READ: Proverbs 13, Luke 1, 1 John 1
John the Baptist has been slandered. We present him as this anti-social, desert dwelling, wild and wooly, locust crunching, stern, gruff, angry prophet, who doesn’t brush his hair or teeth, just yells at people, falters a bit at the end, then gets his head chopped off. Luke presents a very different picture of John–a picture gilded with joy.
When John’s birth was announced, it was framed with a prediction that he would bring joy and gladness, with many rejoicing at his birth (Luke 1:14). We are told that John was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb (something fairly unique among humans), and in the womb leaped for joy when he tummy bumped into Him (v. 44). Elizabeth’s neighbors also rejoiced at John’s birth (v. 58). You cannot understand the work of the Holy Spirit on and in John the Baptist outside of the context of joy. Mary, the same: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (vv. 46-47). This is after the Holy Spirit has come upon her and the power of the highest has overshadowed her (v. 35). For John and for Mary, as it should be for us, the empowerment of the Spirit is evidenced by joy.
The Holy Spirit is not dour and eternally solemn. The Holy Spirit brings life, joy, light, and hope. When the Holy Spirit comes into us at conversion, when we are refilled again and again with the Spirit, it leads inevitably to joy. Those who claim to be Spirit-filled but live a crabby, angry life are not walking in the Spirit at all, for the Spirit of God brings joy. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have joy within and we have joy cascading out. A common mark of the Spirit-filled is the joy that radiates from them, surging around within them and splashing onto others they commune with. We grieve the Holy Spirit of joy when we present Him or His filling as something that makes us angry, solemn, or intimidating. The Spirit makes us winsome, approachable, gracious, joyful, and inspiring.
If the filling of the Spirit is marked by joy, so should the pursuit of the Holy Spirit. Because we have attached litmus tests to the Spirit’s filling, we often lose the joy of pursuing more of Jesus. When the soul is consumed with the joyful pursuit of magnificent Jesus, it pays no heed to what others think or what institutions demand. The soul most ripe for initial or repeated in-fillings of the Spirit of God is the soul that simply rejoices in God our Savior. The longing for more of Jesus is what fills us with joy so unspeakable, we must say something–even if it is ecstatic.