January 26, 2014: With Active Christianity Comes Joy!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us to be active, loving, faith-filled believers who stand up for You every chance we get. Teach us to follow Your example and spend the time, energy and patience necessary to be “fishers of men.” And while doing all that, show us the wondrous truth of what such giving love really means and the inner fulfillment that it brings. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ULTIMATE FISHER OF MEN!

Matthew 4: 12-23

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

America is the couch potato capital of the world! Next Sunday afternoon and evening that fact will become obvious with the Super Bowl. Let’s face it during these cold winter nights being a couch potato is the only sport most of us practice with any regularity. We watch movies, cooking shows, and see exotic, warm, locales on our TV’s, wish we were there and wolf down Fritos, Ben and Jerry’s, and maybe a piece of fruit on rare occasions! Kids sit for hours in front of the computer or play with their phones, doing the same thing. Most of us are tired after hectic schedules and “vegging” comes easy. It’s a passive way to live in fantasy land, to live vicariously through others.

Such cocooning is not new. Other generations did it, too when they sat late into the night before the fire to keep warm dreaming both big and little dreams. Like us, they got antsy for Spring. During these hard winter nights sometimes you wonder: “Have I done anything truly meaningful with my life? Yes, I’m raising the kids. I’m earning money. I’m studying hard in school. My hockey team just won a game.” But, somehow, during the cold, hard, introspection of winter that doesn’t seem enough. So, we veg-out and passively fall asleep to the emptiness of TV land.

My point is: inactivity in life breeds malaise, unhappiness, discontent, and an emptiness within. Whereas activity breeds a renewed self-worth, confidence, and brings a great deal of joy. Let’s put it bluntly: When you reach life’s end, do you want to look back on “might-have-beens” and “maybe’s” or do you desire a sense of real fulfillment over a life well-lived? Enough said. Let’s focus on our text which conveys this truth:

WITH ACTIVE CHRISTIANITY COMES JOY!

I

The inner joy of our faith comes by using it! For example, you’ll never experience the joy of fellowship if you never attend church and hang out with believers. Likewise, you cannot experience the joy of the Holy Spirit or His power unless you partake of His Sacraments and immerse yourself in His Words of guidance. And how can you reap joyous blessings unless you sow love and mercy which are their seeds? God didn’t lie when He said: “You reap what you sow.” Active believers are joyful. Inactive believers are basically joy-less. That’s a fact.

Our text recounts Christ beginning His ministry and calling Peter, Andrew, James and John to discipleship. It’s the famous: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” text. With that discipleship came both activity and its subsequent fruit: joy. It was true for them and it’s true for you and me. Sharing God’s love is always joyful! Why? Because it changes people’s hearts and lives for the better. We see all this being prophesied in Isaiah 9, quoted in our text: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as a people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.”

That’s pretty graphic. If a bad harvest means you’ll starve, you’re joyful when it’s a good one. If you’ve just risked your life in battle to destroy a deadly enemy, sitting down afterwards and taking plunder from them is a relief. Midian was a deadly enemy of God’s OT people. They killed Israelites whenever possible. Defeating them meant life. More joy. A yoke was a very heavy wooden harness meant to subdue oxen and make them work. God has removed that yoke, the burden of sin and the guilt it causes, from you and me. More joy! He did it by sending Jesus to bear “our griefs and carry our sorrows” all the way to the cross. The bar of Satan’s slavery over us is now removed by Christ’s victory for us. The rod of death which that oppressor employed is gone, vanquished by Jesus’ resurrection from our very graves!

Somewhere in your past, someone spent a lot of time and energy upon you—giving you these blessings and making you aware of them. Through such “fishing” the Spirit then hooked your heart upon God’s love and brought you safely into the net of Godly protection and thus, you were given joy! Do you think that special someone from your past was gratified and joyful over seeing you flourish under God’s grace? Of course! Thus, being an active “fisher of men” will also bring such fulfilling joy to you when you embark and employ an active Christianity. You reap what you sow.

II

Inner joy comes through usage which then leads to: The more the merrier! “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Christ called those disciples to follow Him. They left their nets behind and did so. Then He took them the places Matthew just described and showed them exactly how to spread and share their inner joy. As a result, the Church grew. People’s empty lives started to have meaning.—When you touch another’s soul and humanly speaking make an eternal difference in their lives, it’s hard to sit back and be depressed, isn’t it? Joy gives birth to more joy. Yes, the more the merrier!

To be sure, Christians are not always “Little Merry Sunshines.” We have bad days, bad weeks, and sometimes bad years. Life is full of disappoints. When people let God down it especially hurts because we know their eternal future is going up in smoke. At times, that reality causes us to shrink back and be passive with others. But, God is never passive. He’s always active. He constantly is working at pulling us out of the cold darkness of this world into His light. For when light arrives, joy burns brightly! Again, two promises of God that I especially like come to mind: “God will never test us beyond what we can bear” and “I will never leave nor forsake you.” Doesn’t just hearing those truths uplift your spirits?

Yes, the more the merrier! The more we mentor others in need, the more we teach people and share a forgiving heart, the more chances the Holy Spirit has to work on them. And since His work will always pay dividends (My Word will not return to me empty), more good things will occur. Christian friends are the best there are. Why? Because they share the same values, the same morals, the same outlook on life that you do. You have a closeness forged here in time that will last forever. Yes, joy isn’t a fruit of the Spirit by default, it is one of His chief works!

When the disciples were old men, do you think any of them resented their discipleship or said with a certain bitterness: “I’m bored. I’ve wasted my life.” NO! Jesus made their joy complete. Their lives changed the world for the better because Christ changed their lives for the better. By His grace that cycle of joy still lives on in each of you, today! Yes, with Active Christianity comes joy! So now go and take on the day—joyfully! Amen