The Fullness of Christ’s Joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that God anointed Christ with the oil of gladness above His fellows.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We can learn the character of Christ’s joy from this text. One thing we learn is the abundance of it — His joy is above His fellows — Jesus Christ has more joy than any other person.  “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe.”[1]  Does that sound too trite to you?  If so, it is only the fault of our language and the way we use the word “happy.” To say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe is anything but trite. More on that in a moment.

We also learn the fullness of Christ’s joy.  He has all the joy that can be had.  To apply our definition, He has a full and perfect satisfaction in Himself as the 2nd person of the Godhead, and a full and perfect delight in His own will as God.  Whenever the Bible speaks of fullness of joy, it is speaking of the joy that Christ has – a joy that the saints of God can look forward to someday when we finally enter into the joy of the Lord.

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Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ

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.[1]

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The Unsurpassed Joy of Jesus

The Bible overflows with the joy of God.

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Jesus has more joy than any other being.  Surely that points to the fact of His joy.  Psalm 16 strengthens this conclusion.

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. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

I am not saying anything profound when I say that if Jesus were moody or gloomy or sullen rather than full of joy, there could not be pleasures forevermore at His right hand.[1] We could never expect to have more joy than our creator – and heaven could only be as happy as God is.

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The Unspeakable Joy of God

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Hebrews 1:8-9

Consider for a moment the unspeakable joy of God. Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”  The text is speaking of Jesus.  God the Father anointed God the Son with the oil of gladness above “thy fellows” – that is, above His fellow men.  God the Father was not anointing Jesus with something that He Himself did not possess.  Nor did this anointing produce in Jesus an amount of joy that exceeded what was already possessed of the Father.  So, we can concluded that Jesus had more joy than any man, and that God has an incomprehensible amount of joy.  Jesus is the happiest man who ever lived, and God is a very happy God.

We should pause to consider this for several reasons: knowing this about God can help us understand our own joy a little more, it can help us enjoy God more and rejoice in Him more in worship, and it can give us a richer, more personal, and more genuine experience of His joy.

It is appropriate that we should do this at Christmas time – because Christmas should be a time of overflowing joy for the Christian.  My son was commenting on the number of people he has encountered who absolutely hate Christmas – the trees, the lights, the carols, the traditions, the family gatherings – especially the family gatherings.  I think for many, the Christmas season shines a spotlight on their miseries and reminds them of their disappointments and their heartaches and pain. They prefer not to stir that bad soup, and Christmas insists on stirring it.

Continue reading “The Unspeakable Joy of God”

Good Tidings of Great Joy

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

The angel called the fact that Jesus Christ was born “good tidings of great joy.”  The announcement marked the moment when God inserted Himself into our world, became one of us in order to save us.  The glory of Christmas is the glory of God becoming man – the Creator becoming what He had created – in order to rescue His fallen creation from death and hell.

The joy of Christmas is the joy of God and sinners reconciled.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; peace on earth, and mercy mild—God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’ angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”

God the Son entered our world as a man so that He could fight the devil as a man.  As God, He could defeat the devil quite easily, and nobody would find that impressive.  So, Jesus made Himself weak like us – weaker and lower than the devil – so that He could set Himself at the greatest possible disadvantage when He did battle with Satan. 

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Joy or Happiness?

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

Did you know that in the Bible we find some form of the words “joy,” “happy,” “delight,” “glad” or “gladness,” and “rejoice” more than 700 times? And if we add in the word “singing” or “sang” or “song,” we approach 1,000 references.  We can safely argue that joy is an important theme in the Bible.

One night in the fields near Bethlehem, an angel announced good tidings of great joy, because Jesus was born that night. And he added that these good tidings of great joy “shall be to all people.”

Conventional wisdom distinguishes joy from happiness.  According to modern theologians, happiness is temporal while joy is lasting.

“Happiness depends on circumstances, while joy depends on God alone.”

“Happiness is what the world has; joy is what Christians have.”

These are commonplace opinions of the difference between joy and happiness.  But is this true?  What is joy?  Is joy limited to Christmas celebrations, or should it permeate our Christian lives?  Is joy something distinct from happiness, or are they 2 sides of the same coin?

You might be surprised to note that the Bible makes no formal distinction between joy and happiness.  Joy is characteristic of the Christian life, and happiness is a product of faithful Christian living.  Consider this: the Bible never treats “happiness” as a non-Christian emotion. 

Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

Psalm 144:15
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Christmas Joy

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Some people resemble a little black raincloud – they never miss a chance to fuss at something.  For some Christians, this is a special talent: we are never happier than when we are miserable.  And for some odd reason, Christmas tends to draw out our inner Scrooge and turn him loose on the world. 

Sadly, getting way too uptight about things has become a favorite Christian pastime, a part of the ethos of piety.  I say “sadly” because I don’t believe God intended this for His people.  True, in many ways we are like just Lot, vexing our righteous souls.  But that doesn’t make “vexing” a fruit of the Spirit.  I don’t think God is more pleased with sour-faced self-righteousness.

Do the stores stock their shelves for Christmas long before Thanksgiving?  I’m not sure why I should be bothered by this.  For at least 2 months out of every year, the world acknowledges that something important happened on a cold winter night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.  Calling it a “Winter Festival” doesn’t change that fact. When the world turns “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” they only expose their illiteracy.  “Holiday” is a variation of “Holy Day,” and holiness is hardly a secular value.  

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Alone Together

I wrote this article about three years ago but never published it. I find it interesting that our Dear Leaders attempted to comfort us during the coronavirus shutdown by promoting the idea of being “alone together.” Of course, we were already “alone together” without the imposed isolation of the shutdown. We have been “alone together” in our virtual world of technology and social networking. That is the subject of this little essay.

Frost’s Tuft

Many consider Robert Frost to be America’s foremost poet. Though few could recite the lines to his famous poem “The Road Less Taken,” we have adopted the phrase as a popular expression of our desire to be maverick. Continue reading “Alone Together”

An Insider’s Look at the Coronamadness

Depending on who you talk to, my family and I have exposed ourselves as “socially irresponsible.”  We have contracted COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus.  I’ll admit it: we weren’t wearing our masks in the car.  We shared air with people – people not in our immediate family.  We accepted handshakes from people, even when no recent use of hand-sanitizer was in evidence.   As a result, we have been banished from society for a period not to exceed six months, given that we follow all protocols to allow for successful reentry into society.  People in our circle of contacts must now face hard realities and reexamine their interactions with our family. They must determine whether they should invite space-suited medical professionals under white canopies to jam a q-tip up their nose and swab vigorously for 15 seconds. 

While our family does penance for this egregious lapse of sound judgment and social consciousness, some assure us that the stigma of having contracted the coronavirus will not be too severe.  Besides the fact that some refuse to attend our church right now, lest we infect them in our absence, they say that the primary fault for this breach falls to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the fact that we live in a red state that “opened too early.”  The shut-down was both prudent and necessary to crushing the curve and stopping the coronavirus, and if we had only stayed the course, we could right now be eating our furniture and scavenging our yards for mealworms like the people in New York.  Employment?  Who needs that?  It would be better to starve to death than to contract COVID-19.

Let this be a lesson to all of you, lest you too contract this vile virus: social distance.  Wear a mask.  Stay home from church.  Work from home.  Unless you work on a road crew.  Or a fast-food restaurant.  Then, make sure you wear gloves when you take my money and pass my food and take the next guy’s money and pass his food. 

And so, from the basement of my shelter-in-place safe-space, let me offer a few observations, only slightly less facetious than this introduction. 

First, it is human nature to look for a scapegoat.  My family and I traveled out of state the week before the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus.  We flew to Baltimore, then two of my kids flew on to Indianapolis while three of us drove up to Pennsylvania.  Our friends in Pennsylvania have solemnly assured us that our secret is safe with them.  They promise not to tell anyone in PA that we have this disease.  They don’t want people who don’t have the virus to know that we do, because those people might blame us when they get it.  Never fear: if someone gets the coronavirus before you get it, they gave it to you. 

Of course, we figure that we picked up the coronavirus either in the airport or on the airplane or in one of the nearly 100 different yard sales we visited in Pennsylvania (yard-selling being PA’s official team sport).  But you can be assured that if anyone we know gets this disease between now and Christmas, it came from us.  That goes for all the states we visited, including but not limited to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming.  And maybe Nevada.  It would be dangerous and irresponsible for people to visit our church at this time since we infected our entire church, and it is now only a matter of time before we all catch it.  We trust that those who have been joining our services via live stream are taking appropriate precautions.  Be sure you take your phone out of the case before applying the hand sanitizer. 

Second, it is great entertainment to see people skid into a complete 180 on the significance of COVID-19 once they know someone who has it.  During the months when our church limited attendance to 10 people, we were treated to a regular barrage of rants against the shut-down.  When we asked everyone to wear masks, people greeted me at the door with mask factoids: the CDC says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; the WHO says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; Dr. Fauci says masks are essentially non-essential.  This virus is silly, a scamdemic, ridiculous, pointless, absurd, just a little virus, you can’t stop it.  Then, Pastor Mallinak contracted the virus, and lo-and-behold, we need to shut down immediately, we shouldn’t be bringing anyone to church, we shouldn’t be having church, we should all be wearing masks, we shouldn’t even look each other in the eye.   Okay, I made that last one up. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Nobody should change their view of COVID-19 because Pastor Mallinak contracted it.  We shouldn’t be saying, “Wow, this must be serious if he caught it.”  I mean, yeah, I do have the special pastor force-shield that would, under normal circumstances, prevent my contracting the garden-variety diseases that afflict the common man.  Unfortunately, I left it home with my mask when I hopped on that airplane. 

Seriously folks, if you thought the disease was nothing before you knew someone who had it, don’t let little-ole-me change your mind.  As in most cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of your life in those ultra-dangerous days when your mother dropped you off at the church nursery, unnecessarily exposing your feebly beating heart to a whole myriad of life-threatening respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is no fun.  It has a high misery-factor.  You won’t be lying in bed, thinking about how fun it is to be sick as you scroll through Facebook.  It acts a lot like the A-strain flu.  Which many, many people have had and passed around to others with whom they don’t share an address. 

Third, we are so glad that our nation decided to “crush the curve” on this one.  That way, we could catch the virus in the summer when things are back to “normal” instead of in the spring when things are shut down already.  Because you know of course that the goal all along has been to “stop” the coronavirus in its tracks.  The best way to fight a virus, as we all know, is to shut down the world around it so that it will only pass to one person at a time.  The virus will magically run out of people to infect if we all live in isolation from each other, as you well know.  Follow the data.  If we just stay home until they develop a vaccine in a year and a half, we can avoid infecting people.  And there won’t be any new virus in a year and a half.  Besides, the government prints the money. Unemployment pays. 

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/504903-hhs-secretary-the-window-is-closing-to-stop-coronavirus-spread

I recognize that the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, and some are especially vulnerable to this disease, especially while attending church.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to be careless about the lives of those around them.  Please don’t stop by my house and ask me to cough on you.  Please do your part to avoid this disease.  I don’t want to see it spread through my church or anyone else’s church.  And apparently, churches are far more contagious than protest riots or work environments. 

At the same time, I hope I can encourage my friends and loved ones to keep things in perspective.  More than once, I have had someone tell me that I am the first person they knew who contracted this virus.  Please don’t let the fact that my family has it change your mind about this disease.  It isn’t the end of the world, nor does it change a few basic facts about viruses – mainly that they will work themselves around at will, and we really can’t stop a virus.  None of us are likely to die from it.  If you happen to catch it, you will miss some work, you will be uncomfortable for a few days (maybe longer), and you won’t want anyone else to get it.  Do your Christian duty – love your neighbor enough to be careful around them.  Stay home if you are in one of those “high risk” categories.  Look for people you can help, encourage, or share the good news of Christ with.  Keep your spirits high.  Stay in the Word.  Be full of joy and gratitude.  Trust the Lord.  All will be well.  God hasn’t lost control of anything. 

Blessings!

The Turning of the Tide

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

This past Sunday marked the end of a rollercoaster week for us, and I would like to take a few moments to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

Like every other pastor in America, I have spent many sleepless nights over the past two months.  We have been navigating uncharted waters, and it has seemed to me that every week has required a fresh decision about what we should be doing.

Before I tell our story, let me just say how much I respect my fellow pastors.  I have known that God has filled His pulpits with men of conviction and quality, but this crisis has made it even more clear to me that we have some truly outstanding pastors around our county.  Many decisions have had to be made, and the opinions and positions that have been taken seem to cover every extreme of the compass.  Yet, in discussions with dozens of pastors, I have observed one certain truth – that every one of them has acted on what they believed to be right and have sought to bring God the honor that He deserves.  I count myself blessed to serve as a contemporary with these men.

Our church decided early on that we should follow the health guidelines that were issued by our state.  Though our Governor has been great in the fact that he has not used a heavy hand to control us, yet we believed that we should exercise caution in this thing.  We added services in order to accommodate our people and give them the opportunity to be part of a service every week, and the majority of the church has had to suffer through online services for nearly two months now.

Continue reading “The Turning of the Tide”