This morning, we’re going to continue our message series entitled ‘Break Free!’. In it, we’re learning how to break free from various prisons that keep us from sharing the good news of Christ’s salvation with others.
18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail (for teaching others about Jesus). 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
Just as God set the apostles free here in Acts so that they could tell people all about the new life that Jesus offers, He desires to set us free from these various prisons so that we are able to tell others this good news!
So far, we’ve learned how to break free from rejection by valuing the acceptance of God above all else. We’ve also learned how to break free from unThankfulness by choosing to give thanks in all circumstances. Last week, we learned how to break free from deceit by knowing the real, authentic God intimately.
This week, we’re taking a twist in the series. We’re now going to transition from the prisons that prevent us from sharing the good news to the results of sharing the good news of Christ’s salvation.
Although the coming of Christ’s salvation had been prophesied and patiently looked forward to for centuries, it was finally coming to pass. Can you imagine being there to hear about this salvation firsthand in the current news? Can you imagine being able to physically go and visit Mary and Joseph to hold the baby Jesus? Can you imagine playing with toddler Jesus like the wise men got to do? Can you imagine actually hang out with the physical, teenage word of God? The very first ones to hear about this great salvation where:
Zechariah and Elizabeth
Their friends and relatives
Mary and Joseph
A random group of shepherds
It’s sort of like this:
(Sesame Street – One of These Things)
However, one thing was shared in common by all of these as well as us, today, who receive this good news. They all were filled with great joy!
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
That same good news that will cause great joy for all the people that the angel delivered to these shepherds is the same good news that we have the awesome opportunity to share with others today! This good news still today brings joy to all who receive it!
To the grinches, grouches, and scrooges that have hardened hearts, this good news usually brings about bitterness and irritation.
To the rest of us; those hurting, those lost and confused, those tired and weary, those hopeless, those needy, those discontent, those desiring more from life; it brings about great joy! God no longer holds our sins against us, but has forgiven us, adopted us into His family, and given us a new life! God has set us free from the chains of sin and death and has saved and delivered us! No matter what our circumstances, this should give us exceedingly great joy!
What really is joy, though? We know that it is a fruit of the Spirit. We know that it is God’s desire for us to have a joy-filled life. Nehemiah said that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Psalm 45 says that God anoints us with joy. So, what is joy?
Was Jesus a joyful person? After all, He was the manifest Word of God. However, think about it, He called the Pharisees broods of vipers and called Peter Satan, He cried at the death of Lazarus, He was troubled to the point of death in the garden of Gethsemane.
Although the dictionary defines joy as mere happiness, and emotion and a feeling, we know that joy is something more. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We’re happy when something good happens to us, but it is fleeting. Happiness can be very quickly lost. Joy, however, can exist no matter our circumstances. Take a look at just a few of these scriptures where we find joy in the least expected place:
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Joy is obviously something that can exist in the least of happy circumstances. We could go on and on for quite some time looking at scriptures that display joy in the worst conditions. I mean, who would consider being tortured and murdered on a cross or being imprisoned and having your property confiscated happy circumstances? Yet Jesus and those who believed in Him were joyful in these circumstances.
I believe that scripture does give us a clue as to what separates joy from happiness. Happiness is an emotion which only sees only the immediate circumstances. When things are good, we’re happy. When things go awry, we’re not happy.
Joy, a similar emotion, sees beyond the immediate circumstances. Joy has its eyes fixed on eternity and knows that far better and lasting circumstances are certainly coming. Joy is not us being happy all of the time! Joy is being happy when good things are happening and joy is also being completely hurt and broken and yet still knowing that God is going to turn this around for our good.
When we are first saved, we are overflowing with indescribable joy. In that moment that we become a new creation and we feel the weight of a lifetime of sin instantly lifted from us, it is a feeling like no other. We simply can’t hold it in. We’re bursting at the seams to tell everyone all about this new life that Jesus has given us. We want everyone to accept this salvation and won’t rest until they do. We urge and preach and implore and beg and explain and reason and argue, our #1 priority is getting other people saved. It seems that no matter what happens to us, that joy and that purpose endures.
However, something often occurs in life. That indescribable joy begins to fade. We unconsciously trade joy for happiness. We often fall back into an old sin that we’ve just been forgiven and freed from as we try to bring that feeling back into our lives. We start to see bits and pieces of our old selves invading the life of our new self. We stop telling others about our new life. Our urgency to see everyone get to Heaven through Christ’s salvation begins to slip down on our priority list until it gets shoved onto a back burner. We stop living for eternity and start living for the temporary.
This isn’t anything new. In fact, we clearly see this happen in King David’s life. After many successful battles, David decided to stay home during the time that kings normally go out to war. During this time, he fell into sin with Bathsheba, she became pregnant with Solomon, and so he had her husband murdered. When the prophet, Nathan, confronted David about all of this, David fell apart and wrote Psalm 51, repenting of his sin.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
When we’ve fallen and the joy of our salvation is gone, we need only cry out to God just as David did.
1. Come before Him just as you are – broken – He won’t turn you away
2. Ask forgiveness – confess your sins and ask Him to wash them away
3. Ask for restoration – ask for whatever was lost that can be restored
This morning, I believe that many of us need to cry out to God and ask Him to restore the joy of our salvation. I believe that many of us need to have restored to us that zeal that we first have when we are saved. Just as David said, with the joy of God’s salvation and a willing spirit, he would teach sinners God’s ways so that they would turn back to Him. He would share the good news of God’s salvation with others because of the joy of God’s salvation and a willing spirit in his own life.
This morning, let’s pray together and ask God to grant us these two things as well. It’s time for us to break free and receive the joy of the Lord which endures no matter what our circumstances may be!