Have you ever noticed those verses in the Bible that talk about God’s judgment on the wicked coming in the form of birds picking out their eyes? (One of them is in Proverbs 30.) I know that’s really a disgusting image, but it’s describing something completely realistic: when the ravening birds would start to eat a dead body, the first place they would go was the eye. If the eye didn’t respond at all, they knew that creature was completely dead.
Not a very likely opening to a post about joy, I know.
But the point I’m making is about response. The Bible links life to responsiveness and death to unresponsiveness. There are many, many places where this understanding of death and life bring into full focus what God is saying. For example, in Romans 6: “Consider yourselves to be dead [unresponsive] to sin, but alive [responsive] to God in Christ Jesus.” (I used to follow the standard line of portraying spiritual death as separation, but that has changed. Maybe I’ll devote a post to that someday.)
Joy is all about response. And for it to happen, you’ve got to be truly alive, so you can see, so you can hear. For it to happen on a spiritual level, you’ve got to be Comatose No More.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus said that.
How can I avoid experiencing an emotional roller coaster (not counting the menopausal one, which can affect some of us just a teensy), but instead have my emotions under the control of the Holy Spirit, as a dear friend urged me to do?
It’s by knowing Jesus, both through His Word, and through His work in my life. This is the spiritual life, the heightened spiritual awareness, the working of the spiritual senses. In the realm of the spirit, I will be alive, vitally alive, responding through what I see, hear, smell, and taste with the eyes of the spirit.
If you have ears to hear, then hear!
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Word.
O taste and see that the Lord is good.
In the realm of the spirit, when I’m spiritually alive—responsive to the things of God—I experience something wonderful: the love of God, the peace of God. Then, the natural response is the joy of God.
This joy can sometimes be breathtaking. John wrote his epistles so that “your joy may be full.”
Jesus promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have full joy.”
He promised. Do I listen to His promise? Do I have ears to hear? Do I have eyes to see? Do I believe Him? Do I even think it’s possible?
This joy is more than possible, it’s natural, in the life that has received the new nature of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s part of our Great Salvation. A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, Blaise Pascal, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones would back me up on that. Along with many, many others. It’s why the epistles are full to overflowing with joy.
I have to understand that, when it comes to joy in God, I can’t do the bootstrap thing. I can only humble myself before God, believe Him in faith, and seek to know Him through communion with Him and through His Word.
My physical eyes will receive the truth I see on those pages. My physical ears will hear His Name proclaimed. Then, as I believe what I see and hear, my spiritual eyes, my spiritual ears, will receive that truth and be enlightened, be opened.
When I know Him, when I see Him through the eyes of the spirit, the joy will come. When I keep my eyes on Him in faith, the joy will remain. That’s because nothing is more beautiful, grand, glorious, and good than my Savior Jesus Christ.
Conclusion #2 (restated for application to the spiritual life): Joy is a natural outspringing of exhilarating, energizing emotion, arising as a response to a sensory experience [this time a sensory experience in the realm of the spirit] that overwhelms the spirit with its beauty, grandeur, glory, goodness.
Some may be concerned that I’m advocating an emotion-based, experience-based Christianity. So I’ll seek to address that in the next post.