It’s hard to imagine the ominous assignment that Jesus gave to seventy of His followers. Even His verbiage would cause a measure of foreboding. “I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves,” He told them. I don’t know about you, but that is not a particularly encouraging picture to me!
But they returned “with great joy saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name’” [Luke 10.17]. Their rejoicing was a result of their successful mission and because they exercised power over the demonic realm.
Rather than joining in their celebration, Jesus used the occasion to teach His disciple a great truth. He told them there was a source of joy greater than having power over demons. What was it? That the ultimate source of joy shouldn’t be derived from our successes, rather, that our names are recorded in heaven [10.20]. The foundation of Christian joy is the assurance of our salvation, knowing that our names are recorded in the Book of Life.
Knowing that we are forgiven, that our sins have been remitted and taken away, creates a joy like nothing else. It’s like the stanza from an old hymn:
I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory
And the half has never yet been told!
The guilt of sin deprives us of peace with God. Salvation restores our brokenness. The guilt of sin leads to sorrow. Salvation leads to unspeakable joy — joy that lasts forever.
Successes in ministry come and go. Moments of delight fade away as quickly as they arrive. The joy that comes from knowing you have been cleansed “from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1.9] is the only joy that will survive all the ups and downs of life!
But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are recorded in heaven. Luke 10.20