Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ

Jesus said what He said in His lifetime so His disciples would experience fullness of joy.  I do not consider that a stretch, like I am making too much of joy. In His intercessory prayer, Jesus prayed…

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in us.  And He spoke so that His joy would be fulfilled in us. He wanted His disciples to experience “full” joy.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

This means that Scripture itself was written so that we could experience this “full joy.” God’s Word is saturated with the joy and blessing and delight of God.  Hopefully I have made that point sufficiently in previous posts so that I don’t need to repeat the Scripture proofs for it now.  God created us to be the objects of His joy and glory and to share in His joy and glory. God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is that they should share in His eternal joy in Himself – and this is the way God glorifies Himself.

The Bible overflows with the joy of God. It spills out into our own lives as we read it and enjoy it.  But in John 15:11, Jesus specifically points to the words He spoke in the upper room on the night before He was crucified. Those words in particular aimed at giving the disciples full joy.

John 13-17 records an extended discourse in the upper room as Jesus prepared His disciples for His crucifixion and the events that would follow.  In John 13, Jesus girded on the servant’s apron and washed His disciples’ feet.  He instituted the Lord’s Supper, and then He dismissed Judas Iscariot.  In John 14, Jesus described the grounds of our comfort in a hostile world and prepared His disciples to face that hostility victoriously. 

Then in John 15, Jesus described our union with Himself. The passage speaks of this union as a living, loving, and lasting union. [1] Jesus uses the figure of a vine and branches to demonstrate the mechanics of this union.  Jesus is the vine, we are the branches.  He points out that the branch has no purpose but the purpose of bearing fruit.  It is good for nothing else.  You wouldn’t cut this kind of vine branch into 2×4’s or make it into boards for construction.  Apart from the vine, the branch is so useless that it will only be put in the burn pile – unless you happen to have a side business making crafts for the Quilted Bear.  The branch has purpose only inasmuch as it abides in the vine.  It fulfills that purpose inasmuch as it bears fruit.

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Though the branch is commanded to abide in the vine, we must also understand that the branch that is not abiding in the vine is cast on the trash heap and burned (v. 6).  The branch that abides in the vine is a fruitful branch, and if it is not fruitful, then it is cut off and burned (v. 6 again).  Clearly then, the unfruitful branch represents the unconverted “Christian.”  I use scare-quotes around “Christian” because the unfruitful branch gives the appearance of abiding in Christ, but is unfruitful.  Jesus made it clear that the unfruitful branch will be burned (v. 6). 

So what is the message for us?  As believers, we find our purpose and our life in our connection to and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our life, and as we feed on Him, we become fruitful. When we are connected to Christ in a living way, we will be fruitful. When we are connected to Christ in a loving way, we will enjoy Him. When we are connected to Christ in a lasting way, we will be secure in Him. [2]

Communion with Christ gives the believer a deepening love for Christ and His people that will grow into a deep, abiding joy.  The things Jesus said in John 15 have this purpose – that as we dwell in the love of Christ, our love would deepen into joy.

Remember again the way we have defined the joy of Jesus: it is a deep, abiding satisfaction in Himself and His will that also delights in Himself and His will. So then, Jesus is echoing the words of the Psalmist:

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)

Jesus taught these things because He wants His joy to remain in us. He wants us to experience the same joy He experiences, to share in His joy.  So, He taught what He taught specifically in John 15 so that we could share in His joy and delight in Himself and His will.  

This is where things might get a little complex, so I hope I can encourage you to hang with me while I dig a little deeper.  Jesus wants us to share in His joy and delight in Himself and His will.  He wants us to enjoy Himself, and He tells us that this will result in joy for us.  But He says more than this.  He means for joy to be exchanged between Himself and ourselves.  “Sharing” in His joy will be a two-way street – we rejoice in Him, and He rejoices in us.  Consider John 15:11 again, only with a different emphasis, and hopefully you will begin to see what I mean:

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Jesus said these things in John 15 so that He could continue to have joy in us. That is what He says: “that my joy might remain in you” — notice how the emphasis adds to the meaning. We don’t have to stretch the words to make it say this.  The Greek phrase clearly gives it this emphasis: word-for-word, it reads, “so that the joy, the I-in-you might remain.” The wording makes the joy of Jesus a specific kind of joy — the delight He has in us.  He spoke of the branch abiding in the vine because He wants to delight in us. And as we abide in Him we bear fruit, and that makes us more delightful to Christ.

When Jesus is pleased with us, then our joy can be full. So then, here is the joy Jesus extends to us: Just as His joy comes from the satisfaction of knowing that God the Father loves Him, and that this love has never wavered, so you and I can have the joy of knowing that God the Father loves us and does not waver in that love.

That is pretty amazing if you think about it, because we cannot say the same thing about our love for God the Father. We are not faithful to Him.  Our love for Him waxes and wanes like the moon. It sometimes wavers.  But neither our unsteadiness nor our unfaithfulness causes God to waver in His commitment to us.

When Jesus delights in us – when His joy remains in us – we find it easier to delight in Him. We experience “full joy.” Jesus delights in us when we are faithful to Him, so we experience “full joy” when we are faithful.

A godly Christian home can provide some insight into this. If a child has a godly father, that child never questions his father’s love. But that child also knows that disobedience or rebellion will displease his father. And when his dad is displeased, the joy is gone. If the disobedience is severe enough, the child will dread seeing his father’s face. A father loves his child, whether that child obeys or disobeys; whether that child is faithful or unfaithful. But an obedient child pleases his father. [3]

This is what Jesus means in John 15 — that our obedience (notice vv. 9-10) gives God a greater delight in us. His delight in us gives us a greater delight in Him. If I sin in such a way that God has no joy in me, then I find that I have no pleasure in Him. And so, Jesus spoke about abiding in Himself because He wants His joy to be in us — and when He is delighting in us, then our joy can be full.

[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 15:1

[2]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 15:1

[3]Spurgeon, Charles H.: Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 51. electronic ed. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998 (Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons 51)