The Joy of the Resurrection

            Men have searched long and far for joy. Interestingly, those who have accomplished the greatest worldly glory found that joy escaped them.

Joy cannot be found in Unbelief -- for the famous atheist philosopher Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Joy cannot be found in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure only to end up empty, when he wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
Joy cannot be found  in Money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, when dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Joy cannot be found n Position and Fame – Famous English politician Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed them both, he sadly wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
Joy cannot be found n Military Glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer."[1]

            Jesus birth brought great joy to the people. Luke 2:10-11, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” As Jesus birth brought great joy, his death brought great sorrow. The disciples wept at his death and burial. Things seems all but lost until God gave Jesus a rebirth and victory over the grave. God restored joy to all people in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection is the foundation of true joy. True and lasting joy can only be found the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

            The early church new of great persecution, but they also knew of glorious joy. I have been reminded more and more of late of the importance of the joy of believers. I asked a group of college students recently what is the first thing they look for when they walk into a church. The answers varied from the people’s appearance, to the style of music, the reverence of the word, but I think one of the things that should be evident in the life of a church is joy. Does joy permeate our body? Do people get a sense of the joy that we have in Christ?

            The disciples in the book of Acts were called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. They were given the Holy Spirit and were sent to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. And where they went as witnesses of the risen Christ, they went with joy because they had received forgiveness of sin and salvation through Christ. I pray this morning you will see ways we can have joy in the resurrected Christ.

The Joy in the Preaching the Resurrected Christ

            Stephen was the first Christian martyr. After he confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he was brutally stoned to death. After Stephen’s death, it was clear to all Christians throughout Jerusalem that to stand for Jesus was to put oneself in grave danger. Led by Saul of Tarsus, a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem causing God’s people to scatter. Acts 8:3, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” As Christian friends and neighbors were being carted off to prison because of their faith, one would think that this effectively squash the Christian movement, but instead it only strengthened it.

The gospel has always advanced in the face of persecution. It advances because Christians are so full of joy that they can’t stop sharing the message of Christ. Act 8:4-5, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.” (Acts 8:4-5) All the disciples except the Apostles fled Jerusalem preaching the word. After Stephen’s death, they now know the great lengths that the Jews are willing to go to silence them from sharing the resurrected Christ, but they just keep sharing. They shared Christ because they were full of joy of the resurrection. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. He was alive seated at the right hand of God. He gave them victory over death and the grave. He freed them for the power and bondage to sin. They could not stop sharing of the resurrection.

      God’s people should be full of joy as they preach about the resurrected Christ. What a great privilege it is to share Christ. Jesus died and was raised to give new life to the lost. He came to seek and to save the lost by dying in their place and being raised from the dead. Everyone who was scattered from Jerusalem preached the gospel. It was not only for the ordained, trained clergy, but it was for all believers in Christ. All Christians have been entrusted with the gospel and empowered with the Holy Spirit of God. We all must find joy in preaching the resurrected Christ.

      The average American Christian shares the gospel zero times every year. If we had the joy of the resurrection, it would not be possible for us to be silent. Star Wars Episode 7 came out in November and everyone was talking about how great the movie was for weeks. Batman vs. Superman came out this past week and thousands of lifelong fans are posting and tweeting about its greatness. Be happy about Star Wars, Batman and Superman, but be full joy of the resurrection of Christ. Jesus rose from the dead. And if we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will one day be raise from the dead. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)

      If we have not found joy in sharing the gospel this past year, we may not to study more about the resurrection of Christ. The Lord has given us a weekly rhythm so that we would never forget the resurrection. Every Sunday is the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is on Sunday because it reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The weekly reminder of God’s goodness to us in Christ should fuel our joy throughout the week as we go like Philip proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ throughout Rock Hill.

The Joy in the Power of Resurrected Christ

            The resurrection fuels our joy in our preaching, because we see its power in people lives. Acts 8:6-7, “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.” The gospel changes lives. The gospel changes lives because of the resurrection power of the Spirit of God.  Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” The Spirit that gave the resurrection to Christ dwells in you Christian. The Spirit of God will give life through your mortal body.

            The Spirit of God will make the lame healed and the paralyzed walk. The Spirit that brought Christ resurrection from the dead will also bring about resurrection from those who are spiritually dead. This past week my son said, “I don’t see many miracles.” My wife responded by saying miracles are rare. Miracles are rarer than we want, because we too often limit the power of God. We do not believe that God has the power to transform sinners into saints. After incidents like Brussels and the Ivory Coast this past week, our hearts are screaming out for justice. We want justice for those who were slain, but we should also continue to preached the One who was slain that has the power to change lives. The gospel is stronger enough to save a terrorist. Even in this very chapter of Scripture we see a terrorist ravaging the church going from house to house to root out and punish all believers of Christ. And that terrorist saw the resurrected Christ and became the greatest missionary in the history of Christianity. The gospel is powerful for it comes with the resurrection power of the Spirit of God.

            Do we have joy in the resurrected power of Jesus Christ? Do we believe that Jesus can still change lives by his Spirit? People saw the signs of Philip and saw the changed lives and they listen to the word of God. The greatest testimony to the lost is a changed life. Have you experienced the joy? John Newton was a former slave owner. He repented and believed in the resurrected Christ and gave the rest of his life to stop the slave trade. He wrote, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” By the grace of God, you have been changed.  Let us continue to strive to live by the power of the resurrection. Paul wrote,

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:8-14)

We are not what we want to be, but thanks be to God we are not what we used to be. Brothers, forget what is behind and press on toward the goal of the resurrection of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Joy of the People of Resurrected Christ

            The last line of this paragraph is a beautiful goal for our city. Acts 8:8, “So there was much joy in that city.”  What a great goal and ambition for out church. We can live in the joy of the resurrection so that others may know that joy. Just imagine a city what was full of joy because it had experienced the preaching and the power of the resurrection. It is an anticipated conclusion that God’s people would be full of joy. We are a people of the resurrection. There should not be a more joyful place in the world than the local church. That does not mean that we are always happy, for joy transcend happiness. Job had lost everything. His home, his children and his wealth and after he had lost it all he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21). Blessed be the name of the LORD!! Joy transcend happiness.

            Our goal is not to transform society, but to transform people who will transform society. If we all live in the joy of the resurrected Christ, our joy will spill over to our society. Think of the joy that could be in your neighborhoods, your workplaces, and your homes, if we live in that joy? Beloved, let us make it our ambition to have joy in our city. Walk in the joy of the resurrection. Share the joy of the resurrection. Rejoice as you watch others experience that joy. And pray for the joy of the resurrection to permeate our city.

 

[1] The Bible Friend, Turning Point, May, 1993.