Pastor Edward Brouwer 4-15-18 “JOY” John 15:1-12
We continue in our Pentecost series on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. And today we look at joy. Joy is the hallmark of the believer. Why? Because Jesus lives in us by His Spirit, he has given us his joy and the joy of the Lord is our strength. John records Jesus’ Farewell Discourse beginning in John 13. After 3 years of ministry Jesus tells his disciples some very important truths. He said “I am the vine”. Apart from me you can do nothing. It’s impossible to bear fruit apart from Jesus. The only way to bear fruit is to abide in him and he in you. Then he says “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus is inviting us into the fullness of his joy.
Read John 15
Joy has been called the birthright of every believer and justly so. Our new life in Christ, our new life in the Spirit reflects the character of God and joy overflows from the Godhead. The love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity overflows with joy and delight in one another. Three in One. One in Three. Pure delight. The love and joy of the Trinity overflows also to God’s creation. If we are born anew in God through the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit then, as image bearers of God (and God’s people in whom He dwells by His Spirit) we will “bear” the family resemblance. We will reflect the love and joy of God. And so Jesus imparts to us his joy and it becomes part of our DNA.
Joy and happiness are sometimes confused. They reflect similar feelings but the source is different. Happiness is dependent on happenings. We feel glad or happy when things are going our way. Happiness is an emotion that fluctuates with our circumstances. You get a promotion and you are happy. You ask a girl out on a date and she says yes and you’re happy. If the stock market is surging and your investments are looking great then you’re happy. But if the opposite happens then you are patently not happy.
Joy in contrast, does not depend on your circumstances. Joy as a reality of the new life we have in Christ wells up within us because of things that are dependent on God and not us. Jesus said, “as the Father loves me so I have loved you”. Christian know and believe this:
You are loved by God in Christ. We are objectively loved by the God of the Universe. Does that truth bring joy to your heart?
And because He adopted us as his children we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. So Paul could write in Romans 8:35 who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No for in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! So our joy is not dependent on our circumstances.
And because we have salvation in Christ and the promise of heaven, we know the end of the story. Jesus said the world would hate us even as it hated him. In the words of the old hymn “and though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us”. What is that truth? Jesus said it: In this world you will have tribulation but be of GOOD CHEER (rejoice and be glad—be filled with joy) for I have overcome the world.
Okay pastor that is all well and good but I am struggling in the area of being a joyful Christian. Is there something wrong with me? Well maybe there is and then again maybe not. If you’re not experiencing joy in your life then there may be a reason. Even Paul in Galatians 5 (after listing the fruit of the Spirit) writes “and those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, so if we live by the Spirit let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
That right there becomes a diagnostic. Recently I had some car repair work done. The car wasn’t functioning properly and the mechanic ran through diagnostics to determine the source of the problem. In a similar way, when we are not experiencing the joy of the Lord in our lives we must ask “Where am I not abiding in Christ?” or “where am I not keeping in step with the Spirit?” If I am walking in sin, knowingly and rebelliously, then I am quenching the Spirit and what naturally follows from that is a loss of joy. Jesus puts it this way in verse 10 “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love”. Paul says it in a different way in Romans 14:17 (for those who argue that we have complete freedom to do anything [let sin abound so that grace may abound] or those who argue that we have to follow rules): “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness and peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit. Take a moment right now and ponder this, ask the Holy Spirit “where am I wantonly taking liberties and thereby sinning?” Where am I NOT believing the gospel? Where am I carrying a burden of sin, guilt and shame that the Lord wants me to repent of? Ask God to renew your joy as you keep in step with the Spirit.
You may say “pastor as far as I know in my conscience I am not willfully sinning but I still lack joy”. Could it be that you are trying too hard? The opposite of license (its ok for me to sin because Jesus forgives me) is law (an obsession with trying to be perfect by keeping all the commandments). Certain personality types will say “just tell me what to do”. This reminds me of the book I am reading by Eric Metaxas on the life of Martin Luther. As a young priest Martin obsessed about his sins, the minutest perceived slip-ups haunted him. He believed that it was up to him to be perfect—after all didn’t the church and Scripture say: be ye perfect even as I am perfect? [Read the section from the book on page 34] “Luther would endeavor with all his considerable might to achieve salvation”….until he realized the truth of the gospel that we are justified by Christ’s perfection and it is only trusting by faith in Christ’s work that we are saved. It was then that the flood of joy filled Luther’s heart! Take a moment now and ponder this—are you believing the gospel that Jesus has paid it all? Or do you believe in a civic religion of “do more and try harder” to please God?
But what if sin or unbelief is not the issue? You still lack consistent what I call “overcoming” joy in your life. What if life is just pulling you down? How is it even humanly possible to have a glad heart in the midst of suffering and depression? I have no easy answers for you but I want to encourage you to remind yourself, in prayer and God’s Word in the fellowship of the community of God’s people of the words of Paul to the church at Rome. In Roman’s 15:13 Paul writes: “May the God of all hope, fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” To those who struggle with being joyful in the midst of sorrow, rest in the hope that God is working all things for his glory and our good.
Let Providence Church be a church that lives and breathes the joy of the Lord. May we encourage one another by speaking faith and hope and love into each other’s hearts reflecting Jesus, reflecting the True joy Giver.