Sermon for Great Lakes Presbytery Camp, Friday Evening, July 8, 2022
and modified for Sunday, July 17, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament Reading:
[Psa 16:5-11 ESV] 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
New Testament Reading:
[Phl 4:4-7 ESV] 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious 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.
[Luk 2:8-14 ESV] 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
At our Presbytery summer camp sermons were given on the subjects of Enjoying God Forever, Enjoying God in Creation, Enjoying God in Our Relationship with Him, and Enjoying God in Work.
In short, the other pastors encouraged the campers to be able to say, “I have Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in my heart.”
I was to give the final message on Enjoying God in Your Life Ahead. And so I preached this message – which I’ve modified for today — on having joy down in your heart, TO STAY.
Mr. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy had first come to mind, but it isn’t very Christian. The song “I’ve got the Joy Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart” is much better for our purpose. We’ll get to more of that song later, looking at the other verses of it.
As for joy, we know that we ARE TO enjoy God, but HOW do we do that? How do we enjoy God?
There are many distractions!
And chasing these various distractions are all the fools of the world.
The fool, biblically, is the atheist, the unbeliever. They are fools because they suppress what is known to them of God.
They don’t enjoy God, but seek their enjoyment somewhere else, which is bound to fail.
And the more respected of them—if they indeed are respected— are called philosophers. And these philosophers have struggled for many centuries to answer the simplest of questions, the question the Catechism BEGINS with— WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts out asking:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
That is why we exist, to glorify God and to enjoy God.
The meaning of life, that great question of the philosophers, is the first questioned answered in our catechism.
That is the what the Shorter Catechism says: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
And then there is the LAAAAARGER Catechism. But, t doesn’t add that much length on this question and answer:
Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
It is not “sometimes” but “always” – fully to enjoy him.
The Scripture proofs cited include a number of passages from Luke, Revelation, Philippians, and especially the Psalms.
Philippians has that great saying:
[Phl 4:4 ESV] 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
But I’ll be preaching today on another of the cited Scripture proofs, Psalm 16:5-11 which concludes: 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (TO STAY.)
The Psalmist, David, not only tells us TO rejoice, he tells us why we should rejoice.
He is glad, he has joy, down in his heart. Even more, in his whole being.
This Psalm has a great “therefore” in verse 9. And they said, whenever you see a “therefore” you must ask, “What is the therefore there for?”
Verse 9 says “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also dwells secure.”
It is indeed great to be glad, to rejoice, to rest secure. But why are these things so? What does the “therefore” tell us? It goes back to the previous verses which tell us about the Lord in whom we have joy.
Three Ways We Enjoy God [REPEAT] – For Who He Is, What He Gives, and What He has Done.
I. Enjoying God for Who He Is
Verse 5 through 8:
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
The joy the Psalmist has is IN THE LORD, FOR WHO HE IS.
David, in a sense, HAS the Lord. The Lord is “his chosen portion,” “his inheritance,” whom, he says “is always before me.”
He HAS the Lord. He knows the Lord, and has the word of the Lord, His counsel, his instruction.
“Knowing the Lord” is the reason behind the “therefore.”
Because David knows the Lord, therefore he is joyful, he is glad. He has the comfort of God’s presence and protection.
The greatest joy is in knowing the Lord. In your presence there is fullness of joy.
You perhaps have joy in thinking of some persons. There are likely some people who the very thought of makes you happy. Grandma, grandpa maybe. A gentle kind person you know or once knew. Your pastor? There is some good quality about theses persons that makes you smile. Now the Lord has only good qualities, His very essence is good, or we can say “goodness is grounded in Him.” He defines what is good. So if we have some joy in a “good” person, how much more joy do we have in thinking of the perfect Lord?
You know who really found joy in the Lord? Stephen Charnock who wrote The Existence and Attributes of God.
II. Enjoying God for What He Gives
We may (and should) also enjoy God for what he gives.
This can be a bit dangerous. We don’t want to fall into happiness in merely the object itself. But God has given us much to enjoy on the Earth, and we can and should enjoy those things, knowing that they are gifts from God.
We indeed are to take joy in God’s gifts of general providence – food, family, and football (just not on Sundays because that the Sabbath and the NFL is terrible).
On the subject of food, incidentally that I’ve created a new argument for the existence of God. You might have heard of the cosmological, teleological, or ontological arguments for the existence of God.
My new one I call the Baconological Argument for the Existence of God. It goes like this: Bacon, therefore God.
In God’s general providence he gives us Bacon. We are clearly loved. He must exist.
Well, that’s mostly in jest as I think such arguments relatively useless. In the Bible, God is always assumed, not proven.
We know that all men clearly perceive God’s power and divine nature, as Paul says. God has made himself known to us, giving us knowledge of him in our conscience, written down in our hearts.
And since He is powerful, we know that from Him comes all things.
Bacon, yes. Family too. And great games like chess.
And if the joys of chess are mathematically in exhaustible, how much more are the joys of knowing the Lord.
We’ll never cease to learn OF Him. Joy in Him never grows old.
So we indeed have joy in what God gives, and who He is. And then we have joy for what he HAS Done.
III. Enjoying God for What He Has Done
And especially in mind here is the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.
This is “Joy in Jesus” to use an alliterative phrase.
There are more verses to that song. And these verses emphasize what God has done.
Love of Jesus, Love of Jesus
The Peace that Passeth Understanding
There is now no condemnation down in my heart. (from Romans 8:1)
Right from the beginning in the gospels we hear this:
[Luk 2:10 ESV] 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Great joy, because you who are dead in your trespasses are forgiven in Jesus Christ; all who believe.
There is the greatest joy in knowing that the Lord God loves us and sent His only Son to die for us.
The substitutionary atonement. He gets the punishment we deserve. We get credited to us His righteousness. And knowing that we are made right with the Lord both now and forever should bring great joy.
So we have joy in Who He Is, in What He Gives, and in What He Has Done.
But I want to look at some applications, especially addressing those questions “What am I to do?” “How am I to enjoy God”
IV. Enjoying God in Your Life Ahead
Let’s look then at “Enjoying God in Your Life Ahead.”
Yes, certainly this could be referring to Life in Heaven as it does in the book of Revelation.
[Rev 21:3-4 ESV] 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But it seems to me that in heaven we won’t be asking how to enjoy God, we just will enjoy god.
So the question is really one for earth, here are now. How do we enjoy God now?
A. Knowing God
First, we must know God.
As with David, we are to have joy in who the Lord is.
We enjoy a person when we enjoy their good qualities.
And God is all and only good qualities.
The perfect friend
The perfect love
The perfect truth
So we are to:
Enjoy the love of God
Enjoy the patience of God
Enjoy the forgiveness of God
Enjoy the mercy and grace of God
Enjoying his presence
Enjoying our rest in Him
Enjoy the greatness of God
To enjoy God we must know him. We must study His word. Get enthralled by it.
We must have great joy, down in our hearts.
Now, I’ve got a friend who watches international soccer. And I like to tease him about how boring it is. I ask, was that game Zero to Zero or Null to Null? Or maybe, wait for it, ONE! to zero! But, you see, its boring to me because I don’t watch it. He does. He knows the players, their histories, the teams, their histories, who’s having a good season. All the details. So it is much more enjoyable to him.
Now, we in the Christian faith, the more we know about God, the more we read His word, the more connections we see, the more excited we get. The more Joy we have in the Lord. We see his awesome ways, the wonder of his word.
A great joy then in the Lord is that intellectual apprehension or understanding. One of the greatest things we can do to have joy in the Lord is to meditate on the Word of God. Now Christian meditation is not emptying your mind like the Buddhists, it is filling your mind. Even better is the word contemplation. A great Christian task, full of joy, is contemplating God.
We must know Him.
B. Having Purpose
Then, we must find our purpose in God. Our chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him, forever.
This is the “therefore.” We have purpose.
I was in Europe some years ago. Actually Northern Ireland, and they were pleasantly surprised that I considered it to be Europe, and not some poor island on its own. But I noticed the young people had little direction. No purpose, few jobs or hopes. And Greece, let me tell, Greece is all graffiti and high unemployment. Christ is largely not known. But in America more than most countries, there remains an optimism resulting from purpose because Christ is known.
These are basically the philosophical alternatives: Christ or Nihilism. Meaningfulness or meaninglessness.
The choice is pretty clear, isn’t it?
Nihilists like to tell you there is no purpose in life. And it is THEIR PURPOSE to convince you of that! Odd isn’t it.
We must do everything with Christ in mind, having the purpose of glorifying him and enjoying him forever.
Now, High Schoolers—as I spoke to at camp— are expected to find a path in life, a college, a career. But more important is one’s relationship with the Lord. Have that, and any job will suffice. Your meaning, your purpose is found in him, not in your work. People these days are unhappy with work. They always have been, ever since the fall.
So it is important to have a greater joy. Not joy or purpose primarily in work, but in God.
Your college may train you for a job, but if you study some subject (say Biology, or Engineering as I did) and do not learn more broadly, you will only be trained for work, not for life.
So I ask, “What will you do when you’re not working?” What will you do when you’re all done? What will you retire to? All the training in some subject in college will teach you nothing about how to live, and how to have joy.
Technical training, vocational schools, tend towards turning us into machines to be used in industry. But Scripturally instead of turning a man into a machine, we ought to aim at preventing him from becoming one. We ought to develop the mind, and do it towards Christ. In his mold, renewing our minds. Ephesians 4:23 – be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
This is not to discourage anyone from studying at a vocational school. I would love to do a woodworking apprenticeship for example. But if you are going to study one subject and work in that field, my encouragement is that you need also to study more broadly, especially to study the word of God and find enjoyment in him, so that you’re not another zombie walking through this world, dragging yourself to work and only playing video games in your spare time with an inadequate purpose.
Aside from work, you are going to find yourself in all sorts of situations in life. If you have the enjoyment of Christ, you’ll get through. No matter how unhappy a situation is, you can be happy all the while, and so be a great witness of the Lord and a witness to others, bringing them joy despite the conditions.
This sermon is geared towards high schoolers, but there is “life ahead” even for old folks like me. There is eternal life in Jesus Christ. An eternity to enjoy. This is because there is joy down in our hearts TO STAY.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
This is not a temporary joy, but is for your whole life ahead on earth and in heaven.
It is a joy that Stays.
So I pray that in Christ you enjoy your life now and for all time, with joy down in your heart to stay.
Let us pray.