JOY IS THE MEASURE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
'...you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Peter 1:8).
Joy will always be evident in every level of worship. The amount of joy in our lives will reflect the closeness of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the barometer that can measure our Christian experience. The First Epistle of Peter describes exactly what the reading on our spiritual barometer should be like; we should be rejoicing with 'joy unspeakable and full of glory'. Paul commanded the Philippians to always rejoice in the Lord. He emphasised this command by saying it a second time. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.' (Philippians 4:4). Worshippers are a rejoicing people and Paul says that believers should rejoice at all times, in all circumstances, and situations. Joy will attract people to Christ, and it is the greatest weapon to prevent contention within the body of Christ.
A worshipper of the Lord Jesus can be defined as one who does not carry the cares and concerns of the world, but is filled with joy in knowing Jesus. Joy is not only the barometer measuring our relationship with the Lord; it is also the means of measuring whether the local church is moving in the Holy Spirit. There will always be joy among the believers when the Holy Spirit is moving because in His presence there is fullness of joy, (Psalm 16:11). This is a greater evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit than speaking in tongues or demonstrations of healing.
Joy will always be evident in all stages of worship.
1. The joy in believing
2. The joy in going up to worship
3. The joy in thanksgiving and praise
4. The joy in giving all
5. The joy in the Holy Spirit anointing
6. The joy in being united with Christ in suffering shame
7. The joy in being united with Christ in God's eternal plan and purpose
8. The joy of worship in heaven
There is wonderful joy in knowing Jesus. It is the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven; that we have new life in the Lord Jesus; and that we will live eternally in heaven with the Lord. The joy of salvation is produced through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told the Thessalonian believers that they received the gospel with joy in the Holy Spirit. The affliction from unbelieving Jews had no effect upon their joy. 'And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit' (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Isaiah expressed the joy of salvation in these words; 'Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.' (Isaiah 12:3). The joy of salvation is the first step in worship. Even the angels in heaven rejoice when a person receives Christ, but they always worship on the highest level and are rejoicing because of God's eternal plan and purpose.
This joy is rooted in the nature and character of God. It is the joy of approaching God in a right manner. The worshipper rejoices in the knowledge that he or she is right with God through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. It is the joy of knowing that we are His people, and that we are going up to worship in the obedience of discipleship, and with the fruit of holiness. The prophet Isaiah spoke about the joy of going up to worship as being with singing and everlasting joy. 'Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.' (Isaiah 51:11).
Worshipping the Lord with the joy of thanksgiving and praise is the entrance into worship. It is not possible to give thanks and praise to the Lord without joy. The Psalmist says make a joyful noise; serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. 'Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all you lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.' (Psalm 100).
The offering of thanksgiving is given with rejoicing. The joy of the worshipper bypasses the cares and concerns of life because his or her eyes are upon the Lord. Even when we are broken hearted we must worship with joy because of the goodness and greatness of God. 'And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.' (Psalm 107:22).
There is joy in the giving of ourselves in worship as a living sacrifice, (Romans 12:1). It is the joy known by those who worship the Lord with sacrificial giving. When our lives are on the altar as a love offering to the Lord then everything we possess belongs to Him. Love for the Lord will enable us to give joyfully as an act of worship, and faith in God will enable us to trust the Lord so that we can joyfully give to Him that which is most precious in our lives. Hanna was filled with joy when she gave her son Samuel to the Lord. Her heart felt the pain of separation, but she rejoiced as she worshipped the Lord saying: 'My heart rejoices in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.' (1 Samuel 2:1). The joy that Hanna experienced in giving her son to the Lord is a joy that can only be known at this level of worship.
There is joy in the Holy Spirit anointing when God takes control of the worship. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the believers ate together with gladness. The word 'gladness' in Acts 2:46, is the same word that is used in Hebrews 1:9 where the Lord is anointed with the 'oil of gladness'. It refers to the custom of anointing persons at feasts and festivals, and at other times of rejoicing with the oil known as 'the oil of gladness'. The prophet Isaiah made mention of the Holy Spirit anointing with the 'oil of joy': '...the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;' (Isaiah 61:3)
Worshippers on this level of worship have come into a new realm of joy. They have received the anointing of the 'oil of gladness'. The Holy Spirit baptism brings great joy. This is not just for meetings. The early church knew they were anointed even when they were in their own homes. Anointed worshippers will know the joy of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. 'And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,' (Acts 2:46)
There is the joy of being counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ. The apostles rejoiced in being united with Christ in His sufferings. They were worshippers not because they had been persecuted but because they rejoiced at being counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. They knew that they were suffering persecution as a direct consequence of the anointing. The religious leaders persecuted them because they were not willing to yield to the moving of the Holy Spirit. '...when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:40-42).
There is joy in knowing we are united in Christ with the eternal plan and purpose of God. The angels always rejoice in the glory of God at this level of worship. They rejoice over sinners being saved, because in the salvation of a sinner they see the wisdom, power, and glory of God. 'Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.' (Luke 15:10). Jesus rejoiced on this level when he sent out seventy disciples who came back rejoicing saying, 'Lord even the devils are subject to us through Your name' (Luke 10:17-22). Jesus told them to rejoice for a higher reason, 'because their names were written in heaven'. The Lord rejoiced in spirit because of the wisdom of God in choosing the foolish and despised of the world to fulfil His great purpose.
Notice how the Lord rejoiced by worshipping first with thanksgiving and praise and then moved to the highest level of worship and rejoiced in the wisdom of God's eternal plan and purpose in choosing the insignificant and lowly in the world: 'In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.' (Luke 10:21). Worship at this level rejoices in the knowledge that the believer has been united with Christ in His eternal purpose. The worshipper rejoices in the wisdom of God because He has chosen the foolish and weak things of the world so that He will be glorified through them.
There is the joy of worshipping in heaven. The extent of our worship on earth will determine how we enter in heaven. Paul had one desire to finish his course with joy. He wanted to go into heaven worshipping. His ministry was born out of worship and the love of Christ was his only motivation. Paul looked upon believers who he had won for the Lord, and built up in the gospel as his joy and crown. He looked forward to the day when he could present them to the Lord at his coming. They were the fruit of his service of love for the Lord: 'For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?' (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
The joy of worship is the way to measure our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. A believer who is full of the Lord will be full of joy. A Christian who is filled with the cares and concerns of life will not be filled with joy, and cannot go up to worship. There can be no worship without joy whether it is on an individual level or in corporate worship as a company of believers united together in Christ. A church that is moving in the Holy Spirit will be known for joy.
Worship begins with the joy of salvation. The worshipper is then able to go up to worship with a rejoicing heart, and to enter into worship with gladness and singing. The worshipper will experience greater joy by moving higher in worship to the place of surrender; joyfully laying his or her live on the altar of sacrifice. There is wonderful joy in sacrificial giving. The higher levels of worship begin when God takes control of the worship and the worshipper is anointed with the oil of gladness. Believers rejoice together in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This is the Day of Pentecost experience and leads to the higher level of worship in being able to rejoice through being united with Christ in His sufferings. The worshipper rejoices that he or she has been counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. From here worship moves to the highest level of rejoicing through being united with Christ in His eternal plan and purpose. This joy is the joy that is 'joy unspeakable and full of glory' and will continue for all eternity.