Article IV, part 1



I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . . Where!?” This is probably how most of us would respond to the concept of joy — with a question.

Imagine suffering through some great physical ailment, such as cancer, and being counseled with these words from James 1:2, “Count it pure joy, my brothers [or sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds.” You’d probably fight back the urge to slap someone by firing back with a great big “What!?” “Count this bone breaking, gut wrenching, painful curse as what!?” “Joy?” Or, imagine suffering through an unexpected divorce after twenty-plus years of what you thought was wedded bliss and hearing someone say these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Be joyful always.” You’d probably exchange a cross-eyed glance for a moment, only to ask, “Be joyful when!? Now!?

We all realize that life is hard and that suffering is bound to catch up to each of us at some point. And some of us know that God wants us to experience joy in all aspects of our lives. So, why is it when suffering enters our lives do we not only question the suffering but also the idea of being joyful in the midst of it?

It has to do with our thoughts. We were incorrectly taught that bad things are meant for bad people and that good things happen to good people. And who can be more good than we Christians, right? After all, we are God’s adopted children (Ephesians 1:4-5), are we not? Well, let’s examine this ideal more closely.

What makes us believe or think that bad things happen to bad people? From an early age we were told stories and shown movies that depict the message that “crime doesn’t pay” or “good conquers evil.” In the Bible we read such verses as: “The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the people with justice” (Psalm 9:7-8). We also learn that our own laws here in America — based on the Ten Commandments, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights — will bring justice and will punish those who intend to do us harm. Yes, we learn these things, read such verses, and study such ideals, but who or what defines for us what is good and what is bad? The answer is: our Creator, the great “I Am” — God.

God defines evil and righteousness. To be evil is to take on the attributes and spirit of Satan (Galatians 5:19-21), but to be good is to take on the attributes and Spirit of Jesus Christ, God’s Son (Galatians 5:22-23). Is this not why we think of Christians as good people? Don’t we expect Christians to act as Christ would act? After all, doesn’t popular Christian culture teach us to always ask “WWJD” (what would Jesus do)? Why ask this question if we aren’t expected to act on it?

For American citizens, living within the boundaries of our laws determines if we are good citizens or bad citizens. And though it is true that we are counted as good citizens if we obey the law, and though it is true that we as Christians are expected to act as Christ did, there is another truth we must come to terms with, and that is, “There is no one righteous [good], not even one” (Romans 3:10). None of us are good. Obey the law perfectly; we can’t. Be as righteous as Jesus; a daily struggle all Christians should aspire to accomplish, though not likely to happen.

So, why bother? Why care enough to try? Because even though we can’t be righteous on our own, Christ’s Spirit living in us can.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law of the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:21-24)

Jesus’ Spirit in us gives us the strength to be good; to do good things (Philippians 4:13).

You have read that no one person is good; yet you see that we can be good with God’s help. You may even grasp the overall concept, but how does this truth answer our question from earlier regarding suffering and joy? In this way: we must stop thinking that “good” people won’t and shouldn’t suffer. None are good and life is hard. Just as Jesus suffered for living a righteous life, so too should we expect to suffer. Listen to the apostle Peter’s words: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Did you catch that? Suffering in this life is not strange or abnormal, but very much the norm. And even better, if we rejoice in our participation (as hard as it will be, have the right attitude of worship — your choice, remember) then we can be overjoyed, totally thrilled beyond our wildest imagination, when God’s glory is revealed to us in heaven! Joy within suffering is our choice and a marvelous avenue to experiencing true worship and God’s glory. So, how do we do it? How do we choose to be “joyful in all things”? We must first realize what this principle of worship really is and what joy really means.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “joy” as:

(noun) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness: ‘tears of joy’/‘the joy of being alive.’ Also as (verb) [heart.] poetic/literary — rejoice: ‘I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain.’

And, The Life Application Study Bible (NIV) defines “joy” as, “(noun) emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune: gladness or delight.” I find both of these definitions to be inadequate; well short of accurate. Allow me to explain why.

The definitions we just read are lacking, because they ascribe to joy the same attributions of happiness. Though these definitions define joy as both a noun and a verb, which it is, they really are ascribing no more depth to the word than if it were simply the word “happy” (an adjective). But happiness is really nothing more than an emotion. Something we occasionally experience, because it is fleeting. Joy is not a temporal emotion, but an actual attribution of God’s character — a part of His being; a “fruit” of His Spirit, according to Galatians chapter 5 verse 22.

Nothing about God is temporary. “In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1a); “In the beginning . . . was God” (John 1:1); “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). God and His characteristics always have been, are now, and always will be. Happiness is not one of the fruits of His Spirit, but joy — real joy — is! Real joy can never be temporal or fleeting because it is a source of power and strength (Nehemiah 8:10b). Joy, can only come from God’s love for us and our obedience to Him (John 15:9-11). And joy, everlasting joy, can only come from God’s forgiveness and our restoration to, and peace with, Him (Luke 15:8-32).

Best-selling author C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is never in our power and pleasure [or happiness] often is.” If it’s in our power, then it’s fallible, temporal, of us and not of God, and definitely not real joy. Only a facsimile befitting the simple definitions ascribed to it from any dictionary on any shelf. We must understand what joy really is. It is eternal, a source of power for us, an attribute direct from God our Creator, Himself. Let’s now look deeper into what joy means to us and how we can apply real joy to our everyday lives and our everyday worship.

In our next post, we will fully disclose what joy means, and will expose how to correctly apply it to our everyday life and worship. Article 4, part two, will take the word “joy” and dissect it; cutting into what we said it is and looking around inside it — finding what lies at its core. To do this we will literally examine the word letter by letter, and when we are done, the acrostic we end up with will be a simple and applicable tool with which you can allow God to bring real joy to you daily.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Down In My Heart (I’ve Got the Joy)” by George Willis Cooke, pub.: Unknown, Copyright: Public Domain

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

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Article III, part 1


In the last article we began our journey into understanding just what worship really is. We talked about how worship is defined both as a noun and a verb. How it is both something with physical properties as well as something we have to participate in.

We also laid out a formula that helps us to understand that the attributes of God and our acknowledgment of those attributes in our daily lives will produce the actions from us that equal worship toward God.

(attributes of God + acknowledgment and application of God’s attributes in us = worship)

We discussed how, although worship is but a single word, there are many words that help us understand what is at the “heart” of our worship; and we closed out our article by briefly touching on three particular words I called principles of worship: attitude, joy, and purpose. Over the next three articles we will break down each of these principles and study them more deeply, and I have chosen to begin our three-part discussion by focusing this article on our attitude of worship.

“Attitude” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

(noun) the arrangement of the parts of a body or figure (posture); a position assumed for a specific purpose (a threatening attitude); . . . a mental position with regard to a fact or state (a helpful attitude) — a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state; . . . an organismic state of readiness to respond in a characteristic way to a stimulus (as an object, concept, or situation); a negative or hostile state of mind —  a cool, cocky, defiant, or arrogant manner.

And, The Life Application Study Bible (NIV) defines the word “attitude” as “(noun) a state of mind or feeling with regard to some matter.” That all makes sense — doesn’t it? Though both definitions are accurate and thorough, they leave me wondering what it was I just read. I end up asking myself, “How can I make sense of it?” I know a wonderful pastor and teacher who has just the right explanation.

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll, both best-selling author and the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, has a very fine and simple quote regarding attitude. It’s from his book entitled Strengthening Your Grip, and it reads in part as follows, “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” Simple and to the point. Did you grasp what he said?

Life is not made of circumstances. Life is made of choices. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to your so-called “dead end” job. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to your spouse’s infidelity. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to your parents’ divorce. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to your “ho-hum” life. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to your best friend’s death. You choose how to react, positively or negatively, to all of life’s “circumstances.” You! Not anyone else; no one. Just you. Not even the Almighty Himself can dictate that to you. It’s your choice to react with a negative attitude about a circumstance in your life or with a positive attitude. Now, let’s adapt that concept into our worship.

To have the right attitude of worship, we must choose to do so. True worshipers understand that it’s 10 percent God’s call in their lives and 90 percent how they will respond to His call. Joshua understood God’s calling in his life to replace Moses as the leader of Israel and to conquer the enemies living in the Promised Land, but it took Joshua’s choosing to allow God to fulfill that calling in him that made Joshua the true worshiper that he was. Paul wrote about our choice to accept God’s call on our lives. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2 verses 5-9, he admonishes the church to have a Christlike attitude. In Galatians 1:6, he was upset to find out that many Galatians were “so quickly deserting the One who called them by the grace of Christ.” Understand; we choose to either accept or reject God’s call in our lives to be true worshipers. As Joshua said, “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). What a great attitude of worship!

Now that we comprehend what attitude means and that an attitude of worship is ours to choose or reject, we must realize that to have the right attitude for worship requires preparation. In understanding that we must make preparation for worship, we must also internalize that our preparation will require of us a response of worship. Let’s look back at our formula from the second article and expand it to include this concept: the physical attributes of God, and our preparing to acknowledge those attributes, followed by our acknowledgment of those attributes in our daily lives, will produce the actions or responses from us that equal true worship towards God.

(attributes of God + preparing to acknowledge those attributes of God + acknowledgment and application of God’s attributes in us = true worship)

As we prepare ourselves for worship, and then to respond to God in our worship, we should understand just what is involved in this process. As we prepare to worship individually, corporately as a family, or corporately as a church body, there are five orders of worship that will help us acknowledge various attributes of God. These five are well-founded scripturally:

Confession (Proverbs 28:13; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9)

Gathering (Zephaniah 2:1-3; Acts 1:14; Romans 15:30; 2 Timothy 1:8-9a)

Giving (Genesis 14:20b; Deuteronomy 15:10; Proverbs 21:26b; Matthew 10:8b)

Rejoicing (Deuteronomy 12:7; Psalms 34:1-3, 118:24; Zechariah 9:9a; Romans 5:1-2)

Studying (Deuteronomy 31:12; Psalm 119:7; Proverbs 1:5; Matthew 11:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

The order of confession points us to acknowledging God’s pure, sovereign, and holy nature; just as it also allows us to acknowledge our fallen state. We read in Habakkuk chapter 1 verse 13, “Your [God’s] eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” This indicates both God’s perfect goodness (purity) and our imperfect wickedness (evil). This is why sin separates us from a sovereign God. Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah chapter 32 verses 17-19 concerning God’s sovereignty:

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the father’s sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Sovereignty dictates who God will love, who God will punish, and it maintains His purpose and deeds; we don’t and can’t do these things because we are sinful (missing the mark). We either accept God’s sovereignty in our lives, His calling to be one with Him and to be more like Jesus Christ, or we reject it and remove ourselves from God. Peter reminded us in 1 Peter chapter 1 verses 15-16, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” If we do choose to be one with God and more like Jesus Christ, then we must live holy (set apart) lives.

We will discuss the other four of the five orders of worship in the next post, but let us recall from this blog that an attitude of worship is ours to choose or reject. We must come to understand that to have the right attitude of worship requires both preparation for and a response to worship (attributes of God + preparing to acknowledge those attributes of God + acknowledgment of God’s attributes in us = true worship).

We have begun the first wall to our temple of worship (an attitude of worship); Article 3, part two, will complete it.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Strengthening Your Grip” © 1998 by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book appears in this article with the permission granted per the copyright statement which appears in the publication copyrighted 1998.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Word Publishing Group a division of Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.