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 2


In part one of Article 3, we began discussing our attitude of worship. We came to understand that to have the right attitude of worship requires us to choose to prepare ourselves for and to choose to respond to God in worship.

We also disclosed the five orders of worship (confession, gathering, giving, rejoicing, and studying) and examined, in depth, the first of the five — the order of confession. We continue now with the second order of worship.

Gathering is an order that acknowledges God’s love for us and His delight in our relationships (fellowship) with each other and with Him. After all, God created us to be in fellowship with Him and each other. We will discuss this more in Article 5 when we examine our purpose more deeply, but the truth is that God created us for fellowship. That’s why restoring our relationship to Him was so important after man sinned in the garden of Eden. In fact, God talked with the Hebrews 53 times regarding fellowship in four of the first five books of the Bible (Exodus-Deuteronomy). Fellowship is discussed 96 times total from Genesis to Revelation. God needs for us to understand that “it is not good for man[kind] to be alone” (Genesis 2:18a). John tells us in chapter 3 verse 16 that “God so loved [desired fellowship with] the world [mankind] that He gave [sacrificed] His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him [Jesus Christ] shall not perish but have eternal life.” It’s this sacrifice that Christ made on the cross that enables us to have real and lasting relationships with each other and, most important, with our Creator. John later wrote:
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. . . . If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:3,7)

Giving is a special order of our worship as it builds our relationships with both God and each other. It teaches us about God’s peace and patience by removing our focus from self to a focus of service or sacrifice. In Proverbs chapter 18 verse 16 we see that “a gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” I really like the way that reads. No matter the gift we choose to give; if the attitude is right, God will allow us into His holy presence. Our giving gets us an audience with the Almighty! This has nothing to do with our works, mind you, but it has everything to do with our hearts. A willingness to give of ourselves. Do you recall Paul’s words to the Ephesians concerning being saved by grace through faith, so that no man can boast in himself (Ephesians 2:8-9)? In the same way, whatever we may have to give we should give graciously as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Why? Because, as Paul also wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart [by the prompting of the Holy Spirit] to give, not reluctantly [with doubt] or under compulsion [out of guilt or pressure], for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

The order of rejoicing allows us to both give and receive God’s attribute of perfect joy. Deuteronomy chapter 12 verse 7 tells us, “In the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” The psalmist wrote in Psalm 118, verse 24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In God’s presence we receive true joy, and as we said before, giving is what ushers us into God’s presence. No matter what we set our minds to do, if we give of ourselves joyfully, give thanks in any circumstances, we can rejoice knowing we are doing God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). After all, He made all things with this purpose in mind. (We will go deeper into what God’s joy is and how we can both obtain it and give it in Article 4.)

The final order will reveal to us the godly attributes of faithfulness and self-control; this order of worship is studying God’s Word. These famous words of the psalmist teach us clearly:
How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? [Remember we are called to be holy.] By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119: 9-11)

Studying God’s Word, the Bible, gives us the ability to live the holy lives God intended, making us the true worshipers we were purposed to be. Self-control is the path to being found faithful, and self-control is obtained through studying the Bible. Deuteronomy chapter 11 verses 18-21 remind us to “fix these words [of God’s] . . . in your hearts and minds. . . . Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home . . . so that your days and the days of your children may be many . . . as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

Now that we have looked over these five orders of worship (confession, gathering, giving, rejoicing, and studying), let’s attempt to use them, as I said earlier, to prepare ourselves for worship individually, corporately as a family, or corporately as a church body and in response to God in our worship. We do this in three ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Recall from Article 1 that we can only become true worshipers of God if we remain faithful to the end (Matthew 24:5-13), serving God and each other with all our mind, body, and soul. Why? Because true worship requires our whole selves, and we are a three-part being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Just as God is three parts in one (Father, Son, and Spirit) so too are we three parts in one — the physical, mental, and spiritual. Each part should be applied to the five orders of worship in some way. For example, we could physically and spiritually confess our sins (preparation for worship) and then physically and spiritually repent (respond to God in worship). Yet another example could be to mentally and physically plan to gather for worship (preparation) and then go (physically and mentally) engage in worship (response), and so on through the remaining orders of worship. Joshua was able to prepare for worship and respond to God in his worship in all the various aspects of his life, within this same manner: individually, corporately as a family, and corporately as a nation.

There were times when confession was needed, as in the story of Achan (Joshua 7), and so Israel prepared and responded accordingly. There were times when Joshua would gather the Israelites for corporate worship. In Joshua chapter 4 we read about the altar of remembrance built from twelve stones handpicked from the Jordan River to represent each one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Here we see Joshua planned with Israel and both responded together. He led the Israelites in giving fellowship offerings in chapter 8 verses 30-35 of the book of Joshua; both preparations were made and responses given. Rejoicing also takes place in many of Joshua’s stories; for example in the story of Jericho’s destruction, rejoicing in God played a key part in the Israelites winning that battle (Joshua 6). In this instance the planning was from the “commander of the army of the Lord” and Joshua and the Israelites responded faithfully. Finally, with regard to study, Joshua served under Moses while in the desert. Moses taught him on every aspect of the law God has entrusted him with. When Moses died, Joshua received the stone copies of God’s Ten Commandments. With this information, Joshua took charge of not just leading Israel but teaching them. In chapter 5 of the book of Joshua, he taught concerning the rite of circumcision; in chapter 8 he taught concerning fellowship offerings, and lessons continue throughout all twenty-four chapters.

In closing, let’s note once more that a right attitude of worship is an understanding that it is 10 percent God’s call in our lives and 90 percent how we will respond to His call in our lives. Let us also recall 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). Remember also the five orders of worship (confession, gathering, giving, rejoicing, and studying) which help us prepare for and respond to worship individually, corporately as a family, or corporately as a church body. And review with me the three ways in which we should prepare for and respond to worship: the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. These are a lot to consider; a lot to remember and apply, but oh so important to fulfilling God’s purpose in each of our lives.

Article 1 laid the foundation (example of a true worshiper); Article 2 set the cornerstone (the heart of worship); here we erected the first wall to our temple of worship (an attitude of worship). Now for the second — real joy!

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.

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.