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  • Writer's pictureClaire Louise Smart

Salvation Creates Joyful Identity

In September this year I moved to Redding, California, USA to start first year of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) at Bethel Church. BSSM is a vocational Christian ministry school that has had over 13,000 students graduate from 100 different nations who received incredible teaching and practical application of how to essentially live like Jesus did.

I am not even sure how to begin to describe how life-changing the last three months have been, but I am going to make some small attempt to give you a glimpse into just one aspect! Having been a Christian for 14 years, and a missionary and ministry leader for the last five years I certainly have encountered much joy and thought I had a pretty good grasp on the joy of the Lord before coming to BSSM... it seems that when the bible in 1 Peter 1:8b says, "... you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory", there is much more to be experienced and known!

"... you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" - 1 Peter 1:8b NKJV

Some bible versions say 'unspeakable' instead of 'inexpressible', and this is absolutely the truth. As I sit here trying to put words and descriptions on a daily experience of the joy of the Lord, I know that I will not be able to give full glory or expression to what I have experienced. I pray this blog post encourages you to seek out from the Lord the revelation and experience of this joy that is not in any way dependant on anything except your salvation.

BSSM teach 13 core values - one of which is 'Salvation Creates Joyful Identity'. They teach their core values from the front in a class-like seminar but also through experience in the way they do intentional community and culture, activations, and homework.

There are around 500 students in my year group and we meet in a group (known as a revival group/RG) of around 50-60 people at least weekly throughout the year which is led by a pastor (revival group pastor/RGP) and some third year students. Our leaders have been intentional on putting time aside to have fun, for games, for parties, for encountering the Lord in joy and for celebrating.

These times sometimes consist of grown-adults playing with balloons, dressing-up in dinosaur costumes, watching videos with no purpose except to elicit a response of joy, out-loud laughing at the enemies lies and many other things that seem rather strange out of context and offensive to the religious. It is also a daily occurrence to see someone encountering the Lord in laughter in such a way that they look drunk, as those in Acts 2:15 did and is explained in Ephesians 5:18 when it says, "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the [Holy] Spirit"

Where the joy of the Lord is given value, both through acknowledging and honouring this move of the Holy Spirit and creating time for the Lord to move in this way, it seems to become more common and evident. What I realised in myself is that although I had experienced joy, through experiences in my past I was not often taught or modelled that joy and fun had any or much value, and that if I had time to have fun, I probably was not being productive or busy enough. I therefore didn't always put time aside to have fun, and it was often on the low-end of my priorities.

I think this is a common lie that many believe, and I believe it often comes from the same spirit and mentality of religion, and from various fears such as fear of not being productive enough or somehow having to earn something from God, fear of poverty and fear of man. It can also come through the mentality that suffering or striving as a Christian without joy or having fun is somehow more holy. These lies are often subtle, but joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and seriousness is not.

I don't have time to go into depth on what joy is and what it is not. I do believe it is an internal feeling of complete satisfaction and excitement not depending on circumstances that comes as a bubbling up feeling of this. I also do believe that joy manifests outwardly as something because it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). All fruits of the Spirit are outward and visible so that we can know people by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). Joy is not mocking, laughing in a degrading or devaluing way at the expense of yourself or others, is not crude and does not involve laughter at sin or those in sin. In simplicity, I believe that outward manifestations of joy that issues from purity and holiness should show daily on our faces as real smiles and laughter.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

It had been less than a week in, that the Holy Spirit started talking to me about experiencing fun and joy this year. Then from the front of class one of the leaders felt this was a word for our whole year group. It just so happened that the advertisement for that year of the building that we have first year class in was 'have more fun!'.

Then a couple weeks later whilst my revival group was away on retreat, we were prophesied over by the second years. One table had some people asking the Lord for a word or short phrase for first year students to make into a bracelet. The girl asked the Lord, and she made me a bracelet saying 'more joy'.

I have also had the joy of serving in Bethel kids church each week this year. I felt the Lord was leading me to serve the kids, and that He was also wanting to teach me joy and fun through them amongst many other things! We spend 3 hours on a Sunday dancing, playing games, telling jokes and encountering the Lord through worship and the Word. It has been life-changing and a great honour. Kids know how to have fun and they also know what they will find fun! It is only through 'growing up' that we sometimes forget how to have fun.

"...assuredly I you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 18:3 NKJV

I think that we as the body of Christ often put high value on spiritual gifts and miracles and rightly so, but oftentimes we elevate this above the fruit of the Spirit. Gifts are undeserved and reflect Gods goodness and purpose in and through our lives. Fruit is from obedience, from yielding and abiding in the Holy Spirit which requires discipline and hunger for the Lord. All of these come through God, but it takes time, stewardship and a heart's desire to grow in the fruit of the Spirit also.

Abundant joy is needed to thrive, and it is what Jesus paid for, for your salvation. Jesus died on the cross for you to have abundant life (John 10:10). All of us will face trials in this life, and Jesus promises that the joy of the Lord will be your strength through every season and situation (Nehemiah 8:10). Paul the apostle suffered much but it is clear he also knew the joy of the Lord. I recognise that as a missionary called to unreached and dark places, I greatly need abundant joy to have longevity to finish the race well! I am excited for what God is doing in this area of my life and I pray that the Lord will teach you experientially the value of joy and fun that comes through salvation in Jesus!


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