"Baptized in lemon juice!" Some Christians have been described this way. Crabby dispositions, sour expressions on their faces, and a cranky outlook on life.They're not only miserable to be around -- they misrepresent God. The true effect of Christianity is joy. The lessons Jesus taught were meant to make the joy of His followers "full" or complete (John 15:11 and John 16:24).

Divine Joy

God is the source of pure joy. Jesus referred to "rejoicing in heaven" (Luke 15:7). The Psalms talk about God "Rejoicing in His works" (Psalm 104:31). And one of the prophets goes so far as to say that God "rejoices with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17). God's joy is spiritual and transcends every human feeling or experience.

As a Christian, you derive your joy from God. God is a "well of salvation" from which you draw water with joy (Isaiah 12:2-3). In the presence of God, a believer finds "fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11). Every Christian virtue that brings you joy -- such as faith, hope, and love -- is from God.

Joy in What God Does

God takes pleasure in His handiwork, and you are filled with His joy when you discover and meditate on all He has done in creation (Psalm 92:4) and for you (Psalm 5:11). The joy of God's salvation is especially intense (Psalm 51:12) and finds its fullest expression in the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9-11). Joy breaks out wherever the good news of God's love is proclaimed and people open their hearts to the life and power of Jesus (Acts 8:8).

Your anticipation of God's work in the future produces a joy that helps sustain you through the grief and pain that you have to endure now (See John 16:22, and First Peter 4:13, and Second Corinthians 4:17). Being able to see a future joy is what enabled Jesus to bear the shame and torment of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Joy in God Himself

The ultimate source of joy isn't what God has done, but God Himself. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). You can't always rejoice in your circumstances, but you CAN rejoice in the Lord who transcends your circumstances! Your joy is located above the ups and downs of life. You don't have to see God to rejoice in Him. Just believing can fill you with "an inexpressible and glorious joy" (First Peter 1:8).

Joy can come to you as a sudden spontaneous pang of emotion, but it is also a constant attitude that you carry deep within your heart. At all times, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

Fruit of the Spirit

Paul listed love, then joy, as the fruit of the Spirit (the qualities produced in you by God's Spirit, Galatians 5:22). Thus, joy is the result of God's Spirit working in your life; it is not something you struggle to "feel" (First Thessalonians 1:6). The Holy Spirit is constantly working to maintain joy within you, both as an individual believer and within the spiritual community (Acts 13:52).

Although joy is a key feature in the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17), you won't always have a smile on your face or float through life pain-free. Sometimes sadness is a prerequisite for the joy that follows (See Psalm 126:5-6, and John 16:20-22, and Second Corinthians 4:17). However, in a comforting and real way, you (as a Christian) can be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (Second Corinthians 6:10).

Everyone experiences moments of happiness. The human capacity for pleasure is as great as its capacity for pain. But happiness is different from the divine joy that God places in your heart -- which is unknown to the world apart from Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 2:14). The joy of being loved and cared for by God, of having all guilt washed away, of becoming a member of His family, and of growing in Christ is all wonderful. But the greatest of all joys is found only in God's presence (Psalm 16:11).