The Greatest Joy


To confuse joy in the Lord with temporal pleasures is to follow the ways of the world—and to futilely pursue happiness in created things instead of in the Creator.

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” - Luke 10:1–20.

When Peter exhorts us to endure our suffering in his first epistle, he tells us to be “like newborn infants” and to “long for the pure spiritual milk,” that by it we “may grow up to salvation” (2:2). This command does not contradict the emphasis in other passages on the importance of solid food — the meatier aspects of biblical doctrine that build on foundational Gospel truths (Heb. 5:11–14). Instead, Peter is reminding us of our need to drink the elementary teachings of our faith again and again even as we chew on the deep truths he expounds in the rest of his epistle. Just as mature adults incorporate milk in their diet along with solid foods, so too must we drink our spiritual milk as we digest more complex teachings of Scripture.

Today’s passage describes how our joy is to be found in one of these basic foods. Having been sent out to preach the Gospel and heal the sick (Luke 10:1–12), the seventy-two disciples return to Jesus overjoyed at the success of their ministry. In fact, even the demons have been subject to them in Christ’s name (v. 17). However, though He acknowledges the progress of their ministry and the power of their authority (vv. 18–19), He does not instruct them to find their joy in strength and success. The servants of Christ must rejoice in something far more fundamental, namely, that our names are written in heaven (v. 20). Our free forgiveness based on the price Jesus paid at Calvary is the font of all true joy.

It is easy to miss this truth because we tend to revel in outward success and power. Certainly, success and power are not bad in themselves, but we tend to seek our satisfaction in them because they can satiate our sinful desires. While they do bring pleasure, that pleasure can be at the expense of our souls. To confuse joy in the Lord with temporal pleasures is to follow the ways of the world and futilely pursue happiness in created things and not the Creator.

Christians take joy in the eternal pleasures that build on the foundation of forgiveness in Christ. If guilt is robbing us of our joy, this joy can be restored if we return to the cross in repentance and have God’s peace assure us of our salvation once more (1 John 3:19–24).

Coram Deo

Those of us who have been Christians for a long time often forget the joy that comes when we first confess Christ and realize that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If you are finding it hard to rejoice in the Lord, take time today to consider the greatness of your salvation in Jesus and remember the profound benefits of being forgiven and freed from the power of sin. If you do not know these benefits, repent and submit to Christ for salvation this day.

Passages for Further Study
  • 2 Chron. 6:41
  • Ps. 35:9
  • Acts 8:26–40
  • 3 John 4

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