We'll be right back. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's easy to be happy and content when things are going your way, but how can you be thankful when you're mistreated, or falsely accused, or even when your life is in danger because of your faith? Bottom line, why should you still be grateful even when life is hard? John MacArthur shows you biblical answers to that question today as he continues a special week of broadcasts. Today's sermon is titled, Rejoicing Always, and it just might help you cultivate thankfulness all year long. Now, let's get to the lesson.
Here's John MacArthur. Why should I obey the command to always rejoice? I've got problems in my life. I've got difficulties. Things aren't going the way I want. I don't have the job I want. I don't have the circumstances I want.
It's not all the way I like it. Why should I rejoice always? Reason number one, as an act of appreciation for the character of God. Second, another reason for rejoicing always is as an act of appreciation for the work of Christ. Not only as an act of appreciation for the character of God, but as an act of appreciation for the work of Christ. Thirdly, rejoice always not only as an act of appreciation for the character of God and the work of Christ, but as an act of appreciation for the ministry of the Spirit. As an act of appreciation for the ministry of the Spirit. Number four, as an act of appreciation for spiritual blessings. As an act of appreciation for spiritual blessings. Number five, we ought to rejoice always as an act of appreciation for divine providence. As God orchestrates everything for your good and eternal glory.
God, the God who is able to keep you from falling, who holds you fast. Number six, we ought to have unceasing joy as an act of appreciation for the promise of future glory. As an act of appreciation for the promise of future glory, or if you want it simple, as an act of appreciation for heaven. No matter what is going on in this life, we know this, that the one to whom we've committed our life is going to keep it until eternity. He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. That which I've committed unto Him, He will keep. The Apostle Paul had it so well stated by the Spirit of God when he was inspired to write about his own rejoicing. He says, I rejoice, I will rejoice. Why, Paul? Simply, for to me to live is Christ, to die is what?
Gain. If I live on in the flesh, fine. If I go to glory, better. I rejoice because of the hope of future glory. Why should you rejoice?
What reason? As an act of appreciation for the character of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As an act of appreciation for spiritual blessings, divine providence, and the promise of future glory.
Give me a few more right here. Number seven, as an act of appreciation for answered prayer, as an act of appreciation for answered prayer, do you take it as a little thing that Jesus said, Whatever you ask in My name, I'll do it? Is that a small thing? Is it a small thing when Jesus promised the Spirit in John 16? He promised the Spirit and He said, Until now you have asked for nothing in My name.
Ask and you will receive that your joy may be made full. What a prayer promise! I'll send My Spirit and when My Spirit comes to dwell in you and causes you to cry, Abba Father, know this, that when you ask, I will send what you ask that your joy may be made full. Do you appreciate answered prayer? Do you appreciate the fact that when you cry out to God, He hears and answers your prayer and shows you great and mighty things which you may not know? No matter what's going on in your life, unceasing joy is the fruit of one who appreciates answered prayer. God doesn't have to do that, He does it.
He answers your every prayer according to His perfect will for your ultimate good in time and your glory in eternity. Number eight, another reason to rejoice unceasingly as an act of appreciation for the Scripture, as an act of appreciation for the Scripture. You ought to be so grateful for the guide that you have in the Word of God, for its resources, for its instruction. No matter what is taken away from you, as long as you have the Scripture, you have the most precious commodity.
It is more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold. It is sweeter also than honey in the honeycomb, Psalm 19 says. And Psalm 119, the psalmist writes in verse 14, I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies as much as in all riches. I just rejoice in the Word, he's saying. In verse 111, I have inherited Thy testimonies forever, they are the joy of my heart. Verse 162, I rejoice at Thy word as one who finds great spoil. Jeremiah 15, 16, Jeremiah said, Thy words were found, I did eat them, Thy word was in me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart. And when Paul says, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, in Colossians 3, 16, he says, as the Word is richly in you, you will speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns, you'll sing, you'll make melody. There should be joy out of the appreciation of the food and the nourishment of the Word of God that feeds your soul and is a compass and a guide to your life.
Two more. Number nine, you should rejoice always as an act of appreciation for Christian fellowship, as an act of appreciation for Christian fellowship. Are you grateful for the wonderful family that God has given you? In 1 Thessalonians 3, our very book, verse 9, I love what Paul says, What thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account? I don't even know words to say how much joy there is in just knowing you, just sharing with you, just fellowshipping with you. 2 Timothy 1, 4, Paul says to Timothy, I long to see you even as I recall your tears so that I may be filled with joy, just being with you is joy, source of joy. A little letter to Philemon in verse 7, Paul says, I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, the love of the saints, the source of joy. And lastly, number 10, why rejoice as an act of appreciation for gospel preaching? Paul in Philippians 1 says, Christ is preached and I rejoice, I rejoice.
In Acts 15, perhaps even more focused on the point we're making, verse 3, Therefore being sent on their way by the church, Paul and Barnabas were passing through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. Do you get joy out of that? Or do you mope around in your self-focused world and your little narcissistic, naval-watching cult, sort of turned in on yourself and just because it isn't all well with you, you can't rejoice even though many are hearing the gospel and repenting and believing and being converted? That's an act of appreciation for gospel preaching that leads to joy. Should you rejoice always? Absolutely. Why?
In appreciation of the character of God, the work of Christ, the ministry of the Spirit, an act of appreciation for supernatural blessings, divine providence, future glory, answered prayer, the Scripture, Christian fellowship and gospel preaching. You say, in the light of all of that, if I don't have joy, what's the problem? Well, you have some hindrances. Now listen very carefully because I'm going to go through these rapidly, but I want you to hear me.
There are a number of hindrances. Number one, if you're not experiencing joy, I want you to check this inventory. Number one, false salvation...false salvation. There are some people who have no joy because they have no true source of it. They don't have the Holy Spirit. They aren't converted. They aren't saved. They're in the church.
They're not saved. You remember in Matthew 13, 20 and 21 that the seed was sown in the soil that had the rock bed, the rocky soil, and it says that they received the word with joy, but it was very short-lived. And the first time a trial came, that was gone. There are some people who will muster up a human joy, but it won't sustain itself where there's no indwelling Holy Spirit to sustain it on a supernatural level.
And so the first trial that comes along just wipes it out. Supernatural joy comes from the Spirit of God who only indwells true believers. False salvation, cheap grace can't produce Christian joy.
It produces a false substitute that doesn't last. Second hindrance, Satan himself. I believe Peter says it when he says Satan goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
There is a destruction there and that destruction is the destruction of joy and peace and contentment. Satan wants to come at you and tempt you in your trials to steal your joy. That is why Paul says to the Corinthians, there's no struggle you're going to go through that is more than you can bear. But in the middle of that thing, you know, the power of God is available, but the difficulty comes because of the onslaught of the temptation of the enemy. Satan wants to steal your joy. So hindrances to joy, very simple. False salvation which can't produce any true joy and Satan himself who will come after you in the temptation in the midst of your trial that comes after your joy. So consider the source if you're struggling at that point. Thirdly, a third hindrance is ignorance...ignorance.
Listen to it as simply as I can say it. Bad doctrine steals joy. Bad theology. An inadequate grasp of God's sovereignty. An inadequate grasp of Christ's perfect atonement.
An inadequate understanding of the security of the believer. A failure to comprehend the ministry of the Holy Spirit. A failure to understand all spiritual blessings vouchsafe to us in Christ. A failure to comprehend the resource of prayer. Any kind of bad theology fails to recognize the reasons for joy and steals our joy. That's why John says when he writes his epistle, my little children, these things I write unto you that your joy may be...what?
Full. I'm teaching you theology so you'll have a foundation for joy. If you don't believe in the character of God that is consistently gracious, merciful, kind and compassionate toward His own, you've got a problem because you may wonder why bad things are happening to you and you may think God is doing it because He's inconsistent.
If you don't believe God is sovereign and in control, you may think things are happening to you because God can't help it. That'll take your joy. If you don't understand your security in Christ, you're going to worry every time something comes along that you've lost your salvation and that'll rob your joy. Bad theology will steal your joy. Ignorance. Number four, unbelief. Unbelief. Unbelief is simply the failure to believe what you know. You cannot be ignorant but you can be unbelieving.
It follows the previous one. To disbelieve the things that are true. It's one thing to be ignorant, you don't know what's true. It's something else not to believe what you know has been said to be true. If you don't believe, if you can't generate by God's power in your life and by yielding to that power the faith to believe and put up the shield of faith, then all the fiery darts are going to hit you. So if you don't believe in the security of the believer or you don't believe in God's sovereign and providential control of everything and you don't believe that eternal glory is established and you don't believe that God will never let you be tempted above that you're able and you don't believe that all spiritual blessings are yours in Christ and you're able to do all things in Him, if you don't believe that even though you know it says that, you're going to have a problem. You're going to lose your joy.
That's called doubt. Doubt will destroy joy. Five, ingratitude, ingratitude, ingratitude. This is the attitude that never has enough. If you're an ungrateful person, you're going to experience the loss of joy. The person that never has enough always expects more, always wants more, always demands more.
Give me more. No matter what the Lord does, it's never enough. No matter what they have, it's never enough. The Lord gives them a job, it's not the right job.
The Lord gives them a partner for life, it's not the right one. No matter what the Lord does, it is never enough. There's no reverence. There's no humility. By the way, ingratitude is the ugly child of pride. Ingratitude will kill your joy because you'll never have enough.
If you don't learn to thank God for every little thing He does, for everything that He has given you, for every blessing you have, if you're always saying more and more and more and more and you live in that utter discontent, it breeds ingratitude and it steals joy. That leads to number six, false expectations. False expectations. This is the aberration, by the way, that Jesus has promised to make your life happy, rich, successful, healthy and full of miracles. That Jesus is just going to do tricks upon tricks for you and deliver all kinds of fabulous, rich things. That sets up people for a loss of joy when Jesus doesn't deliver. That's why the prosperity gospel is so deadly because it gives people false expectations that they're all going to get healed of all their diseases, that Jesus is going to make them wealthy, that all these good things are going to happen, they're never going to have problems. Those false expectations will destroy your joy because that isn't how it's going to be, folks. Jesus had another plan.
Here is His plan. In this world, you will have trouble. John 16, 33, you'll have trouble. That's a promise.
That's a promise. You'll have trouble. Not wealth, trouble. Not prosperity, trouble. Not success, trouble. But I have overcome the world. That's the source of your joy. Paul learned that.
Again in Philippians chapter 4, he knows that. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, he says. It's easy for me. I've learned to be content in whatever circumstance I'm in. I rejoice greatly in whatever's going on, if I'm wealthy or if I'm poor. But if you have false expectations of what Jesus is supposed to deliver, it'll steal your joy.
Number seven, and this is the source of the last two is just plain old pride, just pride. Self-centeredness. If you're just centered on yourself, you're never going to be happy.
Because you know something? Nothing is more miserable than just having to constantly be fooling with yourself. That's a miserable relationship. Self-centeredness, morbid self-analysis, self-analytical baggage that makes you focus on yourself is deadly to joy. That's the major...one of the major faux pas in current contemporary counseling. Psychological victimization and abuse therapy has people all turn inwardly and they start to look at themselves and get in touch with themselves and they use the phrase, listen to yourself, listen to yourself, listen to yourself. And what you're going to hear is a lot of baloney. What you're going to hear is deception because your heart is deceitful. What you're going to hear is unrealistic guilt that can't accept forgiveness. What you're going to hear is hatred and bitterness toward somebody else that you're blaming for your problems.
Let me tell you something. No healthy person listens to himself. Healthy people talk to themselves.
Healthy people talk to themselves. They don't listen. They say, self, quiet.
Here's what the Bible says, get in line. I'll tell you something else, that's true in life. Wimpy people listen to themselves. Strong people talk to themselves.
They discipline themselves. They pull self into line with truth. Don't be listening to yourself. What you're going to hear will just mess you up.
You listen to the Word of God and then you talk to yourself. Pride. Pride will just...all that introspection, that self-centeredness will just destroy your joy. Number eight, forgetfulness. Forgetfulness. Bless the Lord, O my soul, Psalm 103 says, and forget none of His benefits. Forgetfulness will steal your joy. One of the reasons that you keep that memory bank, one of the reasons that God doesn't let you forget is not just so you can remember your times tables. Not so you can remember your phone numbers and your addresses. One of the reasons God gave you a memory is so you can store up cataloging of all of His benedictions.
You understand that? And it's good for you to go back and recite them again and again and again. Read how the Old Testament psalmist does that over and over and over and over. Keeps reciting the catalog of blessing which was a part of his own experience in redemptive history. Calls to remember. Calls to remember.
Even Jesus to the church in Revelation, remember from where you are fallen, Ephesus, and go back and do it the way you did it then and knew the blessing of God. What is it that hinders joy? What steals it? False salvation, Satan, ignorance, unbelief, ingratitude, false expectations, pride, forgetfulness. Number nine, prayerlessness. This is the attitude I'll trust in my own resources. I don't need prayer, I can figure it out. That'll take your joy when you fail continually. Paul, again in Philippians 4, says, rejoice in the Lord, always again I say rejoice.
How can I do that? The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer, supplication, with thanksgiving.
Let your requests be made. See, the source of his joy was prayer. So what'll seal your joy? Prayerlessness. Trusting in your own ingenuity, your own resources.
And one last one, and listen very carefully, this is the climax and the conclusion. Feelings, feelings will steal your joy. Emotions, this is the major issue that hinders joy. You get victimized by emotion.
This is a major problem. People lack the discipline to operate their life on an understanding of divine truth and thus they plunge into the random undisciplined sea of emotion. And what they do is they say, well, how can we rejoice when we don't feel like it? You see, for them, joy is a feeling on top of a feeling. And if you have the feeling, then you can have another feeling called joy. They say, how can we control our feelings? After all, your feelings are not controllable.
That's a lie right out of the pit. We must control our feelings. The idea of the philosophy of today, if it feels good, do it. We don't buy into that truly. If we did, we'd have...of course, we buy into it enough to have an escalating criminal society because we're telling people to do whatever they feel like doing, and so they do what they feel like doing.
And then we have to close down on them. How can we control our emotions? How can we not be controlled by our feelings?
Let me give you some simple things to recognize. First of all, recognize that God created us as rational beings and our feelings are to be controlled by reason. Your emotion is to be a responder to your mind, to reason. We can't all give in to our feelings. We have absolute chaos.
There wouldn't be any human relationship that would survive. If every person did exactly what he felt like doing and said exactly what he felt like saying, it would be the end of the society we know as humanity. You can't be led by your feelings.
They can't govern your life. So sooner or later, you've got to get your feelings under control, and what controls your feelings is what you know to be true. And then we're back to laying down the foundation of all those reasons to rejoice, right? In the character of God, the work of Christ, the ministry of the Spirit, and all that they provide. You've got to discipline yourself so that you live not on your feelings, but on truth, and off the truth springs the true joy. The joyful Christian thinks more of his Lord than he does his personal difficulties. The joyful Christian thinks more of his spiritual riches in Christ than his poverty on earth. The joyful Christian thinks more of his glorious eternal future than his present pain. And when you live like that, the command, rejoice always, becomes possible.
Not only possible, desirable. You're listening to Grace to You, featuring John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. The title of John's message today, Rejoicing Always. Well, John, here we are, one day past the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and that's really all the time it takes for people to start thinking about the next major holiday. And of course, that's Christmas. And I know you would say there's a distinctly Christian way to approach this time of year, both in how we think about the holidays and how we think about the gifts we give to others.
So talk about that for a minute. Yeah, if you're a Christian and you want to give somebody something to celebrate Christmas season, that ought to be something that has some spiritual value. And we want to provide for you some resources that will make a massive difference in people's spiritual life. The flagship resource in demand every Christmas is the MacArthur Study Bible. It's the Bible in the New American Center, the New King James or the English Standard Version, and 25,000 footnotes that explain virtually every passage in the Bible. And you can get hardback and you can get premium leather editions that are just, you know, lifetime gifts.
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If you want to know what the non-English versions are, you can check the Grace To You website. And secondly, the MacArthur Daily Bible. We always talk about that this time of year because as you come into the New Year very soon and you want to do a reading plan in the Bible, this is the best tool we have. The MacArthur Daily Bible. It gives you a daily reading plan through a portion of Old Testament, New Testament Psalms and Proverbs. And you can start January 1 and go through the year. It features the New American Standard Text of Scripture, helpful study notes and devotional thoughts.
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That's right. And these resources will help you and those you love focus on Christ long past Christmas Day and encourage your worship in the New Year. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, the MacArthur Daily Bible or one of John's New Testament Commentaries, contact us today. Call us toll-free, 800-55-GRACE or go to our website, GTY.org. And remember, for a limited time, all Study Bibles are 25% off the normal price. So order the MacArthur Study Bible, the MacArthur Daily Bible or maybe a few volumes from the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series. Our number again, 800-55-GRACE and our website, GTY.org.
Well, friend, on what may be a very busy Friday for you, thank you for spending time with us today. And in these days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I encourage you to take advantage of the Gospel conversations that are likely to come up this time of year. If you're not sure what to say, John has sermons on effective evangelism, the key elements of the Gospel and how to share the good news with boldness. Just go to our website and search for the term evangelism and you'll see the sermons and other resources that can help. Our website again, GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, reminding you to watch Grace To You television this Sunday and then join us starting Monday when John begins a series on what it really means to walk with Christ. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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