Good morning. Happy Easter! David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
We are starting a new series this morning and also obviously connecting that to Easter.
Our new series is simply called, “JOY.”
You will also be treated to episodes of “The JOY Club” each week J
JOY really is an important aspect of our lives and something I’ve personally been thinking about a lot lately over the past couple of months.
It seems to me like much of American culture is starting to lose its connection to joy
And I think this is the case for a multitude of reasons, and those reasons are different for different people
There are spiritual reasons
I think community plays a big part of it…we’re much more isolated than people were 50 years ago, and people are a huge source of joy
I don’t tend to have a lot of joy hanging out by myself a lot
I’ve been known to make self laugh making faces in the mirror before, but as we know, I’m weird.
SO much of joy comes from other people
Another reason might be our obsession with busyness and accomplishing tasks.
Life is a whole lot less simplistic. We don’t do a whole lot of just sitting around, and sipping lemonade, and reading books or going out to fish or whatever
We just dream about it, and maybe do it once a year on vacation.
I think maybe even yet another reason for our loss of JOY in our culture has been our over-obsession with being critical.
There’s really been a change in culture in the last 50 years when it comes to be critical of another person’s life or work.
It’s somewhat connected to respect and authority. In many other countries still, such as the far East in Asia, respect of authority figures is still quite high.
But that’s not really the case in our country…We’re more like, I don’t care you are, I’ll tell you what I think about you, and I’ll tell you to your face.
And we applaud that attitude. We say, “I like him/her. She really says what she thinks, and I like it!”
And this is something I’ve really struggled with.
Over the years, and it’s taking me some time to truly sort this out, I’ve learned that I’m what I would call “A Critical Optimist.”
I’m an optimist and not a pessimist in that, I really believe in people. I really do. If someone’s not sure about a person, I REALLY believe they are going to pull through.
I’m an optimist in that I always believe there’s a way through. I’m about as perseverant as they come.
For example, if I was trying to fix something that was broken, I would keep working on it for 14 hours, always saying, “Oh I bet this way will work!”
But, where I’m weird is…I’m about the most critical person you might meet.
When I look at a scenario, I’m the guy who always says, “Let give you 6 reasons why that won’t work.” OR “This person’s not right for that position because of A,B, C, D, E, F, and G.” “I think the 7 details we’re missing here are…blah, blah, blah.”
Which is a great leadership characteristic, it helps keep us focused and well organized as a church…
But it’s not always the greatest quality to have in everyday life.
Because I can find myself just being critical of anything.
It affects my driving; “I can’t believe how that person’s driving right now. They obviously don’t have their right-of-ways for four way stops memorized”
It can affect relationships, because if I’m always focused on flaws, then it can be hard to just love people for who they are
I can even affect simple things like watching TV…sometimes I can’t enjoy that because I spend the entire time, thinking, or saying to Lindsey, “What were they thinking?” “This person on American Idol can’t even sing.” “What a terrible song choice.” “That’s the most annoying sound in the world.”
And what can happen, is a life of being over critical has the potential to suck the JOY from your life.
And every one of us has different aspects of our personality or different things that we do that can drastically hinder our ability to live a life of JOY
We each have things that can slowly suck the JOY out of our lives
And my recent heightened awareness of my critical negativity has really got me thinking… life is meant to be JOYFUL. God wants us to live in deep, abiding joy.
And I’m not saying a type of “fake joy” where everyone’s happy…a let’s pretend we’re happy all the time joy like the JOY CLUB
That’s not JOY. That’s called lying. J
I’m talking about real joy. The real joy that we all crave in our lives. A deep, deep joy. A JOY that is hopeful. A JOY that says, I know that life is still good and that God is good no matter what is happening or will happen.
A joy that we desperately need, but each one of us, in our own ways (whether isolation, or our distance from God, or busyness, or a plethora of other ways), each one of us has somehow inadvertently pushed some of the JOY that God wants for us out of our lives.
In fact, let me ask you: Where would you say your level of JOY is? Are you living a life of JOY? Is it permeating through your life? Or are you just sort of coasting by?
THE RESURRECTION STORY
So, we must go to the source. Where does JOY really come from?
I mean, sure, it comes from a lot of places. Family, from work, from sports, from eating, from watching a person trip when they think no one’s watching, there are a million places to find joy, but where is the true DEEP source of JOY?
It comes from the deepest truth this world has ever known: The fact that God came to earth to rescue messed up people like you and me.
And the fact that he died on the cross to take our place, to take our punishment, and THEN on top of that, he rose again to show He was God and that He reigns, and that He’s still alive today.
Let’s take a look at the story of the resurrection, and I want you to begin to look for the joy his follower’s must have felt
(Matthew 28:1-10) – NIV
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." 8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet FILLED WITH JOY, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
Can you even imagine what that would have been like? These women are coming, The Gospel of Mark tells us, to just bring spices to the grave.
But when they get there. They find out He has alive.
But picture their despair beforehand… and the despair of all of his followers.
Many of them had followed this man for 3 years! They believed he was the messiah, their savior, God on earth. And then he was murdered.
Something they didn’t see coming, even though he warned of it.
And NOW…He’s Alive! What JOY!
JOY AND PAIN
If we can, I want to study another passage in the book of John in the Bible where Jesus is talking to his disciples about his death and resurrection
This passage that we are about to read took place the night before Jesus was crucified.
Jesus was killed on a Friday, and rose on a Sunday.
So this was the Thursday, the night before he died. And this conversation took place in what is now called the Upper Room.
It was also the same night that Jesus instituted communion…or the Last Supper.
So as Jesus is reclining at the table with his disciples, the following conversation takes place:
(John 16:17-22) – NIV
17Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" 18They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." 19Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? 20I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
And those words came true. Jesus’ followers grieved greatly through the pain of his crucifixion and death, but after the darkness came the joy. Incredible joy!
I mean just think of it. Think of that feeling where we feel like all is lost, and the pain is too much to bear, but then things change.
And when good comes out of pain, joy is at its greatest
We know this. We know this on so many different levels.
Even on a level as simple as sports we get this. Pretend the Vikings get to the Super Bowl next year (I said pretend), what would you rather see? What would give you more joy?
A) The Vikings win 34-0?
B) The Vikings come from behind by 2 touchdowns, tie the game, go into overtime and score in overtime to win.
I’m assuming the second scenario. JOY is highlighted, it is heightened when contrasted with pain. When it comes out of pain.
And if you’re looking to truly understand the JOY we should have in our lives from the resurrection (the source of all joy), we need to understand not just the good, but the bad. We need the whole story.
You want to know what the most boring type of movie ever is? (a documentary. j/k)
A movie without any conflict. A movie where people just keep hearing Good news the whole time and nothing goes wrong. Boring.
You want to know how to have a very apathetic and boring Christian faith?
Just remember half the story of Easter. God is alive and he loves you.
That’s great. But it actually probably won’t bring you a whole lot of JOY. Too many people already assume God loves them because they assume He has to.
And our story (the whole story) with God is not all good news, is it? For without what Jesus did on Easter weekend. We are merely prisoners of our own sin and selfishness.
(Galatians 3:22) – NLT
22 But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.
And really, He offers us an incredible deal
Imagine this scenario: Imagine that you are locked up in prison for the rest of your life. How would that feel? You could never really see your family again or the outside world.
But now imagine that someone came and broke you out. How would that feel?
You probably feel a lot of joy huh? No seriously, you probably would.
But yet, it would be mixed emotions because now you’re on the run, and you have to hide, and you could still get thrown back in prison.
But now imagine something different. Imagine that you are in prison for the rest of your life for a crime you actually DID commit. And you’ve been there for a while.
But then imagine that you get pardoned. The governing authorities just said, you know what, you’re free to go. You’re not guilty anymore. We’re not going to punish you anymore, and we won’t put you back in prison. You’re free. Free to go. Free to live.
Can you imagine the JOY you would feel?
It would be unbelievable. Seriously. Unfathomable the JOY you would have.
Attaining JOY in your own lives means understanding the whole story of God. Joy is “JOY” because of the context of pain.
The JOY of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so JOYFUL because everyone thought all hope was lost. He was dead!
And it should be the same in our lives.
We should be in prison. We don’t deserve forgiveness. And YET, He came…and died for us anyway, and rose again, so that we could be set free.
But if you’re not really being set free from something, than you’re probably not that joyful about what He did.
Or, if you think, like I did for so many years, that you can free yourself from prison and you don’t need anyone’s help, then there probably won’t be a lot of JOY in your life
But when you realize how much HE really set you free from, then that JOY will permeate your entire life!
THE LOST GET FOUND
For some reason, the easter story always has an odd way of reminding me of kidnapping stories that turn out well. Hear me out.
Because on Easter weekend all hope was lost. People thought Jesus was gone.
And sometimes we have stories like this in our world. 18 years ago, 11 year old Jaycee Duggard was kidnapped from a school bus stop in California
For EIGHTEEN YEARS, her parents were without her. And even though they had to hold out hope, that most likely assumed that she was gone.
And then, this year, 18 years after she was taken, she was found!
Can you even remotely imagine getting that phone call as her parents?
That…that feeling is a taste of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Except the difference was, He WAS dead. And NOW, He’s alive.
It’s the fact that NOTHING can keep Him down.
As John 1:5 in the Bible says, “The light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.”
Those women on that day of his resurrection, and soon after his disciples, felt JOY like the parents of Jaycee Duggard felt JOY.
JOY is at its strongest when it arises out of the darkest of circumstances.
HOW IT APPLIES TO US
And it’s not just that we should feel JOY that Jesus made it. That, “Yea! He’s alive. He didn’t die!” Cuz sometimes that’s what Easter is for churches. IT’s more than that.
It’s that that very miracle of Easter Weekend applies directly to our own lives.
See this story, or as some call it, “THE GOSEPEL” (which, means Good news), the Gospel applies directly to us.
Because it’s not just Jesus who was dead………… So are we.
The Bible says that on our own, we are dead in our sins. Meaning we can’t be saved. We can’t save ourselves.
But Jesus came to die on the cross and rise from the dead to save us.
And if we would believe that, and believe in HIM. He would take dead people like us, and bring us life. And not only that but eternal life
One of my favorite worship songs, is the song, “You Alone.” In the bridge, it just repeats, “I’m Alive, I’m Alive, I’m Alive, I’m Alive.”
And that stops me every time. Because I was dead for 18 years. For 18 years of my life, I did only what I wanted to do. I ignored God and was simply a dead man walking. For apart from God, I wasn’t going to be saved and at the end of my life I would end up apart from Him in Hell.
But at 18 years old, I gave my life to Him. I believed in what He did for ME on that cross.
And now, I can sing, that “I’m Alive.” And because of the fact that I used to be dead, I can think of scarcely any other phrases that give me more JOY in my life.
And the Bible tells us, that without God, that we are also Lost. We are taken, kidnapped by this world.
But the Bible also tells us in Luke 15, that God looks for us like a woman ripping her whole house apart for a lost coin, or like a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep, just to find the lost one.
And when we believe in what he did for messed up people like you and me, we are found.
And when you are found. IT is a JOYOUS occasion!!
But it’s SO joyous because of the fact that the pain of isolation of being lost is now over.
So we find JOY in our own daily lives because no matter what we may go through… because of the fact that HE died for US and rose from the dead…we are saved!
We were once were lost and now we are found. We once were dead, but now we’re alive.
And this is where JOY diverges from what so many people think is joy and what I would call “overly fake happiness.”
True JOY is not just to start your own JOY club and smile a lot. True JOY is this deep sense that we carry with us that no matter what may come, when all is said and done, we KNOW that God is with us and we will spend eternity with Him.
Because if he can conquer the grave, then He can certainly raise us to life as well.
So trust in that. Let it give you JOY. Think on that this week. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ…because of what happened on Easter…you are saved…you’re found…you’re alive.
And keep that close to your heart for it will bring you great JOY. It really will
And if you’re just starting to hear about this incredible love of Jesus Christ for you on the cross, I encourage you to move forward in your faith
And maybe that means crossing the line of faith today and believing in Him.
Or maybe that means just committing to keep coming to hear about Him as we continue in the weeks to come to flesh out in more detail what it means to understand His JOY in the different circumstances of life.
But wherever you are…seek after Him. Because He sought after us. And He gave his Life. And I am so thankful.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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