?

Oh, here's a here's a quote from Richard Branson. He says this. If you follow your dreams, and spend your life doing what brings you joy, you're more likely to find success. If you follow your dreams and spend your life doing what brings you joy, you are more likely to find success. And I think that the world with Richard Branson uses the word joy more like happiness or pleasure.

I think the words can be used interchangeably for him. So he could be saying he effectively says, do what brings you happiness, do what brings you pleasure. And it sounds quite nice, doesn't it? I mean, you could You could put that in a nice font on a kind of sunset background and you could share it on Twitter and it will get retweeted thousands of times because it's It's a nice idea, isn't it? It sounds nice, and people like to get behind ideas like that.

Actually, when you when you look a little bit closer at sayings like this, and they actually they're quite fickle, really, because They're based on feelings, right, which come and go. So what happens if you start doing something that is good? But after a while, it no longer brings you joy anymore, or or brings you happiness or pleasure. What then? You just sort of sack it and move on to the next thing.

Right? And that philosophy of do what brings you happiness is it gets dangerous when you apply it to relationships. Doesn't it? Whether it's a friendship or a partner? Because it won't take you long before you come across a moment where that person doesn't make you as happy as as they did at the start.

Right? And then what? You sort of drop them and and move on. And all those slogans to like follow your dreams, Follow your heart. Be true to yourself.

Right? There's even a danger there, isn't there? Jeremiah 17 verse 9 says that the heart is the most deceitful thing. It's deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Jesus already listed the vile things that come out of a person's heart in the gospels.

And and here they are again in this passage, that we read tonight, look at verses 19 to 21. The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry witchcraft hatred, discord jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, actions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Right? These these things don't sound nice written down, do they? When you look at them, And when when you say them out loud, they're horrible, actually.

But if we were to dissect our own hearts, and to dissect some of our urges and our desires, then actually this is what we find. But the though these things are what our flesh desires, these things will not bring us joy. And I I think we know that. Right? They are cheap thrills.

Right? And they might be exhilarating at the time. Like, it it might be fun to go and get really drunk right once. And to have selfish ambition and kind of fantasize, a future for yourself. It can probably feel good, but It doesn't last, and it definitely, doesn't bring you long term joy, does it?

Will Smith is someone who I used to idolize quite a lot. I used to find him really, really funny. I mean, I still do, to be honest, but he's he's he's way off the mark in his worldview and his philosophy. But interestingly, he's he's got a he kind of does these YouTube blogs now. And like, accidentally, genuinely accidentally stumbled across 1 recently, and he said this at the beginning of it was kind of the intro.

He said this. I always feel like I'm looking for something, but I don't really know what it is. I can tell when I'm near it, And I'm pretty sure I'll know when I find it. But until then, I'll just keep looking. Right?

And Will Smith is like a global icon. There is he there's almost nothing that he hasn't tasted that the world has to offer. Right? But he's still unsatisfied. The dreams that his heart has spouted, that he's chased after have not bought him lasting joy.

So that's what the world thinks. But here's where the Bible is different. K? The Bible says joy is not just extreme feelings of happiness or pleasure. When you read about joy in the Bible, though that you see it is a positive experience that someone has, it must be different and, it has to be bigger than those things.

Different and bigger than those things. And there are 4 characteristics about joy. That I want to highlight that separate it and put it above happiness and pleasure tonight. And they're all based on this verse that's up on on the screen behind me. Philippians chapter 4 verse 4.

There you go 4 things from chapter 4 verse 4. You remember that, weren't you? I said simple. So this says rejoice in the lord always. I will say it again, rejoice.

So the first thing is this, We cannot conjure up the feeling of happiness whenever we want. Can we? You cannot be ordered to be happy. I think Chris last week got Jerusalem up to make some faces. Is that right?

I actually wasn't here, but I heard it, and it was it was funny. I could imagine the faces that you were pulling. And the point point you were making, Chris, was you can't order someone to feel an emotion. Right? So you can't be commanded to be happy, but here in the Bible, we are commanded to rejoice.

And I would say actually that it's a blessing that that joy is not the same as happiness. Because I think some people some people have an affinity, don't they? To being kind of generally quite happy or or positive, or passionate about things. And I think those things can get mistaken for joy. And I think those are more to do with your personality.

The Bible, on the other hand, doesn't command you to be an outwardly happy passionate and extroverted person, does it? But it does call you to rejoice, which is to do with your character, not your personality. And therefore you can rejoice in different ways depending on your personality. So that's the first thing. We're commanded to rejoice.

Secondly, We can recreate kind of feelings with drugs. Right? But you can never replicate joy. Joy has to be based on something. We're not commanded to simply have, like, an extracted joy devoid of any basal reason.

Are we? God doesn't say to us in this passage. He doesn't say rejoice. Be joyful for no reason. Just be just rejoice.

Okay? We're commanded to have joy in the lord. In who god is, in what he has done, in what he is doing, and what he is going to do. Those things will fill you with joy when you see them and understand them clearly. Psalm 35, verse 9 says this, then my soul will rejoice in the lord and delight in his salvation.

Psalm 43, then I will go to the altar of god to god my joy and my delight. Isaiah 61. I delight greatly in the in the lord, my soul rejoices in my god. Luke chapter 1, My soul glorifies the lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my savior. Matthew Henry, who's a bible commentator summarizes this, like this.

He says god himself is the ground and object of the believer's joy. And more than that, when you when you see god clearly and you understand who he is and who you are in relationship to him, and then you look back down and you look at your brothers and sisters around you. And, actually, you find joy in them as well. 1 thessalonians chapter 2 says this, for what is our hope? Our joy or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the lord Jesus Christ when he comes.

Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. So we have joy in god and also in each other. That's the second thing. The third thing, we cannot be happy all the time.

Can we? Because sometimes things are sad, and we need to grieve, or we need to feel remorse we need to repent, and to feel happy in those situations wouldn't necessarily be appropriate, would it? However, we are commanded to be joyful all the time. Rejoice in the lord always So Paul who wrote this, wrote this, kind of short, letter to the Philippines It's about 4 chapters long. He wrote it when he was in prison.

And I know nowadays when we think of prison, we think of kind of the warm, dry possible prisons that we have nowadays, but the prison that he was in was was not like the prisons we have nowadays. He would have been stripped naked and flogged, he would have been humiliated. His wounds would have been left untreated. The cells were small, freezing cold and just stank of sewage, unimaginably nasty conditions. Right?

And yet in the short letter to the Philipp, he mentions joy 16 times, and he commands us to be joyful always even in that situation that he was in. And the reason he can do that is because as we've seen, joy is independent from our circumstances. It's not based in our circumstances, is it? It's dependent and rooted in god. Who doesn't change.

He is the same yesterday today and forever. In the midst of our tragedy and sorrow, we can still have joy because of god. And the dictionary of New Testament theology describes joy as this. Joy is a continuous, defiant, Nevertheless, I love that. Continue defiant, nevertheless.

And along with Paul in prison, I think this sentiment of of the nevertheless is embodied in Habercut chapter 3. Listen to this. Though the fig tree does not bud, And there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattles in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the lord. I will be joyful in God, my saviour. Literally, everything has gone wrong for this person who wrote that.

Right? They have no reason to be happy at all. Okay? They've lost their source of food, their economy, their income, perhaps their job, and yet they will rejoice. And we might not be able to relate to sheep pens sheeping pens and things like that.

So I've got a modern version of this, which I've written. Though work is frustrating and seems fruitless, and we struggle to make ends meet, though our relationships are difficult, and we mess up once again. Though my body fails me and strikes me with illness, yet I will rejoice in the lord. I will be, joyful in god, my savior. So do you get what I'm doing there?

Do you get that? Insert whatever problems you are facing in your life right now, whatever challenges you have, whatever is sapping your energy or your happiness, whatever is is challenging, put it into that poem, and then end it with yet, I will rejoice in the lord. That's joy. And, fourthly, joy serves a function. It's not just for our enjoyment.

Though it is a gift to enjoy, but it is also for the worship and praise of God. I've got a a a Bible concordance at home, which is just the most jag gantic book. It's hilarious on the shelf next to everything else, and it lists every word in the Bible, and where they are. And there's sort of 270 something references of joy in the bible. And most of them, when you look through them, most of them are 1 of 2 things.

It's either shout for joy, or sing for joy. So the joy that we have as Christians is to be acted out as a verb, right? I say it again rejoice. This verse says. It's not have joy.

Experience joy. Right? Enjoy joy. It's not that. It's rejoice.

Do something with your joy. Praise God. So joy is is not so much a feeling that we kind of wait to receive, but it's it's an attitude that we adopt to praise god. So then based on those 4 points, what is biblical joy? Well, let me summarize it briefly like this.

Joy is an attitude to put on always and in every situation based in the lord and for his praise. Joy is an attitude to put on always and in every situation based in the lord and for his praise. But joy is also fruit of the spirit. So what does that mean? Well, joy can't be mustered up in and from ourselves.

However, hard we try. We I think we know that. We can't just go and mind joy from somewhere and get more of it or or sit and meditate to generate more of it within us. That's not how it works. It's the work of the spirit in us.

It's him who plants it in us, and it's him who causes it to grow in us. But we also don't, as Chris said last week, sit on a sofa and just wait for to hit us in the face. Right. Oh, joy. Now I can rejoice.

It's a fruit where the spirit grows. Yes. But it must be cultivated. Right? It must be looked after and fed by us.

And we also know that the flesh and the spirit are, in conflict with 1 another. I mean, look at verse 17. The flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit. And and this was a bit of an aha moment for me, right? Because it means if the spirit wants it, If the spirit wants us to have joy and the spirit is at odds and in conflict with the flesh, and the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, then our flesh doesn't want it.

Have you ever thought about that? Our flesh actually doesn't want joy. Our flesh desires kind of sinful, cheap thrills, that don't satisfy us. We'd we'd rather make ourselves happy by satisfying our lust than to be content in what we have and find joy in the lord. We'd rather have a mud pie than than the banquet that is on offer to us.

So Joy isn't natural for us, It's hard actually being joyful. So what do we do then? As Christians, when we're commanded to be joyful and we find it difficult. What do we do when it's hard and we don't feel joy in the lord? Was Pete said 2 weeks ago, it's a fruit.

It grows slowly. Okay. So it's not instant freeze dried fruit that you just add water to, it unfolds slowly over time. It also grows in the soil of conflict. If we're not feeling joyful, then we can at least, recognize that we're in the correct growing conditions for it.

And we can be encouraged that we can be joyful in sadness. I mean, just just look at Jesus' example, man of sorrows we sing about him. Yet he was joyful. What else can we do? We must pray that god helps us with it.

It's not our work. It's his work. So we need to ask for his help. And David does just this in Psalm 51, where he prays this. He says, store to me the joy of your salvation.

You know, it's perfectly possible to be enjoying a close faithful relationship with god, and then to mess up and feel separated from his joy. So ask God to restore it. And we must get up and do joy as well. Right? It's an action, rejoice, And then joy will come.

It reminds me a little bit of what, a guy called Hans Gelder, said to the the married couple in this church last year. As part of a weekend with, married couples, and looking at marriage. He said this, he said, if we don't feel loving towards someone, Often, if we make ourselves do something loving for them, then actually then the feelings come afterwards. If we, act in a loving way, we will feel love is what he was saying. And in the same way, if we don't particularly feel joyful, then, actually, the worst thing you can do is not come to church and not read your Bible and not pray.

Cause if you get yourself to church, and you sing god's praises, and actually you will find that your joy increases, rejoicing begets more joy, I love the first song that we sang tonight, arise. What is it? Arise god, arise someone else? No. It's Arise my soul.

We're like trying to will ourselves. Like, come on, and then joy follows. And, verse 25 in in chapter 5, since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. To keep in step means to be moving with that other thing. It's not just stand by the spirit and don't go anywhere.

It's keep in step, move. Keep doing. Keep rejoicing. But most importantly, what do we do when we don't feel, joyful? Well, look to Christ in scripture and in the world.

Most importantly, look to Christ in scripture in the world. When you see Christ clearly, You will see his joy. You will see his joy. And actually, you will not help but feel his joy as well. He says this, in John 15, as the father has loved me.

So have I loved you? Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you remain in my love. Just as I have kept my father's commands and remained in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

That's what Jesus said. He says, I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. So Jesus has revealed things to us so that his joy might be in you. And in fact, your joy is not gonna be complete. Unless his joy is in you.

So listen to him. He has spoken so that your joy would be complete. Listen to him. And what about god's joy? Let me just end with this.

Did you know did you know that god has great joy? He is a god of great joy. And do you know, what god takes great joy in? Well, it might surprise you, but actually god takes great joy in you. You are the source of his great joy.

Isaiah 65 says this, and I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people. That's god speaking. Isaiah 62 as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your god rejoice over you. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love.

He will rejoice over you with singing. I love that. God is is is so overflowing with love and joy for you that he sings over you. And then a verse that is quite familiar. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.

Hebrews 12. Do you know that Jesus endured the cross for your sin so that you can be with him for eternity? And did you know that though the pain of the cross and the anguish of god's judgment was enough for Jesus to sweat blood in anticipation of it. He went through with it for the joy of being with you. That was set before him.

In Luke 17, Jesus says, I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. So then, do you want that continuous defiant nevertheless joy in the lord? Do you want that joy that lasts in every situation even when you're suffering and facing problems? Do you want his joy in you that is not just for your enjoyment, but it is the joy that overflows out of you and causes you to sing or to shout his praise. Do you want the lord to have that joy for you that causes him to sing over you?

And for heaven to rejoice. If you want those things, and can I urge you, brothers and sisters, to turn to him for the first time if you never have done before, or to do so again if you are a Christian today? Pray with David restore to me the joy of your salvation. Get up and do joy, and joy will come. And look to Christ in scripture and in the world.

Let me pray. Heavenly father. We wanna thank you for your word through which you have spoken to us. So that we would be able to see the lord Jesus, who he is, what he's done for us, and to see the joy that he has in us. Please cultivate joy in us that whatever situation we're in, we might be people who say, yet, I will rejoice in the lord.

We ask this in Jesus' name and for his glory, amen.

Preached by Ben Read
Ben Read photo

Ben is a Trainee Pastor at Cornerstone and lives with his wife Ceri who is a youth leader and helps run the women’s ministry in the church.

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