I’m so excited to start a new Christmas series on joy. The New Testament begins with the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” The New Testament ends in Revelation with the angels and heavenly host rejoicing around the throne singing a new song and saying, “Worthy is the Lamb.” The one word that should characterized the Christian life is “joy.” Joy should be the testimony of every Christian and church. The Gospel is not bad news; it is Good News! Joy to the world the Lord has come!
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” We need strength every day, but during the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, we need extra strength. As we look at this chapter, we’ll see that strength comes from:
Joy in the Word of God
In verse 1 we read that “all the people gathered as one man.” Church attendance is not optional for the Christian who wants to be filled with joy. We will never agree on everything, but we have to put aside our differences and preferences. One thing we should all be able to agree on in the church is the Bible. Unity is required for revival. Ezra read from the Bible from “morning until midday” (v. 3). At Liberty we want people to know God. You cannot know God apart from His word. You have to get in the book and the book has to get in you! The Bible is not a book but THE book. Our lives must be built on the Word. If you need wisdom, read Proverbs. If you need to find out who Jesus is, read John. If your marriage is in trouble, read Ephesians 5. If your marriage is dull and boring, read Song of Solomon. Liberty is without apology a Bible preaching, Bible believing church. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. When people come to Liberty they are going to hear the Word! If you will read the Bible, it will bring joy.
Joy in the Worship of God
There is a connection between the Word of God and the worship of God. Verse 6 says, “…all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Our worship should be biblical and heavenly. We should give God what He likes. The Bible teaches praise and worship. Praise involves others. Psalm 34:3 says, “Let us exalt His name together.” Their worship was verbal and visible. They said, “Amen!” It means, “So be it Lord.” They also lifted up their hands. It may not be the way you have always worshiped, but it is biblical. Don’t ever look down your nose at someone who expresses themselves this way. It is biblical, sacred, and expressive. Worship means “worth-ship.” He is worthy. What is Jesus worth to you?
Joy in the Will of God
There is joy in hearing the Word, participating in worship, and doing the will of God. James says be doers of the word and not hearers only (Ja. 1:22). In verse 9 we read that the people wept. When you read the Bible or hear it preached, it reveals our guilt. It brings tears of conviction. That is the Holy Spirit. God will turn your tears of repentance into tears of rejoicing (v. 10-12)! Stop holding on to grief and hurt. Some people hold on to everything people have ever said or done to them. Let it go and do something for somebody else! Take some food to someone who does not have any, visit the nursing home or shut-ins, build a platform/wheelchair ramp for someone who needs it, join the Life Team, serve at a Christmas Eve service, etc. They found joy in doing the will of God when they understood what they were supposed to be doing! What is the will of God for your life? What is your next step?