First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (3rd Sunday in Advent, December 13, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Find Joy in the Right Place!”
Luke chapter ten takes place near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus got time for one last preaching tour before He makes His final journey to Jerusalem and the cross. So to get the towns and villages ready for His arrival, Jesus sends out 70 of His disciples in pairs to prepare the way. He sent them out with His blessing and with some simple instructions that we find in Luke 10:8-9, “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” As Jesus commissioned them, He said in Luke 10:16, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Luke doesn’t give us too much details about the adventures of the 70 so we don’t know if they were welcomed or dismissed, if people rejoiced or rejected the gospel message they proclaimed. But one thing we do know, the 70 newly commissioned disciples return from their first mission trip rejoicing over the outcome. They returned with joy, and they stated the reason for their joy: “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Everything Jesus said came true. Jesus rejoiced with His faithful disciples, saying in Luke 10:18-19: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” The disciples are pleased and so is Jesus. In fact, if you read between the lines a bit, you can even see a smile on Jesus’ face.
The Real Source of True Joy
But in the same breath, Jesus wants the disciples to step back and think about an even greater source of joy; a true source of genuine joy. In Luke 10:20, Jesus said, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Why? Why would Jesus pour cold water on their faithful work and their resulting joy?
I want you to know that Jesus never meant to discourage the disciples or minimize their accomplishments, rather, Jesus wanted to take their rejoicing to a new level, a more excellent level. In other words, Jesus reminded the disciples that the work He has given them to do is well and good, but they should not lose sight of a greater source of joy, namely, eternal security. There was a better place for them to find their joy.
Today is the Third Sunday in Advent. The season of Advent takes us from hope to peace and now to joy. But I want you to seriously consider this question. What really makes you happy? Over this last week, what has brought joy to your heart? What do you like to see every day that puts a smile on your face? What would you enjoy in the future that would cause your heart to sing?
A most recent research data showed that most humans agree that the following items will make them happy: Good or improved health, a romantic relationship, more money, weight loss, peaceful family relationships, genuine friendships, nice vacation and good weather. These things are not evil in themselves. And I am not saying that we shouldn’t consider these special blessings and be thankful to God when they come. It’s fine to pursue them. And when we get them, we should be grateful. Yet, Jesus invited His disciples to a greater source of joy in Luke 10.
The Joy of Names Written in Heaven
The words of Jesus to the 70 in Luke 10 should be a wakeup call for us. Where do we find true joy? Jesus redirects our focus away from our accomplishments in this world to what He has accomplished for us on the cross. “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This is where we are to find our true joy; not in our own accomplishments, but in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. True joy is not found in what this world gives, but in what God offers us.
Basically, Jesus was saying rejoice in what God has done for you. Salvation, the gift of eternal life, is not something we do, but something that God does for us. Luke puts the verb in the passive voice. It literally means, “rejoice that your names have been written in heaven.” The verb that Luke uses and is translated “written” is the Greek “eggraphō” which means recorded permanently in heaven. Who wouldn’t rejoice over this great truth?
Friends, needless to say, this has been a tough year. Brokenness is all around us. Where do we find joy? Is it even possible to rejoice in 2020? How can we rejoice in the midst of a global pandemic? How can we rejoice in the face of death, loss, pain, and suffering? Jesus would say it’s when we accomplish what He has given us to accomplish that we will certainly find true joy. It’s true that joy is found in using time, talents, and treasures to serve the Lord. God is pleased when we faithfully carry out our individual callings – whatever that might be. But even when we fail to do that, let’s remember that our greatest joy is knowing that we are loved and redeemed by God. The greatest joy is knowing that your name has been written in the Book of Life in heaven. So as we get to the final days of 2020 and as you realize how hard it is to be joyful this year, let your heart rejoice that your name has been written in heaven. To Him be the glory, now and forever more. Amen.
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