If I sit and think about that tiny word, images of wide smiles, jumping up and down, and hands clapping in excitement all fill my mind. I can see stadiums with cheering fans, ticker-tape parades with showers of confetti, and the overwhelming emotion of a newborn baby being held for the first time - all from imagining that simple word: joy. That tiny one syllable word packs quite a punch! Joy has a power to sustain us - an ability to carry us through hard times. The reason for this is because joy is a supernatural fruit of knowing Yahweh (Gal. 5:8). Happiness can come and go, but if you are abiding in the Vine (John 15:5), joy is full, constant, complete (John 15:11).
Recently in prayer, the Lord brought me to Psalm 45:7 which, being a Messianic Psalm, mentions the grand amount of Jesus' joy. It is even quoted again in Hebrews 1:9 saying,
"You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy more than your companions."
Did you catch that? Jesus had more joy than any other person on the planet! God poured out an endless supply of joy into Jesus' being and it was so noticeable that both the Old and New Testaments make mention of it. Joy was actually a hallmark of the Messiah. But there is an extremely important word located smack dab in the middle of this verse: THEREFORE. The "therefore" tells us the reason why God has given Jesus more joy than all of his companions. It says, "Therefore God has anointed you [because] you love rightesouness and hate wickedness."
Love Righteousness. Hate wickedness. Love and Hate.
Pondering this, it's easy to see how love is associated with joy. However, I would never have thought of hate being related to joy. When I picture joy, it's the ticker-tape parade and the clapping of the hands, remember? Not a single image of "hate" comes to mind. Yet as I prayed about it, I felt God say that for those who truly learn to love His righteousness, they automatically will hate whatever is wicked. If you spend enough time with the true, authentic lover of your soul, delving into his nature and his ways, you will naturally know the counterfeit. Anything less than His nature is wicked and for those who know Him, they will hate it.
The word "wicked" often paints in our imaginations pictures of a green-faced, wild-haired witch dressed in ominous black; something incomprehensibly vile. But wickedness is far more subtle than this. "Wicked" is where we get our word for "wicker." Like wicker furniture, it's tied to the idea of something being twisted, bent, and skewed. So then wicked is whatever twists God’s nature; whatever skews His nature. It's not necessarily only a blatant false teaching about God (although this would certainly fall into the category of wickedness); it is the subtle whispering - the serpent in the garden saying, "did God really say?" kind of twisting that only the true lovers of righteousness will recognize. One of the Hebrew definitions for righteousness is "as it should be." In God, everything is as it should be. There is no variable. No shadow. Only that which is right, good, and holy (James 1:17). Therefore Jesus received the greatest amount of joy ever received on the planet because He had such a passionate love for knowing who God is, of what He does - such an acquaintance with His ways, that anything that was a twisted representative of Him, He utterly despised it. He hated it because He recognized it for what it was. Oh, how I long to be like Jesus!
Greater Hate/Greater Joy
As I pondered the reality of hating what God hates and loving what He loves as a prerequisite for joy, I was led in prayer with a deep stirring, praying that there would be an all-consuming hunger for sanctification in the secret place; a deeper desire to be so set apart for Him. I prayed that I would automatically recognize His longings over my own. I found myself praying for all of our hearts to be filleted opened - our inner life split in two parts by His word: our weakness and strength, our failures and victory, our opinions and His Lordship, all laid out vulnerably before Him. How else can we become so consumed with loving His ways unless it is all brought to light? How else can we be so familiar with an authentic representation of God unless we invite Him into every single part of us?
In that place of consecration, my heart was led to another verse and I knew that I had arrived to the place where the Spirit wanted me to be. That place was Luke 7:47. This passage says whoever has been forgiven of much, that person loves much; but whoever has been forgiven of little, that person loves little. I don't know about you, but I desperately want to love much! I want to love God with all of my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength! But in order to love to the uttermost, Jesus clearly says I must be forgiven of much. Now, this doesn't mean that I have to go out and live in debauchery in order that I can heap up a ton of stuff to be forgiven of in order to love Him more. This simply means I must joyfully enter the secret place with a heart split wide open, saying that He has full permission to expose everything that hinders love. This is living in such a way where my weaknesses are no longer hidden but exposed in His glorious light. It's a vulnerable place. A costly place. But it is the place where greater love and greater joy become my very essence. This is why it is so necessary TO FEEL THE WEIGHT OF SIN and to desire to be sanctified, because it AWAKENS MORE LOVE FOR HIM. I think this is a lost concept for many believers in the West. We have believed a lie that says God would never make us feel bad about our sins or weaknesses, because He loves us. We've been afraid to feel the sting of conviction because we have not understood that it is the key to actually loving Him more. Church, we must allow the Holy Spirit to convict us, not just coddle us. That attitude, that shortcoming, those critical words, those complacent behaviors, must be warred against in the secret place if we want to be a people who walk in greater love and abundant joy. The one who knows the gravity of his sin, has been forgiven of much more than the one who treats sin as insignificant.
Hating wickedness - especially the wickedness inside of me - does not mean that I hate myself. It is actually a mature expression of loving myself. Sin is like a cancerous tumor and if I want to love myself, I will do whatever it takes to cut it out. This is exactly what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matt. 5:30)." One of the greatest expressions, then, of loving God is to allow our hearts to be convicted quickly. This takes me back to Psalm 45, though. We cannot be convicted of "little" sins that we ignore and make room for unless we learn to love righteousness and hate wickedness. We cannot have joy like Jesus had without it. It starts with the inner workings of our own heart. So the next time you go to prayer and you feel the prick of conviction, don't feel like a worthless worm: imagine instead stadiums with cheering fans and ticker-tape parades with showers of confetti falling all around you because THIS is what conviction brings! Fullness of joy! Greater love! Let's pursue it, church, together.