We're in the second week of Advent. We made it to December, and I want to ask this question because we're talking about joy today, and I think this is a good joy question. How many of you are done shopping?
Anybody done shopping? How's that feel? Right? There, sermon done. That's joy, right there. That's joy. We're in December. We made it to December. We have a couple weeks until Christmas, and I can't wait for our Christmas Eve services.
But the message today, I want you to take notes with me, so if you've got a note card coming in, a lot of you brought your own notes, take notes with me. It's the good news of great joy. And today I'm excited, really, I am to talk about the good news of great joy. There's certain things that as a pastor I personally love talking about, and joy is definitely one of them.
I just love the thoughts and the spirituality and the connection behind what joy really is and what it means to be. And Pastor Lee last week set it up great. He set up the whole Advent series, wonderful, gave a couple definitions behind it. But Advent, the celebration of Advent is around 1,500 years old. And that word Advent, and we're actually going to do the candle at the end of the service, means the coming or arrival.
And just to put it in context for us, the church during Advent now looks back at that Jesus came, but we're also looking ahead at his coming back. And so that's the anticipation. There's an anticipation that's happening. There's a stirring that's within us. And you can't imagine before we read this passage that we're going to get to, Christmas passage today, from the time that we would say that our Old Testament ends and Matthew, the book of Matthew begins, they would say that there's around 400 years of silence.
Now what that means is that there's 400 years where people aren't prophesying, they're not really hearing God, they're not seeing him really do these amazing things like he did previously. And so there's just this silence that's happening. And during this silent point, you have the history of Israel that's kind of going up and down. And we know that from the beginning, Israel has been nonstop at war and attack, and it's been taken over by different points in their history.
And coming around the time of Jesus, the Romans are now in charge in that city. And so there's under great oppression, both religiously and politically that's happening. And so there's this long silence that's going on. And so there's this anticipation that Christ is coming. And you can imagine that after generation after generation, over 400 years, that people are starting to forget what that prophecy really was. If you read the words of Isaiah, which is a lot that is read during the Christmas season, you'll see for unto us a child is coming, his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, all these prophecies of Jesus. After hundreds of years of nothing, hope is kind of going. And so there's this hope that's losing, there's this joy that's losing, and the church is beginning to wander. And it's at this point in history that all of a sudden, this young teenage girl named Mary gets approached by an angel who tells her not to be afraid, but she is going to be the mother of Emmanuel, of God with us. And also for the first time in 400 years, you have the voice of the Lord speaking. For the first time, you have hope. For the first time, you've got joy and love and peace, the possibility of all of this happening.
In fact, there's a hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, that you'll hear during Christmas time that often we sing that really does give a good representation to this anticipation. So I actually asked Darren and Jordan to come out, and I want them to just sing part of this. You don't have to stand up.
You can stay where you are. You can sing it if you know it. But I want you to hear the words first, then we're going to sing the words together. And it's simply this, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appears. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. If there's a picture of the anticipation that was needed, this brief hymn, this part of a hymn, really does explain it.
So if you guys wouldn't mind, would you lead us in singing that, just to feel and sense the anticipation of Jesus coming. O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. So listen, that is the feeling of the anticipation of the longing. And I want you to hear that and feel that and sense that, that what was happening is that there's this exile that's happened. There's a mourning that's going on and there's this longing of a Messiah to come. And that was the early, early church.
And now today we have kind of the same thing. We're kind of stuck in this in-between period to where Jesus came, but he's coming back one day. And we have this longing and this hope and this anticipation that not only that Christ will come back one day, but that Christ will walk with us every single day in our life. And so this brings a sense of hope and a sense of joy and love and peace. But the centerpiece of all this is Emmanuel.
It's Emmanuel. It's God taking on flesh and chose to draw near to us. As the prophet says, it's in the darkness that a great light would appear. That in the darkness and in the pain and in the chaos of humanity, there is God near us. That is what Emmanuel is saying, God with us. In our greatest fears and our greatest joys that God is with us, that he comes to us and he makes a way for us. And it's time to be present with him. It's time to be present with God.
All of our longings, all of our hopes, all of our fears, all our joy, all our sadness, all that kind of comes together at the centerpiece of what it is. Christmas will be here in just a few weeks. And this time of year, as we're thinking about it, decorations are going up.
The church is already looking amazing. How many of you have somebody in your neighborhood that goes over the top and makes everybody else look bad? Anybody have somebody like that in your neighborhood? Is anybody here in this room that person? You're that person. There we go. You're the ones. Anybody here got the big blow up things in front of your house?
All the things. So all the decorations are going up. The radio stations are now playing nonstop Christmas music. Hallelujah. It's amazing. If you don't like it, you need to check your Christianity out if you're bitter about it already. If you're already tired of Christmas music, it's only been on for a week.
You still got about a month to go. So we have all these things happening. Shopping is going on. All the specials are going. We have signs and we're hearing songs about joy to the world. And you see signs of joy all around us.
We have a sign up here on the stage that is reminding us of joy. And in this great season that should bring us joy, oftentimes can also bring us the most pain, the most suffering, the most confusion. And if we're not careful, we miss out on the joy that the Lord really wants us to have. Not because we don't have access to joy, but listen, it's because we oftentimes give away our joy for a cheap replacement. And that's what happens unfortunately in life. That there's a great difference between joy, between happiness.
We know that. Happiness is based off of circumstance. Joy is based off of who we are in Christ. It is a spiritual gift that we have. Galatians 5 22 briefly says, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
And it goes on. So this is a gift that is a fruit of the Spirit that we have in our life. But oftentimes happiness, or oftentimes what we think will bring us real joy, is just a temporary substitute for the eternal joy. So let me ask you a question this morning just to think about what is bringing you real joy in your life right now. Right now this morning, what is it in your life that you would say, this is bringing me true, real joy?
And the other side of that same question can be very true. What is it that you're substituting? What is it that you are experiencing that maybe is a cheap substitute for this eternal joy that you can have in your life this time of year?
And both sides of those equations, there could be our job, it could be family, it could be stress, it could be shopping, it could be all the holiday things going on. All these things that happen in life can bring a little bit of joy, it can bring a little bit of happiness, but also can diminish the real purpose of why we're here. Turn your Bibles to Luke chapter two, verse eight to 11. This will be the main text for this morning for the next few minutes. I want to talk about the good news of great joy.
One of the favorite things to just discuss of how the good news is still good news. In Luke chapter two, verse eight to 11, it's a known passage. It says that in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. And it says that they were filled with great fear. And we can imagine why they're filled with great fear. They're experiencing an angelic presence. They're seeing angels appearing in the sky, speaking to them, talking to them. There's great fear that's happening, and so there's trembling, and they would probably have lowered their eyes.
More than likely they probably fell to their face in fear and in worship to some degree, because there's this divine thing happening. And the angels respond instead of them, fear not. It's important, everybody say, fear not. Look at somebody next to you and say, fear not.
Look at your second choice and say, fear not. Everybody tell yourself, fear not. For behold, and here it is, I bring you good news. Come on, say good news loudly.
Yeah, it's so important. Of great joy. Look at somebody next to you and don't say anything, just smile at them. Just smile. Look at somebody you don't know and give them a real creepy smile.
Just lock eyes with somebody for a couple seconds in an awkward way. Good news of great joy for all the people. I love that little line, because guess who all the people still are? Yeah, it's you and me. So what I love about this is that good news of great joy for all people.
I'm that people, and so are you. And the ability that you and I still have to experience good news of great joy is so incredible. And here's why we have good news of great joy, because for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord. See, the good news that we have is not just the good news that you and I have from our job or from our career path or our income or school or friendships, although all those things are good, nothing wrong with any of those things. But the real good news is that Jesus came for me.
That's the good news. And the good news is that he came for you. And the good news is that even if you're here this morning and you don't know Jesus, and even if you're here this morning and you're not sure about this whole God thing, guess what?
He still came for you. There's something powerful about that. There's something special. There's something that fills us with real joy. So I want to talk today just about two things under good news of great joy.
The number one is this. The first point is fear is replaced with good news. See, that's why I like this verse. And you can imagine, again, the setting it's in that these shepherds are just out.
They're at night. They're tending their flock, and these angels come, and they're filled with fear. And they say, don't be afraid because I'm here to give you good news. And the thing I love about that is I could say the same thing for probably a lot of us today. Don't be afraid because Christ is here to give you good news.
That's a good story, isn't it? That we don't have to be afraid. We don't have to worry about what's next. The Bible countlessly is telling us, don't be afraid. Don't worry. Don't stress. Don't be anxious. Why?
Why? Well, it's not just because God is here with us. It's not just because we have hope. It's because Christ himself is our good news.
And nobody can change that to bad news. And so we have this good news that takes away fear. In fact, in Scripture in 2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 6 to 7, it speaks to this. It says that God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power.
I think there's something important about that. That that spirit of fear that we have, those times that maybe you and I feel anxious or feel worried, those times that we feel like a little unhinged a little bit, that's not from the Lord. He hasn't given you that. And so he's given you a spirit of power and of confidence and the ability to pursue. So there's a couple things that happen.
The first one is this. The power of a God who can do all things is good news. So what is the good news? What's the good news that we're talking about? The good news that brings us great joy? Well, part of that is that the reminder that God can do all things.
That is good news for us. In Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20, it says, Now to him who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think according to his power at work with us. I think sometimes it's a good reminder that we serve a God that can do way more than we can ask or think or even imagine.
That's good news. So when you look at your situation and you look at what's going on, maybe you're looking at a doctor's report or a bank account or a family situation, maybe you're looking at the hopes that you have one day to be whatever it is that you want to be, that we serve this God that can do more than we can ask or imagine. I think oftentimes we underplay what God can do.
I think oftentimes our own faith kind of hinges us and holds us back from really stepping into this God that can do so much more. So what would happen in our life, the joy that would come if you and I actually started to walk and believe that God, you can actually do all things. That there is nothing impossible. There's nothing impossible. And so when humanity tells us that things are impossible, we have a God that laughs at that.
That He just looks at it and says, there's nothing impossible for me. So the good news that takes away fear is the reminder that God can do actually anything and everything. The other thing is this, that there's a God who loved us so much that He gave us Emmanuel.
This is good news. So the good news that takes away the fear is ultimately we know where we're going. That there's this thing that's happened in our life.
Matthew 1 23, a great Christmas text that says, behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son and they will call him Emmanuel, which literally translates to God with us. And I just wonder how often we might forget that in our everyday life that God is just with us. That He's walking with us. That He's with us in our situations. That God is with you when you're struggling. He's with you at the high moments.
He's just through in the low moments. There's a great passage in the Old Testament that says, where can I go from your spirit to where you're not. You're everywhere. You're in the heights. You're in the depths. You're on my highs.
You're my lows. God, you are everywhere. So to me, I think that's good news. I think it's good news that even when I feel alone, I'm not really alone.
Even when I'm struggling, I'm not struggling alone. Even when I'm hopeful, it's not just me that's hopeful that there's this God that's with me that is hopeful right along the side of me. The other thing about the good news that takes away fear is the spiritual ability that you and I have to have self control. That is good news. That you and I have the ability to remain self controlled.
That's good news, especially in the day that we live in. I stood at the door and right next to me was a Michigan fan all morning. That is self control. Self control.
Anthony and Ken, Clemson and Carolina. Self control. I'm really shocked you didn't wear orange today, by the way.
Out of all the season and time, you could have wore orange today, but you could have wore orange. See, self control. In Titus 2, verse 11 to 12, it says, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. And it says this, that that grace of God that has appeared, it's training us to renounce ungodliness, worldly passion, to live self controlled lives. I think it's one of the marks of following God is ability that you and I have to be self controlled. How many know that there's a good time of year right now to be tested by that. To have some good self control.
We have it at the stores, at jobs. It's going to get busy. It's going to get hectic.
In the time of year that should bring great joy. It could be an opportunity to learn some self control as well. To not say everything you're just thinking.
To have a filter. To be self controlled in our response. We all know this is true, right? We can't control what other people do. We can't control what other people say.
We can only control what we do and what we say. Well, there's a spiritual connotation to that. That it's not just my own ability to be self controlled. It's also the ability, because of the grace of God in my life, to be self controlled.
To understand that I don't have to actually say everything that I'm thinking. That there's this process that God can take me through. And so when we have fear in our life, there's good news that's replacing it because we serve a God that's all powerful.
We serve a God that is with us, Emmanuel with us every day. But also, I don't have to be afraid because I know that there's a spiritual thing in my life of self control. That we can actually handle the bad news that comes our way just as much as the good news. The second thing this morning is this, number two. Is that the good news is of great joy.
And this is the title. The good news is of great joy. And I want to talk about this great joy that the angels spoke about to the shepherds. Because I think there's something present for us in this. That there's something for today that you and I can have and experience as we walk right now here today.
And the first thing is this. This great joy is both available and it's coming. Just like we celebrate Advent, which is the anticipation of what is coming, but also what has already come. And so this great joy that you and I have, it's available for us right now. And this joy doesn't end by the way. It keeps coming.
It keeps coming. It's kind of like the waves of grace that keep coming in our life. That there's this ability to have great joy that is still coming towards us. In Psalm chapter 30, verse five it says, for his anger is but for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. We be made tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. I don't know about you, but I've needed that verse from time to time in my life. That verse that speaks about, even though there's darkness right now, this verse speaks about the hope of joy that's coming in the morning.
And what this verse is saying is that the times of darkness in our life, they don't last forever. It might feel like that sometimes, doesn't it? Sometimes it feels like the hard things we have in life last a long time. Sometimes it feels like the night that this is speaking about is more than just a one night. It's a season of life. I think probably a lot of us have been through seasons of life where it's just felt dark. It's felt hard, but there's this ongoing hope that joy comes in the morning.
And it might not be the physical tomorrow morning, but there's joy that's coming. And there's a great reminder to me of what the good news does. The gospel is good news and the gospel is available for us right now, but it's also the good news of Christ coming back.
And so you've got kind of both these things happening. In fact, oftentimes when Jesus speaks, he's speaking not only of the current kingdom, but he's also speaking of the kingdom to come. And he always has this tendency to keep a foot in the present, but also a foot in the eternal and constantly bringing those two things together. And I think for us, we have this great joy that is the same. We have great joy available to us today, but we also know that great joy is coming when Christ comes back. And there's also great joy available tomorrow and the next day and on and on it goes that you and I, they even know it feels like there's darkness, we can actually have joy in the middle of that. See, this is why to me joy is spiritual. Because what this is saying is that even in the hard moments of life, when everything else doesn't seem very joyful, that you and I can still have joy in our life. That's why this kind of joy is so important. That's why having joy of the good news is so critical. This is why that while they were telling me testimonies of the translations happening in Mexico, that great joy and great understanding that hope was building just while they were translating it.
Why? Because there's so much good news wrapped into who Christ is, which is woven throughout the entire gospel. The other thing about the good news of great joy is that this great joy is found in his actual presence. So the great joy that you and I experience is not found in the external, it's actually found in the actual presence of God. That there's something special about when you and I spend time in his presence.
Look at a couple of these verses in John 15 11. It says, these things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you. And when my joy is in you, what does it say? That your joy may be what?
Full. So when you and I experience the joy of his presence in our life, that means that our joy is full. What I love about this understanding of joy is that he doesn't say that when I give you everything that you want, then your joy will be full. If I answer all of your needs and all your requests, then your joy is going to be full.
Where is joy? Well, he goes back and he says, well, joy is really based in when I am part of your life. When my presence is part of who you are, that is when you will experience the fullness of joy. And the reason why people struggle with real joy, when people struggle with joy and just, I'm not talking happiness.
I'm not talking about little times of just smiling. I'm talking about just joy that is just deep inside of who we are. It's because it is Christ's joy in us. In Psalm 16 11, it says, you make known to me the path of life. And in your presence, there is fullness of joy.
Again, the picture that it's giving is that it's not just partial. It's not just a little joy, that there is actual fullness of joy when you and I walk with Emmanuel. When God is with us.
When the light has come into darkness, that there's fullness of joy. The next thing is this, that the great joy, and I think this is so critical, it cannot be taken away. It cannot be taken away. Nobody can take away your joy. I want you to hear this, again, nobody can take away your joy. But, you can give it away.
No, we can take it from you, but you can give it away. In John 16 22, it says, so also, you have sorrow now, but I'll see you again. And your hearts will rejoice. And no one will take your joy from you.
This is why it is spiritual. Because nobody can reach into my spirit and take away the joy that I have. But I can certainly offer it up.
I can certainly give it away. I can allow the things of the world to take away my joy, not because it steals it from me, because I give it to it. I can let the coworker or somebody driving slow on 401 or on Capitol.
I can allow the lines at the store. I can allow all these things. None of that can steal my joy, but I can just give it over to it. I can give over that joy. And instead what happens is fear and anger and anxiety.
See, we replace it. And I think that oftentimes we experience those dark moments of sadness, those dark moments of anxiety and stress, of anger, of fear, because we've kind of just given our joy over to it. What would happen if we hung on to our joy? If we hung on to this joy that Jesus says that nobody can take away from you.
Again, this time of year, it's a great opportunity to actually do both, to hang on to your joy and allow the circumstances around us to take it away. The other thing about the great joy that's good news is the great joy is of the Lord and is our strength. The Bible actually says that the joy of the Lord is actually our strength. In Nehemiah chapter 8 verse 10 it says, do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So not only is it his presence that's with us that helps us and navigates, not only is it something that's in us that is allowing us to have self-control and hope, but it's also something in us that is actually our strength.
And I find this to be very true. I think that oftentimes that you can tell the strength of the Lord in somebody's life, it's when they go through a difficult circumstance. And when people go through a difficult circumstance, they go through those hard moments in their life, you start to see whether or not they have strength in joining the Lord or if their strength was based on something else. It kind of reminds me of the Bible passage that a lot of people know of building your house on rock or sand. It's kind of similar that if we build our house on good foundation when the storms come in life and the Bible says that they will come, that your house doesn't get torn down. But if you build it on sand, when the storms come and the water raises, what happens?
It gets washed away. I think it's very much the same with joy. But if you and I have a spiritual foundation of joy in our life, guess what? Storms are going to come. Jesus already said that in this world we'll have problems. So we already know that this season, over the next four weeks, something's probably going to happen. There's going to be some kind of thing, whether it's at work or home, and it could just be a little thing that is not even about you, but you just feel the effects of it. There's going to be some stuff that happens to us. And based on our foundation, it's going to determine whether or not we are solid or not, whether we have strength or not, which is why these conversations around joy are so important. It's not just a sign we have. It's not just a song we sing, joy to the world.
There's actually strength behind that. That when the waves come and the storms come, whether I can control them or not, that you and I can stand in the joy of who we are. And this is where it's found.
I'm going to close with this. The great joy is found through salvation. This is the great joy. It's not found in anything other than in salvation and who we are. That is where the great joy is.
Because we can talk about joy. We can try to have an understanding of what the angels meant about joy. You can do all the passages you want about joy, but really joy, the foundation of it, is through salvation. Luke 15, 7, it says, Just so I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. I love that verse. The verse speaks about that every time somebody accepts Christ, that all of heaven erupts in joy. Can you get that picture in your mind, by the way? I mean, really, this is one of those passages that I actually believe happened. I don't think this is just a symbol. I think this actually happens. I think that any time that somebody accepts Jesus here on earth, then in heaven, all of heaven just erupts in joy. Why do you think that is?
This is not an overthink it. Because they're there, and they know what's waiting for you. The salvation that you and I experience, that all of heaven rejoices. I got to preach while I was down in Mexico at a church. After the service, we did a salvation call similar to what we do here. I led them in that, and several people accepted Christ, which was always an amazing time. But after the service was special, after the service, a lady came up to me.
She's probably in her mid to late 60s. She came up with the pastor, and the pastor said she accepted Jesus today. She was just beaming.
What she said, though, and what he said is that for months and months and months, she's just been asking questions and seeking and asking questions and seeking. That day, she finally said yes to Jesus. To see the joy on her face of all of a sudden, for whatever reason, it just clicked in her heart. It wasn't just a mind thing. It was a heart thing. We even talked about this verse, and standing there, I shared with her. I said, do you realize that today, that when you said yes to Jesus, all of heaven erupted and cheered for you?
She just began to cry. It's so real. This is the source of joy. I've never met anybody who accepted Jesus that was sad the moment they accepted Jesus. Have you? I've never seen that.
I'm thinking about that. I've led tons of people to Christ, whether in service or personally, and I've never met somebody go, I guess I'll just say yes. All right, yeah, great. Okay, I'm saved for eternity.
All right, great. No, there's a joy that happens there. There's something powerful that goes in there. In Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2, it says, look into 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. See, this great joy was even found in Jesus as he embraced a brutal cross. Again, you've got to ask the question, well, why would it say that for the joy set before him, he endured the cross? It wasn't because it was a pleasing 12 plus hours for Jesus.
It wasn't because it was comfortable. It's because he knew what he was doing was going to save people for eternity. And again, there's something joyful there. The final verse I want to share is Psalm 51 verse 12. It says, restore to me the joy of your salvation. So I think oftentimes we speak of salvation for the people that don't know Jesus that want to say yes to him. But can I also just remind those in this room that have already accepted Christ that there's a joy in your salvation that can be restored. And oftentimes, again, we might allow the things of this world and the complications of life to start to diminish that joy. That that moment that when you said yes to Jesus, whenever that was, whether it was a week ago or 30, 40 years ago, that that joy of salvation, my prayer for you is that this season, especially this season, that all the other stresses of the world and the things of the world and the problems and the difficulties that maybe you're walking in right now in real time, maybe there's things that you're giving your joy away to, can I just encourage you, allow the God of the universe to restore that joy back to you. That you can leave her today actually filled again, restored again in the joy that somebody named Jesus, Emmanuel God with us, came and brought you good news. And my prayer for you is that that will be restored.
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