It’s sad that some people don’t find very much joy in the church. Some see the church as a burden, and others see it as a nuisance. Still more people see Christ’s church as a killjoy, an entity that seeks to rob them of every pleasure they might otherwise enjoy. How do you view Christ’s church?
The church is also known as the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13; Matt. 16:16-18). And make no mistake: the kingdom of God is intended by God to be a joyful one! When Christ the King was born, the angels rejoiced: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). Jesus came to bring mankind the best possible life (Jn. 10:10), and that life is found in His church (cf. Eph. 1:3-7). His kingdom is joyful.
Jesus once told a parable about the joy of His kingdom: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44). From this passage we find three important principles about Christ’s church:
The kingdom is hidden from some — Many people will never see the kingdom of God because they have so set their hearts and minds that they will not hear God’s word. The Bible speaks of those who do not love the truth (2 Thess. 2:12-13), and have stony, hard hearts (Matt. 13:4-5). We should not be surprised that many people are deceived concerning the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Could it be, however, that one reason we do not find joy in Christ’s kingdom is because we also have hardened our hearts against His word? God’s will is that everyone should humble themselves like Christ (Phil. 2:5) so that we might share in the treasures of His kingdom.
The kingdom is intended for joy — The emphasis of Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13:44 is on the incomparable joy to be found in Christ’s church. As a matter of fact, Jesus intended for us to be a joyful people because of our salvation in Him! “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Christ’s kingdom has a serious and sobering mission, but citizens of the kingdom are to be characterized by surpassing joy because of the privilege that is ours to be servants of Almighty God. The Bible speaks of fullness of joy being found in the will of God (Ps. 16:11; 1 John 1:4). He has given to us a ministry that brings great benefits (2 Cor. 4:1-7) and great joy (Phil. 4:4).
The kingdom is a treasure to be prized — How we view the church will make all the difference in where our priorities lie. In Matt. 13:44, the man who discovered the kingdom went and sold all he had so that he might possess the treasures of Christ’s kingdom. Every spiritual blessing is found in the body of Christ (Eph. 1:3,21-22). Because of the joy to be found in the kingdom, people throughout history have given up things like their jobs (Mk. 1:16-18), their families (Luke 14:26ff), their material possessions (Acts 4:36-37), and sometimes even their lives (Acts 7:59-60; Rev. 2:10,13). In reality, no one can be a part of the kingdom of Christ without first surrendering everything to Him (2 Cor. 8:5).
You will never find “fullness of joy” apart from the church of Jesus Christ. Only a life of self-sacrificial renunciation will be pleasing to the God who created us (Phil. 2:5-11). What’s been keeping you from the joy that Jesus intends for you to have? Are you living for self, or are you, “crucified with Christ?” (Gal. 2:20). — JB