Today we are going to focus on John 15:9-17. You might be surprised what our passage will be for next week. But that's another story.
Let's talk about joy.
Are you a joyful person?
Think about it.
Notice -- I didn't say, "Are you happy?"
You see, that is different. Most of us will admit that there is a difference between "joy" and "happiness." But it might be hard to explain, or define that difference!
This time of year, especially with the frenzy of Black Friday sales, it is easy to see what the world thinks joy is. Joy is buying a trampoline at half price. Joy is the latest gadget in your hot little hand. It's the coolest toy, or the most expensive car . . .
Well, I guess we can't be too hard on 'em. Maybe these folks looked in the dictionary:
Joy -- the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by
the prospect of possessing what one desires.
Wowser! That's all it is? It's just how we feel when everything is going our way?
Well, no. At least, I don't think so.
Some years back, I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of young people from our church as we took specially prepared shoeboxes to the residents of the local assisted living facility. Our daughter had conceived of the idea of filling the boxes with things they might need and enjoy, and might have no other way of finding, especially those who didn't have family to regularly visit them.
There was joy in these young people's hearts as they donned Santa hats and jingle bells, and with boxes in hand, entered the rooms singing heartily as they went.
And there was joy in these elderly people's faces and hearts, as the teenagers presented them with their gaily wrapped boxes, and then stood beside them in small groups, as they finished singing a carol. I saw the sparkle in their eyes -- both the kids and the seniors -- and I thought, this is joy.
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus instructed His disciples one last time. They've left the upper room and are on the way to (or maybe they have arrived at) Gethsemane. This is what Jesus says:
“9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.”I feel like the key verse for us this week is verse 11: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
What did He tell them?
Well, two things . . . to obey, and to remain. Look back in verse 10, and you will see: obey my commands, and remain in my love.
That is how we can have complete joy!
First, our obedience results in joy. Sometimes we may think the opposite, especially as new Christians just learning and reading the Word. We may think that God has given us a long list of "don'ts" and He wants to limit our freedom and make us miserable!
Instead, the opposite is true: obedience to God is our path to joy, because obeying the things we are not supposed to do saves us pain, and hurt, too. But also it's our path to joy because when we do all of the things we ARE supposed to do, we can find real purpose, and meaning, and life.
Secondly, we are to remain in His love. Do you remember the day you realized (perhaps the day you were saved) that you are unconditionally loved by God? That's a true-knock-your-socks-off kind of joy, is it not? (Grin) We have known that unconditional love of Jesus in the past, and we can know it each and every day. Jesus' command for us is to remain in that love; don't get distracted or sidetracked; don't let anyone persuade you otherwise; never, ever lose sight of the eternal truth of the season we now celebrate . . . Immanuel, God with us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” Jesus is beckoning for us to remain under His wing, to remain wrapped in His arms, to remain always in the midst of the fact that we are loved perfectly, unconditionally, truly, not by virtue of anything that we have done or failed to do, but solely by the grace of God.
It's when we realize that, that we can know real joy!