Commentary on "The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy"
Day 6: Thursday, January 14, 2010
While joy comes from obedience to God’s will, the lesson states, the immediate consequences can be very painful, as the history of believers will attest. We are reminded again that joy is based on things outside of us, what Jesus has done and has promised, no matter what we are experiencing.
In the Teacher’s Comments, an Application question asks how Philippians 4:4 can command us to rejoice if joy is understood as emotionally based. It would seem that emotions cannot be commanded. The question is for the class to answer.
The command from Philippians 4 is critical for a joy that lasts. We can never fully understand joy as the fruit of the Spirit until we actually have the Spirit indwelling us and producing that joy. To make this more difficult, we cannot command the Spirit; He comes when He wishes, like the wind (John 3:7,8). Those who believe are those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13. We do not choose either of our births, God does. If that seems like a paradox, it is.
Likewise, we are commanded to have joy, even though its Source is beyond our control. We are commanded to have faith in Jesus, and this is also a gift of the Spirit (Eph. 2:8). We are commanded to love the Lord within our hearts, but before He places love in us, we cannot love. We have to face the fact that every step of salvation that is required by God is impossible for us to produce by acts of will. Paul asks rhetorically, “What do you have that you did not receive?” I Corinthians 4:7 Of course, we can give ourselves nothing. How then can God command things from us that we cannot produce by choice?
We are asked to do the impossible, but nothing is impossible with God (Mt. 19:26). And this brings us to the question this lesson asks; how can we obey a command to feel something when we cannot command our own feelings? As we learned in John 15, the Spirit gives life, while the flesh is useless. Our self-reliant choices and feelings are useless without the power of God. When we’re alive in Christ, we are new creatures with new abilities and new desires. The spiritually dead cannot love, believe in, or joy in Christ. Those things are gifts of the Spirit, who raises us with Christ.
Now if the Spirit who raised Him from the dead dwells in you, you have the spirit of adoption as sons, which will make you yell out, as my son does after the lights go out, Daaaaaddddddyyyy!!!! We can do that too, day or night, with passionate feeling to our eternal Father. He gives us the ability to feel as He commands. Oh, it feels good to belong and to be alive!
Christian, if your worship has been joyless and passionless, go to the Father and ask for what you need. If you don’t feel that childlike joy is dignified or holy, then repent of your Stoic coldness and surrender it to Him. We are not given a spirit of Stoicism that condemns us for seeking good things and enjoying our new life in Christ. Ask Jesus to give you the trust and the tender, vulnerable feelings that a little child of the kingdom must have.
If you fight depression, as many Christians have, cling to His promises and His word. Every follower of Jesus will have dark times, and some of the best-known believers have battled profound depression. My own mother was one of those who battled, and she found great comfort in this:
GO TO DAY 7
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