Where God's Word is revered, the inevitable result is an outpouring of genuine “Jesus joy.”
Nehemiah and Ezra told those who had returned to Jerusalem, “You’ve been excited about God’s Word—hungering for it, loving it, allowing it to work in your heart. You’ve repented, wept and mourned and God is pleased with you. But now it’s time to rejoice. Take out your handkerchiefs and wipe away your tears. This is a time for great joy and mirth” (see Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The glory of the Lord fell on Israel, and the people spent the next seven days rejoicing: “All the people went their way to eat, and to drink . . . and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:12).
The Hebrew word for mirth here means “glee, merriment, gladness, happiness.” This kind of mirth isn’t merely a good feeling, it’s an inner joy, a deep exuberance. Its expression may look different in each of us, because such joy takes place deep inside. But it is clear to everyone around us that our wellspring of joy comes from heaven.
Whenever Israel turned to sin and idolatry, the Lord removed their mirth: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease” (Hosea 2:11). “I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness . . . and this whole land shall be . . . an astonishment” (Jeremiah 25:10-11).
At times, Israel put on a false joy to try to cover the sins of the people. We see this happening in many churches today, as well. We may witness singing, dancing, manifestations, loud praising—but those who love God’s Word can discern whether it is true or false joy.
You may recall Israel’s shouts as they danced around the golden calf. When Joshua heard the people, he said, “There is a noise of war in the camp” (Exodus 32:17). But Moses replied, “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery” (32:18). Moses was saying, “That’s the shout of a people still in bondage. They haven’t mastered their sin.” Gold had become Israel’s god, and it brought a shout to the lips of the people. Yet it was a shout of false joy—a noise that signaled God’s impending judgment.
What is missing in multitudes of churches today is the thing most needed by the lost: genuine, soul-satisfying joy.
I often hear Christians say, “We prayed down a revival in our church.” But I say that this cannot happen by prayer alone. There can’t be any such awakening unless both the pastor and the people hunger diligently for God’s Word. And they must wholly commit their lives to being governed by the Scriptures. We can’t obtain heaven’s joy until the pure Word has convicted us of sin, breaking down all pride, prejudices and false dignity.
When David disobeyed the directions of the Lord, he lost the joy of the Lord. That joy could only be restored by true repentance and so he prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . . Purge me” (Psalm 51:2-3, 7). David also prayed to regain what he had lost: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (verse 12).
I believe this explains the death pall that hangs over many churches today. In short, there is sin in the camp. And it’s impossible to maintain the joy of the Lord if sin is present. How can the Holy Spirit pour out joy on a people who continue to indulge in adultery, addictions and materialism, living like the unsaved?
The Lord lifted His glory from Shiloh because the high priest, Eli, refused to deal with sin in God’s house (1 Samuel 2:22-36). Eli had become accustomed to the easy life—and if you’re addicted to pleasure, you won’t be motivated to expose sin. God finally wrote the word “Ichabod” above the door of the sanctuary, meaning, “The glory has departed.” Then he held up Shiloh as an example of what happens to a church when sin is ignored. God’s glory—including all gladness and joy—dissipates in individuals and in the corporate body.
“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3).
Has the Lord brought you His thirst-quenching Word? Has He come to you in your dry spells and flooded you with His Spirit? Are you drinking the pure water of His Word?
If so, you are ready to claim another covenant promise: “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” (verses 3-4).
As you may know, willow trees grow fast and tall and they spread wide. You often see them growing beside streams or bodies of water. God is saying here, “Because you are My chosen, I’m going to pour My Spirit out on your children. And I will cause them to grow tall and strong in the Lord.”
As you read and reread these verses, I urge you to fill in your children’s names who are not following the Lord. Claim God’s promise to you by praying, “Lord, You said You would pour Your Spirit on my child. Now, bless my son, [put in your son’s name here]. Pour out Your Spirit on my daughter, [put in her name here]. Cause both of them to thirst for Your living water and to turn to You.”
Finally, God says your children will testify, “I am the Lord’s” (verse 5). What an incredible promise!
Yet these promises are not for everyone who merely says, “I am of Christ.” They are only for hungering, thirsting parents—those who drink in God’s Word daily, pray regularly, and ask the Spirit to pour out on them His power and presence.
If this describes you, then trust God’s promises—all of them! Claim them as yours, and hold the Lord to them in your intercession. Then bathe your family in prayer and watch the enemy flee.
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Christ’s mother, Mary, saw that the wine had run out. She directed the servants to her Son and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5, ESV). The King James Version renders her instruction more powerfully: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
For many of us, the filling of God’s Spirit may take place in our prayer closet or within our circle of fellowship. But many Christians will be filled only as they begin to obey God’s clear commands in earnest. I’m convinced the hang-up constraining many believers is a casual attitude toward God’s Word and His voice in their hearts. By neglecting His direction for their lives, especially regarding His holy purposes, they are easily robbed of freedom and confidence.
I was speaking with a young, single Christian man a few months ago when he told me he had decided to move in with an unmarried couple who were living together. I challenged him, saying, “That doesn’t sound like a very healthy environment for you.” He answered, in effect, “I feel like it’s a safe situation. I don’t think God will be upset with me for doing it.” He said this not in faith, as though he believed it, but as if he were a teenager sneaking out of the house.
Eventually, the unmarried couple broke up and soon the Christian young man was romantically involved with the woman and eventually became sexually entangled. I tell this story not with judgment but as a simple illustration: The best way to be filled with God’s Spirit is simply to heed His voice and obey His commands. Doing so provides us with peace, safety and joy and allows us to speak for God with authority. As Mary told the servants at the wedding, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it!”
We may run to the altar seeking the wine of God’s Spirit, but for many the answer lies in simple obedience.
In Luke 11:2-4 Jesus taught us about prayer. Let’s briefly examine some of the basics that He taught.
“Our Father”—We must understand that we are now in relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. This grants us the right to stand before His throne and make our petitions known.
“Which are in heaven”—His ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He lives in a place of absolute and total victory. There is no possibility of defeat in God.
“Hallowed be thy name”—God’s name and reputation can be trusted. He is just and will never speak anything to us that is contrary to truth.
“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth”—The way things exist in His heart and His mind are how they should be on earth. As you and I walk with God, we will have a growing inner desire to see His kingdom come in glory and in power; to see His will done on earth as it is in heaven. There is a shift that ought to take place in our prayer. It should no longer be all about us but should now be focused on others. This is where the true power of prayer is found!
“Give us day by day our daily bread”—God will give us our daily provision as we ask Him for it and acknowledge that He is our provider.
“And forgive us our sins: for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us”—You and I are ambassadors of the kingdom of forgiveness. It is therefore imperative that we forgive others, lest we be unable to represent the forgiveness of God on the earth.
“And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil”—We must trust God to lead and deliver us, recognizing that we are not smart enough to get through this life on our own. We are deceptive to the core of our beings, and we can create what we think is the leading of God, even though it is actually the leading of our own heart. We simply must not assume that the pathway we are on is right, even if it may appear so in our sight. According to the Scriptures, “There is a way that looks right unto man, but its end is the way of death” (see Proverbs 16:25).
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.