How to get a life brimming with JOY

How to get a life brimming with joy

The feel of JOY

JOY. It’s a topic I wouldn’t have, and couldn’t have, ever envisaged delivering before this year. It’s not a topic I would have spoken about, because, looking back on my life, I now realise that, before this last year, I had never experienced JOY.

When we think of the experience of JOY, we fundamentally think of an emotion. Previously, I would have mistakenly labelled general happiness as joy. But now, I know for certain that happiness and JOY are two fundamentally different experiences. 

My experience is that physically and emotionally, JOY feels like an absolute lightness of heart. JOY feels like a spectacular ball of energy right within my physical, beating heart. It feels so absolutely light and airy that it transcends any other experience. JOY comes with an absolute feeling of peace; a spiritual oneness with God; and a total lack of anxiety, guilt or fear. 

I hope you know exactly what I’m talking about. I hope your experience of JOY is broader, wider and deeper than mine. And that you experience this constantly. I hope you’re hearing my exclamations about this as the first steps of a baby toddler in Christ. I hope this message is an encouraging reminder of what it’s like to first experience JOY. 

But if not. If what I’m describing is foreign to you, I’ll also describe “How to get a life brimming with JOY.” So that you can have what I, have finally, now experienced.

A worldview that gives rise to JOY

JOY took me by surprise. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t look for it. But it found me. 

Once I experienced it, I could recognise what it was, and it enabled me to understand that while, before, I thought I was living life, now I recognise that I never knew what life was. It’s like you think you’re looking at a full colour painting. But then you find a real colour painting, and you realise you had merely been looking at a muted monochrome. You thought you had a colour painting, but realise that you didn’t even know what colours were before you saw the real thing.

I know from scripture exactly what JOY is. It’s a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s a manifestation of a Holy God living within the believer. But until I experienced JOY, those were just words on a page; they were a doctrine I mentally attested to without knowing the reality of the experience to which they pointed.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you the idea of world views. For me to explain “How to get a life brimming with JOY,” I’m going to have to describe a complete biblical world view.

In the beginning

In the beginning, God created light. God saw that light was good, so He separated light from darkness, and called light Day (Genesis 1:1, 3–5). God commanded Man to walk by Day, not by night (Romans 13:13; Psalm 56:13; Isaiah 2:5; John 11:9; Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:5, 7). But Man was seduced by the idea of being Light, rather than walking by it (Genesis 3:5). As a result, his eyes were opened (Genesis 3:7), and he plunged into utter darkness (Genesis 2:17).

If we want to understand this, we have to think about humanity before and after this event.

Life, human life, was designed to consist of a harmony between the physical and the spiritual. When Man’s physicality and spirituality are in sync, they give rise to intellect and emotion that is attuned to the Creator, and to other humans (social).

    Figure 1.   Human life and relationship before rebellion

 

Figure 1.  Human life and relationship before rebellion

Notice that there is a social bond between Man and Woman? Man and Woman felt a sense of oneness. A lack of separation. Their lives were harmoniously conjoined. The figure represents this bond like an infinity symbol. This represents the fact that the the life of Man and Woman is conjoined. But it also represents the fact that their lives were conjoined with YHWH ELOHIM, the Light of Life (John 8:12); with Him from Whom Immortality flows (Jeremiah 17:13; Zechariah 14:8; John 4:10; 7:38; Revelation 7:17; 22:1).

Immortality begets infinity. Socially, Man and Woman were one, and YHWH and ELOHIM were one, and they were in us as we were in them (inferred from John 17:20–23). Man lived having an intrinsic connection with both themselves and the Creator, giving rise to Life Eternal.

In the day YHWH ELOHIM strode into the garden saying, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9), He wasn’t so much as asking under which fig tree Man was quivering, as asking where Man’s life had gone. For no longer was Man conjoined with Immortality; but Man’s spirit had disconnected from the Source of Life, and had thus died (Genesis 2:17). Light strode into the garden, but the newly cast shadow hid from it (Genesis 3:8; John 1:9, 10).

Suddenly the social bond was severed, and the spiritual Man perished. Suddenly anxiety, guilt and fear flooded into Man’s existence (Genesis 3:7–10). And those emotions soon turned into anger and railing accusations (Genesis 3:12, 13). All these contorted emotions flooded in to fill the void that emerged through Man’s spiritual death (Genesis 2:17).

    Figure 2.   Effect of rebellion on humanity: spiritual death and separateness

 

Figure 2.  Effect of rebellion on humanity: spiritual death and separateness

Man is now disconnected and alienated from the Life of God (Ephesians 4:18). And with that spiritual death, man’s social bond evaporates. No longer is there oneness, but separateness. The social aspect of Man doesn’t disappear however. It migrates from the bond of oneness, to the crutch that seeks to prop up the sudden lack of spiritual nature.

    Figure 3.   Humanity replaces spiritual dimension with social dimension

 

Figure 3.  Humanity replaces spiritual dimension with social dimension

Thus you see Man, cut off from the Life of God (Genesis 3:22), begin to build cities which alternately support and enslave entire populaces in a bid for socially-acquired majesty (Genesis 4:17; 11:4, 6). Man tries to become God-like through social ties. Man uses physicality rather than spirituality to try to achieve oneness (Genesis 4:1).

So, that’s the problem!

Man’s fundamental problem is that he is dead. Dead. Separate from God and isolated socially. No life. Man is a zombie: walking; talking; but dead. It’s not that sin will kill us. But that sin killed us all in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:17). For in the day Man ate of the fruit of the tree, we died (Romans 5:19a). We were born dead (inferred from John 5:24; 5:40; 1 John 3:14).

The fundamental issue is not that we have a sin problem, or a lack of righteousness problem, or a guilt before God problem, or any other sort of legal problem before God. Even though we have problems with all of these things, they are not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is a lack of life. We were born spiritually dead. And so we lack life as it was designed. We were born into a body of death (Romans 7:24).

The absence of spiritual life has crippled and misshapen humanity. Even when we come to scriptures, we’re tempted to read it physically and socially, even though it’s meant to be read spiritually. For example, so many of us read dietary regulations physically, deciding that they are given for our health. Others have read them socially, arguing that their purpose is to cut ourselves off from others socially (Galatians 2:12). Yet their real meaning is spiritual—it is saying, “Because we are what we eat, how dare we take into us that which is unholy.” It is a physical metaphor designed to teach us a spiritual truth.  

If that’s the problem, is there a solution?

Man has tried many solutions.

He has made gods. He has made gods of riches, wealth and power. He has made himself a god.

Man has made religion. 

Let me define what I mean by religion: “Religion is a set of rules, practices or methods by which Man seeks to make himself acceptable to God.” 

Man might seek to make himself acceptable to God through penance. That’s religion at work. Man might seek to make himself acceptable to God through belonging to a church. That’s religion. Man might seek to make himself acceptable to God through daily bible study and prayer. Religion strikes again. Man might even seek to make himself acceptable to God through “visiting the fatherless and widows in their distress” (James 1:27)—which is scripture’s definition of “pure religion”, which is different from the religion we’re describing here—; but when done for the purpose of seeking to make himself acceptable to God, then that is simply religion again. 

Religion tells us that we need to “get saved.” Here are some examples.

  • The Fundamentalist version of religion says you need to believe the right doctrine, and do the right things, and that will make you acceptable to God. 
  • The Evangelical version of religion prescribes certain special words to say in order to “get saved.” (If you want to know what I mean, then Google “Sinner’s prayer”). 
  • The Roman Catholic version of religion says that we can get saved through God’s grace, plus on-going penances, plus a bit of a dose of purgatory in order to purify the soul sufficiently to enter God’s presence.
  • The Seventh-day Adventist version of religion says that we can get saved if we embrace God’s justification, and embrace a life-long process of moral improvement (they call it “sanctification”), and, if we succeed at that, it will allow us to pass a second trial (“the Investigative Judgment”), proving that we are deserving of Jesus’ grace towards us.

Roman Catholicism and Seventh-day Adventism place salvation into the future. For Catholicism, it is when you die and enter a different spiritual dimension. For Seventh-day Adventism, it is when Jesus returns the second time.

In some brands of evangelicalism, by contrast, they place salvation into the past—the moment you said the sinner’s prayer. The idea of “getting saved” speaks as if salvation were a singular event dependent on our action. And if dependent on our action, then it is simply “seeking to make oneself acceptable to God”, which is our definition of religion.

In some brands of fundamentalism, it is the right knowledge, geared with socially acceptable behaviour—i.e. no sexual sin, but unnoticed greed is generally excused—that is deemed to win the respect of one’s fellow worshipers, and is thus deemed to be associated with getting saved.

A key problem with all of these religious schemes is that they embrace anxiety, guilt and fear in order to motivate the right salvation-seeking tendencies. But we’ve already seen that anxiety, guilt and fear give rise to accusations, anger and physical violence (Genesis 4:1–8). These are the emotions that flooded into us when we rebelled and spiritually died. They are hardly the tools by which God seeks to remedy the problem.

So if every brand and every form of religion is hopeless; if every inkling of a solution instituted by man represents continuing rebellion against God; then what’s the answer? What is the answer?

How to get a life

Scripture says the Light of Life again came into this world, and the world knew Him not (John 1:4, 10). 

He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him (John 1:11). They had been seduced by the physical aspects of life: do not touch, do not taste, do not handle (Colossians 2:21). They had been seduced by the intoxication with power that stems from unlocking the secrets of scripture (John 5:39). They had been seduced by the idea of a physical kingdom in which they would be the dominant people (Acts 1:6).

But this Light of Life Who entered the world (Isaiah 9:2; John 8:12; Revelation 21:24) saw beyond the physical and pointed us to the spiritual (John 1:33; 3:3, 5, 12, 21; 5:24, 26; 12:35, 36; 18:36; Luke 17:21; etc).

Baptism is a symbol of the misshapen body of death being buried, and being resurrected a new spiritual man (1 Corinthians 5:21, 22; 42–44). The point of this symbol is that the resurrected man is controlled by a new spirit, because he is re-connected to the life of God. Once again, man is restored as a spiritual being, brought in harmony with the Source of Light Immortal, and with fellow man.

    Figure 4.   Restored human life and relationships

 

Figure 4.  Restored human life and relationships

Baptism is one metaphor for this experience. Spiritual rebirth is another. Entering the kingdom of God is yet another. They all point at the same spiritual reality. That the life of Man is resurrected and brought into connection with the Light of Life.

Turns out that the first step towards getting a life brimming with JOY is to simply “get a life.” We were zombies—walking, talking dead people; because our spiritual life had died. Now, those called and chosen by God have their spiritual life restored, renewed. They have passed from death to life, having fellowship restored with God and with each other (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). 

How to get a life brimming with JOY

So, if the first step towards getting a life brimming with JOY is to get a life, the second step is to lose that intellectual poison pill religion has slipped into your mind.

There is no need to do anything to get back into God’s good books. If we are spiritually reborn, then we are right with God. Now. Not at some time in the future; not at some point in the past; but now. Right now.

Do you recognise any of these poison pills in your own mind?

  • Fundamentalism focuses far too heavily on the physical, rather than the spiritual. It focuses on adherence to the right form of belief, rather than the Life that flows from God. 
  • Evangelicalism focuses far too heavily on “getting saved” as an event; rather than the living as God’s child, within His Kingdom, “now and forever” (Jude 1:25). 
  • Roman Catholicism tends to place the entry into the renewed spiritual state after death; so that the justified human may be sanctified through continued penance in this life, and be purified through the fire of purgatory in the next; so that man may eventually arrive, purified, in God’s presence in heaven.  
  • Seventh-day Adventism focuses on the point of salvation being in the future, at Christ’s Second Coming, when the spiritual dimension of God has broken into our physical reality.

The problem with the Seventh-day Adventist and Roman Catholic versions—which is by no means limited to the adherents of those religions—is that the spiritual restoration with God is placed in the future. By placing this experience in the future, we are still dominated by anxiety, guilt and fear, wondering whether we’ll one day be made right with God. This continued anxiety, guilt and fear robs us of the JOY of living in His Presence now.

So, if our spiritual life is reconnected with God, and we’ve managed to reject the poison pill of religion, then we are free to perceive that those born of God stand REBORN, RENEWED, RIGHT with God, and RECONNECTED with fellow man. Such a person lives under the authority and power of the God of Heaven (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:21; Revelation 12:10).

The relevant question for such a person is now NO LONGER “how do I get right with God.” It’s not, “how do I get saved.” It’s not, “I wonder whether I’m going to see God face to face one day.” The relevant question is “What is God’s will for me now here on earth?” 

  • “Where does He want me to go?” 
  • “Who does He want me to serve?”
  • “What message does He want me to proclaim?”
  • “Who does He want me to lift up, to clothe, to feed, to fight justice for?”

All authority and power is given us as members of God’s kingdom here on earth. Let us grasp that permission to live as active members of His spiritual kingdom, now and forever. 

This way of thinking breaks down the last intellectual barriers. It banishes any and all anxiety, guilt and fear—for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It is the coming to God in perfect and untroubled faith, knowing that we are His child—His son, His daughter—and simply seeking to know and do His will, and then, through His grace and power, doing that will here on earth as it is done in heaven (Matthew 6:10). That is the key to unlocking JOY.

For when the reality of the truth of our new spiritual life is allied with our intellect, and our intellect is harnessed to God’s will, then the reality of the presence of God in our lives floods into our emotions—having driven out the fear, the guilt and anxiety—replacing it with God’s everlasting and perfect love. As a result the emotional core of our being is released and renewed, causing us to experience the profound and life-altering experience of the power and living vitality of God’s JOY filling our hearts and minds and bodies.

Has He chosen you?

I would like to finish with a passage of scripture that speaks to the reality of what we’ve been talking about.

“For we know,
    brothers [and sisters] loved by God,
that he has chosen you,
    because our gospel came to you not only in word,
        but also in power
    and in the Holy Spirit
        and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5).

Perhaps those words just bounced off us. We need to hear them again. We need to let them sink into our intellect. We need to let them permeate our emotions. We need to let them plant a seed that springs to life unleashing the kingdom of God within us.

“For we know,
    brothers [and sisters] loved by God,
that he has chosen you,
    because our gospel came to you not only in word,
        but also in power
    and in the Holy Spirit
        and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5).

Full conviction brings the faith and love that drives out the fear, the guilt, the anxiety. The Holy Spirit becomes resident in the temples of our souls, leading to the inevitable fruit of the Spirit present in our lives. The power speaks of the kingdom reign and rule of the Almighty God present within our lives. And the word is the hearing of this good news: that the Light of Life has come into the world, to reclaim his own. And the fact you have heard this message means that God has chosen you. You are loved by God.

How about loving Him back?

“For we know,
    brothers [and sisters] loved by God,
that he has chosen you,
    because our gospel came to you not only in word,
        but also in power
    and in the Holy Spirit
        and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5).

The gospel came to you, and you got a life brimming with JOY.

 

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