[When I greet the people as we begin our assembly, explain I want them to participate in the opening of the evening's lesson. Tell them that as I begin our lesson later, I will walk among them asking those who raise their hands to explain their understanding of the difference between the concepts of pleasure and joy.]

[When I begin my lesson, leave the pulpit area and walk the aisles for a few minutes asking those who raise their hands to share their understanding of the difference between joy and pleasure. After listening to several who raise their hands share their thoughts, return to the pulpit area.]

In one way, we commonly think there is little difference between joy and pleasure because we commonly conclude that the "end result" of both is happiness. If we conclude that personal happiness is the objective of both pleasure and joy, our concept of and desire for happiness easily can control us. If that happens, pleasure commonly rules our lives.

  1. Lets begin with a brief summary of last Sunday evening's study.
    1. Last Sunday evening we discussed the truth that our focus determines what we see.
      1. I illustrated that fact by having you look at the picture that contained both an "obvious view" and a "hidden view".
      2. I focused you on each view.
    2. We examined the "focus" problems in the churches of Galatia.
      1. I called attention to Paul's concern for those Christians in Galatians 5.
      2. Paul said that Christ gives us freedom when we become Christians.
      3. The immediate question every Christian faces is this: "how will I use my new freedom?"
      4. Each Christian must understand three things.
        1. One: the strong desires of my physical existence and the influence of God's Spirit in my life are at war with each other.
        2. Two: If I allow my strong physical desires to determine how I live my life, I will justify the works of the flesh, and Paul listed several.
        3. Three: If I allow God's Spirit to determine how I live my life, I will produce the fruit of the Spirit, and Paul states how that fruit reveals itself in my life.

  2. One way the fruit of the Spirit reveals itself in my life is in joy.
    1. However, if I do not clearly understand the nature of joy, I may live for a counterfeit and call it joy.
      1. Is the focus of joy physical happiness?
      2. Is the foundation of joy physical well being?
      3. Is the expression of joy euphoric feelings?
      4. Can joy exist in my life only if things are going like I want them to go in my physical existence?
      5. If the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit exists, how will I recognize it?
    2. Again, my focus as a Christian is extremely important.
      1. When it comes to having joy, my expectations determine my focus.
      2. If joy from God's Spirit is present, what do I expect?
      3. How will I know if joy is there or not?
      4. Is it purely a matter of physically feelings? Is it just my emotional response?

  3. Let me challenge you to think and increase understanding.
    1. First, there can be no question from a biblical perspective that people who were converted to Jesus Christ experienced that joy.
      1. Read Acts 2:43-47 and the joy of these first converts is obvious.
      2. Later, when God's Spirit sent the evangelist Philip to the city of Samaria to tell people about Jesus Christ, Act 8:8 makes this statement:
        So there was much rejoicing in that city.
      3. After Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch of Pisidia, converted people, and experienced dangerous, difficult conditions, Acts 13:52 makes this statement:
        And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
      4. Paul wrote letters to Christians that commonly contained some very difficult, hard, sacrificial teachings, but he often encouraged those same Christians to know and experience joy.
        1. Consider as an example Romans 15:13.
          Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
          1. Paul gave some truly difficult teachings in Romans.
          2. But the Christians in Rome could accept those teachings and still experience joy.
        2. Paul's desire for Christians to experience joy was often a part of his letters to Christians.
          1. Often he had some difficult things to teach those Christians.
          2. But Christians could accept those difficult things and still have joy.
    2. Think a minute.
      1. What did being a Christian cost Peter?
        1. It cost him a lot of struggle and physical difficulty, and likely his life.
        2. Did he have the joy the fruit of the Spirit produces? Yes.
      2. What did being a Christian cost Stephen?
        1. It cost him his life (Acts 7:59,60).
        2. Did he have the joy the fruit of the Spirit produces? Yes.
      3. What did being a Christian cost Paul?
        1. It cost Paul struggles and difficulty we cannot even comprehend--read 2 Corinthians 11:24-33.
        2. Did he have the joy the fruit of the Spirit produces? Yes, and he often declared he had that joy.
    3. How can that be? How can people who belong to Jesus Christ endure such struggle and still experience joy?
      1. We will not understand unless we distinguish between our concept of pleasure and the New Testament concept of joy.
      2. Our concept of pleasure is based on physical feelings that we like.
        1. The result is indulging our physical desires.
        2. Pleasure's voice commonly says, "But it feels so good!"
        3. That means the physical sensation is delightful.
      3. The New Testament concept of joy is based on purpose in existence.
        1. Christians are not slaves to physical sensations and responses.
        2. They live for something more important than having pleasurable physical sensations.
        3. Existence is not about the slavery of physical indulgence.
        4. They understand life does not end at death.
        5. Joy is based on a sense of fulfillment and purpose that pleasure cannot understand.
      4. By way of contrast, if pleasure "is the ultimate" why is it that the more people improve their physical life styles and acquire the means for pleasure, the more their boredom and depression increase?
        1. Why is it that their children are often disgusted with existence?
        2. Why is addiction a common experience in seeking pleasure?

  4. Focus on one example. Listen to Hebrews 12:1-3.
    Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
    1. An enormous number of godly people who lived by faith challenge us by their examples.
      1. They urge us to get rid of those attachments in our lives that discourage us from following God and developing faith in Him.
      2. They urge us not to get our lives tangled up in the evils that lead us away from God.
      3. They urge us to look at life as though it were a long distance race.
        1. Run life's race with endurance.
        2. Keep your eyes, your focus, set on the finish line.
    2. As you look at the finish line, never take your eyes off of our great encourager, Jesus Christ.
      1. He showed us how to dedicate our entire existence to faith.
      2. He showed us how a person who matures in godliness lives by faith.
      3. He showed us how to live by faith in God in spite of incredible opposition.
        1. He endured death by crucifixion.
        2. He was not destroyed by the shame and humiliation of crucifixion nor by being rejected by his own people.
      4. How did he do it? He knew the joy that was set before him.
        1. He knew the joy of living with God.
        2. He knew the joy of accomplishing God's purposes.
      5. Because he knew the joy, he ignored the hostility he experienced.
      6. If we know the joy, we will ignore the hostility of physical existence.

It is in the joy that you will find the strength and endurance of service. It is in the joy that you will find the praise of worshipping God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 9 December 2001

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