Saturday, January 9, 2016
True Joy vs Counterfeit Joy
The sort of Christian who looks back to his conversion constantly and who is always talking about that seems to me to be utterly unscriptural. The Christian life is a life that grows and develops and becomes more wonderful as you go on. People say, “Oh, that I might have again that first flush of joy.” My dear friend, if your joy is not greater now than when you first believed there is something radically wrong with you. We need to be taught that “tribulation works patience” and that patience works experience and that experience leads to hope. “Hope maketh not ashamed”; of course not! So the rejoicing that Christians know, the joy of men and women who are children of God, is a rejoicing that never fails them. And that is how to differentiate between the true and the counterfeit. There are people who have a manufactured joy that can be worked up. Psychologists in public meetings often know how to do this, and they work people up with hymns and choruses and various other forms of manipulation, and people think they are filled with this joy.
But I can tell you how to discover the difference between the true and the false: false joy goes out the window the moment you are in trouble. It is a fair-weather friend. When the tribulations come, when the trials come, you are utterly cast down, your joy is gone, all your happiness has disappeared, and you are grumbling and complaining and wonder why God is dealing with you like this. You have a false joy. A true joy is the joy of the child of God who rejoices in tribulations, in the midst of them, in the depths or the height of them. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice,” whatever the circumstances and the conditions. This is a valuable test: knowing that when everything has gone against you, you still have a spirit of rejoicing within you. This joy is in Christ, of course. It is not vague and general. The test of whether we are true Christians or not is this: we “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil.3:3). The true Christian says, “In the cross of Christ I glory,” in the words of an old hymn. Paul says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal.6:14). So whatever your circumstances are, however great the tribulation, you go on rejoicing, because you are rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, in his cross, in everything that appertains to him. And that is a joy that is “unspeakable and full of glory.” It is a joy, if I may borrow the words of Wordsworth and lift them up into infinity, that is “too deep for tears.” That is the joy we are describing. The joy of rejoicing.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3,” pg.207-208