What does it means when Paul commands us to rejoice in Philippians? When I was in Bible College, we had some joy-fascists who would come and order us to cheer up at every turn. Someone could have broken their arm and the joy police would arrive and say with odious cheer, “All things work together for good! It could be worse: you could have broken two arms!” At this point, the temptation was to put on mourning and join Uncle Tony in bemoaning the state of the church and feeling superior to the joy fascists.Instead, I had to ask: why was my religion so joyless? What was joy? It did not take much of a study of Greek to discover that joy was not a feeling. I think “joy” is being in Christ. Dante calls it “trans-humanization.” Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit comes and places His seed within us. We are slowly transformed following our legal acquittal of guilt. Rejoicing is the appropriate response of person in that divinely beautiful position. Of course, joy often comes associated with a feeling of deep passion. This passion is so wonderful that it is tempting to try to bottle it and keep the bottle on hand for use in tough times. This does not work as any Christian can tell you. One cannot really have the feeling without the thing itself. Sometimes one can even have joy without the feeling. This is like love. Sometimes a man loves his wife without the feeling of love normally associated with the virtue. I believe that joy comes when we allow the Holy Spirit to work miraculously in us. Joy is the state of being at liberty to do be virtuous by the power of the Holy Spirit and the administration of His grace. We begin to allow the Holy Spirit to show His divine power in our lives. We see healing and miracles. Our minds become better able to reason (Good Lord deliver me!) and see truth. In short, we become like Christ. In this state, our emotions may fluctuate but our position and our very being does not. We are Christâ€™s sons and daughters. Suddenly, I want to stop writing and worship. Every object in this world becomes beautiful to me as I see it as part of His created order. My family becomes sweet and the proper emotions roll through my heart. My precious children. My wife. Joy. Rejoicing. So if I break my arm, I can register the pain. I can note the bad emotions, but like the god-breathed Church Fathers I can also note my position before the Father. To quote one of the songs we sang in Bible College, “I have Jesus joy.” It is real, authentic, not fake, and not a new law. It is what I am becoming.
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