The Joy of Your Salvation: Living in Grace (Inexpressible Joy #2)

The Joy of Your Salvation: Living in Grace (Inexpressible Joy #2)

This second post is about the Joy that comes from our Salvation. The prophecy of Isaiah looked forward to this when he wrote that we would from the wells of salvation with joy:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Isaiah 12:3-6

Many years of later we know that Jesus subsequently tells the Samaritan woman that “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Similarly a few chapters later Jesus announces the following words at the festival of tabernacles: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37b-38).

In the hot and dry environment in the Promised Land, these words give a life-giving picture of how Jesus quenches our thirst. Notice that Isaiah’s prophecy speaks not about the well (singular), but about wells (plural) of Salvation. There are many wells that draw on that same source of Salvation, namely Jesus Christ. There is action on our part because we must draw water from these wells, but one writer points out that the water, the well, the rope and the bucket are all provided by Jesus. It makes complete sense therefore that we come to the wells with joy. Verses 4-6 go on to paint a picture of joyful praise for all that He has done for us.

We should feel joy, gladness and happiness in God. The relationship we have with Him should be characterised by joy. The gospel is good news for sinners who experience the life transforming power of Christ at work in us, and through us. However, while our Salvation really is a source of huge joy, the reality sometimes feels quite different. Why do some of us find ourselves feeling more joyless, rather than joyful? Why might some feel as if they have lost the joy of their salvation? Why might we struggle to delight in Jesus for ourselves? My friend Marcus Honeysett writes at length about this in his excellent book Finding Joy:

“I am convinced that many Christians struggle with joylessness because they do not really trust that the gospel is the good news of God’s grace. Instead, they believe that the Christian life is about performing religious duty to be good enough for God or to express gratitude to him for salvation. I believe that many more struggle with joylessness because they do not make priorities out of things the Bible says bring us joy.”

Finding Joy, Marcus Honeysett, pg. 13-14
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

David was easily the best King Judah ever had, and yet he also failed big time. We don’t have time to get much into the context of this but here is a quick summary. While David’s army was off fighting battles, he remained at home. One day while he was on the roof of his palace, he spots a woman bathing (Bathsheba). He finds out who she is and despite being the wife of one of his men, he then has her brought to him. The story moves at pace and soon he sleeps with her and she becomes pregnant. David doesn’t give any indication of remorse at this point, but instead works hard to try and cover up what he had done.

Specifically, David tries to get Uriah the Hittite to sleep with his wife. David soon realises that Uriah was not going to do any such thing while the battle continued to rage. So instead David has his military commander Joab place Uriah on the front line. The plan is for them to draw back leaving him exposed. As a result some of David’s men including Uriah are killed and so David takes Bathsheba to be his wife. David thinks he has got away with it but God sends Nathan to convict him of his sinful thoughts and behaviour. David subsequently wrote Psalm 51 expressing his confession and repentance. You will notice that the title of this blog comes specifically comes from this Psalm.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Psalm 51:1-3

It seems that his experience of personal failure had robbed him of his joy! A joy which he says was rooted in God’s Salvation. In this moment David doesn’t hide away from his shortcomings and nor does he try to minimise them. David spends the first 6 verses confessing his sin and asking for forgiveness. He acknowledges that he has sinned and done evil in God’s sight. He acknowledges that he has been sinful from birth, indeed even from conception.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

Psalm 51:10-13

Then from v7 onwards he focuses on asking for restoration. In verses 10-13 his focus shifts to the restoration of his heart and his spirit. He doesn’t want to be cast away from God’s presence like Cain or to lose the gift of the Holy Spirit like Saul. He also asks God to restore to him the Joy of His Salvation. Failure had indeed robbed him of this joy, but now He was asking God to restore it. Perhaps you have experienced failure in your own lives which has left you devoid of joy. The truth of the gospel however is that there is nothing any of us could do to cause God to love us any less. Like David, we too must return to God continually with an attitude of confession and repentance. Only God can restore to us the joy of His Salvation!

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Secondly, we shift our attention to Paul’s strongly worded letter to the church in Galatia. Here Paul was addressing a church who really were in danger of losing their joy. Why? Because they had lost sight of how the Gospel is the good news of God’s grace, and replaced it with a spirit of legalism. Just listen to some words from the beginning of the letter:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 

Galatians 1:6-8

The church in Galatia were in danger of drifting away from the gospel of Christ. Specifically, they were turning away from living under the grace of God and turning back towards the legalism that characterised their life before coming to Christ. Listen again to some of Paul’s words as he continues to distinguish between living under grace and living under law:

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified…

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 

Galatians 2:15-16, 3:1-5

By nature we find it very difficult to accept grace. We find it difficult to accept the fact that we contribute nothing towards our Salvation. We are justified not by the law, or by anything that we could do, but by faith in Jesus Christ. The Galatians were reverting to old ways and trying to earn their Salvation by their own effort. Paul is clear that he himself does not “set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (2:21). He goes on to urge them:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

We must understand that we are under grace rather than law. Failure to do so will lead to being robbed of our joy in Jesus. Paul in chapter 4, speaking about their attitude towards him, asks: “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?” (4:15 NLT). It seems that their whole outlook towards both Paul, and the message that he had brought them, had shifted. In so doing it had robbed them of their joy. Perhaps like me you can relate to this in your own life. How easy is it to revert to what Jerry Bridges calls the performance treadmill – continuing to try and earn our way to God. Christ died for us so that we might be free and we mustn’t allow ourselves to be enslaved by it all over again. The joy of your Salvation comes through living under the grace of God. Jerry Bridges often said that we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily. We need grace to live for Jesus day-in, day-out.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Finally, we turn to a third means by which we are robbed of our joy. Paul raises this topic in the latter part of chapter 5 where he foresees that Salvation might be used as a licence for sin. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that a true understanding of grace will bring the possibility for misunderstanding. If we understand grace to be as wonderous as it really is, some he said will use grace as an excuse for licence. This of course is also raised by Paul in Romans 5-6 when he twice asks a question along the lines of: “Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” (6:1,15). On each occasion Paul’s answer is “By no means!” Back here in Galatians the issue is wrapped up with the idea about how we might use our freedom in Christ:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Galatians 5:13

The good news of the gospel is that we have been set free from our slavery to sin. But that freedom is no licence to keep on sinning and the argument that we should keep on doing so in order that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (5:21) just doesn’t hold water. No Paul urges the Galatians to use their freedom to serve one another humbly in love. In Galatians 5:16-26 Paul contrasts life in the Spirit with life in the flesh. Paul says that they are in conflict with one another. In Christ however, we are no longer under law but instead we are led by the Spirit of God. He after all is the one who works to produce fruit within us. This fruit includes 9 individual fruits and they includes joy:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25

There is so much more that could be said here. In these few words however, I do hope that you’ve caught a glimpse of the joy we have in Jesus and the Salvation He has achieved on our behalf. I hope also, that you’ve appreciated a little more how our joy is diminished through our failures, how our tendency is to replace living by grace with a spirit of legalism and how our opposite tendency is to drift into using grace as a licence to sin.

Thinking of my own life all three of these dangers have been true for me at one time or another. How encouraging it is to return to the truth of the gospel and draw water once more from those wells of Salvation. I pray that we would each be able to do that over the days, weeks and months to come.

See other posts in this series: 

  1. No Greater Joy
  2. The Joy of your Salvation: Living in Grace
  3. Consider it Pure Joy: Tough Times
  4. The Joy of our Hearts: God’s Word
  5. Overflowing Joy: Contentment
  6. Everlasting Joy: New Creation

Cover Photo by Sylvester Sabo on Unsplash

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