Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Rejoice in the Lord Always
As I was in the Word last night, God led me to study the word “rejoice”. As I sought to understand what it was to rejoice in the Psalms, I realized that in the Old Testament, rejoicing is an overflow of emotions, stimulated from an external circumstance. It is an extreme “happiness, expressed in a visible or external manner.” This rejoicing took place in festivals, weddings, celebration, or triumph over enemies. Rejoicing was reserved for special occasions. There were three main elements of rejoicing: First, rejoicing was a spontaneous, unsustained feeling of jubilee. It was fleeting and lasted for but a brief time; Secondly, it was a feeling so strong that it found expression in an external action; Third, it was always prompted by an external stimulus. Based on this definition, rejoicing in the Old Testament was inconsistent and conditional on circumstances.
I could hardly believe it when I studied the Greek definition of the word “rejoice” found in the New Testament. To rejoice in the New Testament sense, “Chaio”, is an action of rejoicing in the Lord, His incarnation, presence with us, triumph over Satan, enrollment in heaven, our liberty, our hope, and our salvation. These truths are unchanging. Our victory is won. We have been given salvation, hope, and a future. We are able to sustain rejoicing in the New Testament because God became man and dwelt among us. He was crucified for our sins, He conquered death, and He sent His Spirit to DWELL WITHIN believers, thus giving us a spirit of rejoicing ALWAYS.
As I compared these two forms of rejoicing, I was struck by how poignant it was that Christ became our rejoicing. Through Christ, we have eternal rejoicing and we have constant rejoicing. We never have to stop, and if we truly know Him, we will never be able to stop. In the Old Testament, rejoicing was spontaneous but unsustained. It was wonderful in the moment, but it ended as soon as it started. Moses was given a glimpse of the backside glory of God, and his face radiated for a while, but the radiance faded. We, with unveiled faces, can all reflect the glory of God consistently for our entire lives. Through the presence of the Spirit within our hearts, we have constant access to the throne of grace. The rejoicing of the Old Testament was prompted by something outside of the individual, rather than on the inside. This is why it was fleeting. But now our hope is eternal and it is internal. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have now seen the Glory, and because we have seen the glory and continue to behold the glory, we greatly rejoice continually. We would never be told to do something that we cannot do, and in Philippians, we are told to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. This is accomplished through the Spirit’s power, which is at work in me.
In understanding the rejoicing of our Lord, I also see that God’s rejoicing over His people was so strong that His external expression was the Incarnation of His Son. Zephaniah 3:17 says that our Lord rejoices over us with joy. Our Lord sings and dances over us. He rejoices over us. His external act was the life, death, resurrection, transfiguration, and hope given by His only begotten Son. Because of His external expression of rejoicing, I am now able to rejoice in His presence always. Philippians 3:1 says that we are to delight ourselves in the Lord and to CONTINUE to rejoice in Him. This would not be possible if the Holy Spirit were not inside of us, providing us an internal, rather than external stimulus for rejoicing. Colossians 1:24 says for us to rejoice in the midst of sufferings. We cannot rejoice in the midst of sufferings based on the Old Testament understanding of rejoicing. We have to adopt the New Testament definition, which provides us with the internal reason rather than the external reason. Our internal reason is our salvation, our hope through Christ, and the power of the Spirit at work within us. So here is the amazing thing which Paul learned as the result of this truth: “I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things through Christ Who empowers me. (Phil. 4:12-13).” The joy of the Lord is my strength. The fruit of the Spirit, which His presence within accomplishes is JOY (Galatians 5:22).
The final setting for rejoicing of the Old Testament is victory in battle over enemies. We know that our Lord is mighty to save. We know that He triumphed over death and the grave at the cross. We know that the enemy has been defeated and will eventually be forever cast down. Our victory in Christ is settled. In the knowledge of this and in the conviction given by the Spirit, let us rejoice. We were told in the Old Testament to rejoice in the Lord always, and now we are given a means to rejoice in the Lord always…His name is Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

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