What makes you happy? What gives you joy? Me? I love my wife, I love seeing my children, playing with them watching them grow. That gives me joy. I enjoy music, almost any kind, except the "new country". Don't get me wrong, I was country when country wasn't cool with the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Don Williams but it's just all this hokey, fast paced....I'd walk a mile through a field of wildflowers just to check you for ticks...lyrics I can't stand.
I like technology, gadgets, gear, electronics. Food is not too bad either when I come to think of it. A fountain of chocolate fondue with a plate of fresh strawberries and a cup of rich, dark coffee...sound nice? Some get great joy with their social status, their career, their accomplishments, and their achievements while others find it quite nice to sit and do nothing. Still others immerse themselves into hobbies, clubs, sports, and such.
And as each of these are different in that they appeal to people in different ways they share one common thread and that is that they are temporary in the joy or happiness they bring.
Husbands and wives will let you down.
Children will disobey and disappoint
Technology will be outdated before you leave the parking lot.
Food will make you feel bloated and fat.
Hobbies have the ability to drain your wallet and isolate you from others.
Yet the taste of joy each of these brings is enough to temporarily satisfy, if only for a moment, so much so that we can engulf ourselves in the pursuit of joy as we toil to prolong and sustain that which can be neither prolonged nor sustained.
Have you ever been on vacation, say the very first day of a week long vacation, the sun is setting over the ocean, the smell of the sea is in your nose, and already you are thinking about having to return to work the following week? Wishing somehow that you could stay in this very spot, in this very moment forever?
Or, have you ever been in the middle of doing something and a sense of longing hit you so hard that you have no idea where it came from? The atmosphere has changed slightly around you, for a brief moment all seems perfect and still, yet quickly running away from you and your heart yearns for the moment to never end?
And so most of us spend our hours, days, weeks, months, years, and our lives in the pursuit of fleeting joy.
We go to great lengths, we struggle, and we toil to maintain perfection, harmony, peace in our lives. Yet Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1:2 "2Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
If we cannot sustain that which makes us happy, if everything is truly vanity as scripture suggest then how are we to live our lives? Are we to give up? Give in?
In his book Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes instances in his life where he found intense, short lived, moments of joy that left him longing for something more, longing for the moment to never end which pointed him to the God shaped hole in his heart. The thing he longed for wasn't fondue or honky tonk music....it was eternity and as a man created in the image of God the craving that Lewis had for joy pointed him to the eternal King, Jesus. Everything else for Lewis was temporary and quickly fading away and it was precisely these longings that led him away from the pursuit of joy in the temporary to the pursuit of joy in the eternal Jesus, to his salvation, and complete joy in Christ.
Lewis wrote "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."
Where is true, lasting joy to be found?
1 John 1:1-4
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
John forgoes any greeting, any salutation, any chit chat, any "how's the weather?" small talk and immediately goes for the conversational jugular. The letter opens with John's testimony as he seeks to establish the facts. This is no casual conversation spoken over a mocha latte while eating your way through a double chocolate chunky monkey cookie. This letter is a hard hitting, theological treaty against false teaching. John's statements are bold, in your face, out in the public declarations of the work, humanity, and deity of Jesus Christ and His eternal life. John tells us of his experiences with Jesus so that we will see his witness as credible.
That which was from the beginning - echoes the gospel of John chapter 1 In the beginning was the word... and we are again reminded that Jesus was no mere man, no good teacher, not just a good philosopher, but God Himself who has always existed, who has always reigned. John is saying, Jesus is who I am talking about, not just a man but God and here is my personal testimony! I have heard Jesus, I first heard about Him, about His ministry, about His preaching, about the things He was doing, what He was up to, the commotion He was creating, the lives He was changing, and then I heard Him myself, I heard His voice as He preached, and as He personally called me to Him (Matthew 4:21). John was absolutely blown away by the words he heard Jesus speak and so were those around him, John 7:46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
John not only heard about Jesus, heard Jesus teach, preach, and talk to him personally but he saw Jesus with his own eyes, John looked upon Jesus. In the gospel of John, chapter 20:1-8, John recounts the scene at the empty tomb:
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
In this passage John uses three different Greek words for see/look as John and Peter make their way to the tomb.
1. v5 blepo - which has a common meaning of impressed upon the eyes -(looked at the strips of linen)
2. v6 theoreo - behold with intelligence, perceiving or scrutinizing (saw the strips of linen lying there)
3. v8 horao - to see with understanding (saw and believed)
What's interesting is that horao or seeing with understanding is the Greek word John uses in 1John 1:1-4 when he talks about seeing and looking. What's he is saying is not just "I have seen Jesus with my eyes and can recall His image" but "I have seen Jesus, seen the risen Savior, seen my King and have not only seen Him, not only looked at the evidence before me and scrutinized it but I have seen everything and believe it!"
John says that he has seen Jesus, eternal God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, He has heard Jesus, he saw Jesus raised from the dead and understood Jesus to be the one true Messiah and he touched the physically resurrected Jesus. This isn't something merely spiritual something out "there" untouchable, unreachable, unapproachable. Jesus was manifested in the physical right before their very eyes! Some in the church, Antichrists, false spirits, were saying that Jesus didn't come in the physical (1 John 4:3), John refutes that immediately and testifies and proclaims the truth via his own personal relationship.
True joy comes from the truth John 8:32 "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." And the truth is that Jesus is God, Jesus came physically to earth, He lived a sinless life, 1 Corinthians 15:3 "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." Our joy comes from knowing that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9) Real joy doesn't come from stuff, experiences, hobbies, events, Kenny Chesney, or even chia-pets but from a personal relationship with Jesus.
Point #2 - True joy comes from fellowship with God the Father, Jesus, and other believers
Knowing, loving Jesus brings us into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God begins changing us, conforming us into new creatures of love, people who are more like Jesus as He changes us and makes us ready to inhabit His kingdom.
In 1 John 1:2-3 John writes 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
The eternal life, Jesus, is proclaimed, the gospel is shared to glorify Jesus and to reconcile non-believers to God the Father who are separated from Him because of their sin. The blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross covers all the sins of those who believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior. Our sharing of the gospel brings about new births as the previously dead are birthed to new life in Jesus. As we are born into this new life as new creations we are born into the family of God, into a fellowship of believers. True, lasting joy comes from our fellowship with the Father, with Jesus, and with other believers.
John proclaims the gospel, we proclaim the gospel so that others"...may have fellowship with us;" Our world is a very lonely place filled with very lonely people. Coffee shops are filled with islands of individuals pouring over their laptops, social networking through the internet but never talking to the person beside them. Our homes are sound proof, equipped with arctic blast AC, home theater systems, wi-fi, and garage doors so that we never have to leave, never have to interact. Our churches are full of individuals living out their "personal" relationships with Jesus apart from the body without confession without accountability.
There is no joy in isolation. True joy comes through fellowship with Jesus and God the Father and with other believers who will help bear our burdens, whom we can pray with and pray for, whom we can confess our sins to and who we can share our faith with as we live out our lives as community, as family, as the body of Jesus Christ.
Point #3 True, lasting joy comes from sharing Jesus with others
4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
We don't keep the greatest news we have ever heard to ourselves! True, lasting joy comes from Jesus, hearing His good news, how He saves us from our sins, receiving that truth into our own lives, being born as new creations in Jesus, being born into the family of God, having fellowship with Jesus, God the Father, and other believers and by sharing everything with everyone.
Our joy is complete when we take it to the streets, when we share great news with others, when we testify ourselves, declare ourselves, and proclaim ourselves the great works Jesus has done and is doing in our lives.
When was the last time you shared your personal testimony with anyone?
When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone?
Maybe you just don't get as excited about Jesus and His good news like you use to? Maybe your faith is a little flat right now? Jesus speaks these words to the church at Ephesus "4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." Revelation 2:4 Jesus wasn't mad at the church because they weren't reading their Bibles or because their actions were immoral, no, Jesus was upset because they had forsaken their first love....Him!!! Remember what it was like when you were first in love? How you talked non-stop about the object of your affection and your friends joked that you were infected? How you made everyone throw up with the non-stop talky talky about this new person in your life, how wonderful they were, how happy you were, and how happy they made you? Didn't it give you joy to talk about them?
Bingo! Same principal here except Jesus will never let us down, never leave us, never forsake us. Our joy is complete when we focus on Him, when we rekindle our love for Him, and when we talk about Him with other believers encouraging them in Jesus, and when we share Jesus with others around us.
We can continue to wear ourselves out in the pursuit of joy through other means. We can jump around from hobby to hobby in the pursuit of pleasure. We can immerse ourselves in our jobs, technology, music, education, self improvement all in an effort to create something that will not last and in the end is only temporary or we can find true joy in returning to our first love.
We can have true, eternal, lasting joy in Jesus. Will you ask Him right now to forgive you of your sins if you have never done so? Will you ask Him to forgive you of anytime you have forsaken fellowship with Him and with others in the pursuit of your self? Will you ask Him to give you boldness and encouragement this week to share your testimony with others around you as an encouragement and as an act of love so that your joy will be complete in Him and Him alone?My prayer is that your joy will be complete as you seek out Jesus in your life.