THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-30-72 7:30 p.m.
We invite you who listen on the radio, to WRR, that you turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John chapter 15. You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And all of us, those who listen on radio and those who are here in the great auditorium, turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John chapter 15.
If you do not have a Bible, you get your neighbor’s and let him worry about what to do. Just reach over and get it. You will find one in the pew in front of you. And all of us read out loud together. Now we are going to read several passages. One is in the fifteenth chapter of John, and one is in the sixteenth chapter of John.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christian’s Joy, the gladness of the Christian faith. Now in the fifteenth chapter of John we are going to read verses 9 through 13, 9 through 13; John chapter 15, verses 9 through 13. Now read it out loud together:
As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.
If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Now the text is easily picked out: “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [John 15:11].
Now in chapter 16, we’re going to read verses 20 through 24. Just turn the page to chapter 16, and we shall read verses 20 through 24. Now all of us together:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Now the last verse of that chapter 16, let’s read that in the concluding verse; John 16:33, all of us reading it together:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Now all those passages are of the same trim, and turn, and nature, and feeling, and promise. “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [John 15:11]. The Christian’s Joy.
As with you, I look at life and read the story of people. Just what brings joy, and gladness, and happiness, and peace, and rest of heart to people? What is it? Well, let’s look at some of them and see if it brought such a beneficent, blessed reality to their lives. Can one find real joy and peace and rest and happiness in cynicism and unbelief and rejection? Can he?
A good representative of the cynic, and the infidel, and the Christ-rejecter, and the Bible-hater, he prophesied that in a generation the Bible would become an unknown Book. He prophesied that in a few years Christianity would perish from the earth. One of the good representatives of that field of cynicism in which so many scholars delight is the French infidel Voltaire. And Voltaire finally wrote, as he came to the closing days of his life, he wrote, “I wish I had never been born,” and when he lay dying, he said, “I am forsaken by God and man.” That doesn’t sound like joy, or happiness, or peace, or rest.
Well, can one find such joy, and gladness, and happiness, and peace in the dissipation of a carnal life, in seeking such in the carnal world? Can he? A good illustration of that would be Lord Byron. I don’t think England ever had a son on whom she lavished such praise, and love, and adulation as England did Lord Byron. He was the pampered child of the whole British Empire.
Sometimes a great poet will die before his genius is recognized. Not Lord Byron. In his day he was looked upon as one of the great poets of all the generations. And he was spoiled, and pampered, and loved, and cajoled, and petted by the entire civilized world, Lord Byron, and he gave himself to carnal dissipation. There was nothing in the world to which he didn’t seek to find joy and wring it dry. Now listen to this poem. It is entitled “On My Thirty-sixth Birthday.” He wrote this poem in January, the year of 1824, and he died in April of that same year. “On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday.” Now, what is the poem?
The flower and fruits of love are gone
The worm, the canker, and the grief are mine alone.
Now how does it start? I can’t remember the first two verses of it. Isn’t that a sight? It’ll come back to me.
Can one find joy and gladness and happiness in wealth? Can he? A good illustration of that is Jay Gould. He was a millionaire in the days and in the times when a million dollars was almost an unheard of amount of money for a man to possess. Today there are many, many rich men; but not in the days of Jay Gould. And he wrote, saying, “I suppose that I am the most miserable man in this world.”
You know, I can remember when George Eastman committed suicide. He was the founder of the tremendous Eastman Kodak company, one of the tremendously rich men of the world, and one of the most successful and one of the most famous. I remember when he committed suicide. And at the time, I thought and reviewed a scene that a man described, talking about human life and human happiness.
He described a bum walking down the street on a cold wintry evening and looking into a big, plate glass picture window of a palatial home. And on the inside of that home, beyond that window, he sees a man, a wealthy man, a rich man seated in a gorgeous chair in a beautifully appointed room before a burning fireplace. And the man inside that palace has all of the luxuries and endowments of life, all of them.
But the bum, as he stands there in the cold street looking at that man on the inside, thinks, “Oh, if I had that money, and if I had that wealth, and if I had that affluence, and if I had this big palatial home, how happy I would be!” But what the bum doesn’t know is that as the rich man sits there in his chair, and as he looks at that glowing fire, the rich man is contemplating suicide, something that the poor bum would never think about. I thought of that when George Eastman committed suicide. There is no happiness or joy as such in achievement and in success and in money.
Nor is there happiness, real joy, to be found in great political preferment and election. You have one of the greatest statesmen in the world, Lord Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli, who said, twice prime minister of England, “Youth is a mistake, manhood is a struggle, and old age is a regret.”
One other, could it be possible that one could find joy, and peace, and real rest, and happiness in the conquest of the whole world? This is a military genius of tremendous might and power, and the whole world is in his hands. Surely this man has found the peak, the zenith of joy, and accomplishment, and gladness, and happiness. He has arrived. He has the world at his feet. Does that bring gladness and happiness in life?
May I use two illustrations of that? Alexander the Great, in the sermon this morning, I said had a greater influence upon human history than any man that ever lived outside of Christ. And he literally conquered the civilized world. He had it in his hands. He wept in despair because there were not more worlds to conquer, and died at thirty-three years of age in dissipation and drunkenness and debauchery. He literally threw his life away in a wretchedness debacle in Babylon.
One other: one of the most famous pictures that has ever been painted is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. The very name Napoleon is identified with conquest, and military victory, and national life, and aspiration. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the great generals, and leaders, and statesmen, and organizers of all time, surely this man had seized and found real joy and happiness. One of the most famous pictures that was ever painted is that of Napoleon Bonaparte exiled on the isle of St. Helena, west of Africa in the South Pacific, standing facing the lonely expanse of the illimitable ocean, with his hands behind his back, and a look of lonely despair written large on his face.
Where is joy? Where is happiness? In these marvelous attainments of the greatest, most famous men who have ever lived, yet attaining these heights, possessing these things, they come to a sad, and a lonely, and a tragic end. Where is joy? Where is happiness? Well, look at it in the text. Here is a man who is speaking of “My joy, that it remain in you, that your joy might be full” [John 15:11].
Here is a man speaking of real joy that He has, and that He seeks to bestow upon those who believe and follow Him. Well, look at that Man. What kind of joy could He possess? How is it that He could have any joy? He belonged to a hated and despised people, a people who were subjected and conquered and tucked away in a little corner of the world.
Not only that, but He Himself lived a life of poverty and want. He had nothing but five pieces of clothing for which the Roman soldiers gambled when He was crucified [Matthew 27:35; John 19:23-24]. He lived a life of loneliness. People looking at Him said, “He is like Jeremiah” [Matthew 16:13-14]. He knew the agony of an Hosea, and the frustration and defeat of an Amos. And all of His life, He was poor and lowly, and later in His ministry despised, and outcast, and finally crucified [Matthew 27:26-50].
And look at the condition under which He says these words, speaking of “My joy, that it might be in you” [John 15:11]: these words were spoken a few hours before Gethsemane [John 18], a few hours before Judas betrayed Him––Judas was already on the way [John 18:2-5]––at nine o’clock the next morning He was to be crucified. And yet this is the Man speaking of “My joy!” [John 15:11].
What kind of a joy is that? As we look at our Lord and follow His life, it is plain, lucid, apparent what it is that Jesus had in His soul that elevated Him, that filled Him with gladness and glory. It was all inward. It was not outwardly conditioned. His joy, His gladness, His happiness was not attendant upon or dependent upon anything on the outside, nothing!
Whether He was poor or rich, no difference at all; whether He had a house or not, no difference at all; whether He was famous or infamous, no difference at all; whether people accepted or rejected Him, no difference at all; whether He was hungry or full, no difference at all. There were no things on the outside that found a dependence in Him for any gladness or any joy. All of it was on the inside of His own heart and His own soul. It was inward, always.
And that inwardness in Christ was, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” [Hebrews 10:7-9], “and for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God” [Hebrews 12:2]. The Christian’s joy, if we know ultimately any joy or any peace, is in exactly that. It is something on the inside of us. And real joy is never outwardly conditioned or dependent upon something outside of us, never, never!
Paul the apostle said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” [Philippians 4:11]. And when they put him in jail, having beaten him and fashioned his feet in stocks, and in chains, and in manacles, at midnight, he and his fellow preacher Silas praised God, and sang songs to the Lord, and prayed [Acts 16:23-25]. That is real joy, something on the inside.
What if I have nothing? What if I’m never known? What if I’m never recognized? What if I die in obscurity? What if my life is filled with frustration and defeat and despair? These things are nothing, for the joy of Christ is always on the inside. It is inward, and it is never outwardly conditioned. This is the joy that He had, “My joy might remain in you, and your joy might be full” [John 15:11].
Let me name briefly some of the things that pertain to the Christian’s joy. I’m saved. I’ve been born again. I’m a Christian. I’m a child of God. I’m going to heaven when I die. I have the Lord in my heart. I belong to Jesus [John 10:28]. You could cut my head off; you can’t take that away from me. You can exile me to Siberia; you couldn’t rob me of that. You could put me in prison, you could burn me at the stake; I’ve been saved and my name is written in heaven’s Book of Life. That’s the Christian’s joy. That’s the first one [Luke 10:20].
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Luke, when the seventy came back and said to the Lord Jesus, “Why, even the devils are subject unto us,” and the Lord said to His disciples, “Listen, in this rejoice not, that the devils are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!” [Luke 10:17-20]. The Christian’s joy: “I’m saved, I belong to God! And that can never be taken away from me!” [Luke 10:20].
There are some people who believe that you can be saved and then you can be lost, and then you can be saved and lost, and saved and lost. I don’t believe that! I think in the Bible, when God saves us, He writes our names in the Book of Life with a pen of diamond, and it stays there forever!
I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.
We are saved forever when we give our hearts really in trust to Christ! That’s the Christian’s joy. “I’m saved! I’m saved! I’m a child of God! I’m going to heaven when I die, and I’ve got Jesus in my heart all the way of the pilgrimage between now and then.”
What is the Christian’s joy? This is the Christian’s joy: the fellowship of God’s people. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” [Psalm 122:1]. To be here, to see one another, to sing, to praise God, to pray, to read God’s Word, to listen to an appeal in the Spirit of Christ, just the fellowship of God’s people, it’s a joy to a born again Christian. There is no such thing as anyone being saved who does not immediately try to seek out and to find other Christians. He likes to be with them. That is the Christian’s joy, to be together in the praise and worship of God.
What is the Christian’s joy? This is the Christian’s joy: the service and the ministry of Christ, to do something for Jesus. The apostle Paul spoke of it in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, when he was talking to those Ephesian elders at Miletus. He said when they prophesy, when the prophets, speaking, prophesy, “That if I go to Jerusalem, I will be bound and cast in prison.” He says, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, if that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which has been given unto me, to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God” [Acts 20:24]. If I can just do this for Jesus, whether I’m cast in prison, whether I’m taken to Rome, whether I’m beheaded, these things do not move me. This is the Christian’s joy, that I may finish my work for Christ, doing something for Jesus, answering God’s call! That is the Christian’s joy!
This is the Christian’s joy; to see people saved, to have a part in it. In the fifteen chapter of the Book of Luke, the Lord tells the parable of the lost sheep, and the lost coin, and the lost boy [Luke 15:3-32]. And all three of those parables end in the same way. In the parable of the lost sheep, He says, “Likewise I say, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that turns” [Luke 15:7, 10].
Who are these that are in the presence of the angels of God? Why, I think the saints up there in heaven, and certainly the saints down here in earth, there is joy, gladness over just one somebody who turns to Jesus! The same thing is said in the parable of the lost coin: “Come and rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy over one sinner that repenteth” [Luke 15:9-10]. And the same thing is said about the boy, prodigal, who came back home: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be happy, they began to be merry!” [Luke 15:24]. That is the Christian’s joy; to see somebody come to the Lord.
And my sweet brother and sister in Jesus, when I give this appeal and somebody comes down that aisle, if you are a child of God, wherever you sit in this congregation, in the choir, or in the balcony, or in this lower floor, when you see that, there’ll be a gladness well up in your heart that is sweet and precious. It is celestial and heavenly. That’s the Christian’s joy.
What is the Christian’s joy? A last one, a fifth one; our joy lies in the prospects that lie before us. We’re going to heaven some of these days, one of these days. We just are [John 14:1-3]. God is preparing it for us, and those mansions are made for us. We’re going to heaven when we die. This is the triumph of the apostle Paul as he wrote out of the Mamertine dungeon,
For the time of my departure is at hand, and I am ready to be offered up.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:6-8]
That is the Christian’s joy. When I die and fall in the grave and in the arms of death, that’s not the end, that’s just the day and the hour of my translation and coronation into glory.
I remember a young preacher with whom I went to school at the seminary. He was blind. And one time, at a church service, he was asked to stand up and sing. He had a beautiful voice. And that blind seminary student who was in my class stood up there in the church, and he sang that song: “I Shall See Him Face to Face.” I want you to know, there was something about that blind boy singing that song about seeing Jesus face to face that just melted that whole congregation into tears.
That’s the Christian’s joy. We won’t be old there, won’t be any crippled limbs there, won’t be any blind eyes there. There won’t be any distorted, rheumatic bodies there. We’ll all be well in glory. This is the Christian’s joy.
Now that poem, I say. I haven’t done that in a hundred years. On his thirty-sixth birthday, Lord Byron wrote:
My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flower and fruits of love are gone
The worm, the canker, and the grief,
Are mine alone.
[“On this Day I Complete my Thirty-Sixth Birthday,” Alfred, Lord Byron]
Can you imagine a man, a lord, a world famous idolized figure who had so dissipated and debauched his life that at thirty-six years of age he would write that? And January, February, March, April, and three months after it he died. Oh, the Christian’s joy! “That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [John15:11].
On Monday, I am happy.
On Tuesday, full of joy.
On Wednesday, I have peace within
That nothing can destroy.
On Thursday and on Friday,
I’m walking in the light.
O Saturday is a heavenly day,
And Sunday’s always bright.
O glory, glory, glory,
O glory to the Lamb
Hallelujah, I am saved;
And I’m so glad I am.
O glory, glory, glory,
O glory to the Lamb.
Hallelujah, I am saved, and
I’m bound for the Promised Land.
Oh who will come and go with me,
I’m bound for the Promised Land.
[from “Glory to the Lamb,” Selected hymns, the New Onward and Upward (Logansport, IA; Home Music Co.) circa 1900]
Will you? Will you? In a moment we sing this hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just one somebody, you. To give your heart to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “I have decided and here I come.” A couple, you and your wife; a family, you and the children; or just you, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, as the Holy Spirit of God shall press the invitation to your heart, come now. Decide now. Make it now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY?
I. Where can we find joy, peace and
A. In unbelief and
rejection of Christ?
B. In worldly and carnal
C. In money and
D. In position, fame,
or political preferment?
E. In military glory,
conquest, and world empire?
II. Jesus speaks of joy (John 15:11)
A. Look at this Man (Matthew 8:20, 16:13, Jeremiah 9:1)
B. Look at the occasion
upon which He speaks
C. What joy could He
have? (Hebrews 10:7-9, 12:2)
conditioned by the world (Philippians 4:11, Acts
forever (Luke 10:17-20, John 10:28-30)
of God’s people (Psalm 122:1)
Service and ministry of Christ (Acts 20:24)
see people saved (Luke 15:7, 9-10, 20-24)
prospect of heaven (2 Timothy 4:6-8)