Let’s do an experiment. Please take a moment to frown. I mean really frown. Are you ready? No smirking!
Now that you are sufficiently frowning, read these words out loud:
“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”
“Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee opening to the Son of love. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness…”
You may or may not recognize these church songs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the blessing of being able to lead groups in singing these words. However, what I find is that for many Christians these are hollow statements.
One of my favorite games with my kids involves reverse psychology. My kids will be frowning, and I’ll tell them “don’t you smile!” Try as they might they strain as they work to try to keep the corners of their mouths from curving upward. I’m laughing the whole time which doesn’t help. Finally, they can hold it no longer, and they bust forth in full fledged laughter as they smile in defiance of my rule. They can’t help it. The smile just happens. By the way, this even works on them when they really are upset.
Back to church.
Sunday after Sunday Christians gather in man-made sanctuaries across the world and “celebrate” the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We sing songs of praise to God for what He has done for and through us. We worship Him for how awesome He is. But for so many people this is merely a description of what is supposed to happen.
Have you ever gone to a church service that seemed more like a funeral than a celebration? Do you know Christians that are more critical and grumpy than others you know? Are you able to be described as grumpy?
David, the man after God’s own heart, was sad that the presence of the Lord wasn’t in the capitol of Jerusalem. However, when the ark of the covenant, above which the presence of the Lord resided, came into the city David couldn’t control himself.
He threw a party! There were sacrifices aplenty to Jehovah God. There was music all over the place, and there was dancing. But no dancing was as significant as the dancing David did himself. He tore off his clothes down to his underwear. (By the way, he is the king of Israel at this time) Then he danced before the Lord all through the streets. He couldn’t keep it in. He was so happy! He was rejoicing that God was back in Israel once again. God’s presence was near.
Later that day, his wife, Michal, came to him and chastised him. She talked about how undignified it was for the king to dance naked in the streets. I mean, what would the slave girls think? Would they respect a king who behaved in such a way?
I love David’s response. “I will be even more undignified before the Lord!”
When we have joy then there is a natural outward expression of that joy. You can’t have joy and hold it in. You can hold in happiness, but joy is much deeper than happiness. Joy is a state of being.
I Peter 1:8-9 says this:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
If you have been saved by the grace of God then you have reason for joy! In fact, the inexpressible joy mentioned here isn’t a joy that is quiet or held in. It is a joy that is so overwhelming it can’t be measured. Have you ever seen someone like that? Have you ever seen a person who has lived a life of bondage to sin celebrate because of their newfound liberation in the salvation through Christ? I have seen it, and it is inexpressible and glorious.
As we grow comfortable in our faith, though, that joy begins to wane. We don’t stay in practice of giving all out glory and praise and worship to God. Many churches shush people who are worshipping with total abandon. This should not be!
Sunday morning isn’t a funeral, it’s a celebration! The God of the universe made a great sacrifice and overcame the power of death and sin in your life and mine. We have been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus! We don’t have to worry about sin any more! We are eternal beings! We have the Spirit of God! These are all things to celebrate!
So, the next time you sing one of the songs mentioned at the beginning of this article, please don’t just smile, sing it out. Don’t worry about what others think. It’s about God. If they’re not willing to act in joy then that’s their decision, but don’t let it stop you.
Joy is a noun that has many verbs. Don’t hold it in. When the world around you sees the joy overflowing from you they will want what you have too. Then we’ll be able to tell them, and they can become filled with inexpressible and glorious joy.