Inexpressible Joy

Updated: Sep 13

If someone were to ask you, “Why are you a Christian,” what would you say?


If someone were to ask you, “Why are you a Lutheran,” how would you respond?


Let’s take this one step further: If someone were to ask you, “Why do belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod,” how would you reply?


Are we ready to give an answer to these questions?


This morning we're continuing our summer-long sermon series. For the past 3 weeks I’ve been preaching on the theme: Why I am a Christian. This continues today. As a matter of fact, this series will continue through Labor Day weekend.


You might wonder, why is pastor spending so much time on this topic? I mean, a whole summer devoted to single theme. That’s a bit much, don’t you think?


Those are good questions. Let me answer them.



HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED?


We live in a day and age of increasing unbelief. We live in a day and age of false belief. We also live in a day and age of shallow faith. We need to know what we believe. And we need to be ready to give a defense of why we believe.


There is a Biblical basis for our summer sermon series. It’s found in First Peter. Writing to a group of early Christians, Peter instructs them: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


Before going any further, I have a suggestion to make. Consider wearing a cross necklace. Please know that wearing one does not make you a better Christian than someone who does not. Why then am I recommending that you wear a cross? It’s because of his: You might be surprised by the conversations that a simple cross necklace can start.


For instance, someone might ask you: Why are you a Christian?


There are many good reasons we can give.



MANY GOOD REASONS


We can say that it’s because I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. This is most certainly true.


We can say that it’s because of the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus. This is another great answer.


We can say that God is an ever-present help in times of trouble. God is a refuge for our souls.


There are many Biblical answers that we can give to the question, “Why am I a Christian?”


By the time that this sermon series is over we will have looked at thirteen different reasons for the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.


Today we look at reason #4: In Christ we have an inexpressible and glorious joy.


We heard this phrase earlier in our service. It was at end of our second Scripture reading.


That’s a curious phrase, if we stop to think about it: 'an inexpressible and glorious joy.'



BEYOND WORDS


How can a pastor preach on something that is inexpressible?


How can believers talk about the inexpressible joy that is ours as Christians?


After all, inexpressible means something that can’t be put into words.


I think that what Peter is getting at is this: It’s hard to FULLY put into words all that Christ means to us.


Earlier, I said that I will be preaching a series of thirteen sermons on the theme: Why I am a Christian. To be honest, this is only going to scratch the surface. We could easily spend the rest of the year looking at the great and precious promises that belong to those who follow Jesus Christ.


Let’s look at a few of these now.


Peter begins his first epistle with a common early Christian greeting: Grace and peace be yours.


But Peter doesn’t stop there. He adds: in abundance.


Do we realize how marvelous this is?


Peter did. He didn’t take it for granted.



PETER'S STORY


Most of us know Peter’s story. He was a fisherman when Jesus summoned him with the invitation: Come, follow me.


Immediately, we’re told, Peter dropped his nets and did just that.


It was Peter who, seeing Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, ventured out of his boat. He made his way toward Jesus until he took his eyes off his Lord and began to sink.


Later, it was Peter who spoke up for the group when Jesus asked the question: But what about you? Who do you say that I am?


And it was Peter, in the Upper Room, who declared that even if the rest of the disciples abandoned Jesus, he would not; he was willing to die with him, if necessary.


We know how that boast turned out.


Three times Peter denied even knowing Jesus. The final time he did so with a curse.


After his repeated failures on Good Friday, Peter needed God’s grace and peace.


He desperately needed God’s undeserved, never-failing love. Peter desperately needed the peace that accompanies the limitless grace of God.


The same is true for you and me. Because, the truth be told, we are just as big of failures as disciples as was Peter. We have denied our Lord by our actions and inactions.



FAITH NEEDS SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO


The good news is this: In Christ, we have grace and peace, just like Peter. Grace for our spiritual failures. Peace for our sin-troubled hearts. In Christ, we receive grace and peace in abundance.


And this grace and peace gives us joy, inexpressible and glorious joy.


Isn’t this a big part of the reason why we are Christians?


But Peter doesn't stop there. He has more to say, writing: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.


Let’s stop for a moment and think about what Peter is saying here. In Christ, God’s great mercy gives us new life and a living hope. This is ours, not because Jesus was a great teacher; not because he was a worker of miracles, signs and wonders; and not because he was a prophet sent from God. All of these are true about Jesus. But the new life and the living hope we have are now ours because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Christian faith stands and falls on the resurrection. We must not forget this.


The Christian has something to hold on to for the future, come what may.


What can we cling to, come what? It’s the promises of God Almighty that will be fully realized in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.



GREAT JOY


Peter writes that we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. It is being kept in heaven for us. In the mean-time, we are protected by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.


As we take these great promises to heart, great joy springs forth.


To be sure, in this world we will have trouble. Jesus himself told his first followers it would be so. Peter didn’t forget this. He himself experienced it. And he wrote about this reality in his first epistle: for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.


Peter explains that the grief and trials which we endure as Christians ends up serving God’s purposes in our lives. He writes: These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.


What does this mean?



HONEST TO GOD JOY


I have no idea what tomorrow may bring. I have no idea what the rest of 2020 has in store. Wait a minute, I take that back. I do have some idea. The word of God warns us of what lies ahead: We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.


We are living in a Genesis 3 world. We must wait for that day when Christ returns to make all things new.


The Christian takes the world as it is. We do not live with rose-colored glasses. The here and now is beset by disease, disaster, destruction, and death. But it won’t always be this way. We long for the coming of the new heaven and the new earth.


There was one big difference between Peter and his readers. It’s a difference that we know full well. Peter spent three years with Jesus. He knew the sound of his voice. He knew the look of his face. Peter was truly blessed to have seen the Lord. He realized this. He wrote about it to God’s elect, strangers in the world. Listen one last time to what Peter had to say, for he speaks very much to us, too:


Though you have not seen Jesus, you love him. Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him. And you are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy—for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of our souls.



CONFIDENTLY CONFESSING OUR FAITH


That is why I am a Christian. In Christ there is an inexpressible and glorious joy. It’s a joy that cannot be fully put into words.


It’s also why I am a Lutheran. The Lutheran Church reminds me exactly what the Gospel is: the grace and peace of God that is ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


It’s also why I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran. It’s because we dare to believe, teach, and confess: This is the Word of the Lord.



POSTSCRIPT


In his spiritual autobiography, C.S. Lewis wrote about how he became the "most reluctant convert" in all of England. Why did he use this peculiar phrase? Lewis begrudgingly came back to the Christian faith that he had been raised in. He did so because he had no other way of explaining the joy that he had experienced in life.

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