Fighting for Joy: Full of Glory

Posted on August 10, 2011 by

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The following is the third part of a series of posts that grew out of a sermon originally preached on Sunday morning, July 31st, 2011, at First Bapstist-Las Colinas. You can read the original post here.

3.     Lasting joy is full of glory

 Whom [Jesus] having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Finally, Peter brings joy back to its source: Jesus Christ. We rejoice with inexpressible joy that is full of glory. Why? Because of Jesus. Because we love him. Because we have a relationship with the unseen God. Because we are getting back more in Christ than we ever lost in Adam.

This also introduces a very important concept: if the God-centered life is joyful, then by extension, the self-centered life is not. As covetousness steals our joy in circumstances, so self-centeredness steals our joy in Christ. James said it this way:

 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3, ESV)

In these verses we see covetousness and lust destroy our relationships with others. It causes quarrels and fights and hatred and discontentment. It steals our joy. But James has more to say.

 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:5-8, ESV)

So our pride (self-centeredness) breaks fellowship with God and causes Him to resist us. Since Peter says that Jesus Christ Himself is the source of unspeakable joy, then the thing that would cause us to break fellowship with Him would also be the thing that steals our joy.

We have all seen this. Individuals who are profoundly self-centered are the most miserable people in the world. They are never joyful and they are never refreshing to be with. These are the “energy takers”, who drain not only their own joy, but other people’s too.

When our joy is in Christ it will be unspeakable. It is this very inutterability that makes it so full of glory, because we will be constantly trying to find ways to praise Christ more. Desperation is a key factor of joy: the more joy you have in something, the more desperate you will be to make much of it.

We see an illustration of this in Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar looked out one day and surveyed his kingdom – the most splendorous and majestic kingdom that he would ever see. It was the head of gold, pronounced to be more wondrous (if not more powerful) than all the world powers that would rise up since. And Nebuchadnezzar made much of himself.

“Look at this great Babylon that I have built, by my own might and power,” he said. “Look at this fantastic kingdom that I have built to the honor of my own majesty.”

And in the very moment he said it, everything changed. Nebuchadnezzar went insane. He was driven from men and for seven years he ate grass like an ox and lived like a wild animal. Why? Because he attempted to steal the glory that God reserves for himself. Here is what we need to understand from this: Joy is a glory issue. And glorying in self more than in Christ will wreck our joy like nothing else.

But, lest we accuse Peter of not being “practical” enough, He tells us in verse 9 what the purpose and result of this unspeakable, glorious joy is:

 Receiving the end [outcome] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1Peter 1:9)

Now, there are three words that are used in Scripture that can be translated “soul” in English. The one used here is psuche, which is the second part of man’s nature which determines his personality and also houses his mind, will, and emotions. This is clearly distinguished from pneuma, which is man’s immortal spirit. When you are saved, it is your pneuma that is justified. But that is only one part of salvation. It is only the first step. Thereafter, for the rest of your time on this earth, God is busy about the process of sanctification – that is, saving your psuche. It is there that the battle for joy takes place, with your redeemed spirit warring with your corrupted flesh for primacy.

So here it is at last – my answer. Here is proof positive that I don’t have to lose the fight that I’ve been losing. Lasting joy is part of my salvation. It is part of sanctification. This is cause for rejoicing! We can take joy in knowing that God is going to heal the wounds of our suffering and make them a source of glory. And if they are a source of glory to Him, they can be a source of glory to you – if you are willing to be content with God. That is the relationship between glory and joy and contentment.

I think Nebuchadnezzar summed it up best:

 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? …. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (Daniel 4:34-37)

So what does this look like? That is all very well and good to say, but how does it help us be joyful on a daily basis? From this relationship that we have established between glory and joy and contentment, I think we can identify some of the things that steal our joy:

  • Self-exultation & false humility – both have pride as their root. The true mark of humility is an increased focus on others, not a focus on your own shortcomings.
  • Discontentment with our circumstances – this is really discontentment with God.
  • Looking for joy in the world’s escapism instead of God’s hope.

By contrast, Peter’s recipe for abiding joy is clear:

  • Learn an eternal perspective (this world is not all there is)
  • Develop true contentment (God is more than enough; I am content with God’s will)
  • Upgrade your contentment to glory

In closing, I want to leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul. In two short verses, Paul sums up better than I ever could the beautiful relationship between joy, contentment, and glory.

 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness [contentment]. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me [glory]. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong [joy]. (2Corinthians 12:9-10)

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