Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)
The joy of the Lord is more than just your strength, though it is most certainly that as well.
The joy of the Lord is likened to oil. (Isaiah 61:3) And what uses do we have for oil?
Oil is used for lubrication.
The joy of the Lord, gladness to be together, lubricates our relationships with each other and with God. It reduces and eliminates friction and thus prevents the resultant damaging heat.
Oil is used to burn for light.
The joy of the Lord brings light, both into our own minds and hearts and also to those around us.
Oil is used as the ingredient that brings cohesiveness to our food, to hold things all together.
We need the oil of joy to bind our hearts together into the unity of the Spirit of God.
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)
To form the kind of healthy relationships that are needed to participate and be part of the true body of Christ, it is essential that we learn to allow our hearts to experience this most important element of joy.
The true meaning of joy according to our nervous system, is the inner glow you feel deep in your heart when someone else is genuinely glad to be with you, when you sense that you are the sparkle in their eye, that you are special to them even when you are malfunctioning or when you are experiencing emotions that are other than positive.
Jesus plainly declared that He was always going to be with us, all the way to the end of the world. When we connect that promise with a clearer understanding of the true power and importance of joy, it suddenly makes sense why this promise is so important for the process of transforming us into His disciples. It is the very process that God uses in the life of every person who chooses to believe in God and to follow in His ways.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NRSV)
What does the prefix con indicate? Think about pro and con. Pro is for something, in favor of, while con is against something, a negative way of thinking or relationship.
The natural, worldly way of bringing about unity is through the use of negative techniques. Change is brought about by the use of force and deception, through intimidation and fear, threats, arbitrary infliction of pain and coercion. Unfortunately God's reputation has been terribly damaged and distorted because people have believed that He uses some if not all of these methods to apply pressure on His children to obey Him. Religion has incorporated all of these negative tactics into their attempts to get people to obey the dictates of religious leaders who want control over others. But this is not at all how God relates to His children, either those who follow Him or those who reject Him.
God's ways are radically different and are far better and more effective than this. God's way of bringing about change always fiercely respects each individual's freedom to choose for themselves. God's method of bringing about transformation in a person's life and in the community of believers called his 'body' is to fill each heart with joy, and all the results of that ensue naturally.
After looking at the definition of forming or molding a person using negative means through con-forming, let us take a look at the word trans-form.
The best illustration that I can think of for this is the inherent design and function of an electrical transformer. For those who know something about how electricity works, this is an amazing example of how God works to transform our hearts and minds to synchronize with how He feels and thinks and to bring life and power into our lives.
Inside of a transformer there are two sets of wires that are each formed into a spiral. These two spirals or coils are very close to each other but can never be allowed to touch each other. In addition, the number of windings in each coil are different from each other for a very important reason. The whole purpose of a transformer is to change the voltage level of electricity so as to make it usable in a different kind of circuit.
For instance, the most common transformer most of us might know about is the transformer that hangs on a pole near our house outside. This transformer is designed to 'step down' the voltage from the high levels needed to transmit electricity over longer distances more efficiently down to the 120 volt level needed to operate the equipment inside our homes. To accomplish this, there are two sets of windings – one from the incoming circuit and the other with less windings that conducts the current into our home.
The way that electricity gets from one coil to the other, even though the wires never actually touch each other, is through the principle of induction. Let me explain this. When electricity flows through a wire a magnetic field emanates out around the wire everywhere it goes. The stronger the current the wider and stronger the magnetic field occurs around the wire. When this field is created around the wires in the coil connected to the incoming line inside the transformer, it creates a strong electrical magnetic field around that coil. The second coil that has far less windings and does not directly touch the incoming wires is located in very close proximity to that first set of wires which makes the second coil react from the field of magnetism created by the first coil. As a result, power is 'induced' in the second coil of wires in direct proportion to the difference of the number of windings between the two coils. Therefore, if the first coil has ten times as many windings as the second coil, the voltage created or induced in the second coil will be ten times less than in the incoming circuit. After this electricity is induced in the second coil, the current can then move on down the wires into the house and can power all the things we plug into that circuit to use for whatever we want.
I find this a fascinating analogy to the way that God wants to induce power in our lives. You see, God faces a very serious problem with His immense power. If He allowed us to in any way actually touch His 'circuits', we would immediately suffer death just like if the wires inside a transformer were to touch, all the things connected to its output in our house would immediately explode or burn up.
But neither does God want to leave us powerless to simply die from lack of connection to the only power source of life in the universe. So He designed a way to supply us very limited amounts of reduced power to keep us alive even though we have sinned and fallen short of the glory (the power) of God. This is what in religion is called 'grace'. And He does this through the means of step-down transformers, and the chief of those is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the greatest transformer of all to supply God's power to all who have disconnected from God through rebellion.
Now here is the beauty of this analogy. The way that we can have more and more of God's life-giving power in our lives is not by trying to connect directly to the wires of heaven – no, that would only cause our immediate demise. That is why God told Moses on the mountain that he could not look on God's face and live; He was protecting Moses from touching the 'high-power wire' and suffering the natural consequences while Moses still had weak circuits in his life. The way that God has designed for us to experience life-giving power in our lives is by coming into closer and closer proximity to Jesus. The closer we press into the presence of Jesus by meditating on and communicating with Him, fueling our minds with the Word of God and transferring what we are experiencing and learning to others, then even though our windings may number far less than those of Jesus, we can have the synchronized power of God flowing through our lives to bring life and joy and blessing both to ourselves and to all those who may plug into our circuits.
We all need to be re-formed. Sin has caused tragic malformation in our hearts and lives and has terribly distorted the image of God from its original beauty, attractiveness and design. But Jesus, the great transformer provided to us by the Father to reconnect us with life and power once again, Jesus is the connection point through which that same power, albeit at greatly reduced levels, can still flow through our hearts and lives and bring new life and hope and joy in place of fear, pain and death.
It is the magnetic attraction, the magnetic electrical field that always emanates from the glorious beauty and loveliness of Jesus who demonstrats constantly the real truth about God that draws us into being re-formed in His image, to become more and more like God. This is called godliness – simply reflecting what God is like. The more we are attracted to the beauty of Jesus' character and love and compassion and purity, the more those same attributes will be induced in our own lives. This is the positive process of transformation.
God does not use force or deception to conform us into obedience. That is the enemy's counterfeit system of controlling people against their will or coercing their will. Contrary to what most people believe and what religion has practiced for centuries, God's ways still are not man's ways. God always uses the transforming method, not conforming methods. Jesus is attractive and His attraction is more than enough to induce within our hearts and lives the joy strength, the current that will power and even repair our internal circuits as our hearts progressively experience healing, bonding and maturing within the body of Christ.