Joy Experienced in Purpose
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What brought Jesus joy? How can His joy be in us? Joy is found as we "remain" in Christ, the True Vine, and bear fruit.
Thank you, Josh, and worship team. Just a quick word for those who are watching online. We're going to be coming to the Lord's table shortly after the sermon. So if you don't have your communion elements gathered yet, do it even right now, if you have your Bibles, I hope you do, open them to John.
Chapter 15. We'll be looking at John Chapter 15 in a few minutes, primarily verses 9 through 16.
You know, we have been in a series on Joy, the Christian virtue of Joy the last couple of weeks, really all of this month leading up to Easter. I don't know if you have found the same thing for yourself that I've found for me. Joy doesn't come naturally. Christian joy doesn't come naturally to any of us. But some of us need this more than others. Some of us, by our personality make up, we are not naturally joyful people. So I am truly in this series speaking as one beggar to another beggar about where to find food. This is an area that the Lord is definitely working on my life and in my life. I've had some good conversations with a number of you about the last couple sermons and about joy. One of the themes that I've heard is, is how do we get a bearing on joy? Is it is something that we're supposed to be feeling? Is it an attitude? Is it a mindset? Is it a series of actions?
What actually do we mean when we talk about the virtue of joy? So you may find this helpful, hopefully, as I have Peter Kreeft, who is a well-known Christian philosopher, he is a professor at Boston College. He really helped me bring this a little more into focus as he distinguishes between pleasures and happiness and joy.
Look at what he says. Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure.
And then and then he brings it into a little more definition. Pleasure is in the body. Pleasures are the bodily pleasures that we experience here in this earth. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. So to some extent, happiness is something we we we have come up in our thought lives, come up in our emotional life.
But Joy, he says joy is deep in the heart. Joy is deep in the spirit. Joy is deep in the very center of the self. One more little focus that he brings to us and he's speaking about everybody who is alive or has ever lived, for that matter, everyone wants pleasure. But more deeply, everyone wants happiness. But most deeply, everyone wants joy.
And I think he's I think he's nailed it there, you know, Sigmund Freud, no friend of Christianity, Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud actually ridiculed the Christian concept of joy. Freud said that joy is really just a substitute for physical pleasure. He's thinking specifically if you know Freud in his writings about sexual pleasure.
In other words, Freud is saying, you Christians, you search after joy because you are not being fulfilled with physical sexual pleasure.
But he has it completely 180 degrees upside down. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote much earlier than Freud, really got it right when he said this No person, no person can live without joy. That is why a person who is deprived of spiritual joy seeks physical pleasures, seeks carnal pleasures. Aquinas goes on to say, Joy is neither a substitute for physical pleasure, but physical pleasure is often a substitute for spiritual joy.
You find that resonating with your experience? I do in my own experience, I do. When I look at the world around me, so many people chasing after physical pleasure, I think of times in my life where I was so motivated to chase after physical pleasure, when what I really want, even though I didn't know it, was joy.
And those in the world who do not know Christ, maybe that some of you watching today or here today, if you find yourself focused on what is bringing you pleasure, even the little things that you continue to habitually go back to, dig down deeper, because really you are trying to feed a hunger that can only be fed when you tap into spiritual joy.
That's why we are focusing on this virtue of joy. We started a couple of weeks ago on March 7th with the last few verses in Zephaniah, that obscure Old Testament Prophet Zephaniah 3, particularly verse 17. And we saw that for one who knows God through Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, the ultimate source of joy is that because of the righteousness of Christ, God rejoices over us.
He is not a stern God ready to zap us for stepping out of line. He is not an angry God. He's not a distant God for his children and Jesus Christ.
He rejoices over us with singing.
And that is where our joy is rooted in this life as a believer. Last week we looked at joy and contentment, comparing it to the stoicism that seems to be making a resurgence in our culture today. Joy and Contentment in Philippians, Chapter four. Today, we're looking at a different aspect of joy, which I'll introduce in a moment. But it comes out of Jesus's words in John 15. If you have your Bible, I invite you to follow along as I read. Back in October, I preached the first eight verses of Chapter 15, so I'm going to pick it up in verse nine. Again, the setting is Jesus is is probably in the upper room. Either that or he and his disciples have left the upper room and they're on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is just an hour maybe before he is arrested and which leads on to his suffering and ultimately his crucifixion.
These are his final words to his disciples before he is crucified.
As the father has loved me. Jesus says, so have I loved you.
And just by the way, he's speaking to those who were there at the time who were his followers. But he speaks these words, come down the centuries and speak to all of us. He's speaking to you
if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. As the father has loved me, Jesus says so I have loved you.
Now, remain or abide in my love, if you obey my commands, you will remain, you will abide in my love, just as I have obeyed my father's commands and remain or abide in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy, Jesus says, may be in you and that your joy may be complete, may be filled.
My command is this love each other as I have loved you, greater love has no one other than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command, I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends for everything I learned from my father I have made known to you.
You 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. This is my command.
Love each other.
So much in there, so with little time, we will not get through it all, but I want to take you back to what Jesus says about joy in verse 11 as we are thinking about, again, what is the source of a Christian's joy?
Where is the joy that we experience as we follow Jesus? Verse 11 Jesus says these things
I have spoken to you. He's talking about everything that was in that discourse in the upper room leading up to his crucifixion. All has taught there these things I have spoken to you that my joy, Jesus's joy may be in
you, may be in you and me, if we are followers of Jesus and that your joy may be complete, may be made full.
In other words, Jesus wants his followers, if you're one of his followers, he wants you and me to experience the joy that he experiences.
He wants us to be believers who experience joy in all of its fullness and all of its completeness.
So let me ask an honest question, is that your experience, is that my experience?
I will speak from my experience that is that is not reflective of my life, though I desire it to be. I don't characterize my life as one that is filled with joy, but I'm very drawn to this and convicted that he wants his joy to be in me. He wants his joy to be in you. He wants our joy to be complete. So there's something that gives me a great hunger for this. I'd ask you kind of the follow on question, if we are not experiencing this joy, what are we chasing to try and experience that joy? If what Aquinas says is correct, that that actually when we chase after physical pleasures, when we chase after earthly happiness, we're really trying to, though we don't know it, we're trying to to find that joy. What is the physical pleasure? What is the myth of happiness that you find yourself like a hamster on a wheel chasing after and never, never finding when you really searching after joy. I want to know this, Joy, I want you as my brothers and sisters to know this Joy. Jesus describes it as as his joy. What let me ask you what brought Jesus joy?
Because if we understand what brought him joy, that his joy is the joy he wants in us, that it be filled, maybe that helps us take some steps towards this. There's much we could say in scripture, but just staying immediately in our text verse 10 gives us some indication of what brought Jesus joy.
He says, if you obey my commands, you will remain or abide in my love, just as I have obeyed my father's commands and remain and abide in his love.
We see some hints of what gives Jesus joy, obedience, pleasing the father walking in his will gave Jesus joy.
Think of the words of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews. Hebrews Chapter 12 for the joy that lay before him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding the shame walking in obedience to the father's will, though it took him all the way to crucifixion on the cross, Jesus says, brought him joy.
So obedience as we obey, as we seek to live a life that is pleasing to the father. There is joy in that.
But that's another sermon. That's not today's sermon.
Jesus also indicates another form of joy that we can experience, and that's in that theme of abiding our remaining.
To abide in Christ, to remain and Christ means to rest in him, it means to rely on him, it means to stay with him.
And we touched on that a little bit back in October. That's another sermon. But there is great joy in abiding in Christ, remaining in Christ, relying on Christ. That's another sermon for another day.
The thing that I want to focus in on today that brings Jesus joy and therefore is a source of our joy is what we see in verse 16.
Jesus says to all his followers, You did not choose me, but I chose you and I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last.
We are if we are followers of Jesus, we know Jesus as savior and Lord, we are chosen. We did not choose him. No matter what your background, no matter what the details are of how you came to faith in Christ, it was God drawing you to Jesus.
Jesus says this and John six forty four. No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws them to me.
So out of his sovereign grace. If you know the Lord Jesus, out of God's sovereign grace, he chose you and he drew you to Jesus. He drew you to faith. And why did he do that? That's the next word there. You are not only chosen by by God, you are appointed. You are set apart. In other words, he did not just choose you to save you is significant as our salvation is. Again, if that was all it is, we'd be in heaven now. He chose us and he set us apart. He appointed us. He has a purpose for us, even still being in this world, being on this side of heaven. That is even what was read in the scripture today, the very last verse of that section in Ephesians. We have been created anew in Christ Jesus for good works. He saved us. He created us anew. He gave us new spiritual life because he has work for us to do, because he has a good work for us to do as we walk in it.
So we have been chosen and appointed to do what Jesus tells here, to go and bear fruit.
Jesus earlier in that chapter uses the image of a vineyard, and you and I, if we know Christ, we have been brought into Christ kingdom, we've been brought in to become part of that vineyard. We become branches attached to the vine of Christ.
And why do we know about a vineyard both then and now? A vineyard that doesn't bear fruit has no point. The purpose of a vineyard is to produce fruit. And yes, as we saw earlier in the chapter back in October, fruit is, while it's not defined in those verses, fruit is certainly the fruit of the spirit, the fruit of Christian character, the fruit of Christ's likeness. But notice the wording here in verse 16. Here it is, the fruit that emerges from going from being sent. It is the fruit that emerges from mission, it is the fruit, in other words, just to use two common terms, it is the fruit of evangelism and discipleship. So what kind of joy is Jesus speaking about here? Jesus is speaking about the joy of bearing fruit.
He is offering to you and me a joy that comes from being used by God in the lives of other people to help someone grow in gospel faith, either coming to faith initially or growing and being strengthened in that faith. Jesus is saying there is great joy in being used by God to help someone grow in gospel faith.
Why it is bearing fruit bring Jesus joy?
Why does it gladden the heart of Jesus when you allow yourself? When I allow myself to be used in the lives of others to to bring them to gospel faith and help them grow and gospel faith. Jesus tells us in verse eight. By this my father is glorified that you bear much fruit. It glorifies God when someone comes to faith. It glorifies God when somebody is growing in gospel faith. And so it brings Jesus joy when we allow ourselves to be used in the lives of others, to grow them in gospel faith, because ultimately it glorifies God.
Let me give you just a couple of biblical examples of this, help dial it in on what we are actually talking about here. John the apostle, the one who wrote the gospel that we've just been reading of, he knew the joy of bearing fruit.
John, as you probably know, in addition to the gospel wrote three short letters, we find them almost at the end of the New Testament just before Jude and Revelation. And in third, John 4, John writes this, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Now let me let me define that just for a moment here. He is not talking about his biological or adopted children. He's not talking about the children that that he may have had as part of his own family. This truth applies to that. But he's talking broader than that. He is most likely he was writing this letter to a man named Gaius. So he is most likely writing to Gaius and some of the other men and women who are part of the small Christian fellowship that Gaius was part of. And really what is happening here is, he is invested in these people's lives.
He spent time with them. He has served them. He has ministered to them. He has taught them, he has his fellowship with them. He has, you know, what we would call discipled them. And then ministry has called him away to some other place, but he hears reports coming back. Hey, Gaius is still going strong. Gaius
is actually become a leader in the church now, and it gives him great joy. Gaius and and the other men and women there walking in the truth.
Walking is that biblical image of our way of living. The Bible uses walking as an image of of like life is a journey. And of course, we can either walk in the way of truth, walk according to gospel truth, walk according to the truth of God's word, or we can walk in the ways of the world.
And he hears that in spite of persecution, in spite of his absence, that these men and women are continuing to walk in the truth.
I had the privilege of having dinner last night with somebody I've not seen for 40 years. He is somebody that we went to high school together who happened to be in town. And he was in the same youth group that I was.
I came to faith in an evangelical free church at about age 13, had the privilege of being in that youth group and growing in that youth group. And so did this man. And as we got together after not seeing each other since high school graduation last night, you know, the conversation, went as it normally would go and when you haven't seen someone in a long time.
Hey, have you heard about you know, and of course, there were people that we could think of that are no longer walking in the truth. But that conversation blessed me so richly because really what we focused on is how many people that were part of that youth group that were part of that church in our age range that we know today are walking in the truth. Some of them are in vocational ministry, but that's not the test, some of them are on the mission field, some of them are in various professions, but they're living for Christ in their professions. Some of them we know are are raising Christian families in small town insignificant settings. But we realize so many of our peers back then are walking in the truth. What caused that? We had a good pastor, but there was no special programming in that church.
We we certainly had great youth pastors during that time, but there were men and women who are youth sponsors, who are our Sunday school teachers. There were others who held no official role, but were just adults in the church who took an interest in many of us.
They were whether they knew it or not, they were bearing fruit. Their investment in us produce a great crop of fruits.
And I rejoice and I believe that those in heaven one day, those who are the pastors and the youth sponsors and the Sunday school teachers, they will one day rejoice as they become aware of how many of the people their lives touched are walking in the truth.
That's what John is saying here.
There's lots of of ways that you can experience joy in this world. There is no greater joy, John says, than seeing those that you have invested in in one way or another walking in the truth. This eclipses all accomplishments. This eclipses all experiences, seeing those that you have spiritually invested in walking in the truth.
Well, not just John, but the apostle Paul as well experienced the joy of bearing fruit. He writes to a number of believers in Thessalonica in the small church there, and he writes again, this is after he's left them. He's spent time with them and after he's left them, First Thessalonians 2:19 for who is our hope or joy
or crown to boast of before the Lord Jesus at His coming? Before I finish his quote there, what is he saying there?
When I stand before the Lord Jesus one day, Paul says, I am nothing to bring before him. I am saved by his grace alone. But what will come to mind as I hear the words good, well done, good and faithful servant, those that I have invested in, those that I have borne fruit in. And so he goes on to say in verse 20
is it not you?
You are our glory, you are our joy. Because Paul had spiritually invested in these people and because at least some of them had responded and they've grown spiritually as a result.
He has joy now and he has joy as he is. He anticipates the future. He knows that he's going to see them in heaven.
There's joy now and there is joy in heaven and there is joy in heaven because he knows that the Lord will reward him for bearing fruit.
I know this goes back a number of years, but maybe some of you recall the Christian song by Ray Bolls. Thank you. Do you remember that song Ray Bolls sings as a songwriter and he sings of being in heaven one day, and he's speaking about someone that he knows who's in heaven alongside with him.
And the verses go on to to describe watching as this friend in heaven has person after person come up to him, a man comes up to him who says, when I was eight years old, I was in your Sunday school class and because you invested in me and you spoke the gospel to me, I came to Faith. Thank you for for doing that. I am here in heaven because of that. He describes another person who his friend does not even recognize coming up to him saying you gave money to support missionaries and those missionaries brought us the gospel. And I am here because I heard the gospel and responded to the gospel. And, you know, that song goes on and on. But one after another, he says he sees coming to him saying thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed.
That's the sentiment here. There is joy now, certainly, as we hear reports of how people that we have invested in, that we have ministered to, that we have served are growing in the Lord. But there is joy to come.
And for everyone here today, if you know Christ as savior and Lord, I just want to underline this. This is not just for those in vocational ministry. This is not just for those who are on the mission field. Bearing fruit is the joy that is available to every believer.
Jesus calls every one of us who follow him to bear fruit and experience this joy. Now how do we, let's say we're not gifted in evangelism, let's say we have no role, no position, how is it that we bear fruit?
Well, I love the very simple image. I'm a simple man. I like simple images.
I think of this simple image in First Corinthians three, where Paul speaks of planting and watering. Paul says there are one or there are some who plant. There is another. There are others who water.
They all work together for the same purpose. By the way, it's not on the screen there, but he goes on to say, and God causes the growth.
But do you get that? There's that image, first of all, of planting.
There is that image of intentionally in the conversations that we have with people in our social circles and in our family circles and work circles who do not know Christ. There is always that opportunity to plant seeds of who Jesus is and of the gospel. But we can't plant those seeds if we keep them in our pockets, can we? There has to be some intentionality. Doesn't mean I have to do a full gospel presentation in every conversation, but am I intentionally sprinkling seeds in the conversations that I have at work and in my extended family gatherings and in my neighborhood and in my other social circles, we bear fruit.
We will one day and heaven see the fruit that comes from planting seeds that we didn't even have the opportunity on this earth to see them sprout and come to maturity.
But there is also opportunities to water the seed. There's opportunities where we are in relationship. We befriend people who they've heard the gospel and they need to be encouraged in the gospel and people who've responded to the gospel who need someone to come alongside them and help them grow in the gospel.
There are opportunities to each one of us every day in the circles that God providentially puts us in to plant and to water. And what does he say? Both those who plant and those who water will one day be rewarded for their hard work.
They will one day see the fruit that they have been part of bringing about and they will be rewarded.
I know we in the evangelical church, we are not comfortable with the concept of rewards. And in one sense I get it. Just like we read in Ephesians two today, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. And even the faith to respond Ephesians 2 says is given to us as a gift.
We don't stir it up in ourselves, but that same passage goes on to say that we are saved, to do good works, good works of planting, good works of watering, which God prepared beforehand when he knew what social circles that you would be in that we should walk in them.
Is it no accident that Jesus gives us the parable of the talents that each one of us have been given seed, each one of us have been given opportunities and relationships, each one of us have been given resources, and each one of us like those different servants in the parable of the talents, will one day come before Jesus. And show what is the result of what what he has given us? How have we invested it? What fruit has it has it born?
What is it that he says to those who who have invested the opportunities and the resources that that God has entrusted to them and it has borne fruit, fruit for the Gospel. They will hear these words from Jesus. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.
Do you not want to hear those words?
I long to hear those words. Nothing, nothing, brothers and sisters will bring you or I greater joy than to hear those words. Well done. Good and faithful servant.
What we do with the opportunities we've been given, no matter how little or insignificant they may seem, what we do with those little opportunities that God gives us now is directly related to the degree of joy that we will one day experience and heaven. When you bear fruit, when you allow yourself to be used by God to plant or to water, not only do you experience joy now as you see some of the fruit of that, but you will one day experience great joy as you are rewarded in heaven. And you hear those words well done good and faithful servant.
So let me ask you in closing today, are you living on mission?
Do you see mission as just that's what people in vocational ministry or people on the mission field are all about? Or do you see mission as something that we are all on that he has put every one of us in mission fields? That mission field may be your immediate family and maybe your extended family it maybe your work situation it maybe your neighborhood. Whatever social circle it is, it is a mission field. Do you see yourself on mission?
Are you building your kingdom or are you seeking to build Christ's kingdom? I've lived too much of my life building my kingdom.
I've lived too much of my life worrying about accomplishments and achievements and positions, and it's all a pile of dirt.
I want to live for Christ's kingdom. I want to invest, I want to be on mission and bear fruit.
Are you reaching out beyond your comfort zone? It is so easy, especially with the ongoing effects of covid, to want to stay within our comfort zone to not wanting to go outside of our bubble. But are you willing to reach out beyond your comfort zone to befriend and bless lost people?
Seed needs to be spread all around us.
Are you willing to go beyond what is comfortable for you to spread that seed to to befriend, to build relationship with and be used as a blessing in the lives of lost people?
Do you take the great commission seriously?
Do you consider it is not just something that's supposed to be part of a church's mission statement, that it is not something that is just for people in vocational ministry or people on the mission field?
Every one of us is called to make disciples of all the Earth. Do you take the great commission seriously?
Are you willing to do whatever you can with what God entrusts to you the opportunities and resources he gives to you to make disciples of Jesus?
This is what we're called to do, but this is where our joy comes from. This is where joy comes from that eclipses any other joy that you and I will experience here in this life.
Let me close with this, every day is a new opportunity, but every day is one day closer to when we see Jesus face to face and we don't know when that day will come. What are you doing with today? Will you invest, will you allow him to use you in little or in big ways, whatever he puts before you, to bear fruit, to be part of bearing fruit, to invest in people spiritually?
I love and I'm challenged with what C.T. Studd said the great British missionary lived about 100 years ago. "Only one life will soon be passed.
Only what's done for Christ will last."
We may accomplish many things in this earthly life, we may have many achievements, we may amass financial security, we may have a lot of relational connections.
All of that will burn away. None of that will be left. Only where we have borne fruit will that last. Only what we do for Christ will continue with us into eternity. Let's pray.
Jesus, once again, I am preaching primarily to myself.
And maybe there our brothers and sisters here who who can identify with me, but I just confess I have spent too much of my life in barrenness and I don't know whether I have years left or days left. But, Lord, I want to use every day, every year that you give me to bear fruit.
And I imagine, Lord, there are some here today who who are at the same place where maybe they've tasted of many good things that life has and they've enjoyed many things in life, but they realize that's not where true
deep joy is and that's certainly not what will be brought before you. But you give us opportunity every day to bear fruits. You give us an opportunity to be used by you in the life of other people, drawing them to and helping them grow in gospel faith. And so would you reorient us today, Jesus, by your spirit? Would you turn our concept of of earthly joy inside out? May we go for this deeper joy, this joy that is known in being part of your kingdom, this joy that we experience in being part of your agenda, the joy of bearing fruit. We want to hear the words one day, Lord Jesus.
Well done good and faithful servant. We pray this in your name and for your glory. Amen.