Craig Smith - Getting From Good News To Great Joy
Well, hey, as you’ve heard, the traditional theme of the third weekend of Advent is joy, which is not a big surprise. I mean, joy is obviously a big part of Christmas. We sing “Joy to the World.” We sing “A Weary World Rejoices,” but why is that? Why is joy such a big part of Christmas time? Well, it actually goes all the way back to something that happened while Jesus was being laid in the manger while Mary and Joseph were looking over him. Luke tells us this. He says this happened. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night and an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shown around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.” And that’s the reason that joy has always been a central part of Christmas because the angel said, “I’ve got good news that’ll being great joy.” And if you think about it, the good news of Christmas should be the cause of a lot of joy, right? Because I mean, think about what it means. I mean, the birth of Jesus means, first off, it means that God’s paying attention. God’s paying attention to us, right? I mean, I know a lot of people who don’t necessarily struggle to believe that God exists but they struggle with the idea that God is paying attention to us. They think, “Well, I mean, right? I mean, what are we? We’re a bunch of people wandering around on this ball of rock. It’s the third ball of rock from a medium-size star.”
There’s 100 billion other stars in our galaxy and there’s like 100 other billion galaxies with their own 100 billion stars. The idea that the God who created all of that would be paying attention to us, people struggle with, but the birth of Jesus basically means that God is paying attention. And that’s really good news. It’s good news that should cause great joy. I mean, Jesus would later go on to say that he’s even counted with the hairs on our head, which is easier for some people than for others, right? But he’s paying attention to that extent. He’s paying attention, not even just to humanity, but he’s paying attention to you, and that’s the good news of Christmas that should cause great joy. God is paying attention. It’s also good news because it means that God’s for us. He’s not just watching us from afar going, “Hey, do your best, figure it out.” Or just constantly disappointed, constantly in judgment. It actually means that God is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring us into relationship with him. That he loves us and longs for that relationship as he intended it to be.
So it’s good news that God is for us and that should bring great joy. It’s good news that brings great joy because it means that our sin is not our sentence. You know, we’ve all sinned, and that means that we’ve walked away from God, as we say all the time here, it’s no different than if you walk away from the lights, you end up in the dark. And if you walk away from God by sin and rebellion against him, because he’s life, you end up in death. It’s just a natural consequence. But God said, “No, I’m not gonna let your sin be your sentence.” So he sent Jesus who ultimately died on the cross to pay the price of our sins so that we could have eternal life. So it’s good news, it causes great joy that our sin is not our sentence. It’s good news, it causes great joy that our pain is not permanent. That as painful as life might be, this is not what we’re destined for. We’re destined for a different kind of life where pain just becomes a very distant and constantly fading memory. And at the end of the day, the good news of Christmas causes great joy because it means that our destiny’s peace, that our destiny is meaning in significance.
You know, our whole theme throughout this whole Advent season has been the promise of peace, and that’s what Jesus is. His arrival means that we are destined for peace. And all that’s good news that should bring great joy, right? But if we’re honest with each other, sometimes it’s hard to get from the good news to the great joy, isn’t it? Sometimes there’s a gap between the good news of Christmas and our experience of great joy in everyday life, partly because everyday life can be really hard. And over the last two years, we’ve had plenty of reminders of that, right? And the reality is you know this as well as I do. And maybe you’re in a place right now where you’re especially aware of this fact, the reality is that hard times crowd out great joy, don’t they? When hard times hit, great joy just seems to vanish. It’s hard to hold onto great joy in the midst of hard times.
I’m gonna be real with you. I’m in a place right now where I feel the reality of that. My dad has been struggling with cancer for 22 years and it’s really only in the last five years that it’s become very aggressive and he’s begun to really feel the impacts of it. But in the midst of trying to get his blood levels right with some new chemotherapy and things like that, they’ve just really been struggling. They could not get his red cell count right. And we just found out last week that the reason for that is that he actually has another cancer in his bone marrow. And prognosis is not good. This is probably our last Christmas with him. And then in the midst of that, my mom and my dad, and my sister are all living in Ohio got COVID and my dad’s been hospitalized. And he’s doing okay, but man, it all comes crashing in.
And it’s interesting, I’ve had several people tell me, “Oh, it’s so sad that that would happen at Christmas time.” Isn’t that the worst time for it to happen? And my first thought was, “Well, yeah.” But then I actually started thinking about it and I realized, “No, it’s actually not.” Christmas might be the best time for it to happen because Christmas is the reminder that there is a good news that can bring great joy in spite of those hard times. So, yeah, I get it. And maybe you’re in a place like that of your own and you know the reality that hard times tend to crowd out great joy, but what we wanna ask today is can the reverse be true? Is it possible that it could go the other direction? Is it possible that great joy could crowd out hard times? That’s the question for today, can great joy crowd out hard times? Because the angel seems to suggest that it can. The angel seems to suggest to the shepherds that there is good news that will bring great joy. So how do we get to that point? How do we take hold of the good news of Christmas in a way that brings great joy even in the midst of difficult times?
I wanna take you today to a passage that I’ve been thinking a lot about this week. It’s a little bit of unusual passage in the sense that what Jesus says here might be one of the strangest things he’s ever said. And I know some people are like, “You can’t say that about Jesus. Whatever Jesus says is holy, and perfect, and true.” And that’s all fair, but sometimes it’s weird. Can we just be honest with each other? And I wanna take you today to one of the strangest things that I think Jesus ever taught. But I think what he says here, actually, if we understand it, actually can be the keys to bridging the gap between the good news of Christmas and the great joy that the angel promise. So I’d love for you to join me. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of Luke chapter 6, starting in verse 20.
This is what Jesus says. “Looking at his disciples, he said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor.'” And immediately you’re like, “Okay. That’s weird.” Right? You feel it? Like that’s a strange thing to say, “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” And it goes on, “Blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man, rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your reward in heaven.” But that’s weird, right? It’s a strange thing to say because obviously those are all hard times. Those are not good times that we sort of expect to experience great joy in.
But do you notice what he said? He said, “In these hard times…” He say, “If you’re my disciples…” And, by the way, we should talk about that for just a second. That word disciple is really, really important. “He said to his disciples,” that’s the first thing it says. If that’s a new word for you, let me define it. Disciples are people who have basically decided to get disciplined about following Jesus, that they’re making daily deliberate choices to follow Jesus. Here at Mission Hills, we define discipleship, that process as constantly taking the next step of becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. A disciple’s somebody who’s constantly going, “Hey, what’s my next step, Jesus? What’s my next step in becoming like you and what’s my next step in joining you on mission in the world?” That’s a disciple. And what Jesus says here, we need to understand. What Jesus says here is spoken to disciples. That’s really important because he’s not saying that this is always true of everybody. He’s not saying that everybody who experiences poverty is blessed. He’s not saying that everybody who mourns is blessed. He’s not saying that everybody who is persecuted is blessed. This is only true for the followers of Jesus. This is really important to understand. It’s foundational. You can’t get from the good news to the great joy unless your trust is in Jesus. You hear me? This is foundational. You cannot get from good news to great joy unless your trust is in Jesus. Now, I know that there are some people listening to this who are not followers of Jesus. You’ve never put your trust in Jesus. And you need to understand that nothing Jesus says here is gonna be possible for you until you take that all-important first step of putting your trust in Jesus.
But you can do that even today. I’ll give you a chance to do it today. But a lot of us are already followers of Jesus. We’ve put our trust in Jesus and yet this is a reality we have to deal with. We live in a world that’s constantly tempting us to transfer our trust, to stop putting our trust in Jesus and put our trust in other things. And, you know, the world’s constantly saying, “Well, if you just had a little bit of this, you’d have some joy. If you had a little bit more of this, then you could have joy.” We’re constantly being invited to transfer our trust. And even as followers of Jesus who’ve put our trust in Jesus, we have to fight to keep that trust on him. It’s principles, everybody is true for those who haven’t yet said yes to Jesus as it is for those who have, getting from good news to great joy depends on having our trust in Jesus. But what does he say about those who have their trust in him? Even though they’re in hard times, he says they’re what? What’s the word he uses? Blessed. Because even in hard times, followers of Jesus are blessed.
Now, I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word blessed. Usually, we use the word blessed to talk about good things God has done for us. And so we’ll say, you know, “Well, yeah, I’m blessed to have an incredible wife. I’m blessed to have great kids. I’m blessed with a warm house. I’m blessed with a good job. I’m blessed with a great boss.” We say, you know, “She’s blessed with athletic ability. He’s blessed with, you know, academic ability or whatever it is, you know.” And these are things that God has done for us and that is part of blessing. It is part of being blessed. But there’s another side to being blessed that we don’t pay enough attention to and it’s actually an important part of what Jesus is dealing with here. The Greek word that he is using, this wasn’t originally written in English, it was written in Greek, and the Greek word that Jesus uses here doesn’t just mean good things that God has done full for us. It also refers to how we feel because of what God has done for us. There’s an emotional side to this word. And, in fact, the word that he’s using is sometimes translated as happy or full of joy. And so you could also read this, not only as blessed are you, it’s also happy are you or full of joy are you. And, by the way, I should probably say this. Sometimes in the Christian Church, we’ve made a really sharp distinction between happiness and joy.
And so you might have heard that before and so you might be a little bothered when I go, you could translate this as happy are you or joyful because you’re like those are different concepts, right? And maybe you’ve heard that. Has anybody ever heard that, you know, happiness is, you know, pleasure because of pleasant circumstances, but joy is peace in spite of difficult circumstances? Anybody heard anything like that? Yeah. Sometimes we say happiness is an emotion, but joy is a choice. Anybody heard anything like that? Yeah. And, listen, there there’s some truth to that, but it’s also true that in the Bible, in the original language, joy and happiness are pretty close synonyms of each other. They have very similar concepts. And they are emotions, actually. They relate to how we feel. And so this word blessing, it’s not just referring to good things God has done for us. It’s actually referring to an emotional state because of what God has done for us.
If there’s a distinction to be made between happiness and joy, here’s how I would do it. I’d say this, happiness is pleasure that depends on our circumstances. Joy is pleasure that transcends our circumstances. They’re both the emotions, but happiness really depends on the circumstance. When we have great circumstances, we feel happy. Joy is a happiness or a pleasure that transcends our circumstance. Even when our circumstance are bad, we’re still capable of having this pleasurable sense. And if you go, “Well, that that doesn’t make sense.” How do you do that? Well, that’s actually what Jesus is dealing with here. He’s kind of giving us four keys to, again, to moving from the good news of what God has done to the great joy that is possible even in the midst of those hard times. And here’s what he says. He says, “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God.” Blessed are you who are poor.
And I wanna acknowledge something here. I know that many of the people listening to this message have really never experienced poverty, but some of the people listening to this message, you are experiencing it right now. You’re living with the daily struggle to get ahold of not what you want, but what you desperately need. And poverty is an everyday experience for you and you’ve experienced the devastation. Poverty is devastating. True poverty is absolutely devastating. Over the several years of… I’ve had several opportunities to see poverty firsthand. I got to go with my family and we took food and fed children living in the garbage dumps of Guatemala City. I’ve seen the devastation to that. I’ve seen in other parts of the world, just how unbelievably destructive poverty is and how hopeless it is. It’s one of the reasons that my family and our church is so committed to our partnership with Compassion International, which is ending childhood poverty in Jesus’ name because I’ve seen the devastation of it.
And many people who have never really experienced poverty can’t understand that devastation. And I’m saying all this because if you’re listening to this and you’re in poverty, I want you to hear that I’ve never been exactly where you are and I don’t completely get it, but I’ve seen enough of it to understand the pain of your circumstance. And I’m saying that because I don’t want you to think that in any way I would ever want to minimize that or trivialize it. But I need to say something that Jesus is getting at here, and that is that… What Jesus is getting at is that there’s an unexpected benefit to poverty. They’re not many, but there is an unexpected benefit to poverty and it’s this. Poverty destroys the illusion of independence. Poverty destroys the illusion of independence. See, the problem with having resources is that we come to depend on those resources and we think of those resources as ours, which means that we tend to think that we have what we need to do what needs to be done. And where we feel like, I don’t have quite enough, there’s a sense that builds in us that, “But if I work a little bit harder, I can get it myself. I can take care of myself.”
Wealth creates an illusion of dependence, but poverty destroys the illusion of independence. It destroys this idea and it actually allows people to go, “I need to look to someone else to get what I cannot get for myself.” I was in Zimbabwe several years ago and we were driving through, we were in a van and we were driving through Harare. It was during a very difficult season in Zimbabwe and some estimates put the unemployment rate at over 90%, tremendous poverty, unemployment. And we were going through a section of Harare and there was just a lot of people kind of ruling them out, unemployed people and we stopped and somebody in the crowd took a look in the van, they saw through the windows and they saw my shining white face. I stood out a little bit in Zimbabwe and he saw me and he goes, “Hey, look at those white people.” And then they mobbed at the van. And, by the way, I just need to tell you, that was probably the first time in my life that I’ve ever been a racial minority in a place and felt the discomfort that comes from that, the uncertainty, the unsettledness that comes from it.
And it really gave me a new perspective on what people who aren’t white feel like in white communities and in white churches. It’s unsettling thing. I experienced that for the first time there. It gave me a new perspective on it. But they mobbed the van. And I’ll never forget what they asked. I expected they were asking for food, they were asking for money, but what they were doing is they actually… I had all the windows going, “Do you have jobs? Can we work for you?” And I thought, “What a weird thing that is to do.” Like how do you get to that place in your life where you can walk up to a complete stranger and go, “Can I work for you?” Because I would never do that. I’m way too independent. Where I have need, my tendency is to try to hide that need, to try to deal with that need on my own to keep that need because there’s something and it feels humiliating to recognize that we have need to admit to other people that we have needs that we can’t meet in our own, right? I think a lot of us struggle with that. Poverty destroys that sense. Poverty destroys this illusion of independence and it frees people up to ask for what they cannot earn.
And here’s the great news of Christmas. The great news of Christmas is that God has already provided for us what we could not provide for ourselves. He sent his Son, Jesus to live a perfect life, to die on the cross, to pay the price of our sins. He rose from the dead three days later and he offers us forgiveness of sins. He offers us a relationship with God and he offers us eternal life simply by putting our faith in what he’s done. But how do you take hold of everything he’s done. You got to ask for it. You have to look to him and say, “Hey, I can’t earn my way there. I can’t be good enough, so I need you to do for me, but I can’t do it for myself.” And that’s impossible when we labor under the illusion of independence. And that’s what Jesus is getting at here. See, the good news of Christmas, the good news becomes great joy when we embrace our dependence on God. The good news becomes great joy when we embrace our dependence on God. But so often the resources that we’re blessed with attract our trust and they become things that they create in us this illusion that we don’t actually need God, which is what makes it impossible to bridge the gap between the good news and the great joy.
So here’s a question I want you to wrestle with. Maybe as you’re listening to this, you’re not in poverty. Maybe you are and you understand what I’m talking about, but maybe you’re not really in poverty, but there’s a place in your life where you’re lacking something. There’s a place in your life where there’s an insufficiency, where you realize that you don’t have it, whether it’s money, or intelligence, or experience, or strength, or emotional, you know, capacity or just energy, whatever it is, there’s a place in your life where there’s an insufficiency. I want you to think about that place right now and I want you to ask yourself this question, where is an insufficiency giving you an opportunity to embrace dependency? Because it’s in those places that we can set aside this illusion of independence and cry out to God who’s the only one that we can get these things from. So where in your life is an insufficiency creating an opportunity for embracing dependency?
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” And it’s important that we understand that he’s not just talking about physical hunger. And part of the reason I know that is because in a very similar sermon that he preached that was captured in the Gospel of Matthew, we have a couple of additional details that help us understand what Jesus’s talking about. Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” But Jesus isn’t just talking about physical hunger. He’s talking about higher hungers. He’s saying blessed are those who have higher hungers, not just hungers in the stomach, hungers of the heart, hungers of the mind. Ultimately, hungers of the Spirit. He’s saying, blessed are those who hunger for peace with God. Blessed are those who or for living right and being righteous. Blessed are those who hunger to experience life the way God intended it. Blessed are those who hunger for more than this world can provide. That’s what he’s saying, is blessed are those who have these higher hungers.
But the problem is we are prone to substitute satisfactions. We’re prone to substitute satisfactions. We often don’t feel the higher hungers because we satiate those higher hungers with other things that feel like maybe they’ll settle the knawing. In fact, they won’t. I mean, here’s what I mean. How many of us have a comfort food? Come on. Yeah. And what is a comfort food? Well, it’s a thing that we eat when we’re feeling sad. That’s a weird thing to do, right? Like my heart is hurting, cheesecake will help, right? That’s mine. I don’t know about yours. That’s mine. I mean, just a couple of weeks ago, the new, you know, the mask mandate from Arapahoe County came out and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s another really huge decision. We have to figure out what to do, right?” I mean, like if we say, “Yeah. We’re gonna enforce the mask mandate.” There’s a bunch of people are gonna say, “Well, I’m not gonna come to church anymore.” And if we don’t enforce it, people would go, “You’re not protecting the community. I’m not gonna go.” And, you know, it’s complicated. How do we honor, you know, our governing officials, but how do we move forward as a church and how do… Oh, what do we do? And so I was like, “What can I do? Well, I can pray. I can do that. I can definitely call the elders and get them talking about it. I can talk to my exec team. Or I can have French silk pie.”
And how often do we do that? How often do we go that route? And you understand what’s happening, is we’re kind of masking the higher hungers with lower foods, right? And that’s kind of what Jesus is getting at here when he says blessed are those who hunger. See, the great news of Christmas is that God has sent Jesus to satisfy the higher hungers, all of them. I love the way Jesus describes himself. He says this, “Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. I’m the bread of life and whoever comes to me will never go hungry. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He’s obviously not talking about actual bread. He’s talking about the fact that Jesus came to satisfy our higher hungers, those spiritual needs that we’re all built with, and that we find nothing in the world can satisfy. Jesus can satisfy them, but we’ll never take hold of them unless we allow ourselves to feel the higher hungers. And there’s lots of ways that we turn to substitute satisfactions, right? I mean, yeah, there’s food, but there’s other kinds of things, right? We binge-shop. I won’t ask anybody to hold up hands on that one. We hit up Amazon, right? We binge-watch Netflix. We turn to sex. We turn to alcohol. We turn to drugs. There’s all kinds of these things that we use as substitute satisfactions to mask these higher hungers that we feel. The good news of Christmas is we don’t need to mask those higher hungers. It’s okay to feel them because it’s in feeling them that we’ll turn to the only one who can satisfy them. And so really the good news becomes great joy when we allow ourselves to feel our higher hungers. That’s what Jesus is getting at here.
So the question I want you to wrestle with is this, what substitute satisfactions are masking my higher hungers? Maybe one of the ones we already mentioned there, but maybe there’s something else that comes to mind, you’re like, “You know, I’m using that to mask this hunger for something that’s…it’s not gonna be met by anything in this world or anything and in my relationships with other human beings.” That hunger is actually a gift.
The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, said that there’s a God-shaped hole inside every one of us and we feel it. Or we can if we’ll allow ourselves to, and it can be satisfied. That’s what Christmas means, these higher hungers can all be satisfied. But we’ll never turn to the only One who can satisfy them if we don’t feel the higher hunger. So what substitute satisfactions are you using to mask that higher hunger? Identify those and set them aside. Let yourself enter into that place where you feel it and can be fed what you actually need. He says, “Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.” And it’s important we understand that when he talks about weeping there, what he means is mourning. Jesus is talking about the act of mourning. And I say it that way because there’s a difference between just crying and crying as an act of mourning because there’s a difference between grief and mourning. And we often kind of mix them all together. We go, they’re crying, they’re grieving, they’re mourning, it’s all the same thing, right? It’s not, actually. There’s actually a very significant difference between grieving and mourning. Here’s probably the best way to understand it. Grief is the sadness we feel because we’ve lost what we’ve loved. Okay? It’s an emotion. It’s the sadness we feel. Mourning isn’t an emotion. Mourning is the process of letting go of what we cannot keep. Mourning is the process of letting go of what we’ve lost.
The Bible talks about this a lot. It’s not something in the modern world that we really have a very good sense of. We tend to think that grief and mourning, they’re kind of not the same thing. You’re just feeling sad. And the Bible goes, “No, no, no. The sadness is one thing, but the process of mourning is another thing entirely.” The Bible also calls it lamentation, by the way. There’s an entire book in the Bible that talks about how to do it well, models how to do it well. Well, why would we do it well, why do we wanna mourn well? Because mourning is the process of letting go. It’s the process of taking our hands off of the things that we can’t have anymore. Why? So that they’re open to take hold of what’s next. And listen, as a follower of Jesus, there’s always a next. God always has something next for you. And it’s always good.
But if we can’t let go of what we’ve lost, we can’t take hold of what’s next. And that’s why Jesus says, “Blessed are those who weep,” who engage in mourning and go through the process of letting go so that their hands are free to take hold of what’s next. See, the good news becomes great joy when we let go of what we cannot keep to take hold of what’s next.
And I know that there’s some people listening to this right now that need to do that. You needed to hear that today. You’re struggling with the loss of something. And I’ve certainly experienced that. It’s amazing to me how much of my life feels like a process of letting go of one thing so I can take hold of something else, and it’s always painful. I’ve always… I don’t know if I’ve told you guys this. I’ve always been a little jealous of the guys who have like Latin phrases for their motto in life.
Have you ever known anybody like that? They’re actually pretty annoying on some level. Like I had a friend, his motto in life was carpe diem, which means seize the day. And I was like, “That’s cool. I need one of those.” And it took me years to figure out what my motto in life is, but I know what it is now. You wanna hear it? Here’s my motto in life. Oh. Okay. If I could say it in Latin, it would probably be better. I don’t know. But see, so much of my life has been a process of letting go of things that I’ve loved, things that have been good, but that God was saying, “Hey, you’re gonna have to take your hands off that because I’ve got something else and you’re gonna have to let go of that if you’re gonna take hold of what’s next.”
I mean, even just in vocational ministry for me, I started in youth ministry and I loved working with students. I loved seeing God get a hold of students. I loved that. Then God called me out of that into worship ministry and I became a worship pastor and I had to let go of being a student ministries pastor so that I could be a worship pastor. And I love worship ministry. I love worshiping God. And I love helping people to see God and to worship him. And that was powerful, but then God led me out of that and I became an itinerate speaker. And that was hard, but I love that too, because I got to see what God was doing all over the world and I got to be part of, you know, helping people see God in a new way. And that was really cool. And then the church that I was still part of back in Castle Rock called me and said, “Hey, could you come off the road and become our lead pastor?” And so I had to stop being, you know, a speaker, and I had to go to this small church in Castle Rock. And that was a hard thing to let go of, but oh, I loved it. I loved seeing people like week in and week out take new steps of becoming like Jesus and join them on mission and being able to be there with them and their pastor. That was amazing. I was like, “This is great. Let’s do this forever.” And God’s like, “Yeah, whatever.” And then five years ago, God called me to let go of that to come to Mission Hills. And that was a really difficult thing. But this is what it looks like to follow Jesus. He constantly says, “Hey, come on, we’re gonna go further up. We’re gonna go further in. I have better things for you.” But we can’t take hold of them until we’re willing to let go. So what is it for you? What do you need to let go of so that you can open up your hands to take hold of what’s next?
He also says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, and insult you, and they reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your award in heaven.” And understand, you may not know that the phrase Son of Man, he says, “Blessed when they do all these horrible things to you because of the son of man.” Son of man is his favorite title for himself. Jesus loves to call himself the Son of Man. He calls himself that more than anything else. And that might seem like a strange title because you’re like, “Well, I thought he is the Son of God.” He is. So why does he say Son of Man? And the answer is because he’s actually borrowing something from the Book of Daniel. About 600 years before Jesus was born before the first Christmas, the Prophet Daniel got a vision of Jesus. He got to see a little bit of Jesus and who he was. And this is what he wrote. He said, “In my vision at night, I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man.” Meaning clearly more than just a man, but a man too. He said, “One like a son of man.” And he said, “Coming with the clouds of heaven and he approached the ancient of days and he was led into his presence. The ancient of days was God, the Father. And so he saw Jesus going to the presence of God. And he was given authority, glory, and sovereign power over all nations and people of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Why does Jesus use that title for himself? To take us back to Daniel and to remind this of everything he has to offer. It’s so important to understand. See, the title Son of Man reminds us of what Jesus has to offer those who trust him. What do we see that Jesus has to offer? He has access to God. He’s in the very presence of the ancient of days and you and I through faith in Jesus have that same access. He has that to offer us if we trust him. He has glory and honor and he bestows that on those who trust him. The world might take it away. That’s what’s going on when he talks about, “They might persecute you and say nasty things about you.” The world will not give glory and honor, but Jesus has glory and honor and abundance to give if we’ll trust him. He says he has dominion that will never end. Listen, anything the world offers you is going to come to an end. None of it will last. But everything that Jesus offers will last forever.
And so he uses the title Son of Man to remind us of what he has to offer those who trust in him. He talks about being persecuted because of our faith when our faith creates friction with the world. And our faith always creates friction. And when that happens, our temptations go, “Well, if I keep following Jesus, if I keep allowing this friction to build, then, you know, the world’s gonna take a bunch of stuff away from me and I really like that stuff.” And so Jesus goes, “Hey, don’t forget about what I have to offer.” So here’s the reality. See, the good news of Christmas becomes great joy when we focus on what Jesus has to offer instead of what the world threatens to withhold. Does that make sense? That’s why Jesus says, “Blessed are you when all these horrible things happen,” because it means that you’re on the right track. It means that your focus is where it should be. And that’s one of the ways we turn the good news of Christmas into the great joy that it’s supposed to be. It’s because we focus on what Jesus has to offer instead of what the world threatens to withhold. So my question to you is this, is my focus on what Jesus offers or what the world could withhold? Where’s your focus?
He says, “Rejoice in that day, rejoice in that day and leap for joy.” And it’s interesting, those are commands. He says, do this. He says, “Rejoice, take hold of joy, and leap for joy on that day for great is your reward in heaven.” What Jesus offers is so much better than what the world threatens to withhold. And so he says, “You got to take hold of it.” That’s why he gives those commands, rejoice and leap for joy. And, by the way, the fact that he gets commands about joy there is a really important reminder. Some of you have heard this before. You’ve been going to church for a while. Maybe you’ve heard this. You just need to hear it again today. Some of you have never heard this before and you need to understand this for the first time. Joy is a choice. It’s why it is that Jesus can command us to rejoice and to leap for joy. Joy is a choice. It doesn’t just happen. It becomes possible when we make choices to do what? To trust Jesus. To keep our trust in Jesus and what he offers us. I mean, the bottom line here is that that we can have great joy even in hard times if we choose to remember the good news. We choose to remember that good news.
Yeah. Is it hard to be thinking through the fact that this is probably my last Christmas with my dad? Is it difficult to be dealing with COVID and the family and not know what we can do to help and all those things in the midst of Christmas? Yeah. That’s hard, but I’m not sure I’d really pick another time to do it because it’s in this Christmas season that I’m so focused on that good news that brings great joy. Yeah. I mean, I had the conversation with my dad and he said, “Yeah. I’m not afraid to die. I know where I’m going.” My dad’s been following Jesus for a really long time. And the joy of knowing that, well, that comes from the good news that we’re celebrating at Christmas. Yeah. Good news can become great joy and it can crowd out even the hard times if we keep our focus on Jesus. So how are you gonna do that this season? Well, let’s review the questions we’re gonna wrestle with this week.
Number one, where is an insufficiency creating an opportunity to express dependency? Second, what substitute satisfactions are masking my higher hungers? Identify those, set them aside. Let yourself feel the need for what only Jesus can provide. Number three, what do I need to let go of so that I can take hold of what’s next? What do you need to mourn so that you can take hold of what’s next? And then last, is my focus on what Jesus offers or what the world could withhold? We need to shift that focus. Could you pray with me?
Jesus, we thank you for the good news of your birth. We thank you for the good news that brings great joy. Well, we ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we allow our focus to drift away from you, we allow our trust to slip away from you. And so we create this gap between the good news and the great joy, and Lord, we ask that you help us to close the gap today. Holy Spirit, we invite you to speak to us, show us what we need to do to put our focus on Jesus to remember this good news and let that good news be great joy.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you pray for those that are listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet? Would you pray the Holy Spirit would speak to them even in this moment? And if that’s you, if I can speak to you. At the beginning of this, we said that everything Jesus promises here is only possible with our trust being in Jesus.
And if you’ve never put your trust in Jesus, that’s your step. That’s what you need to do to turn the good news of Christmas into the great joy that we’re talking about. The good news is that Jesus has come for you. He’s come to rescue you. He lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay for every wrong you’ve ever done, everything that would separate you from a perfect and holy God, Jesus paid the price of it. He rose from the dead three days later and he offers you salvation, forgiveness simply by putting your trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, you can do it right now. Wherever you are, you can say this out loud. You can say it in your heart. God’s gonna hear you either way, but you’re gonna say something like this. I’ll lead you in it, but say something like this to God right now.
God, I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming to rescue me. Thank you for dying in the cross to pay the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m ready to receive your forgiveness. I’m ready to receive a relationship with God. I’m ready to turn the good news into great joy. So, Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.