Romans 5:1–5 ESV

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


This is our third Sunday in this advent season, and the subject that I will be preaching about is Joy. In the first Sunday, we saw the Love of Christ. Last Sunday, Ashok preached on the Peace of Christ, and now I bring to your attention the Joy of Christ.

A Personal Testimony

It is not rare for preachers like me to find ourselves rebuked in the preparation of our own sermon, where the scripture leaps out like a lion and grabs a hold of you, and wrestles you to the ground.

And in sermons, much more than others.

That’s where I am in preaching this sermon, held down by the sheer force of the jaws of Scripture so that I might comprehend ‘Joy’!

I am sharing this with you because I need you to know that I consider myself a novice to this kind of joy, and I am nevertheless preaching to you about this because I have been totally captivated by Scripture regarding this subject.

The more I meditate on this subject I feel the teeth of God’s word, like a bait caught in my heart and I’m being pulled deeper and deeper. And then I thought to myself – this is what it means isn’t it – Romans 10:17

Romans 10:17 ESV

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

John 6:39 ESV

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

This is how he keeps me. This is how he writes his law in my heart.

He will hold me fast. He will hold me fast. For my Saviour loves me so. He will hold me fast

Why you should listen to this sermon

1. Joy is simultaneously the most valuable and the most volatile of human emotions

2. The Bible commands you to rejoice always

3. Joy is the primary indicator of one’s satisfaction in Christ.

Why is Joy important?

1. Joy is an essential part of Christian conversion

1 Peter 1:8–9 ESV

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Let us briefly unpack this text and see what Peter is telling us.

• The text here is speaking to believers and is referring to their past, present and future.

• The past – you have not ‘seen’ him, you love him. The Christian’s love for God is rooted in something deeper than human sight. It is wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit who convicts our hearts.

• The present – you do not ‘see’ him ‘now’, you believe in him. That love for God is continuing to manifest in the life of the believer’s life today in his belief (faith).

And – this conjunction is so important. The Bible does not say Or. This isn’t an either-or reality but a both-and reality.

rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory – The Christian’s love for God is presently manifested in both belief and rejoicing.

• The future – the outcome of such faith – love, believing and rejoicing – is eternal life (salvation of our souls)

Listen to the Psalmist

Psalm 51:12–17 ESV

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Salvation brings joy and praise!

Here’s more.

Galatians 5:22–23 ESV

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

John 15:5 ESV

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and whoever abides in Christ bears fruit – and hence rejoices. Rejoicing is not an option for the Christian. It is an essential part of his faith.

Let me give you two more verses just to satisfy my excitement here,

Luke 1:43–44 ESV

43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Luke 2:10–11 ESV

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Do you see how the human emotion of joy is ingrained in the reality of Christ in us?

2. Joy is pervasive throughout Scripture

I don’t know how else to explain this except to say that your joy is a subject that is spoken of throughout the Bible. It is everywhere.

I feel ashamed for I consider myself as one who has been more influenced by John Piper than any other theologian, and yet I have not seen the central message of his life’s work this clearly before.

The argument for Christian Hedonism as Piper coined it, is an attempt at explaining the co-existence of ‘glorifying God’ and ‘pursuing joy’. As Piper argues extensively, just as C.S Lewis did in his lifetime, and Jonathan Edwards in his, the Christians pursuit to glorify God and the pursuit of joy are not two mutually exclusive realities, but the same.

Doug Wilson writes this in his blog – ‘We should therefore thank God for Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century, C.S. Lewis in the twentieth, and in our time, John Piper. In various ways, and in accordance with their respective gifts and contributions, they made sure to get our affections back into play.

So, John Piper’s famous statement – God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him – explains this unity. God is glorified in our satisfaction in him. And the primary emotion of satisfaction is ‘joy’.

Now, you might as, “How can you say that? Can’t satisfaction be manifest through other emotions?”

Yes they can. You can have satisfaction manifest in peace, or hope, or thankfulness. But tell me, is there something as joyless peace? Is there a joyless hope? Can you be thankful without joy?

There isn’t! To be satisfied is to be joyful!

In his book ‘God’s passion for his glory’, John writes, “Sometimes people ask: should we pursue obedience to God or joy in God? Edwards would answer: The question involves a category confusion. It’s like asking: should I pursue fruit or apples? Obedience is doing what we are told. And we are told to delight ourselves in the Lord. Therefore pursuing joy in God is obedience.

One of the arguments Piper makes is from Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4 ESV

4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Let us look at this text for a moment.

• We have a command – delight yourself in the Lord

• And we have a promise – he will give you the desires of your heart

What we have here is a call to obedience coupled with a promise of joy.

Joy is the satisfaction or fulfilment of our desires. And the one who truly delights in God will have desires that are appropriate to his delighting. And God will fulfil those desires.

Therefore, God’s command for us to delight in him, to pursue and worship him, to obey him, is not without satisfied desires.

Therefore, if the Bible is all about God’s glory, it must in essence be all about our joy, because God has determined to make much of himself through our joy in him.

3. We were created for joy

One of the reasons that the Bible addresses joy all over the place is also because mankind has been created for the pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Jefferson, in the American Declaration of Independence, wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

When creating a Christian nation under God, men were persuaded of God’s purpose in our pursuit of happiness.

The first evidence of this is the way we all feel about joy. All of us are trying to be happy. None of us are trying to be sad or angry.

If God is most glorified in our joy in him, and Isaiah 43:7

Isaiah 43:6–7 ESV

6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

tells us that we were created for his glory, then we were created for the purpose of enjoying God.

And we read in Psalm 16:11

Psalm 16:11 ESV

11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The pursuit of God is the pursuit of joy. We were created to be in God’s presence, and in his presence is fullness of joy.

4. The joy of the Lord is our strength

Nehemiah 8:9–12 ESV

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”
12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

5. Joy is a biblical command

Philippians 4:4 ESV

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV

16 Rejoice always,
17 pray without ceasing,
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Psalm 100:2 ESV

2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Now, the problem with biblical commands for us to be joyful is the question, “How can one command affections?” You can’t just snap your fingers and change or produce random emotions.

Emotions are feelings that are produced as a response to something. How are you supposed to feel what you do not feel? If the Bible tells you to ‘be happy’, when you clearly aren’t, how is that supposed to work?

Are you supposed to pretend? But that would be hypocrisy, and the Bible accuses hypocrites. So that doesn’t work.

Let me give you two points on this, and we’ll dive a little more into it at the end of the sermon.

i. The unbeliever is a slave to various passions, whereas the Christian has been set free

Titus 3:3–8 ESV

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Christians devote themselves to good works because they are not mastered by their passions but have been given the power to master their passions.

The fruit of the spirit is self-control and sober mindedness.

This is why Scripture instructs your passions. And this part has been a greater revelation for me in recent days – that as Christians we are to cultivate our passions.

Matthew 13:44 ESV

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

ii. The Christian is a slave to Christ – his passions are anchored to Christ.

But not only have we been set free from sin, but we have been given fruit that leads to sanctification.

Romans 6:22 ESV

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

There is a radical shift taking place during conversion. And this shift may be best explained like this. Before our salvation, we were slaves to sin and its various passions. But Christ saved us and we are now slaves to God.

Where worldliness was once the object of our hearts desire, Christ has now taken the place of the world in our hearts.

And it is really helpful to note that wherever the Scripture directly commands emotions, the reason specified in all of those texts is – look at God! Look at him! Look, look at the desire of your heart, you Christian! Look and go do! Don’t you love him? Isn’t he your treasure? Haven’t you sold everything you had in order to have him?

Here is a sample,
Ephesians 5:5-8

Ephesians 5:5–8 ESV

5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
7 Therefore do not become partners with them;
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Colossians 3:23–24 ESV

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

This is what accounts for the volatility of our joy that rises and drops in rapid succession – that more often than not our joy is set on the things of this world and not on Christ.

[Parenting in Hypocrisy]

What then, is Joy?

Given all of this context, let us briefly consider a definition for joy, and close with talking about how we can cultivate this joy in our lives.

Joy is a deep sense of happiness, contentmen or delight that is felt in response to something. Joy is the emotion most closely attached to the human desire. We rejoice in our desiring and our desiring fulfilled. We are created as creatures of desire and so joy is a key part of that.

Romans 5:1–5 ESV

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Therefore – In the book of Romans, several chapters start with the word ‘therefore’ and indicates how Paul is repeatedly summarising his thoughts. So, having written about sin, the wrath of God, the saving righteousness of Christ, and the hope of that righteousness, he is here summarising his case.

• Now, verses 1 and 2 have a similar structure.
Verse 1 says, since we have ‘x’ – we have ‘a’.
And verse 2 says, since we have that same ‘x’ – we have ‘b’ and ‘c’.

Verse 1 – x = since we have been justified by faith + through our Lord Jesus Christ

Verse 2 – x = through him + by faith

Let us see, what are a, b and c.

a. Peace with God

b. Grace in which we stand

c. Rejoice in hope of the glory of God

• In the first place, we have been set right with God. Our guilt has been washed and we are no longer enemies of God. He is not our foe.

• But it doesn’t stop there. We have also obtained the Scripture tells us,
Grace — Not only is God not our foe but he is our ally. We have not just peace with God but favour with him. God has inclined his favour toward you.

And – then there is that most crucially important conjunction ‘and’. Among the things we have in our salvation, namely peace and grace, we also have joy. And it is not just any joy, but joy in hope of the glory of God.

Christian joy is a deep sense of happiness, contentment or delight that is felt in response to the hope of the glory of God.

This joy is a joy that is set on the object who is Christ. This is an unwavering joy because Christ is an unwavering Saviour.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Romans 5:3–5 ESV

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

• This joy is so centred on the immutable Christ that even in our sufferings, we rejoice.

• And see the train of reasoning for such joy -> knowledge that suffering – endurance – character – hope (which is the anchor of our joy)

• All this happens because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (which is another way of saying the same the same ‘x’ we saw in verses 1 and 2 – justified by faith through Christ)

• John Piper calls this joy, Serious Joy. A simultaneous (not consecutive) existence of sorrow and joy. What Paul terms sorrowful, yet always rejoicing! (2 Corinthians 6:10)


How can I cultivate such joy?

• The Cross is for joy

• Christ is the object of our joy

• The ministry for joy in others

2 Corinthians 1:24 ESV

24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 ESV

19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?
20 For you are our glory and joy.