Connoisseurs will tell you there is only one source for great bagels: Brooklyn, New York. They claim it’s because of the superior qualities of Brooklyn water in the dough. So if you want the best bagels, you have to go to Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn-Water Bagel Co. in Atlanta, Georgia, has a machine they call “The Brooklynizer” that adjusts the mineral content of its water to match that of Brooklyn. Still, one Brooklyn native calls the Atlanta product “close, but no cigar.”
Going to the source
Joy is a little like that. There is only one source of joy: God’s own joy. Matthew 25:21 bids us “enter into the joy of the Lord.” So, like Brooklyn, the joy of the Lord is something we enter into to get to the source. Jesus said, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink (John 7:37).” In other words, the best water can’t be faked.
But it gets better. Jesus followed that with “Whoever believes in me…Rivers of living water will flow from within him (John 7:38).” So if we enter into God’s joy by imbibing the living water of the Holy Spirit, we’re “Brooklynized” and become, through him, sources of this super-charged water for others!
Looking for joy in the wrong places
It can be tempting to try to come up with joy by ourselves, without God as the source. But authentic joy doesn’t come that way. Trying to make joy happen by ourselves can lead to addictions that take us far from God, or at least far from his joy. Like when I get a craving for Cheetos and eat too many at once.
Jesus makes a stern promise to those who look for joy outside of God: “But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).”
Ah, no thanks….
Entering into God
Any legitimate effort we make to find joy—prayer, listening to joyful music, or eating a great bagel are merely ways we enter into the Lord’s own eternal joy, which he’s eager to share with us. “All the earth is filled with his glory! (Isaiah 6:3).”
Joy is a fruit of our love for God.
Joy is a taste of heaven. We put one foot in heaven when we enter into God’s own joy. Real joy always comes with the hope of heaven. That taste of supernatural happiness gives us confidence that God’s promises are true and worth the effort it takes to stay close to him.
Turning our mind to God’s promises is a way to enter into the joy of heaven ahead of time. Pondering his promises, we love him more and—voila!—experience greater joy. So grab a bagel (or a Cheeto) and ponder some of the joyful promises that God has given to you personally:
- Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
- Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison that you may be tested….Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
- And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be (John 14:3).
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:3-5; 8).
This is the joy that trumps all other joys—that the sufferings of this world are nothing in comparison to the joy that awaits us in heaven (forever) and that all our joys and pleasures are only a hint of heavenly joy.
As we mark Jesus’ Ascension to the Father, we anticipate even more his second coming when he will bring us to the unending joy of heaven. And that is infinitely better than anything on earth, even a Brooklyn bagel.