The Christian Triumph
September 11th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHRISTIAN TRIUMPH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-11-88 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christian’s Joy. In our preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in the heart of the very sanctum sanctorum of Holy Scripture: John chapters 14, 15, 16, and the high priestly prayer in John 17. The message this morning is taken from a text in the very heart of this beautiful address of our Lord to His disciples in John chapter 15, verse 11: "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
There is a word in this text that is very prominently said by our Savior: the word "joy." Chara: there are six cognates in Holy Scripture of that beautiful word. Joy, gladness, happiness – if you have a daughter named Karen, she is named after this Greek word for "joy." Charisma is one of the cognate forms; charismatic is another – chara, joy, gladness. In Galatians 5:22 Paul writes, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, chara, peace, goodness, faith." In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, the apostle writes, "For what is our hope, or chara, joy? It is even you in the presence of our Lord." Another cognate is chairo, "to rejoice, to be glad." Luke 15:5, in the parable of the lost sheep, "When the shepherd hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing, chairo, saying, Chairo, rejoice with me; I have found my sheep which was lost. Likewise, joy, chara, shall be in heaven over one somebody that repents." In the closing of that fifteenth chapter of Luke, in the story of the prodigal son, the father says, "It was meet that we should make merry, and chairo, be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" [Luke 15:32].
Another cognate is charizomai, "to share favor, to forgive." Ephesians 4:32: "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, charizomai, forgiving one another, even as [God] for [Christ’s] sake hath charizomai, forgiven you." Another cognate is charis, "charm, favor, grace." Luke 1:30: "And the angel said unto her, Mary, thou hast found charis, favor with God." Luke [2:40]: "And Jesus grew, filled with the Spirit: and the charis, the grace of God was upon Him." In Luke 4:22, at Nazareth when He was speaking, "And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the charis, the graciousness with which He spoke the words." Another cognate is charisma, "a gift of grace, an undeserved favor." In Romans 1:11: "For I long to see you," says Paul, "that I may impart unto you some charisma, some spiritual gift." And the famous word in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death; but the charisma, the loving, giving favor of God is life eternal." And just one other: charitoo, "to be favored." In Luke 1:28, "The angel said to Mary, Hail, thou that art highly favored, charitoo." And Ephesians 1:4 to 6: "God hath chosen us, and predestinated us to the praise of the glory of His grace, charitoo"; a beautiful, beautiful word. And the word that our Lord uses: "These things have I spoken unto you that My chara, My joy might remain in you, and that your chara might be full" [John 15:11], the Christian’s joy.
Where can we find joy and peace and happiness? In unbelief? In the rejection of Christ? In the repudiation of the presence of God? In a denial of the Word of our Lord? Voltaire, the famous French philosopher, atheist, and infidel, said, "I wish I had never been born." Where can we find chara? In carnal, worldly pleasure? Lord Byron wrote – who lived a dissolute life – a poem entitled "On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday," and the first stanza is this:
The flower and fruits of love are gone
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!
Or Bobby Burns, the Scottish poet who lived such a dissolute life:
Pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls on the river,
A moment white – then gone forever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Vanishing amid the storm.
["Tam O’Shanter" by Robert Burns]
Where can we find peace and joy and happiness? In money? In affluence? In this last generation and before, Jay Gould was one of the richest men who ever lived; and dying, he said, "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Can we find joy and peace and happiness in position? In fame? Lord Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli, who twice was prime minister of Great Britain, when the empire covered the earth, [he] was the favorite of Queen Victoria; he said, "Youth is a mistake, manhood is a struggle, and old age is a regret."
Where do you find joy and peace and happiness? In military glory? In conquest and world empire? Alexander the Great died at thirty-two years of age in a miserable drunken debauchery in Babylon. And I don’t suppose there is a more famous picture in the world than that of Napoleon, sentenced to St. Helena, a hundred twenty miles west of Africa, standing with his arms behind his back, looking over the vast expanse of the Atlantic, with a pathetic, indescribable sadness on his face.
Where do you find joy, and peace, and gladness, and victory, and happiness? Here is a Man who speaks of it: "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might be in you" [John 15:11]. This is a Man who says, "I have chara, I have peace and gladness and triumph and joy." Look at that Man for just a moment. He belonged to a hated and despised race. Jesus was not a proud, conquering, victorious Roman. He was not an intellectual Greek. He belonged in a peasant family, living in a despised village.
I often think of the history of the Jew in the world. For hundreds of years they were barred from being, having a home, being citizens in the land of my forefathers, in the land of England. You have a good idea of the attitude of the world toward the Jew in Shakespeare’s Shylock, his "Merchant of Venice": he belonged to that race, hated, persecuted, despised, an outcast.
Look at Him, our Savior: He had no station; He had no position; He had no affluence, no wealth. Our Lord said, "Foxes of the field have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" [Matthew 8:20]. He had nothing in this earth. Look at this Man: not only did He belong to a despised race, and not only was He without position and influence, He was a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3]. God’s Book describes Him like that. One time He said, "Whom am I like? Who do men say that I am?" [Matthew 16:13]. And the first word was, "The people say You are like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet." Jeremiah, who said, "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the lost of the daughter of my people" [Jeremiah 9:1]. He knew the torture of a Hosea. He knew the anguish and disappointment of an Amos. The Book says He bears our griefs and our sorrows [Isaiah 53:4]. Yet this is the Man who speaks of "My joy" [John 15:11; John 17:13].
What kind of a joy did Jesus possess? It was certainly not outward. It was certainly not man-ward. The joy, and the gladness, and the triumph, and the victory, and the happiness of Jesus had to be inward, it had to be heavenly, it had to be God-ward. Outward circumstances in life did not touch it, had nothing to do with it: it was His commitment to God, and His communion with the great Lord and Father and Creator of our universe.
In the Book of Hebrews, it says, speaking of our Lord and His coming into this world, "Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God" [Hebrews 10:7]. And then a few verses later: "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame" [Hebrews 12:2]. Think of where the Lord said those words: at the moment that He uttered them, the Sanhedrin was meeting, planning His execution, working with Judas Iscariot to sell Him for thirty pieces of silver, at that moment. At that very moment, when He spoke these words, He was walking with His disciples on the way to Gethsemane, where His agony was as it were drops of blood falling to the ground [Luke 22:44]. At this very moment they were preparing His crucifixion, and at nine o’clock the next morning He was nailed to the cross. Yet this is the Man, and this is the moment, when He says, "My joy, My joy."
I sometimes think of our Lord like the great storms that sweep over the ocean: and the billows and the waves roar, but underneath there is quiet and calm. The joy of our Lord: however the tempestuous providences and issues of life, in God and in the commitment to the Lord there is quiet, and peace, and happiness, and joy.
The second part of this wonderful text: not only does the Lord speak of "My joy," His joy, but He says, "that your joy may be full; that your joy may be full,These things have I said that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" [John 15:11]. He has said here in these brief words, He has said here that, "The world will hate you," one thing; in the next verse He says, "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you. You will be hated, you will be persecuted" [John 15:18, 20]. He says here a few verses later, "They will put you out of the synagogue; they will cast you out" [John 16:2]. And then finally, in that same sentence he says, "And whoever kills you will think that he does God’s will, that he doeth God’s will." How could the Lord speak of our joy, given to us from heaven from His gracious hands, our joy, when He says, "You will be hated, and you will be despised, and you will be persecuted, and you will be cast out, and even you will be murdered, you will be executed, you will be killed"? What kind of joy is that?
Here again, it is the same kind of a joy and a gladness and a victory that Jesus Himself knew in doing the will of God, in giving Himself to the Lord. Our joy is one heavenward, and God-ward, and inward, and never conditioned by things outside, or human, or material. You have such wonderful examples of that in this Holy Book. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul and Silas are beat; and so severe were those Roman flagellations that sometimes the prisoner was killed under those stripes. Paul and Silas were beat, and thrust in an inner dungeon; their feet made fast in the stocks. And at midnight, and at midnight, God’s Book says, "At midnight, they prayed, and sang praises to God" [Acts 16:25]. No wonder the prisoners heard them! How could you escape seeing and being affected by two men like that? Praising God, having been beat, "counted worthy," as Paul writes it, "to suffer for His name’s sake" [Philippians 1:29-30], a joy in the soul. That Book of Philippians to that church where the Philippian prisoners were beat, that Book of Philippians itself was written out of prison. And yet it has in it a note of victory, and triumph, and glory, and gladness that is incomparable. As Paul writes in Philippians 4 "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be happy, to be full of joy, to be content" [Philippians 4:11]; as God shall will.
In the Old Testament you have a beautiful instance of that commitment to God that brings peace and blessedness to the soul. Job was afflicted. All of his property was taken away, all of it. All of his sons and daughters were killed in a storm. And finally, he himself was afflicted with running sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. And Job sat in ashes, in misery, in indescribable despair. And his wife came to him and said, "Job, curse God and commit suicide! Curse God and die! Curse God and commit suicide" [Job 2:9]. And Job replied, "Naked came I forth from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" – a joy, a peace indescribably precious of the soul, of the heart, of heaven, of God.
Let me take a little leaf out of my life. So well do I remember when George Eastman died. George Eastman invented the camera that you use today; he invented the Kodak. And he built a worldwide empire; and George Eastman became one of the richest and most influential and admired of all the men in the world, George Eastman. When you youngsters look up George Eastman in your encyclopedias – and they’ll all have the story of his life there – when you look up George Eastman, it will say that he died at such and such date. But I haven’t read an encyclopedia yet where it says he committed suicide at such and such date. George Eastman had beautiful homes, servants, maids, wealth abounding; everything that the world could offer was laid at the feet of this wonderful inventor, George Eastman. And he committed suicide; he took his own life. I do not know why; I should have made a note at the time that it happened, but on the day that George Eastman died, I buried a hunchback. A crippling, tragic disease had seized this man; and through the days of his illness had bent him over until he was a hunchback. Poor, had nothing in this world; but he loved God. And in the way that a poor man could serve, he magnified the Lord: working with his hands, speaking words of blessing with his mouth. And we ordained one of his boys to the ministry. And there at the memorial service, that preacher boy of his stood up and magnified the Lord God of his father. Isn’t it strange? On the day that George Eastman committed suicide, I buried that hunchback.
Of the two, which had I rather be?
O God, how empty and how vain, how evanescent and transient are the rewards of this life! Money, fame, fortune, position, influence – but O Lord God, how wonderful and how everlasting and how eternal are the infinite rewards and joys and gladnesses that God can pour into our hearts and into our lives, if we’ll just seek His face, and do His will, and rejoice in Him.
May I close with just a persuasion that is deep as life in my own heart, believing and accepting this Word of God? We who believe in Jesus and who accept Him as our Savior, we’re not looking forward to the grave, we’re not looking forward to the worm, we’re not looking forward to the dust, we’re not looking forward to the blackness of the night: outside of Christ and outside of our Lord there is nothing else but the grave, and the dust, and the worm, and the night. But we who have found refuge and salvation in Jesus, we are looking forward to life, and light, and glory, and heaven, and an eternity of infinite bliss, and happiness, and joy with Jesus and with the family of God.
O God! with what riches hath the Lord prepared a better thing for us. Like that seminary student who was in my class, blind, but a wonderful singer. And I have heard him when it just moved my heart, stand up there in his blindness and sing, "I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story of His grace"; blind, but singing about seeing Jesus. That’s God’s goodness and everlasting reward for us who have found favor, chara, and grace, chara, and joy, chara, in Him.
And that’s our appeal to your heart today: coming to the blessed Jesus, "Lord, I accept Thee for all You have promised to be, my Lord and my Savior, my Keeper and my Redeemer, my promise of heaven, and the world that is yet to come. I accept Thee, Lord, this moment, this day, this hour." Or, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church; or a couple you dedicating your life to Jesus; or a one somebody you answering the call of God in your heart; in this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand." May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.