What Does Fullness of Joy Look Like?

It can be hard to grasp what “fullness of joy” really means for us in a nuts and bolts, rubber meets the road kind of way.  If you have been following along in this series, you might understand the theory, but you might wonder, “When do I get to feel joy?  Does that ever happen?” If I give you a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, what good is that if you never taste one?

We might struggle with understanding what this fullness of joy means on a practical level.

So I can describe what joy looks like in this life, I want to first consider what joy will look like in the life that is to come.  Here’s why: the joy we experience in eternity will be the fullest joy ever experienced.  We might have reason to doubt that we are experiencing “fullness” of joy in this life, but we know that we will experience it in heaven.  In this life, God continually elevates our joy to this ultimate experience of joy. By means of His providence – both pleasant providences and hard providences – God expands our capacity for joy and increases our experience of it until we reach eternity. 

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Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ

Jesus said what He said in His lifetime so His disciples would experience fullness of joy.  I do not consider that a stretch, like I am making too much of joy. In His intercessory prayer, Jesus prayed…

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in us.  And He spoke so that His joy would be fulfilled in us. He wanted His disciples to experience “full” joy.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

This means that Scripture itself was written so that we could experience this “full joy.” God’s Word is saturated with the joy and blessing and delight of God.  Hopefully I have made that point sufficiently in previous posts so that I don’t need to repeat the Scripture proofs for it now.  God created us to be the objects of His joy and glory and to share in His joy and glory. God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is that they should share in His eternal joy in Himself – and this is the way God glorifies Himself.

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Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

Christmas was a week ago, so by now you realize that you won’t be having that classic Hallmark Christmas this year either.  Christmas can be a very miserable time, especially if you are one who thinks that Christmas will solve all your problems. Too many believe the rot that Christmas has this mystical power of reconciling family members, healing diseases, and restoring happiness.

The popularity of Hallmark movies offers nearly irrefutable proof that we love to be sentimental.  We crave that perfect Christmas joy. But if we put too much stock in the trappings and the window dressings of Christmas, we set ourselves up for a big disappointment.  So, if you are experiencing the “Christmas blues” a week after Christmas is over, you might want to consider what I am saying.

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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.

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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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