This is a guest post by Greg Forster, a program director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. His newest book is Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It.
The Importance of Joy
How can Christians help their neighbors live more like God wants and resist the decay of our culture? One of the most important ways is by helping them encounter the joy of God.
Joy, biblically, is not just a pleasant feeling - not just "good vibrations." Rather, [inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="" suffix=""]joy is the explosive change the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, minds, and lives[/inlinetweet] that transforms who we are and every aspect of how we live. Helping people encounter that would make a huge difference to the role of Christianity in our culture.
Here are ten reasons why:
10. It gets people with their guard down. People are naturally wary of canned gospel presentations, political agendas or "Christian cultural impact" campaigns. They're not wary of joyful people.
9. It offers an alternative to lust, sloth and gluttony. The joy of God rips people out of their selfish fantasy worlds, and gets them off the couch and doing something meaningful with their lives.
8. It offers an alternative to pride, greed and wrath. The joy of God casts out the fear and guilt that drive people to build fortresses of misery around themselves.
7. It liberates people from worldly enslavement. [inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="" suffix=""]People who have the joy of God can't be controlled and manipulated by systems of sex, money, and power.[/inlinetweet]
6. It reveals new possibilities for our lives. The renewing of our minds by the Word and Spirit reveal how the world really works, showing us things we would never have dreamed of on our own.
5. It changes our priorities. You can't address cultural problems like financial chaos, family breakdown and cutthroat politics unless you have people who care more about doing what's right than about doing what's easy or makes us feel good.
4. It makes us responsible. People with the joy of God want to be good stewards of all that comes under their care, and pass on a flourishing world to the next generation.
3. It reconciles Christian cultural influence with religious freedom. [inlinetweet prefix="" tweeter="" suffix=""]You can't Christianize people with the power of the state[/inlinetweet]; the only way to genuinely influence culture for Christ is to get people to want what we have.
2. It's good training for the New Jerusalem. Sharing the joy of God will be the whole basis of our cultural life.
1. It's the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in us. Why show our own cultural efforts to our neighbors when we can show them God's?
Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is a program director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. He also the editor of the group blog Hang Together and a regular contributor to the Gospel Coalition, First Thoughts, and other online resources. Forster is the author of numerous articles and six books, including The Joy of Calvinism and Joy for the World (excerpt).