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The joy of the reunion of the father with his prodigal son was that of the joy of a father receiving his lost son back,[1] and of the lost son surprised, greatly surprised, by the warmth of that reunion. The joy was there, so great was the joy that a fattened calf was killed to celebrate. It was the celebration of the joy of a reunion of a good father with his foolish son who had squandered his share of the family wealth.

So the joy portrayed there is nothing compared to the real joy that we would have witnessed that morning, had we been there on the Mount of Transfiguration to see God the Father reunited with His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. For that reunion was the reunion of the perfect Father with the wise and perfect Son, who had successfully finished the work He was sent to do. Work that no one else could do or would do, or be entrusted to do; work that seems like foolishness to those who considered themselves wise.

And there was none wiser than that ancient serpent, the dragon, for why else would he have entered Judas, and conspired and agreed with Judas to betray Jesus, so that indeed they would arrest the Son of Man and make Him suffer at their hands, and do to Him what they had done to John the Baptist.[2]

It is the joy of reunion between two conspirators, yes, conspirators, Father and Son, of a work well done. For the One, the joy of seeing His Son back safely with the work finished, and for the Other, the joy of seeing the work He had finished now setting into motion the events of the next three millenniums that would precede His marriage to New Jerusalem, His bride, and His life yet to come.

A joy deep enough to give Them both strength, the strength to endure the subsequent millenniums as They watched the Judeaizers bring in the teachings and practices of the Nicolaitans and their associates, the Balaamites and the Jezebelians, thus reducing the powerful church to a shadow of itself where frightened people became even more fearful, the powerless became even more powerless, and the hungry starved. Those who had just escaped the bondage of the world would be enslaved into a religion with more superstitions and worthless traditions and cruelty than they had just come out of. It was as if everywhere their archenemy was triumphing again.

Just as Jesus endured the cursing, the ridicule, the blows to His head and the lashes to His flesh, so for 2000 years the body of Christ took body blow after body blow as if the plans of Satan were triumphing. Churches became haunts of demons filled with every kind of idolatry; pagans were slaughtered and enslaved for their ivory, silver, gold, spices, bodies and souls. Civil war raged within the body as the denominations fought against each other with swords of metal and word. The refugees hiding within its walls could only look forward to a life of suffering for the sake of morality, and the hope of dying to be in Heaven, at last away from it all.

What happened to that joy? The problem is the joy of the reunion was never ever witnessed in the church. When Jesus was walking out to the twelve on the lake, He was not walking out to greet twelve men who had successfully accomplished what they were sent for. No, He was walking past them, for it is written: About the fourth watch of the night He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking[3] Jesus was not walking towards them, but about to pass them by. Had they not cried out to Him, perhaps He would have passed them by to wait for them at Capernaum. What joy was there, but fear?

And when Jesus walked into that locked room, He was not returning to greet the three and the others who had done what they were supposed to do either, but they were again where they were not supposed to be and He had to go to them. No wonder again, they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.[4] There was no joy of the quality or quantity of that which He had with the Father that morning.

So whatever joy there was, from Resurrection Day onwards that was in the church, was merely joy of a lesser degree. There was joy of salvation, of fellowship, of miracles and healings and of seeing a new religious work take place, but the joy had little strength, so when persecution broke out, they again, that is the eleven, did not do what they were told to. When you have been brought up on a diet of lesser joy, then you will have less strength than God intended for you.

James wrote these flattering words: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face many trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.[5] He was speaking of the testing of our faith that comes from persecution, persecuted because of your beliefs, and he called it, “pure joy.” That is not the pure joy of the Lord at all, for the joy of the Lord that is His strength had nothing to do with the persecution, but the joy that came from doing exactly what God commanded, and in so doing, He became full of joy when He saw the fullness of the extent of the plan of God for Himself. At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.”[6]

For until then and also afterwards, Jesus had been doing exactly what the Father told Him, so the joy of Jesus has nothing to do with the so called pure joy of James. James never recommended that we do exactly what the Father commanded us, that is, to listen to Jesus, for whereas Jesus said, “Do not resist an evil person,”[7] James advised us, resist the devil and he will flee from you.[8]

The joy the twelve and the eleven left for us as a legacy is the joy of disobedient disciples being rescued by the grace, mercy and patience of the Lord, again and again. And that is not pure joy. Having your faith tested because you were disobedient is not pure joy, but testing your faith and daring to take Jesus at His word, to do the things He has been doing and greater things than these, even if it is just practice filled with failure—that is pure joy. The failures you encounter when you attempt to do what Jesus said are not trials but practice. So, pure joy comes not from trials that test your faith, but from obedience that tests your faithfulness. It isn’t resisting an evil person that brings the real pure joy, but rather, it is not resisting an evil person that brings the pure joy. For Jesus did not resist Satan but merely corrected him and gave him some good advice in the desert, and when he went into Judas, Jesus did not drive him out or cause Satan to flee from Him.

So then, do not let people deceive you, trying to pass what is good for perfect, and what is impure for pure, even when it comes to joy. Many have experienced the joy of deliverance, salvation, fellowship and answered prayers—however, most of these situations arose because of our disobedience in the first place. Few have ever experienced joy that comes from experiencing God doing what you wish and will because you have obeyed Him completely.[9] See the difference in the joy? That of a good father receiving back a foolish son who has lost half his fortune and that of a perfect Father receiving back His beloved Son who has recovered all that was lost and more.

It is a joy to have God answer your prayer, but there is another joy when you become the answer to God’s prayer. It is easy to rejoice when God answers your prayers, for it benefits you at God’s expense, but when you become the answer to God’s prayer, then it is at your expense. Now, that joy is holy only unto you, for it is you giving the Father joy and not the Father giving you joy. It is you being the joy of the Lord and not you receiving the joy of the Lord. How much greater is that strength!

And how far will you go to be the answer to God’s prayer? Would perfection be your limit? That is, would you stop once you have obeyed all there is to obey completely, or would you use the completion of your obedience as the means to go further, and do what God cannot do so that His purposes may be achieved and be glorified?

What did people think of Phinehas as he ran the spear through the Israelite man and the Moabite woman? What did they think of Isaiah as he walked stripped and bare for three years, and Hosea as he married an adulterous woman? I know to this day most pastors would not allow a man stripped bare to preach at their pulpit. That is why Isaiah need not visit the church again. But Phinehas, a man who broke the Law of God, which is, “Thou shall not kill,” because of his zeal for the Lord, what did people think of him?

And what of the one who became something unclean and despised so that the will of God would be accomplished, the one who said, “I will entice him. I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets”?[10] The one who became the answer to God’s problem with Ahab. Does he not remind you of another law breaker, who taught us to break the Law of Moses by drinking His blood and eating His flesh, and who Himself broke the Law when He refused to speak up when false testimony was brought before Him, and by His silence, so seemed to confirm the lies? The One, who out of obedience and love of God, became sin to be made a sin offering that we might be the righteousness of God. For, have you ever asked what motivated this spirit to do what he did?

So then, we have only ever received the joy of the least degree, the joy of disobedient, foolish sons and servants, who have squandered the Master’s wealth, experiencing the grace and mercy of the Master of the House, because He also happens to be our Father.

We have not experienced yet the joy of the wise and obedient servant, who is also the Son, who has done exactly what the Father commanded, even if it cost Him everything. Nor have we yet experienced the joy of the humble servant who so loves the Master that he’d sacrifice his real estate and position to achieve the destruction of his Master’s enemy.

Jesus said, “If you hold to My teachings, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[11] It is the practice of the words of Jesus that has shown us the truth about the so called joy we have been deceived into receiving as we persevered under trials and resisted Satan. It is this same practice of the teachings of the Lord that will bring you to the place of experiencing the joy of the reunion He had with the Father, for the Father never had to rescue Him as He has to do for those who disobey. And when you have been strengthened by that joy, some of you might just be ready to be the joy of the Lord that comes from being the answer to God’s problems, and go where Christians fear to tread. There, you will find standing with sword drawn, a spirit of true perseverance and endurance, whose name is too wonderful for us to understand, but whose glory and honour is that he is the deceiver of God’s enemies—God’s most powerful delusion. Amen


 

[1] Luke 15:20-24

[2] Matthew 17:11

[3] Mark 6:48-49

[4] Luke 24:37

[5] James 1:2

[6] Luke 10:21

[7] Matthew 5:39

[8] James 4:7

[9] John 15:7

[10] 1 Kings 22:21-22

[11] John 8:31

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