Thursday, December 4, 2014

John 15:9-17 conclusion

This time of year, the stores and the commercials strive to convince us that joy is something you can purchase. A shiny new toy, a gift under the tree; surely those things will make us joyful.
Well, yes and no.
In the story that I shared with you yesterday, it was obvious that joy has nothing to do with externals. It isn't the clothes we wear, or how much money is in our wallet. It doesn't have anything to do with our career or our position in life, or how many people in the church won't make a move without consulting us.
It has everything to do with our hearts.
It's a gift from God, and it is grown by God when we let Him work in us and through us.
Remember Paul's words?

                But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
                goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22)

As I watched those senior citizens, I could see that their joy in tiny gifts made with love was the same joy felt by the teens who gave them. It's not about us; it's about Him.
If we were to do a survey of verses containing the word "joy" in the New Testament, we would quickly see that the idea of joy is often side-by-side with the idea of suffering. We may be suffering, or we may have everything we ever wanted -- it doesn't matter, though, because joy is about something different.
Here it is in a nutshell: joy is really about knowing that we are loved by God. That we are saved by God. And then realizing that nothing else really matters.
Second, joy is found only in giving. When we are focused on others rather than ourselves. When we are meeting their needs instead of ours. When we are sacrificing our desires so that someone else can experience theirs. You won't find that in the dictionary, either. But I saw that in the lives of the teens that day, who were inspired to make plans to come back and carol again before Christmas, for the seniors at that center.
Think about it. We don't have to be saints to get real joy out of giving gifts to others. And usually that's a lot more fun than receiving gifts, even though we may appreciate them very much. The joy isn't in the things -- it's in our choice to give to others.

While we are thinking about the fact that joy is a gift from God, and that it's one of the fruits that the Holy Spirit produces in us, let's also think on this: you and I can stop His Spirit from creating them in us. We need to examine ourselves and change those areas where we are preventing God from creating joy within our hearts.  For most of us, including me, the biggest obstacle is selfishness.  I can look at my own life and see that the times when I am not full of joy are the times when I am focused on myself!
Let's look back at our passage, specifically verses 12-13:
               My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love
               has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

In our hearts we know, we will never find joy in pursuing ourselves, but we will find it in loving God and in loving one another.  It's a choice that we make, and we receive joy from living for others first and for ourselves second.
Let's confess our selfishness. Let's pray that Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorned it's shame, and then sat down at the right hand of the Father's throne . . . let's pray that He will open our hearts and show us our selfish ways and the misery those ways cause. Let's ask for forgiveness and then choose to live for Him and for others.
Then watch out!
Because we will experience true joy!

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