CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCIX)

When we read the Final Covenant, we see that Jesus’ miracles and preaching brought great Joy to the people affected. No wonder on the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels said to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to people everywhere.” [1] Those longing and looking for God to send the Messiah had their hearts made glad and filled with Joy because of their love for the LORD Eternal.

Further on, Jesus told His disciples, “You will make my Father look great when you produce a lot of fruit and prove that you are My disciples. I love you the same way the Father loves Me. So, stay in My love. If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. I obeyed My Father’s commandments, and in that way, I continue in His love. I’m passing this on to you so that you will be as full of Joy as I am, and be content in your Joy. Therefore, love each other as I have loved you. I’m commanding you to do this.” [2]

It is clear that Jesus tied the Joy He brought to the disciples as coming from the love He and the Father share, and the love He and the disciples possessed for each other. It begs the question, if no love existed between the disciples and their Master, would His words and promises bring them any Joy? Of course not, it takes something to excite love that causes it to become Joy.

As we mentioned earlier, Joy must be distinguished from happiness since happiness depends on circumstances that change. It is not possible to be both happy and unhappy at the same time. But Joy depends on God’s presence, which is made constant through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Unlike happiness, the believer may rejoice in afflictions and sufferings with Joy because the God they love is with them at all times.[3] Peter ties love and Joy together when he said, “You love Him even though you have never seen Him. And despite never having seen Him, you still trust Him, and this brings you such uplifting Joy it’s hard to describe.” [4]

The real understanding of transforming love into Joy can be seen more in its application than merely the word itself. James begins his letter with a greeting of Joy; Paul ends his letter to the Corinthians with Joy; the Angel greeted Mary with the word Joy; on resurrection morning, our risen Savior greeted the women with Joy. The Psalmist says to God, “You showed me how to live. Your presence fills me with Joy and makes living a real pleasure.” [5] Being in the presence of God or having the presence of God in our being has the effect of exciting our primary emotion of love. When we walk into worship services and begin to sing with our brothers and sisters, it stimulates our love for them, and for God. David said that just the thought of spending eternity with the God he loved got him all excited with Joy.

We can conclude then that the Bible does tie love and Joy together. Such divine Joy, therefore, cannot be increased or decreased simply by a person’s will or circumstances since it does not depend on good fortune, but on an unchangeable God. That’s why we must not think of Joy as some feeling, but an attitude. The love of God in us can become excited if we have the proper attitude toward God and others. It’s not the position in life we find ourselves in, but our disposition toward the life we have and the things happening to us.

With God’s love as the primary element brought into our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit that controls our thinking and attitude, it also colors and empowers our faith. It helps us maintain a positive attitude when we respond to the world around us. And there is little that causes that love to jump for Joy more than being in God’s presence, knowing that He loves us, cares for us, protects us, and has a beautiful place in heaven waiting for us.

Have you ever noticed how much more enjoyable it is to be around and work with people who are optimistic and positive thinkers? One reason may be that they cope with and handle difficult situations differently than others who are always looking for someone to blame for their problems. Such negative and pessimistic people are continually thinking of themselves and focused on their own best interests. This kind of self-absorption can become so strong that it pulls others into the fray. And when you get involved with people like this, it can negatively affect your state of mind and leave you feeling drained.

But when you meet someone who radiates the Joy of the Lord in their actions, words, and responses, it not only lifts you, but it glorifies God by pointing to His ability to give everyone a reason to rejoice, even in times of trouble. As the Psalmist said, you may end up with tears in your eyes because of the evil you see in the world and how they treat you, but when you hold on to God, Joy will help see you through. You will find that those who celebrate the goodness of God are always looking for ways to give, to encourage, and to lift other people’s spirits. They know that they never walk through a tough situation on their own; God is always with them. So, they do the same to those they meet who are struggling with the burdens that life often lays on one’s shoulders.

We find one of the most expressive scriptures that point out this kind of attitude in the writings of the prophet Habakkuk. The Babylonians had just invaded Jerusalem and were wreaking havoc with God’s people and the coveted Temple. And even though Habakkuk didn’t understand why God allowed it to happen, he knew that God never permitted anything without a purpose and a reason, that worked together for the good of those He called to be His people. So Habakkuk declares: “Even though the fig-tree does not blossom, and there are no grapes on the vine, and nurturing the olive tree leaves it bare, and the fields yield no crops; and the sheep can find no place to breed, and the cattle barn is empty: Still, I will praise the Lord, for I find Joy in God being my Savior.” [6]

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), who became better known as Friedrich Schiller, was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist who developed into one of the influential figures in what would become known as the “classical movement” in German literature. Schiller’s expressed his views on liberty, equality, and civil justice poignantly in his poems and plays. They put into action by his philosophical and political writings would have their influence on generations of European writers in the succeeding decades.

Schiller wrote a short poem most people outside of Germany have probably never read, entitled, “An die Freude.” (Ode to Joy). It was only after Ludwig van Beethoven famously set it to music in the choral finale of his Ninth Symphony that the title of Schiller’s poem became beloved around the world. Here is one chorus from Schiller’s poem: “Endure courageously, O you millions! Endure for the better world! From above the starry canopy, a great God will reward you!”

But in 1900, a songwriter named Barney Elliott Warren wrote a song that churches sang for many years. It clearly expresses the joy we have in the Anointed, and it goes like this:

 “I have found the joy no tongue can tell,

how its waves of glory roll;

it is like a great o’ erflowing well,

springing up within my soul.

Cho: It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,

full of glory, full of glory;

it is joy unspeakable and full of glory,

Oh, the half has never yet been told.”

Daryl Muir of Marriage Matters Ministry, and Men of Integrity Retreat, reminds us that Joy is not an end in itself, something to be sought after as a vital component of life. Joy is a response to, or the derivative of, something else. Especially through the work of the Spirit in us.[7]

And Caslyn Rice mentions that sometimes things in life “happen;” we feel overwhelmed, and we lose our focus on what brings us true contentment and satisfaction. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or frustration, we can choose to renew our joy found in the Lord by focusing our eyes and hearts on Him.[8]

[1] Luke 2:10

[2] John 15:8-12

[3] See Acts of the Apostles 5:41; 2 Corinthians 6:10; Colossians 1:24 and 1 Peter 4:13

[4] 1 Peter 1:8

[5] Psalm 16:11

[6] Habakkuk 3:17-19

[7] Muir, Daryl: Revivalist Magazine, March 2019, p. 5

[8] Rice, Caslyn, op. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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