John Wesley was about 21 years of age when he went to Oxford University.
He came from a Christian home, and he was gifted with a keen mind and good looks.
Yet, in those days he was a bit snobbish and sarcastic.
One night, however, something happened that set in motion a change in Wesley’s heart.
While speaking with a porter, he discovered that the poor fellow had only one coat and lived in such impoverished conditions that he didn’t even have a bed.
Yet, he was an unusually happy person, filled with gratitude to God.
Wesley, being immature, thoughtlessly joked about the man’s misfortunes.
“And what else do you thank God for?” he said with a touch of sarcasm.
The porter smiled, and in the spirit of meekness replied with joy, “I thank God that He has given me a life and being, a heart to love Him, and above all a constant desire to serve Him!”
Deeply moved, Wesley recognized that this man knew the meaning of true thankfulness.
Thankfulness that comes from knowing what God had done for him.
We can find, pleasure and rejoice in a job well done.
But the greatest joy comes not from anything we can accomplish.
But what is accomplished on our behalf through faith in Christ.
The joy of salvation.
If you read ahead in the book of Luke to chapter 15 you will find 3 stories of things that are lost and then found.
A lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.
Each of those stories end with great joy.
As we see the disciples returning from their mission they had been sent on, we see joy in 3 ways.
joy in victory, a job well done,
joy in salvation,
and joy in sovereignty.
The question I want to pose to each of us Christians here this morning is
Christian, are you finding joy in your salvation?
And if you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Lord and savior I want you to know that you can have true joy in your life.
As the disciples returned to Jesus, they came with joy because of all that had taken place.
They had joy especially in the fact that their most difficult foe had been subject to them in Jesus name.
This was a great reason to be joyful.
We all take joy in a job well done.
Jesus responds by encouraging them that their work is continuing the Satan’s demise.
Reminding them of the authority that he gave them and the protection he provided as well.
His next phrase though reminds them of the most important reason for them to have joy.
And where that joy is found.
Joy in Salvation.
We can imagine these disciples returning to Jesus, up on a cloud so to speak.
They were so excited because of what had taken place through them.
The reminder must come that it was not their doing, or their power.
Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you.
Something else should give them a greater joy.
The promise of eternal life!
Jesus is trying to drag them down but rather pointing ahead.
He is making a comparison.
This joy that you feel now, in this time of victory, is but a taste of the joy to come!
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!
This is referring to a biblical image that we have throughout the Bible as the book of life.
Moses interceded for the people of Israel after they had created the golden calf saying
When the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon Daniel promised
Paul speaks in the NT
And John writes in the book of Revelation when he speaks of the first beast that he saw a vision of
Kings of the day would keep lists of the subjects that were under their rule for many different purposes.
We think of the Christmas story.
Why did Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem?
Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken.
In New Testament times, Roman officials would keep detailed registers of the people who belonged to their city-state, and who therefore had the full rights of membership in their community.
A person whose name was in the book was entitled to property and protection.
We think today, while not their originally intended purpose, social security numbers in the US are a mark of citizenship.
It shows you have a right to work in this country because you are a citizen.
Jesus is saying here, the work is joyful, but take greater joy in the fact that you are part of the citizenship of heaven!
The greatest joy we can have in the Christian life is not the joy of success, not the joy of service, not the joy of marriage and parenting,
the greatest joy we can know is the joy of salvation.
Some have thought that Jesus is rebuking the disciples for not being more spiritually minded but this is not the case.
Jesus is stressing that no matter how glorious it is that Satan's kingdom is crumbling our greatest joy is found in our salvation.
It is greater to be loved and adopted by God than to be a victor over satan.
We have both, but this is best.
What, then, does it mean to have our names written in heaven?
It means that the High King of heaven knows and remembers that we belong to him.
It means further that he is keeping an accurate record of our citizenship in his everlasting city (see Phil. 3:20).
It means that we have a right to all the privileges of heaven, even before we arrive.
And it means that we have God’s own guarantee of eternal life.
Jesus says of anyone who trusts in his righteousness,
So when Jesus tells us to rejoice that our names are written in heaven, it is to reassure us that he is keeping track of our salvation.
David Gooding writes
It is a wonderful thing to be allowed to perform effective service in the name of Christ here on earth; it is even more wonderful to be able while still here on earth to be sure of heaven.
Are we finding joy in the promise?
As believers and followers of Jesus, we can be certain in this promise.
That our names are written in the Lambs book of Life.
Not because of anything thing that we have done.
But because he has written them.
Names written from before the foundation of the world the Bible tells us.
All we do is trust in Jesus for our salvation.
To believe in the reality of heaven, but to journey through life uncertain of ever arriving there, would be not joy but torture.
Take Paul as an example.
It was the assurance of knowing that their names were already written in heaven that strengthened Paul in prison and shored up his fellow-workers in their labours for Christ in face of bitter persecution.
We do not come to this assurance by climbing up into heaven, searching God’s archives, and paging though his royal registry.
Instead, we know that our names are written in heaven the same way we know everything else about our salvation:
by believing in Jesus Christ as he is offered to us in the gospel.
We know that we have eternal life, not because we have read the book of life,
but because we have faith in the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb.
The people whose names are written in heaven are the people who trust in Jesus.
Eternal life includes victory over Satan in spiritual warfare,
but it encompasses all of the other blessings that God also has for us in Jesus Christ:
the forgiveness of our sins, the resurrection of our bodies, and the fellowship of knowing God as our loving Father.
The joy of eternal life is also more permanent.
Whatever other joys we experience could never last for long if we could not be certain that God will always love us.
But having our names written down in the book of life is a joy that will last forever.
Our joy in eternal life keeps us from being downcast during difficult times of our lives.
when Satan does not seem to be cast under our feet, when trials come.
There is a quite well know preacher from London, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones who as he was drawing near to death could only sit up for an hour or two each day.
He was asked the question “How are you coping with your ministry being so confined?”