Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)
What is the object of your joy? If you answer that it is “yourself,” you would be guilty of a terrible conceit. Yet, the object of Jesus Christ’s joy is most certainly Himself, as there is nothing higher for Jesus to delight in or to enjoy than Himself.
The joy of Jesus Christ consists of an absolute satisfaction in Himself and a delight and joy in Himself. I repeat what I said in an earlier post: that God has a complete happiness and satisfaction with Himself and with His will, and at the same time a delight in that will.
We can take this a step further. God’s will goes beyond that satisfaction and delight with Himself and all of His works. God’s will involves spreading His own joy throughout the world of His creation, so that “all thy works shall praise thy name.” God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is that they should share in His eternal joy in Himself – this is the way God glorifies Himself.
Joy must be in some self, some person – that is inescapable. And while there could be some satisfaction in the wrong self, the happiness that a person experiences will be limited, temporal, and frustrating. God wants us to experience full joy. The Bible consistently points to God as the ultimate object of joy and teaches us to rejoice in Him. Joy that is fixed and focused on God will be full joy.
It is no conceit on God’s part that causes Him to point us to Himself as the ultimate object of our joy. God directs us to rejoice in Himself because there is nothing better for us to rejoice in, nothing higher to bring us joy. God Himself rejoices in Himself and in His own will, and He calls us to do the same.
Scripture points us this way frequently. Here are a sampling of passages that call us to rejoice in the Lord:
But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. (Psalm 5:11)
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. (Psalm 9:2)
I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. (Psalm 16:8-9)
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)
For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. (Psalm 35:9)
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified. (Psalm 40:16)
Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. (Psalm 43:4)
The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:10)
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified. (Psalm 70:4)
Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Psalm 85:6)
God gives us joy by giving us a true object of joy – Himself. He teaches us to rejoice in Him. He accomplishes this in fallen man through the work of redemption. Sin brings misery. Misery must be overcome or we cannot experience anything more than a temporal joy. Specifically, sin robs us of the joy and delight that we were created to experience from our relationship with God. When Christ redeems a man, that man is set to enter into the joy of the Lord, is being prepared for that day when He will enjoy God forever.
This is an important point – because when we are redeemed the object of God’s joy becomes the object of our joy as well. Before redemption, the object of our joy and happiness is ourselves. We are self-centered. We seek joy for ourselves, from ourselves. But when Christ redeems us, we learn to share His joy in Himself. Redemption teaches us to change the object of our joy from ourselves to our Redeemer – which gives us something true, something solid, something the self could never be as the object of our joy. When our joy springs out of His joy, then we have the possibility of full joy. In fact, our joy will not be full joy until it shares in His joy.
 This definition is taken almost verbatim from John Piper in some of his work on the subject of joy. Many of the thoughts for this article come from him. Though I would beg the reader to read Piper with discernment, I will also insist that he has done tremendous work on this subject.