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Rejoice in the Lord Always

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 6, 2024 12:01 am

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 6, 2024 12:01 am

Christians are called to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4). But how do we keep this command? How can we be joyful in times of stress, hardship, and loss? Today, Steven Lawson explains the secret to an indestructible joy.

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Meet Today’s Teacher:

Steven Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries in Dallas. He is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, professor of preaching and dean of D.Min. studies at The Master’s Seminary, and teacher for the Institute for Expository Preaching. He is author of many books, including The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Knox: Fearless Faith, and The Moment of Truth.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Christianity is not the subtraction of difficulty. It's the addition of joy to go through our difficulties with a triumphant note. And so this is what Paul commands the church at Philippi to rejoice in the Lord always. When we think of Philippians, many of us have memorized Philippians 4-4 and Paul's command to rejoice in the Lord always. How is that possible as we navigate hardships, hurts and disappointments?

What is the ground for this joy that is independent of our circumstances? Welcome to the Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind as we spend a week considering lessons from Philippians beginning today in Philippians chapter 4. Stephen Lawson is our teacher this week. And even though Philippians is only four chapters long, he carefully and thoughtfully walked through this letter of Paul line by line recording forty-two messages covering the entire epistle.

You can watch or listen to this entire series, have access to the detailed study guide and receive the DVD to add to your collection when you give a gift of any amount at So where does this joy come from that Paul speaks of? Dr. Lawson is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and professor of preaching and dean of demon studies at the Master's Seminary. And here he is to answer in Philippians 4. In this session we want to look at verses 4 and 5, Philippians 4 verses 4 and 5. The title of this is Rejoice in the Lord. The Apostle Paul writes, Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again I will say, rejoice.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Many believe that these verses are the key verses in the whole book of Philippians, especially verse 4. Really, the truth of rejoicing in the Lord is the golden thread that runs through the book of Philippians. We're commanded to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, in this one epistle the word rejoice is found eight times in only four chapters, and the word joy is found six times.

That's a total of fourteen times in just these four chapters we are told to have joy or we are told to rejoice in the Lord. So this is a book all about joy, and this is very important for us because we need to understand that there is an emotional element to Christianity. We don't want to become the frozen chosen.

We don't want to become the bland leading the bland. We don't want to become just hyper intellectuals who have neutered our own emotions. No, God has made us with emotions, and with our emotions we are to delight in the Lord. We are to rejoice in the Lord. We are to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice. And so there is this God-given aspect of our humanness that involves not just our mind, but also our passions and our desires. And so this is a book about the emotion of joy, joy in the Lord, joy in spite of our circumstances, a joy that comes from knowing the Lord and trusting Him and serving Him.

So this is a very important passage for us to consider in this session. I want to begin in verse 4 with the command. He begins with this imperative, rejoice.

That's a command. We are commanded to rejoice. And the fact of the matter is joy is the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 verse 22, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy.

It's number two on the list. Yet it's also our responsibility to choose to rejoice in the Lord. The word rejoice means to be glad, to be exuberant, to be cheerful, for there to be an upbeat note in our heart. And think of the wedding in John chapter 2 when Jesus turned water into wine. There was much joy at that wedding feast as Jesus provided what was needed.

I think of my daughter's wedding and the joy that just flooded my heart to walk her down the aisle and to give her away. The joy that's associated with the happiest moments of life is a joy that is far greater in our hearts as we know the Lord. And so He says, rejoice. You also need to know it's in the present tense. We are to be always rejoicing, and He will add the word always in this verse, but we are to be rejoicing not just in good times, but even in bad times. Not just when we're on the mountaintop, but also when we are in the valley. We are to be rejoicing not only in times of prosperity, but even in times of poverty. It is a present tense, imperative mood verb. And then He adds, in the Lord.

That's a very important addition. We're not to be rejoicing in our circumstances per se, because our circumstances are not always good, are they? There's a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness comes from the world. Joy comes from the Lord. Happiness is in my circumstances, but joy is in the Lord. Happiness is a wonderful thing. When our football team wins, we're happy. When they lose, we're not happy.

And it's because our happenstances, our happenings are fluctuating. Who wants to live like that at the heart of our soul? No, to rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in who He is, and He never changes. He is the Lord, which means the Sovereign One, ruler over all of my circumstances, and who is causing all things to work together for my good, which is to conform me into the image of Christ. We're to be rejoicing in the Lord and what He is doing in our lives. He is answering prayer in our lives. He is giving us strength to go through the most difficult times of our lives.

Christianity is not the subtraction of difficulty. It's the addition of joy to go through our difficulties with a triumphant note. And so this is what Paul commands the church at Philippi to rejoice in the Lord always.

That means at all times. And then he reinforces it. Again, I say rejoice. He repeats himself in the same verse. He is driving this nail into the board of our minds and hearts even deeper.

This is an emphatic statement that he is making, even when he says, again, I say. Those two words, I say, is really a dramatic assertion of what he is saying, that we must heed this and take this in. So this is the commandment, and it marks really a very important part of our Christian life. We are to be joyful believers.

Let me tell you why. Number one, joy makes Christianity attractive to unbelievers. It is a part of our witness. It is a pre-evangelism, if you will, that really is building a bridge towards people who need the gospel. But if we go around looking like an advanced undertaker, just a solemn, don't you want to be miserable like me and give your life to Christ? I mean, it's just bad advertisement. If you're going around like that, please don't tell anyone you're a Christian.

Okay, you're hurting the cause. There should be joy in our lives that just is exuded from our very being, and you'll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. So it makes Christianity attractive.

Second, it's an encouragement to other believers. When you're joyful, it picks up my spirits. When I'm joyful, it's contagious. It picks up your spirits as well.

We're playing off of one another. Christianity is contagious, and it is good for you to be with believers who are joyful. In years that I have pastored and done counseling, so many times people who have come to me who are just defeated and discouraged and down and downcast are not with other believers who are joyful, and they're just pulling each other further down. It would be good for you to be with other believers who are filled with joy. Third reason, it's good for your own heart. It's good for your own soul.

In fact, it's good for your body even. You'll just sleep better if you're joyful. You'll have more energy to live life when you're joyful. And then fourth, it gladdens the heart of God that we are rejoicing in Him. God delights in this, and it also, fifth, it balances the other experiences of life because we do face serious problems and trials in life. We face the loss of a parent, the loss of a child.

We face the loss of a job, loss of income. There are many difficult and challenging experiences in life, and it doesn't mean that we never are remorseful in those situations, but we have to have joy just to balance out the weightiness of living in a fallen world and the rest of life. So that's the commandment.

Notice the character. In the next verse, verse 5, let your gentle spirit be known to all men. In context here, the fruit of joy is a gentle spirit. As you are joyful, it causes you to be at peace, and it causes you to come across with others, with gentleness. When you're joyful, it's when you're lacking joy that you come across overbearing and abrasive. Joy has a way of causing our inner disposition to have a heart attitude that is patient, that is reasonable, that is peaceable.

And so, no wonder, he says, immediately after verse 4, let your gentle spirit be known to all men. And this is the total opposite of the world, is it not? First of all, the world knows zero joy because they don't know the Lord. All joy is in the Lord, and because they have no joy, they come across angry and are filled with rage and violence and brutality and savagery and even barbarianism. That's the culture in which we live.

It's because they have no joy. If they had joy, they would have a gentle spirit, and they would let that gentle spirit be known to all men. When he says to all men, I think that refers both to believers and unbelievers. And again, it is a sweet-smelling aroma of Christianity that is emitted from us and permeates the air around us for other unbelievers to breathe in, speaking metaphorically. It causes Christianity to be attractive when you have a gentle spirit that is the result of joy in your heart. As you show this to all men, it is a part of really presenting a positive Christianity to them to be a follower of Jesus Christ. So, this leads us to the end of verse 5, and the confidence. And he seeks to bolster, Paul does, the confidence of the Philippians that they should rejoice in the Lord, they should let their gentle spirit be known to all men.

Why? How can I have this joy? How can I be more gentle in spirit? At the end of verse 5, he gives us insight. He says, the Lord is near.

The Lord here refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. And when he says he's near, there's two different ways to take this. One, he is near in space. The other is that he is near in time. To take it as he is near in space means he's in this room right now with us. And the fact of the matter is, he is in this room right now with us. He is omnipresent. He is everywhere present, in heaven, on earth, and even in the depths of hell.

He's everywhere present. There is no place where God is not present. The other way to understand this is that the Lord is near in time, referring to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. That the Lord is so near in his return that you need to rejoice and know that soon you will be taken out of this world of misery and sorrow that is laced with sin. And you will be taken to the courts above, the palaces of glory, and that should put some joy in your heart right now as you're living your Christian life.

My understanding is the latter of those two interpretations. By saying the Lord is near, Paul is saying that Christ is soon to return. And that should put some joy in your heart that you can be excited for the fact that Jesus Christ is coming back. The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and the trumpet of God, and the voice of the archangels. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

Therefore, comfort one another with these words. What joy and excitement is in our heart to think that we could hear that trumpet sound, that we could be taken up to glory and to be in the immediate presence of God, even in the most difficult of earthly circumstances. Whether you're in prison like Paul or whether you are in a hospital room and have received maybe not the news that you wanted to hear, nevertheless, there is this expectancy of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we who love church history, I love looking backwards, and I love studying Luther and Calvin and Edwards and Whitefield and Tyndale and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones and Wycliffe.

But we also need to be looking ahead, and we also need to be looking up and not always looking in the rearview mirror. We need to be looking through the windshield straight ahead of us, and the Lord is soon to return. And I think in the context here of the book of Philippians, I think that's Paul's meaning here. The Lord is near.

If you would, look at the end of chapter 3, just a couple of verses earlier. In chapter 3 verse 20 and 21, Paul writes, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, that's referring to the second coming of Christ right here in this context, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. What a glorious day that is going to be.

This corruptible will put on incorruptible. This perishable will put on imperishable, and it shall come about the saying, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? All of this tied into the second coming of Christ. Look earlier in chapter 3 at verse 11, Philippians 3, 11, that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. That takes place at the time of the second coming of Christ at the end of the age. There's going to be a great getting up morning. The graves are going to open, and the bodies of every believer is going to come out and be transformed, just like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ.

Look back in chapter 1. Look at verse 6, a very famous passage of Scripture. For I am confident of this very thing, that He, referring to God the Father, who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. What is the day of Christ Jesus? It's the day of His return. Right now is the devil's day. Right now is the day of sin and death, but the day of Christ is coming, and it's fixed in God's calendar, and it is fast approaching. It is coming, the day of Christ Jesus, and what a difference and what a change it will bring about. Look at verse 10 in chapter 1.

He prays so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless. For how long? Until the day of Christ. Martin Luther said, I only have two days on my calendar, today and that day. You need to have two days on your calendar, today and the day of Christ Jesus, when He shall descend from heaven and come back as a victorious King and take us with Him to glory.

And so, this should put excitement in our hearts. It should put joy that is triumphant in our soul, that even in the worst of times we have a blessed hope, Titus talks about in chapter 2, the blessed hope of Christ's coming and His return for us. In James 5 verses 8 and 9, the last chapter of James, we read, Be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near, near. The judge is standing right at the door. The imagery there is that Christ has already arisen from the right hand of God the Father, and He has proceeded to the door that is opened in Revelation 19, when a white stallion comes bolting out of that door, and him who sat upon it had many diadems, and his robe drenched in the blood of his enemies, and on his thigh is written, Faithful and true.

He's standing right at the door. The idea is His hand is right on the doorknob ready to push the door open and step out of eternity and into time and to come back for His chosen bride, the church. What excitement this puts into our soul. And if this excitement has been missing in your Christian life, I want to reintroduce you to the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is just as real as the first coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, when He ascended from the Mount of Olives up into the heavens, two angels had come for Him, and everyone was just jaw-dropped, watching Christ ascend out of their sight up into glory.

Those two angels said, You men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heavens? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you shall return in like manner. You're watching the real body of Jesus go up. You're going to see the real body of Jesus come down, and He'll be coming back for you. So no wonder Paul includes this at this point after telling us to rejoice.

Again, I say rejoice. The Lord is near. The time is near. It's been said we should live as though Christ were crucified this morning, raised this afternoon, and He's coming back tonight with a sense of immediacy and a sense of urgency.

Well, no one knows the day nor the hour of Christ's return. This is why we must be ready at all times. We must be dressed in readiness, Jesus said. And being ready requires that we be rejoicing in the Lord now. And those who are rejoicing the most in the Lord now are those who are looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God fill our hearts with much joy so that our Christianity will be triumphant in the eyes of others and in our own hearts.

And aren't we looking forward to His glorious return? You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, a daily outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Today's message from Stephen Lawson is one of 42 in his series on Philippians, and you can go back to chapter 1 and study this book in its entirety when you give a donation of any amount at or when you call us at 800 435 4343. To thank you for your generosity, we'll send you this series on DVD, plus you'll be able to stream it and access the study guide in the free Ligonier app. This series could serve as study material for a Bible study, a small group, or perhaps an adult Sunday school class. Request access today when you show your support of Renewing Your Mind at After considering joy, Paul goes on to speak of a peace that surpasses all understanding, and that's our topic tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-06 02:17:09 / 2024-05-06 02:25:25 / 8

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