On this Christmas Day, Derene and I and our entire Elijah List staff send you a very "Merry Christmas." May God richly bless you this day as you enjoy it with your loved ones.
Thank you, dear readers, for all of your love and support you've shown us over the years.
Be blessed by this Christmas Day word from Bill Johnson. (To Subscribe to the Elijah List subscribe here.)
One of my favorite songs sung during the Christmas season is "Joy to the World." It is a song of profound intercession, the meaning of which sometimes gets lost through familiarity. The line, "Let earth receive her King," is one of the most important prayers ever prayed. It's a cry: Let the people of this planet receive Jesus as their King.
The Scripture says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God..." (John 1:12 NKJV). It is a cry for ongoing, continuous revival for the nations as people receive Jesus as their Lord, their Savior, their King.
The song continues with "Let every heart prepare Him room. Let Heaven and nature sing..." When people yield to the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation, they are taking the first step into His eternal purpose, which is found in the wonderful reality of Earth being influenced by Heaven. Jesus taught them the nature of His will when He taught them to pray "...Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10).
It's in the Christmas story where God first reveals this part of His plan saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!" (Luke 2:14). The glory in His world is to have an effect on the reality of this one. This is where God begins to unfold His plan that Heaven comes to Earth.
Within the reality of God's reign in Heaven, existing without any hindrance from the distorted will of people, is the model of what He purposes to do here on Earth. Heaven is to affect Earth.
Interestingly, when it comes to the conversion of souls, Earth inspires Heaven, as all the angels in Heaven rejoice when someone is saved.
As people surrender to Jesus, they inspire elaborate joy in Heaven. All of Heaven rejoices because people come to Christ here on Earth. That is the strategy the Lord put into place. Christmas is to forever create in our minds the picture of the perfect cooperation between Heaven and Earth, and between Earth and Heaven.
Responsibility and Joy
Jesus taught His disciples about the mysterious access to ever-increasing joy in the parable of the talents. A talent was a sum of money. Three servants were given different amounts of wealth to steward and grow for their master. Two of the servants invested the money wisely and returned the talents with increase. The master, having seen their wisdom, praised them, telling them that he will increase their responsibility because they have proven to be faithful: "...You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21 Amplified Bible).
Are the increase of responsibility and the entrance into His joy two separate rewards? I don't think so. I believe it's more appropriate to say these are two sides of the same coin. We were designed to co-labor with God, which is key to a healthy identity. And it is in this identity that we exhibit the lifestyle of joy. Perhaps the greatest example of this principle is when Jesus told His disciples that they could ask for whatever they wanted—prayer is co-laboring—and the Father would give it to them. He concluded His point with the statement that these answers to prayer would come "that your joy may be full" (John 16:24 NKJV).
Both servants are rewarded for their wise stewardship, and the reward was increased responsibility and joy. The master didn't just tell them to be joyful. He told them to enter into His joy (Matthew 25:11 NKJV). Jesus has more joy than anyone. "...God has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions" (Hebrews 1:9 Amplified Bible). "Gladness" here is exuberant joy! We do not have a distant, uncaring God. It's quite the opposite. He is moved by whatever moves us. When He invites us into a lifestyle of joy, He is not commanding us to do something that is separate from who He is. He is inviting us into His prosperous heart. It's His joy.
It would be easy to make a strong theological case for developing many different qualities found in the nature and character of Christ. We know the importance of faith, for "...without faith, it is impossible to please Him..." (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV). We know that there is faith, hope, and that "the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). I could go through a great list of vital attributes of God. But I have a sense that peace and joy are the things that will stop your neighbors in their tracks, as they illustrate the reality of the Kingdom of God so beautifully (Romans 14:17). There is a wonderful connection between these two realities.
For me, joy is peace out loud; peace is quiet joy. The world is hungry to know what true joy looks like. And there is nothing else in creation designed to model this joy in the measure of Christ Himself, except you and me.
Violent and Excessive Joy
Some think that the wise men were royalty, kings of a faraway land. Others say they were astrologers, studying the stars. Regardless, there is little doubt that they would have been known as the intelligentsia of their day. With an extensive understanding of astronomy, this group of highly educated leaders set out on a journey to find the Messiah. For nearly two years, they traveled. They searched through foreign lands to find the One to whom the star was pointing.
The magi came to see a King who could do nothing for them. Unlike the queen of Sheba, who came to King Solomon that he might explain great mysteries, or give her insights to solve life's greatest problems. This was different. These wise men journeyed for years to find a baby who was born the King. And they did it all for the sake of worship. They came to worship Jesus for who He was, not for what He could do.
Before they found the Messiah, they met with King Herod. After their meeting the Bible says:
"...[T]hey went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:9-10).
When the wise men saw the star, when they realized that the very thing they had been yearning for was coming to pass, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. "Exceedingly" has two basic definitions: excessively and violently. That doesn't quite paint the usual picture we have of these studious, regal men who approached the King bearing gifts. But the Bible says their joy was violent and excessive.
Joy is an unexplainable weapon. It is not something we arrive at through logic and reason, at least not the reasoning of this world. The psalmist instructs us to "rejoice with trembling" in Psalm 2:11. This passage helps us to see that there is a connection between joy and the fear of God. And we know that when we delight in God, the powers of darkness are terrified. But in this Scripture about the wise men, their joy is extreme.
When the woman poured out the bottle of expensive ointment on Jesus, every one of the crowd thought it was excessive (see Matthew 26:6-13). That money could have been saved and given to the poor. But the woman had come to worship Jesus, and the fragrance of that filled the house. None of the other expressions of worship in that room were written about in the Bible. Her story, though, will be spoken of forever. Maybe it's time to be known for our excessive worship of Jesus our Savior.
The magi rejoiced without restraint when they realized that they were about to see Jesus. This is what their worship looked like. Joy, with a violent effect on the powers of darkness. It's as if, while we're worshiping and enjoying His presence, Jesus goes out and thrashes the enemy, and then returns calling us mighty warriors. And all we did was delight in Him. Is this not the point of Isaiah 42:13? "The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war..."
The enemy loves to turn us inward—searching for answers within ourselves—because there is no source of joy or life there. If he can get my focus off of Jesus and, instead, get me to start self-evaluating, the end result is always negative. But when I consider the Lord, I get to access the very source of joy and peace. I get to realign myself with my lifestyle of joy.
You and I were designed to recognize Him, to be a unique sound and a unique pleasure to Him. We were designed as instruments of joy and peace.
Understanding Brings Celebration
Before Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, the people had been living outside of the protection and covering of the Lord for 150 years. When the walls were completed, and the city was beginning to repopulate, the prophet Ezra read the Scripture to the people. Gathered in crowds around him, men and women stood together to hear the Law of Moses read for the first time in their lives. Hearing it, they realized how far they had fallen short of God's original plan.
And they began to weep.
This would be a totally appropriate response to conviction in most churches. But Nehemiah puts a stop to it. He says:
"This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep...Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
They were to offer a much costlier offering than mourning over sin could ever express. They were to rejoice before they had earned it. This kind of offering would take much greater faith.
The entire community had just realized for the first time that they have been living outside of God's plan for their lives, and Nehemiah told them to quit crying and to celebrate. Those are easy words to read on a page, but to have someone command you to be joyful when you are in the midst of repentance is almost insulting.
Naturally, we think, Let me work my way out of this righteous sorrow and then maybe in three days I can feel a little joy. But Nehemiah is telling them to be joyful now. It's obvious that they didn't feel like it, but the joy he is talking about is not that kind of joy. The joy of the Lord is sometimes the kind of joy you get when you rejoice.
In the world, you rejoice when you're joyful; but in the Kingdom, you get joyful by rejoicing. Nehemiah tells them to stop mourning, to enter into the joy of the Lord, and the Bible says that "...[A]ll the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them" (Nehemiah 8:12). They began to celebrate because they understood.
The moment you understand who God is—the moment the divine nature is planted in you—joy is the only appropriate response.
The wise men had traveled far to honor the King of kings with their treasures. When they saw the star that they had been following stopped over where Jesus was born, when they understood that the Messiah had been born and that they would see Him, they "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." This is the Christmas story—the Good News—that God Himself came to Earth to represent His will for all eternity: let it be on Earth as it is in Heaven. The joy of the Father is our inheritance, here and now. And it only gets better.
As Isaiah prophesied, "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace..." (Isaiah 9:7 NASB). There has never been a moment, since Isaiah spoke these words, that the Kingdom has been in retreat. There has never been loss. It has never been "three steps forward and two steps backward." The Kingdom is always advancing, regardless of our circumstances.
Jesus was born in a manger. He's not that picky where He shows up. In actuality, He is attracted to brokenness and messes. There is no end to the presence of His grace that overrides every circumstance. There is no end to His joy and His peace. There is no end to His government.
Merry Christmas! This is the simple Gospel.
Dear heavenly Father, we rejoice without restraint when we realize that we can see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whenever we worship in His name. Like the Magi, when we worship, our joy has a violent effect on the powers of darkness. Thank You that while we worship and enjoy His presence, He goes out and thrashes the enemy who means us harm. We praise You and delight in Him. We pray for You to help us keep our eyes on Jesus and not to self-evaluate, as the end result is always negative. Lord, we pray for access to You, the very Source of joy and peace, and to realign ourselves with a lifestyle of joy. Thank You for designing us to recognize You and for being instruments of joy and peace. Amen.
Article used by permission:Â Destiny Image
Bill Johnson, Senior Leader
Bethel Church, Redding, California
Bill and Beni JohnsonÂ are the senior leaders of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Bill is a fifth-generation pastor with a rich heritage in the Holy Spirit. The present move of God has brought Bill into a deeper understanding of the phrase "on Earth as it is in Heaven." Bill and the Bethel Church family have taken on this theme for life and ministry, where healing and miracles are normal. Bill is co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM). Beni is a pastor, author and speaker. She has a call to joyful intercession that's an integral part of Bethel Church. Together, Bill and Beni serve a growing number of churches partnered for revival. Their three children and spouses are all involved in full-time ministry.
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