These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)
Christmas was a week ago, so by now you realize that you won’t be having that classic Hallmark Christmas this year either. Christmas can be a very miserable time, especially if you are one who thinks that Christmas will solve all your problems. Too many believe the rot that Christmas has this mystical power of reconciling family members, healing diseases, and restoring happiness.
The popularity of Hallmark movies offers nearly irrefutable proof that we love to be sentimental. We crave that perfect Christmas joy. But if we put too much stock in the trappings and the window dressings of Christmas, we set ourselves up for a big disappointment. So, if you are experiencing the “Christmas blues” a week after Christmas is over, you might want to consider what I am saying.
The perfect Christmas – whatever that might be – cannot be had with eggnog, holly wreaths, snow on Christmas eve, the perfect gift, chocolate, or a perfectly cooked ham. Though I might make an allowance for chocolate.
These things are not the end, and they aren’t even the means to an end. The most miserable people in the world can have all of these things – and still manage to keep their misery. This might be the one way known to mankind of eating your cake and still having it.
If you are miserable, Christmas magnifies the misery. If you have joy, Christmas magnifies that joy. Christmas is a kind of magnifying glass of what we are — it puts a spotlight on our spiritual condition.
In John 15:11, Jesus tells us that He has spoken these things – which would be the things He spoke about in the beginning of the chapter – “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
So then, Jesus wants us to have “fullness of joy. That might seem a little out of reach. Many would settle for less – occasional joy would be nice. Even “once in a blue moon” joy would beat what we have now.
What is fullness of joy and how do we experience it? What is it like when we experience this fullness of joy? How will we know when we have experienced it? I believe that Jesus answers these questions in John 15.
Jesus experiences the fullest joy that could ever be experienced. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the Bible makes the extraordinary claim that Jesus is anointed “with the oil of gladness above His fellows.” A person can only expect to experience fullness of joy by experiencing the very joy of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said what He did in John 15 so that we could share in His experience of joy.
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)
Jesus wants His people to experience His joy – “that my joy might remain in you.” When we experience the joy of Jesus Christ, we experience fullness of joy. Sticking with our earlier definition, the joy of Jesus Christ is a complete satisfaction and delight in Himself and His will.
We know that His joy will be different from our joy. His experience of joy will be different from ours. Even our experience of His joy will be different from His experience of His joy. We can describe this on several levels.
First, the joy of Jesus Christ is pure joy. Our joy is mixed with sorrow, with pain, with sin, with disappointment — because our humanity gets on it. Second, Jesus has an infinite capacity for joy, while we have a limited capacity for it. God uses the disruptions to our joy, the sorrows and trials and pain we experience, to expand our capacity for joy. Through difficulty, God intensifies the joy we experience, increases our capacity for it, increases our ability to enjoy His joy, and increases our satisfaction in Him.
I think I see in Scripture this progression of joy that begins when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. In that moment when we receive Christ, we experience a joy that is hard to describe and (it seems) even harder to repeat. The joy that fills our heart in that moment comes from our first taste of the joy of Christ. By nature, the first taste of something delightful is hard to replicate. And so, we might feel as if we have something wrong with us because we don’t regularly experience that same degree of joy that we felt when we first trusted in Christ.
I don’t believe the fading of that first joy is necessarily an indication of spiritual poverty. Rather, it indicates our human condition. The joy we experience in this life is always on a human level. God works constantly to raise the level of our experience, and by God’s grace our joy is rising. But it is still held down by gravity and our atmosphere.
The joy of Jesus Christ is on a much higher level than ours – His joy is infinitely higher than ours. And God is bringing all sorts of things into our lives – good and bad, pleasant and painful – all designed to elevate our joy and bring it up to His.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)
The joy of Jesus Christ is absolutely pure joy. By causing us to pass through the fire, God purifies our joy as well. The end goal is this: that His joy – the very joy experienced by Jesus Christ would remain in us. So then, God’s purpose in everything He brings into our lives – whether good or bad, whether painful or pleasant, whether delightful or disappointment, the blessings and the trials – all are designed to increase our capacity for joy and our experience of joy until we learn to experience the very joy of Jesus.
After all, God’s design for us is that we would glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
In case you are behind in this series (or haven’t read any of it), here are links to the posts to-date: