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Friday, December 17, 2021 @ 9:39 AM Joy ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr. Digital Media Editor MORE

Let me begin with where I know I’m going to end:

There is no joy outside of God’s presence.

If true (and clearly I believe it is), that statement is both profoundly comforting and terrifying.

It’s comforting in that it reveals the nature of God (or at least a part of it). It’s terrifying because no one has really mastered remaining in God’s presence throughout their life (with one exception). And that means we live a good portion of our lives joylessly.

Let’s take a look at how joy reveals God’s nature.

Too many people (both outside and inside Christianity) make God out to be perpetually angry. He’s angry about personal sin. He’s angry about corporate sin. He’s angry about national sins. He’s angry about how people twist His Word. He’s angry about how some people claim their private conversations with Him are meant for everyone to hear and heed. Angry about this. Angry about that.

Most people don’t have a lot of confidence in the judgment of those who are angry. Do you? This lack of confidence in judgment was predicted by Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount:

On that day [Judgment Day] many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’(Matthew 7:22).

Imagine the gall of people having to explain to Jesus why His judgment upon them is wrong! Those people don’t have confidence in His judgment. We don’t trust the judgment of those we believe are perpetually angry.

Now, God’s wrath is very real…and justified. I am aware that Psalm 7:11 says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” But God’s wrath and anger are provoked by a relentless assault on His holiness. God’s righteous indignation against those who profane His glory does not define who He is.

Joy is the atmosphere of His holiness. Or, to put it another way, joy is to God as radioactivity is to plutonium. It just exudes from Him.

How we perceive the nature of God drives the way we live before Him.

Look at the portrait Jesus drew of His Father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Despite the obvious heartbreak of having a son demand his inheritance even before his dad passes away, the obnoxious son receives it anyway. After squandering it completely away on himself and returning home in shame and disgrace, is he met with an angry father who can’t wait to humiliate him with an “I told you so!”? No. The father rejoices in the return of the wayward son. It is the older brother who is angry that their father isn’t angry.

We live (as Christians) in accordance with what believe about God’s nature. If we believe He is perpetually angry, we live expecting hardship and punishment. If we believe that God is joy (among other things like love and holy), we live striving to please Him and are hopeful of mercy and grace when we disappoint Him.

In Romans 14:17 Paul writes,

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

He wrote that in the context of Christians who were ripping each other about what kind of foods others were eating and religious holidays they were observing. Isn’t it standard procedure for some to call everyone who observes December 25 as Jesus’ birthday as ignorant sinners who are really observing a pagan celebration? I remember one man who fumed that he would quit church if a Christmas tree was put up in the sanctuary. People like this behave the way they do because they think God is fuming on His throne. That He’s itching to dole out disaster and disease to anyone who crosses the line.

Psalm 16 is known for being a messianic psalm because it predicts that Jesus’ body would not “see corruption.” That is to say that He would not be dead long enough for His body to decay. But there is something else in Psalm 16 that is quite revelatory about God. In verse 2 we read: “I have no good apart from you” and then in verse 11 we find: in your presence there is fullness of joy…” The reason there is no good apart from God is because only in His presence is there true and lasting joy.

This is the very thing that enabled Jesus to endure the treatment He received from sinful people on Good Friday. Consider Hebrews 12:2,

[L]ooking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus knew He would soon be back in His Father’s presence and that joy was awaiting Him even as He suffered beatings and crucifixion.

It is unfortunate that when I hear most people convey their thoughts about heaven they regularly omit any reference to the joy of being in God’s presence. They speak of reuniting with family members and being in a state of perpetual bliss. But there is usually little, if any, attention given to the joy of seeing God face to face. And yet it wasn’t the promise of resurrection that helped Jesus through Calvary. It was “the joy that was set before him” which was being “at the right hand of the throne of God” in the near future.

As promised, I end where I began:

There is no joy outside of God’s presence.

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