The third annual high day on God’s sacred calendar—the feast of Pentecost, or “feast of firstfruits”—completes the spring holy day season.
It is a very special day to the Church of God, for it is the day that celebrates us! We are the firstfruits of God’s Holy Spirit in man. We are the firstfruits harvest of God’s great plan of salvation for all mankind!
On the day of Pentecost we celebrate and rejoice over the launching of God’s spiritual nation—His own spiritual firstfruits family, the body of Christ.
There were 120 gathered together at the first feast of Pentecost who witnessed the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, infused into the minds of the baptized disciples of Christ.
And what did this Comforter, which Jesus Christ had personally promised them a little over 50 days previous, produce in them? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit! Rich, positive, character-enhancing results in their lives—godly results, godly works.
But with our receiving of the Holy Spirit, together with our growing in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, comes a strong warning: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (verses 24-26).
Too many since a.d. 31 have grown in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, only to become self-righteous, dwelling on the gap between their own perceived spiritual progress and the inadequacies, lack of progress or lesser growth—according to their judgment—of other brethren.
That attitude leads to bitter fruit, which is not of God’s Holy Spirit.
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (verse 15). Too often we have seen this in the Church—far too often!
As we know, love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. But it is the second fruit of God’s Holy Spirit upon which we will focus in this article. The fruit of joy!
It is impossible to become conceited, to become condemning and negatively judgmental of one of our brethren, if we have deeply ingrained within us the fruit of joy.
What is joy?
In the context of Galatians 5:22, the Greek root word for joy is chairo. It means to be cheerful, calmly happy, glad. From it we get chara in the Greek, meaning cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness, great gladness, exceeding gladness, joy!
Where It Starts
But where does true joy start? What’s the beginning point?
Did you know that true joy starts in defeat? This is how Herbert W. Armstrong described his experience: “This surrender to God—this repentance—this giving up of the world, of friends and associates, and of everything—was the most bitter pill I ever swallowed. Yet it was the only medicine in all my life that ever brought a healing!
“For I actually began to realize that I was finding joy beyond words to describe in this total defeat. … And in surrendering to God in complete repentance, I found unspeakable joy in accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior and my present High Priest” (Mystery of the Ages).
Do you lack a perpetual attitude of joy—a real, scintillating delight in living? Then here’s the solution!
We all go through the initial repentance of what we are, prior to baptism. But there is a far deeper, progressive, daily repentance that is required of us if we are to reach the full heights of true joy that Jesus Christ promises to those who mature in the faith.
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8).
Can you honestly say that you live a life of unspeakable joy? Too few in God’s Church experience that!
Members of God’s true Church are of those whom Peter calls “elect” in verse 2—and whom the aged Apostle John in his second epistle termed “the elect lady and her children.” Do you ever let your mind mull over that?
God’s Special Treasure
Elect in the Greek means select, favorite, chosen. We are the apple of God’s eye! In Malachi 3:17 He calls us His “jewels,” or special treasure.
Unfortunately, that fact is forgotten when we condemn a fellow member of God’s own special Family.
Remember, the next time you are drawn to condemn one of your fellow brethren, that you will be condemning one whom God regards as His special treasure, His chosen favorite! Instead, hate the sin, but love the sinner.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). If that is to be, by Christ’s command, our attitude to our enemies, then how much more should this be our attitude to our fellow brethren in God’s elect Family!
Eight times in his epistles, the Apostle John addresses the dispersed and precious remnant of God’s Church as “beloved.” In the Greek this is agapetos, which means dearly beloved, specially favored. Is that how you look upon the one whom you were guilty of condemning recently, the one you cannot yet bring yourself to forgive, the one you may ignore or avoid within God’s own elect Family?
Consider Luke 17:3-4: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke [honorably admonish] him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
It takes God’s Spirit to be so forgiving—it’s totally unnatural to the carnal mind. It all starts with the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, love, which produces the second, joy, which leads to the third, peace—and all the other fruits of the Holy Spirit will then fall into place in the life of the converted son of God!
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). This is not just a maxim—it’s not just a pretty saying—it’s a living law of human relations!
Why? Because the indwelling love of God, infused into the perpetually repentant servant of God, will lead to such “joy unspeakable” in the mind of that person that it will always see beyond the negative—beyond condemnation of another son of God.
We need more joy in God’s Family! We need more spreaders of joy and gladness in the body of Christ!
“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24). This is a prime responsibility of a minister of God!
How to Do It
How can we take on more of the fruit of the Spirit of joy? Here are six scripturally based principles to apply which will guarantee your personal growth in this precious fruit of the Holy Spirit—the fruit of real, overflowing joy.
1. Repent! Live in a constant attitude of repentance (Luke 15:7, 10). It is God’s desire that none should die, but that all should live the abundant life of joy forever. You can have that joy now, daily. Witness Mr. Armstrong’s experience: “I was baptized, and the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit opened my mind to the joy unspeakable of knowing God and Jesus Christ—of knowing truth—and the warmth of God’s divine love!” (ibid).
2. Grow! Real repentance produces a natural progression to a deep love of God’s truth: “I found the greatest and most absorbing joy of my life in continuing to dig out those gold nuggets of truth from God’s Word. Now came a new enthusiasm in Bible study” (ibid). Receipt of God’s Spirit opens up the mystery—it is a revelatory Spirit (Matthew 13:10-11, 44). We must become dedicated to the study of God’s Word. All we think, say and do daily ought to be measured against and influenced by our knowledge of and our love of God’s truth! Learn to love God’s truth. How important is Bible study to you? This is right now being measured by God (Revelation 11:1). He is carefully measuring your love for His truth.
Our study of God’s beloved truth leads us to the fulfillment of John 15:7-8: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” That’s referring to the fruits and works of the Holy Spirit. Our joy, the fullness of our personal and collective joy, is a fruit of Jesus Christ’s own joy in us!
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (verses 9-11).
How do we get Jesus Christ’s own scintillating joy into our lives?
3. Ask for it! “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full ” (John 16:23-24). Ask the Father for it, daily, in the name of Jesus Christ. “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). Christ has already asked for you! Claim, boldly, yet with humility, the Father’s answer to Jesus Christ’s prayer, personally for you! Claim it for your minister! Claim it for your congregation! Claim it for your spouse and family and for your fellow brethren!
4. Use it! Put it to use and feel and experience the living, overflowing joy of Jesus Christ in your life daily. Spread joy in the Family of God. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4). Do we really thank God for each other—with joy?
“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. … For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:17, 20). Is that your attitude toward God’s Family? Do you just ache to come back week by week to fellowship joyfully with the Family of God?
5. Rejoice in trial! Gain joy through trial. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:20-22).
James gives us a very positive strategy—rejoice and know real joy in trial: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4).
6. Be positive! David was a man after God’s own heart. Though he was a man of battles and many trials, he was able to see beyond the negative to always keep the positive joy of God’s Spirit at the forefront of his mind. How? “For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance” (Acts 2:25-28).
There is a formula, straight out of God’s Word, which will build joy in your life and spread real godly joy throughout the Church. Live repentantly, grow daily in love of God’s truth, ask daily for the gift of Christ’s own joy, put that joy to use, rejoice in trial, and be positive!
Keep the positive God Family vision of our great Father, in all its perpetual glory, at the forefront of your mind. If we do this, we will indeed become true helpers of each other’s joy in the body of Christ—and the ultimate, eternal reward for this joy which we experience in this temporal earthly sphere will be joy, true godly joy, within God’s Family forever!
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy [Spirit]. … Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen” (Jude 20, 24-25).