August 17, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Complete Joy in God through Christ!
You, O Lord, have placed Your hand upon us. We need not run from You in shame. You, O Christ, have placed Your life within us. Our lives will not end in isolation or obscurity. You, O Holy Spirit, are nurturing Your passion within us. Turn us from vanity and reckless desire. Father, Son, and Spirit, we give You thanks and praise. Amen.
This weekend marks joy and happiness in the lives of at least 6 different individuals connected to this church, and when you count their closest family members, many of whom are also connected to this church, that number goes up to a couple dozen (that’s one-third of the attendance this morning). What’s so special about this weekend?
Today is the one-year anniversary of Melissa and KJ (Tufto) Halvorsen, and exactly 52 weeks ago was the wedding of Jake and Ashley Davis, and this evening is the wedding day for John and Rebecca Roger-Hirst. (That is why most of you have bulletin covers with “wedding” scenes.)
Wedding days are among the most joyous of celebrations! (Babies are right up there!)
So, we celebrate with Kelly and Melissa, and with Jake and Ashley, and with John and Rebecca! And those of us who are married, or who have been married, we remember our wedding days, most of us with a deep sense of joy and gratitude.
But the wedding day, we all know, is no guarantee of “happily ever after”. In fact John and Rebecca enter their wedding today with the harsh reality that John just attended his mother’s funeral on Thursday! Where’s the joy in that?! And for both of them, this is their second marriage – their firsts not being what they had anticipated.
Last week, some of you will remember, we read where Paul said we must “work out our salvation in fear and trembling”. We enter marriages in a little fear and trembling, too.
This Summer our sermon series comes to us from Paul’s prison epistle to the fellowship in Philippi. We have already seen that even though Paul was under house-arrest and could have remembered how hard life had been in Philippi, he chose instead to be thankful for all the ways God works good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). This letter is so filled with different forms of the word “joy” that it is often called the “Joy Epistle”.
Today we read from Philippians 3, where we’ll learn something about complete joy coming to us by no other means than by Jesus. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 3:1-21…. —-
1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
I have a few friends that preach whole chapters every week – and they take most of a whole hour to do it; but this is gonna be like your wedding day – quick and easy, with a one-point sermon, and then on to testimonies and prayers.
There are probably a half-dozen different sermons I could easily preach from these 21 verses, but I am giving you the clearest, most straightforward message I can.
That message is: the only way to discover complete joy is in a living relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, and it is enhanced in and through and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Wedding days, admittedly, are good! They represent the second most important decisions we will ever make (probably); the first is to follow Christ!
Cory Vawter, a former member here who now lives on Cheney, gave the following post on his Facebook page last Friday. This is a very familiar quote, but it’s one that no one really knows who said it first. Here it is: “Joy is not the absence of sorrow, but the presence of God; so we ask not that He calm the storm, but that He walk with us through it.”
If joy were defined simply as the absence of sorrow, then Paul would have no words of joy to send to the Philippians. Instead, though his hands were chained, his heart was free. Paul knows that joy is not the absence of sorrow. No, joy is found in the presence of the Lord who is with him in the midst of his sorrow.
In today’s world of Smart Phones, tablets and instant Internet access, we can “know” almost anything in an instant. If someone asks the question, “how much concrete is in the Grand Coulee Dam,” a nimble-thumbed person with a 4G connection and an iPhone can ask Siri, “How much concrete is in the Grand Coulee Dam?” and they will get an almost instantaneous response of 11,975,521 cubic yards (I know, I tried it). But if we had sitting here a 100 year old retired construction worker that spent 5 years of his life building the Grand Coulee Dam 75 years earlier we would still get the right information, but we would also get it with great passion!
When we went to Mt. Rushmore a few years ago we got to meet one of the “carvers”. Passion in every sentence!
That’s what it means to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection.” It involves much more than repeating facts concerning Christ or the Bible. Knowing Christ is an intimate relationship with Him that changes everything.
Jake and Ashley learned that 52 weeks ago, on a different level, with each other; Melissa and Kelly discovered new passion in their relationship one year ago; John and Rebecca will start a new venture of joy and gratitude in about 5½ hours after they say their “I do”s.
But if any of them believe that their marriages will bring them nothing but joy and happiness, allow them to talk to a wife who just lost her husband, or a husband whose wife aches with pain.
Paul wants us to know, with passion, through the power of the Holy Spirit and by the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, that our only comfort in life or in death is that we belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul wants us to know that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Paul wants us to know that the only means of finding complete joy is in God through Jesus Christ.
Complete joy is ours for the taking – not based on our life circumstances, but based solely on our relationship with God through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ our Savior – our only comfort in life and in death.
If you have lost the joy of the Lord, get it back this morning! Make a conscious decision that you are going to follow Christ. The only way to have complete joy is to turn what does not make you joyous over to the Lord.
Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
We have to remain close to Jesus! I read a guy who says it this way, “Joy suckers do not like to be around Jesus, so stay close to Jesus! ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you’, that is Jesus’ promise!”
Book of Confessions, Presbyterian Church (USA); 4.001, 7.001.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 447.