by Martin Lloyd-Jones
Fellowship with God (1899-1981)
How can we be “joyful” in this world? What does Scripture mean by being “joyful”? Well, there are three elements of joy – First, joy is a state of complete satisfaction; obviously, there is no joy unless we are satisfied. Second, joy is a spirit of exultation; there is a difference between happiness and joy – happiness fully depends upon what “happens” (both terms come from the same root word “hap”) in a person’s life; joy has a deep heartfelt genuine gratitude element in it. Third, in joy there is always a feeling of power and strength. Someone who is truly joyful, in a sense, is afraid of nothing. When you are truly joyful, you are lifted up above yourself, and ready to meet every enemy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
So, joy is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole and entire personality. Furthermore, there is only one thing that can give true joy, and that is a contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ – He satisfies the mind, the emotions, and our every desire. So joy is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. John writes to us that “our joy might be made full, filled to the brim.” The joy of the Lord is not dependent upon circumstances, like happiness. Joy is a deep, profound quality that enables us to stay standing whatever may be happening to us.
In order for the Christian to have “fullness of joy,” he must have conscious fellowship with God; that is, he must be abiding in Christ (and that is not a “passive” abiding). There are certain things that hinder the experience of fellowship, that militate against it, and rob us of it – First, there is unconfessed sin; it must be confessed; sin will always rob us of a conscious fellowship with God. If we fall into sin (that is, we cease to actively trust – Rom 14:23), we begin to doubt and to wonder, and the devil takes advantage and encourages us in this.
Second, there is lack of love for the brethren; one cannot love God and disregard fellow believers. Third, there is love of the world; a desire for its pleasures (you cannot mix light and darkness). Fourth, there is wrong understanding about the person of Christ – false notions concerning Christ result in having a lack of assurance with regard to salvation. It is imperative that believers are “absolutely certain” about the person and work of Christ – that is why Scripture is so emphatic on these subjects. There can be no true joy of salvation while there is a vagueness or uncertainty or a lack of assurance. Though “assurance” is not essential for salvation, it is essential to the joy of salvation.
If a believer is certain about these things he will KNOW that he is a child of God, that he has “eternal life” (1 Jn 1:2; 2:25; 5:13), and that he has “fellowship with God” (1 Jn 1:3-7) – that is, a conscious possession of the life of God within us. Again, the hindrances to “knowing these things” are listed above. If you truly desire to know this “joy,” you cannot take short cuts in the spiritual life. There is only one way and that is to confront these great and glorious truths, to believe them and to joyfully accept them. There are certain absolutes – the Incarnation, the Atonement, Regeneration, Sanctification, the Doctrine of Sin and of the Devil, and the Doctrine of the Second Coming. As we believe and practice these things, we will exper-ience “His joy;” being lazy and careless with the teaching of Scripture results in “no joy!”
One of the essentials of “true joy” is conscious fellowship with God – sharing in the life of God. This is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted concepts in Scripture – and it should not be! The Devil simply does not want God’s people to get a handle on this subject. “Fellowship with God” is probably the most glorious and wonderful truth in all of Scripture. Life outside God is not life, it is merely existence – there is a radical difference between the two. Apart from God we are spiritually dead (Eph 2:1).
Those who have become conscious of the fact that they are “sharing the life of God,” know what it is to rejoice and know what it is to be emancipated from certain besetting sins which hitherto always got them down – these are the believers who “overcome the world.” John wants all believers to share this same joy and participate in this same experience. Regardless of individuality or temperament, every believer can know this same experience. Fellowship with God is the result of something that is based upon the belief of an objective truth – note carefully: this is not a primarily subjective experience.
Last, there is only one way to true and lasting joy, and that is to start with the “holiness of God.” If I start there, I shall be delivered from every false peace, from every false joy. I shall be humbled to the dust, and see my true unworthiness, and that I deserve nothing at the hands of God. We can do nothing better, every time we go on our knees to pray than to repeat John’s words – “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” And when we feel like rushing into our own desires and complaints, just to pause and approach Him with reverence and godly fear, “for our God is a consuming fire.”
© Martin Lloyd-Jones