These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 17, 2017. The discussion was based upon a reading from Psalm 113.
I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here.
What is joy? What does it mean to be joy-full?
Is it easy to tell if someone is joyful?
How does a joyful person act? Do they have energy? Are they easy to keep quiet? Are they standoffish?
Is your faith joy-full?
What areas of your faith are full of joy? What areas of your faith are less joyful?
The thing that separates what you have to do from what you love to do is joy. Do you pray, worship, give, serve, and share your faith because you think you should or because you love to? Do you practice your faith out of a since of obligation or love?
On July 25, 1741, John Wesley preached to the University of Oxford at St. Mary’s. As he stood before them he challenged them to consider what it means to be an almost and altogether Christian.
The person who is honest, does nothing which the gospel forbids, does good, abstains from evil, is committed to praying with others and is genuinely sincere in their faith is merely not entirely, but instead an almost Christian. Many of us only go this far. Wesley admits:
I did go thus far for many years, as many of this place can testify; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavouring after a steady seriousness of behaviour, at all times, and in all places; and, God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do his will in all things; to please him who had called me to “fight the good fight,” and to “lay hold of eternal life.” Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian.
So what does it mean to be an altogether Christian? What is lacking in the almost Christian? What is it that makes an altogether Christian? Joy-full love. Wesley continues:
Such a love is this, as engrosses the whole heart, as rakes up all the affections, as fills the entire capacity of the soul and employs the utmost extent of all its faculties. He that thus loves the Lord his God, his spirit continually “rejoiceth in God his Saviour.” His delight is in the Lord, his Lord and his All, to whom “in everything he giveth thanks. All his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name.”
The altogether Christian finds joy in God.
The altogether Christian also joyfully loves neighbor: “every [person] in the world; every child of his who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Nor may we in any wise except our enemies or the enemies of God and their own souls. But every Christian loveth these also as himself, yea, ‘as Christ loved us.”
The altogether Christian has a faith that joyfully repents, joyfully loves and obeys the commands of God.
whosoever has this faith, which “purifies the heart” (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from “pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness” from “all filthiness of flesh and spirit;” which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doeth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict, –whosoever has this faith thus working by love is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian.
Altogether Christians are joy-full for they are wholly “convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not power or height or depth, or any other thing that is created” (Romans 8:38-39, Common English Bible). This joy permeates their life, the way they walk with God and with their neighbor.
Siblings in Christ, let us be joy-full, altogether Christians. Let us
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7, New Revised Standard Version)
Other thoughts and questions:
- Faith brings about a joy and peace that so often defies understanding. Through faith we are given a joy that no one except ourselves can take away.
- God loves a joy-full, “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
 John Wesley, “Almost Christian,” http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-2-The-Almost-Christian, accessed December 16, 2017.