From beginning to end, in many circumstances, the Bible uses the word joy. It’s more often than not used in the context of salvation - being in right relationship with God through repentance, which leads to forgiveness. It’s clear that God desires His people to be people characterised by joy.
Joy is spontaneous. It’s not something we can muster up. Joy is one part of what salvation should bring to the believer. It’s not happiness that depends upon our circumstances or moods. It’s the fruit of a Spirit-filled and controlled life. Hence, it doesn’t fluctuate with circumstances.
A.W.Tozer wrote, “Most Christians are not joyful persons because they are not holy persons, and they are not holy persons because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit; they are not filled with the Holy Spirit because they are not separated persons.” If we are to experience the joy of salvation we will have to realise that there are conditions to it.
When David sinned he lost the joy of his salvation and prayed, ‘Restore to me the joy of Your salvation’ (Psalm 51:12). Joy was restored to David through the brokenness of repentance, which brought him the assurance of forgiveness. David did not readily come to repentance. Until he met Nathan the prophet he was unconcerned about his sin. Nathan’s words brought conviction, which led to repentance and forgiveness from God.
Repentance and forgiveness are like two peas in a pod. You can’t have the one without the other. Repentance precedes forgiveness, which is a gift of God’s abundant grace. The message Jesus told His disciples to preach was a message of repentance and forgiveness (Luke 2:47), and this was the clear message they preached as they went into the world with the good news of salvation. Their message was clear and uncompromising, and it led people into true salvation. Ironically, this is the message of joy which I must humble myself to receive.
I must realise that repentance is not part of my sinful nature and I can’t bring it about myself, because I can’t change my hardened heart into a softened heart. If I’m to enter into the joy of repentance I must look to God in faith and pray for the gift of repentance. He alone can work miracles. Sanctification is a whole pathway of repentance and joy.
Forgiveness is a fruit of repentance and this leads to a hatred of sin and the fear of the Lord, which is an ever deepening relationship with Him. Unforgiven sin growing unchecked, chokes the incoming love of God. It blocks the heart to His love. Repentance is a highway to the Father heart of God, His love and His forgiveness. The revelation of God’s love is free to flow into the repentant heart because the blockages have been removed.
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