*We close out the Pastors Conference today, Wednesday, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This conference has proven to be a valuable platform for us to gather and talk about what it means to live and to minister in a post-Christian culture that seems to grow more and more openly hostile to the gospel and intolerant of Christian views. On this final day, we hear from missionary Tim Keesee. I am grateful for his Dispatches from the Front DVDs and cannot wait for his message. And then the conference ends with a speaker panel with John Piper, Jason Meyer, Léonce Crump, and Keesee.
Today on the podcast we look at a dynamic of sin that is important. Sin is kinetic, it is motional, it moves and changes us in fundamental ways, as we will see. But more importantly we must understand joy — glorified joy that is unspeakably great; it fails to be contained in words. Where do we get such a joy? And how is that joy contrasted with the sorrow of this world? Here’s a clip from a recent John Piper sermon to explain.
The question is, simply: So, how does that connect to glory? Because you are saying there is a connection between joy that is glory-fed and sorrow or grief that is gloom-fed.
This comes in 1 Peter 1:8. “Though you have not seen him” — Jesus. Isn’t it interesting? This is written in the first century to people in Asia, Cappadocia, Bithynia, who have never ever seen Jesus, just like you. So it was already in the first century he has gone back to heaven and now the challenge is faced. People are getting converted to a person they cannot see. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice [here it comes] with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
What does that mean? The literal translation would be: You rejoice in him with inexpressible joy — you can’t put it into words, right? We feel that so often with genuine, authentic, deep emotions. Emotion and language are not of the same thing. Right? So to translate one to the other, stuff gets lost, right? You feel profound love for somebody and you try to say it and you think, “That is totally inadequate what I just said.” Or you feel a grief and somebody says, “What is wrong?” And you can’t respond — there are no words. Words won’t work. That is what it means when it says “inexpressible.” This is a joy that is inexpressible, and then comes the key phrase, literally: glorified. So what does it mean to call Christian joy in Jesus “glorified”? Glorified joy now.
Maybe you have heard other portions of the New Testament that say, “Provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17). So someday Christ is coming back, and we are going to be so caught up into his glorious person that we get changed. All of our sins go away. We get a new body. We are going to shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. I get that. I get glorified that way.
But what is this? This is like right now. In a not-yet-saved world. While I am being grieved by various trials (see 1:6), I rejoice in him with glorified, inexpressible joy. What is that? And I think you know what that is by analogy. When you are thrilled with something or someone, that thing shapes the joy, shapes the person having the joy — which is why having joy in sin is so awful, because it makes you like it. It makes you like it. So if you are totally given over to raunchy pornography, you will become a raunchy person. And your joy will be so defiled and so contaminated you can hardly look on anything beautiful anymore and feel a pure joy, a glorified joy.
But if you are taken up with beautiful things — this is just analogy. Just pick what makes you happy in this world right now for the analogy. The most beautiful thing you can think of. The most righteous and good and holy thing that makes you happy. If you dwell on that and you linger on that and you rejoice in it, you will become like that. You do. You become a sweeter, kinder, more holy, more beautiful, more wonderful person because all of your heart is going into that beautiful thing and it is coming into you and it is shaping your joy.
So my understanding of what that means when it says glorified joy now is that, as you focus on the glory of Christ, the beauty of Christ, the wonder of Christ, and all that he has done in the gospel, your joy becomes like that. It is a glorified joy. It participates in that. It gets shaped by that. And one of the reasons I feel confirmed in that understanding is because of what Jesus said about his own joy. This is John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy [this is Jesus talking] may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Now is that a different joy that 1 Peter 1:8? I doubt it. In 1 Peter 1:8 it is called a glorified joy and Jesus says: I am going to give you my joy. And Jesus’s joy is primarily in the Father and in the glory of the Father. His bread is to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). And, therefore, as we rejoice in Jesus, Jesus’s joy becomes our joy. His joy shapes our joy.
You may be sitting there right now feeling like, “This emotional talk about joy is just so far different from anything I have experienced. I doubt that I will ever be able to get in there.” Don’t believe that. That is not God talking in your head. That is Satan talking. “You can’t have that. And you have been too low, too dirty. My joys are just grungy joys, and so I won’t ever be able to go there where he is talking about.” That is not true. And the reason it is not true is because Jesus does the miracle. When you start focusing on Jesus and the gospel, something happens in here. You don’t have any control over it. You don’t. He is taking over. He is going to make you able to be happy in things a year ago you never thought you could ever be happy with. Yes, he will.
So my first answer to the question, “How in the world can sorrowful yet always rejoicing be? How can this joy be so durable that it survives all the sorrow?” is that it is a joy that is in the glory of Christ or the glory of God, and it is being shaped by that glory, made by that glory, and participating in that glory. Therefore, it is unshakable, because the glory of God is the most glorious, powerful, durable, beautiful, lasting reality in the universe.