Joy In The Darkness

Joy In The Darkness

Pursuing joy!


With the knowledge that the whole world lies in darkness (1 John 5:19) and is headed for destruction, what would cause a Christian to live a joyful life?


Most Christians know the pat answers – we are to glorify God in the darkness; we are to seek the salvation of the lost while there is time; we are to live for heaven not earth. All very true, but these things are often attempted with little real joy. And this is usually because we are still joined at the hip with the world for our happiness fix.

The Apostle Paul victoriously proclaims, “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast (glory, exalt, rejoice) except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14).  This speaks not of bearing some burden (though trials will come for sure), but it speaks of a severance from allowing the world and its circumstances dictate our well-being – to determine our happiness.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace... (Gal 5:22).
At His right hand are pleasures for evermore… (Ps 16:11).

Peter says that knowing Christ is joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pet 1:8). Granted, for the present, these realities are somewhat diminished by the remaining corruption of our flesh; but they are, nevertheless, known realities to those indwelt by His Spirit. The degree to which we experience that joy is much determined by how “dead” we are to the world.

All that is in the world – the lust of the flesh (physical pleasures), the lust of the eyes (covetousness, quest for ‘stuff’), and the pride of life (self promotion) is of the world and not of the Father (1 John 2:16  ).

If these things characterize the motives of our lives then John says the love of the Father is not in us. How easy it is for us to allow our hearts to rationalize ‘acceptable’ limits for such motives, and sanctify any success as “the blessing of God”.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinth 10:31).

This is the unalterable paradigm for the Christian life… and for fulness of joy. The Christian is so created in Christ that whatever most glorifies God brings the most joy in this world. In a love relationship with Jesus and communion with God through the Spirit and the Word, we are to be launched into the world as fountains of love and truth, knowing that whatever the world’s response is, God is being glorified and we experience joy. Ironically, we are then free to truly enjoy the temporal blessings of this world as God chooses to bestow them. Next week I will look at some of the practical aspects of our temporal joy.

About Ed Ross

Ed Ross has been pastor of Springwood Chapel in York, PA for the past 16 years.  He and his wife, Lynna, have been married 34 years, and have three grown children (a son and two daughters) who are all actively involved in the church and/or missions work.

Having attended Millersville University (PA: 1969-1972), Maranatha Baptist Bible College (WI: 1977-1980 ), he received a bachelor of theology from International Bible Institute & Seminary (FLA). He was first ordained into the ministry in 1980, at which time he and his wife began an Independent Baptist church, remaining there for eight years.

Ed has been bi-vocational at times, working in supervisory and management positions in the quality and manufacturing engineering fields.

He is actively involved in missions work, having spent significant time teaching among the amaZioni peoples of southern Africa. Ed has written numerous tracts and pamphlets, and currently publishes Tuesday’s Touch, a weekly e-devotional. He has also served as a city police chaplain for a number of years, and enjoys writing music/poetry, hiking, and traveling with his wife.

Think #1: an·tin·o·my


What is “antinomy”?

It’s simply a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles. (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition)
The truth of God’s word is honored not in holding exclusively to one truth to the exclusion of another truth, but in believing the whole counsel of God, even though we may not be able to reconcile it in our finite minds. The Bible plainly teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation just as it plainly teaches that man is responsible to repent and believe the gospel.
Antinomy Table 1Antinomy Table 2

 This chart is based on a similar chart originated by Lamar McKinney


Jesus the Nazarene


Why does Matthew end his great

Christmas narrative with a whimper?


Joseph with Infant Christ in His arms
Joseph named the child Jesus
Other sections of his gospel finish with strong summaries, so why not the first two chapters?  Why have a great story end with some geographical details, an obscure reference to an unidentified prophecy and a comment about Jesus being called a Nazarene?
After fleeing to Egypt, another angelic visit prompted Joseph to return to Israel.  Herod’s replacement was a frightening prospect, so rather than heading back to Bethlehem, another dream directed him back home to Nazareth.
Nazareth – Joseph knew what would face the family in the hometown where everyone knew this couple so well.  How would he rebuild his business when everyone doubted his word on family matters?  How would Mary face the snickers and gossip that would accompany the return of “the virgin” with her little surprise?
Matthew finishes the story with a flurry of place names: Egypt, Judea, Galilee—that is, “Galilee of the Gentiles.” This Messiah was not just for the Jews, but for Gentiles too.  Actually, with Jesus growing up in Nazareth, we discover that he really was for all of us.
Nazareth was five miles from Sepphoris, the strongest military centre in Galilee.  Nazareth was on a branch of the great caravan route to Damascus.  For traders, soldiers and travellers, Nazareth was just a rest stop on the way to somewhere better.
Essentially, Jesus grew up in Nowhere, Galilee.  Was this the next best thing since God’s plan A (Bethlehem) had been thwarted by pesky Herodian rulers?  Not at all.  God directed Joseph so that Mary was brought back to Nazareth, and Jesus was brought up there.  This meant that the Messiah born in Bethlehem would always be called the Nazarene.
Prophecy – So which Old Testament passage is being fulfilled?  This has caused some consternation among scholars.  Where does the Old Testament say the Messiah will be raised in Nazareth?  It doesn’t.  So why the fulfillment reference?  Notice that Matthew refers to the prophets, plural.  Perhaps several options should be combined to grasp Matthew’s subtlety here:
Was Jesus considered a Nazirite (Nazir)—a chosen holy one set apart for God’s service from his mother’s womb, just like deliverer Samson and the priest, Samuel?
Certainly, Jesus was the Messianic “branch” (Neser)—the Davidic branch of Jeremiah 23/33, who would reign in righteousness over the earth; the branch who is a priest-king rebuilding the temple in Zechariah 6; the branch from Jesse’s stump anticipated in Isaiah 11 at the conclusion of the royal Immanuel section.
Perhaps instead of choosing one idea over the other we have two of Matthew’s great themes converging: Matthew weaving together priest and king in describing deliverer Jesus.  Again, Matthew brings us back to Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy that had begun his sequence of fulfillments in chapter 1.
Joseph called his name Jesus in chapter 1, and by the end of chapter 2 it is Joseph that brings him to Nazareth so that all would call him a Nazarene.
Or was Matthew more directly and deliberately pointing to a location, rather than a subtlety in the name itself?  I think so.  Chapter 2 is filled with geographical locations.  Perhaps another prophetic reference can come into play here – Isa.53:2.  This offers no reference to geography, but uses the associated terminology of “a root” in underlining the lowly obscurity of this priest-king.
Jesus knew the life of the poor, as is clear in many of his parables.  Jesus experienced gritty human life.  He was not sheltered in an ivory tower, protected from the “dross of society.”  He lived in the dross and carried it as his label.
Label  Jesus was a common name back then, so he needed an identifier, a nickname to distinguish him from the thousands of other Jesus’ of his day.  Who was his Dad?  That was complicated.  What was his job?  Perhaps too common.  So where was he from?  Nazareth became the label that went with his name.
As we read through the gospels we see the Nazareth label used repeatedly. At the start of his ministry Nathanael reacts to Phillip – “can anything good come out of Nazareth!?”  A demon used the identifier of him, which he accepted.  It was used of him near Jericho and again at the Triumphal Entry.  At his arrest it was the label the arresting party gave, and that Jesus accepted.  During Jesus’ trial, Peter was challenged with the accusation of being with the Nazarene.  On the cross, the inscription carried the place name.  After his resurrection, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus referred to it, as did the angel at the tomb!
Even after his ascension, Jesus continues to bear the lowly label “of Nazareth.”  Peter’s presentation on Pentecost culminates with Jesus as both Lord and Christ, but it launches with Jesus of Nazareth.  The lame man is healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Stephen’s accusers refer to it.  Peter declares to Gentiles that God anointed and was with Jesus of Nazareth.  Later we discover that Jesus used the label of himself when he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus!  This had been the name opposed by Paul in his days of Christian persecution, indeed, even Jesus’ followers had to bear the disparaging label in Acts 24.
God was with this Jesus of Nazareth.  And in his willingness to carry this label in ministry up north and down south, in his arrest, his crucifixion, his resurrection and even in his ascension, this Jesus of Nazareth was most assuredly “with us.”
God with us, God like us.  Immanuel, from Nazareth.  God with us, not just near us.  With us, like in “Nazareth with us.”  Jesus of Nowhere, Galilee.  He came to be with us, so that he could be for us.  And he is forever with us, for he still carries the lowliest of labels.  It was all part of God’s plan, that he should be called a Nazarene.  What better way to climax the Christmas narrative than this.

~ Peter

You are invited to comment on Peter’s article at Cor Deo
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit Peter also authors the website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]