I will read a few verses from 1 Chronicles chapter 16 verses 8 to 10 and then we’ll pray. I’ll give thanks to the Lord. Call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wondrous works, glory and His holy name that the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, we want to begin this day, this service with rejoicing because you command us to rejoice always. So, Father, we pray that you would fill us with more joy in 2023 than we’ve ever experienced before. Father, teach us the secret of joy. Thank you Lord in Jesus name. Amen.
The verses that God gave us last week to begin this new year is from 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, 16, 13. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
And the question rom last Sunday is – how do we guarantee that this year 2023 will be a happier new year? It’s when you and I are a happier version of ourselves entering the new year. And if you are a happier you, I am a happier me, then this will be a happy new year.
And God gave us those verses and I want to break down a little bit more what it means to rejoice always. It says in Proverbs 18 verse 21, death and life are in the power of the tongue. So whether you can experience a happier, more joyful new year in 2023 starts with your speech.
If even break down 1 Thessalonians 5, 16 through 18 further – rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks – all three are matters of the speech. And so if you are vocalizing, if you are speaking out words of rejoicing, if you are praying with your mouth continually, if you are offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving with your lips, this is how we can begin to grow into having a happier, more joyful us in 2023.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. And so if you speak negative words, if you speak grumbling, if you speak complaints, if you speak judgment, you are killing yourself spiritually and it will result in an unhappy year lacking joy. Pay attention to your speech in 2023. It will determine whether it’s a happy 2023, a joyful 2023 or a unhappy year of lacking of joy.
I’m just highlighting few of the verses in Proverbs that talk about speech. Proverbs 10, verse 11, the mouth of the righteous is a well of life. Proverbs 10, verse 19, in the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10, verse 20, the tongue of the righteous is choice silver. Proverbs 10, verse 31 and 32, the mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. Proverbs 21, verse 23, whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
Again, death and life are located in our tongue. How we speak, what you say, over the course of your day and your week will determine whether it is a life giving week or it is a life that is trending toward death. It starts with speech.
I’ve been meditating on Philippians this week. And if I were to summarize this letter in one word, I would use the word “joy.” It is a letter about joy and I just want to highlight a few of its sections.
Paul starts in chapter 1, verse 15, he says, some indeed preach Christ, even from envy and strife and some also from goodwill. The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains, but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached. And in this, I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. It’s amazing to consider that according to Paul, if there is one topic that he wants to hear preached about again and again and over again, it’s Christ. Christ ought to be preached.
And he says, I don’t care if it’s in pretense or truth, I don’t care why people are doing it. The motives could be off. Christ could be preached out of pretense, envy, strife, ambition, all the wrong motives, but just the fact that on a Sunday, Christ, His Name is exalted, that that’s the main takeaway on a Sunday, hopefully for most churches. That alone brings Paul such rejoicing. So just evaluate the preachers you listen to. Do they preach Jesus? If they are not preaching Jesus, then Paul says, I don’t rejoice in that sermon. There’s nothing to rejoice in that sermon because Jesus is not preached.
What an amazing thing that Paul is saying, even from a pastor with wrong motives, if he preaches Jesus on a Sunday, Paul rejoices. Amazing statement about what preachers should be ultimately preaching about. Isn’t it Jesus?
And then Philippians 1 verse 21, for to me to live as Christ and to die is gain. But I live on in the flesh. This will remain fruit for my labor. Yet what I shall choose, I cannot tell for I am hard pressed between the two having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith that you’re rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
And so for Paul, there is this tension that he feels, like he would be happy to leave this life and to gain Christ. He says to live is Christ. He summarizes his whole life with one word – Jesus. It’s Christ, it’s all about Jesus. And he says to depart is far better, but it is needful, it is necessary for me to be here. And why is he here? He is producing labor. He’s working in the ministry. And what is he after? He says he’s after their progress and their joy of faith.
How do I know if I’ve had a good year spiritually? There’s more joy. How do I know if I’ve done a good job at hill community in 2023? There would be more joy in this community. Christian life really, I think when it comes down to it, I’m realizing now it’s a journey of increasing joy. It’s a journey of joy. So if Christian life feels heavy, if it’s too serious, if it’s too weighty and it’s just suffering and labor and toil and burden, then maybe we’re missing the point of the Christian life.
Paul, he is very clear. He’s after one thing in the hearts of the people he’s laboring for. It’s joy. The progress of their faith is increasing joy of faith. Philippians 2, perhaps one of the most joyful verses of all of scripture, Philippians 2, verse 8, and being found in appearances, a man he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given Him the Name, which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
If we understand the significance of what Jesus did when he was fully God coming, descending so far low to die on a cross for the sins of humanity, to become obedient to the point, even death. And that’s why on every Sunday His Name is lifted up. We don’t lift the name of any pastor, any church, any cause, any ministry, any good works. We don’t lift up anything or anybody except Jesus Christ. If we understood the significance of why we’re Christian, what but the Name of Jesus would be lifted up on any given Sunday?
Philippians 2 verse 12, therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed now as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing that you may become blameless and harmless children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world holding fast the word of life so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, nor labored in vain.
One characteristic of this perverse generation is their speech. You see the cursing, you see the back biting, you see the gossiping, you see the slander, you see the judgment, you see the hate, you see it (or hear it), the sins of this perverse generation through the lips.
But the distinguishing characteristic of a Christian, it says, do all things without complaining and disputing. One fruit that’s obvious is a transformation of our lips. We are not participating in the language, the speech of this world. We are very careful what comes out of our mouth. It is not negativity, it is not grumbling, it is not fighting, it’s not winning an argument, it’s not disputing, it is very careful. Instead it is rejoicing it is praising, it is thanksgiving, it’s a different kind of a speech which reflects a different kind of a heart.
And Paul rejoices, he says in verse 16, because the people that he is laboring for are holding fast to the word of life. And who is the Word of Life? It’s Jesus. So when we see others speaking about Jesus, saying this week I held on to Jesus, I had a rough week, the storms were coming, the wind was blowing, but I held on to Jesus. That is a cause for rejoicing. When we have those kinds of testimony, that is why we rejoice as ministers, because we see that the people we are ministering to are getting the central part of Christian life – they are holding on to the Word of Life, Jesus Christ. And when you hear that testimony, doesn’t it mutually edify the body of Christ and we all rejoice for that brother, that sister who was able to testify? This was a rough week, but I am not grumbling, I am not complaining, I am not disputing, I am not backbiting, I am not negative, I have held on to the Word of Life, Jesus Christ. And from that testimony there is much, much rejoicing.
And then Paul begins to summarize the entire book of Philippians.
Philippians 3 verse 1, finally, that’s how you know it’s a summary statement. He says, finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. Last week, all we heard was rejoice always. And I want to ask you, how can you be a joyful person always? How can you rejoice always, no matter what happens in your life? What is a guarantee that you and I can be more joyful in 2023? How can we rejoice always? How can we be more joyful consistently?
It’s connected to the Lord Jesus. It’s rejoice IN THE LORD. In Jesus there is joy. There is no joy apart from Him. There are fleeting moments where you’re happy because you got promoted. You’re happy because your children are well-behaved. You’re happy because people think well of you. You’re happy because you’re healthy and money is flowing in and you’re happy in these fleeting moments. But joy comes only from Jesus. Joy only comes from Jesus. If you and I are convinced of this and we are after joy, there is only one source of joy. It is only in the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord always. That is how we can be joyful always. It’s only in Jesus.
And Paul hammers it home one more time. Philippians 4:4, rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. Last week it was rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. Now God is giving a little bit more. Now He’s saying, rejoice always in the Lord. I will say it again. Rejoice in Jesus. Rejoice in Jesus. He is the source of joy. John 15 verse 11, these things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.
Some people just by personality, they are more upbeat. They are more seemingly jolly. That is personality. Some people have it. Some people are more serious, stoic. I’m not talking about personality. Jesus says a spiritual thing happens in John 15. It’s all about abiding in Jesus. If you and I learn how to abide in Jesus, trust in Jesus, remain in Jesus, then there is joy.
The full amount of our joy is when Jesus’ joy flows in and His joy becomes our joy. That is how we become joyful. That is how we are consistently joyful. It’s not personality. It’s not circumstantial. It is a deep wellspring of joy that does not come from us.
We cannot will ourselves to be joyful. I can’t study something and go to a therapist and train myself to be joyful. There’s no such thing. It’s a completely spiritual transaction that happens when you learn to abide in Jesus, hold fast to the Word of Life, trust in Jesus, remain in Jesus, then Jesus promises joy.
One of the primary fruit that is promised in John 15, if we as a branch abide in the vine, is this fruit of joy. It’s Jesus’ joy that flows in and becomes our joy that is made full.
Matthew 3 after Jesus is baptized, God thunders from heaven and says, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. I just find that declaration striking. Jesus hadn’t done anything in ministry. Yet God says, this is my Son. I am well pleased with him.
God doesn’t want to extract something from you. He doesn’t want you to be an employee in his corporation. He is not that kind of a Father who is looking for you to amount to something or accomplish something or do something. He just says the same way that He looks at Jesus, He says, you are well pleasing. You are my son, you are my daughter.
As long as you have faith in Jesus and you hold on to Jesus, the Word of Life, as long as you are connected as a branch to a vine, that is it. You are well pleasing. The same declaration to Jesus before He began ministry is the same thing that God the Father says to you. It has nothing to do with the labor of your hands, what you do in this life.
The world will say, you need to do these things. Then you’re approved. Then there’s going to be joy. No, before you do a single thing, before you lift a finger, God the Father says, because you believe in my Son, you are well pleasing, son, daughter.
1 Thessalonian 5:16-18 – let’s commit these verses to memory. Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
If you’re wondering, what is God’s will for me in 2023? Three commandments are there and now we’ve broken down the first part, the first commandment from Philippians 4:4.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice. Let’s commit Philippians 4:4 to memory also. There is no joy apart from Jesus.
Why do we preach Jesus on most Sundays? It’s because I want you to be joyful. I want to be joyful. Where is that joy going to come from? A great message that’s funny and engaging? No, there’s no joy. There’s a fleeting sense of being entertained by doing some gimmick on a Sunday, but if you want consistent, lasting joy, you need to know the source. It’s Jesus Christ. We’re in Christ. You need to learn how to abide in Him.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, you’re inviting us to have a happy 2023. As a happier, more blessed, me and you enter into this new year, that is how we will have a happy new year. Lord, we want to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks.
Thank you, Lord, for giving more clarity of what we are to rejoice in primarily. It is rejoicing always in the Lord Jesus. And you say it again and again throughout Scripture, throughout the letter of Philippians. Again, you will say, rejoice in the Lord Jesus.
Father, forgive us. Forgive us for not obeying these simple commands. Forgive us for seeking other sources of joy that are counterfeit.
We understand that the journey of this Christian life is a journey of joy. So, Jesus, we want to learn joy from You. We want to be filled by You. We pray that Your joy may come in increasing measure as we abide in Jesus and trust in Jesus, remain in Jesus, exalt the name of Jesus. We pray that our joy may be full because your joy, Lord Jesus, has flowed in.
Thank you, Lord, for dying on a cross for our sins. Every Sunday, we remember what you did for us. When you took our place, when you died on that cross, you said it is finished. The work of salvation is complete. And so, we rejoice that our salvation is not based on our works. It is based on what you have done for us. And we thank you for that.
You left your heavenly throne, equality with God, you humbled yourself. You became a man. This is not just an ordinance, a sacrament or ritual. We are declaring the most significant part of our Christian life every Sunday.
Jesus, it’s because you are that important. What you did was that important. No wonder in the heavenly courts among the angels, the cloud of witnesses, the Name of Jesus is lifted high. And every tongue confesses in heaven, on our earth and under the earth that Jesus is Lord.
Lord, may this sacrifice never become so mundane that we do not rejoice in the Lord Jesus and what you did for you and for me. You died for me. We exalt Your Name. We pray that you come and minister to us. Meet us. Encounter us. Fill us with your joy in 2023. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.