Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 23, 2018
“That Your Joy May Be Full”
How we enjoy the sounds and sentiments of the Christian season. Among them is the refrain from the Christian hymn God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: “O, tidings of comfort and joy—comfort and joy. O, tidings of comfort and joy.” We know that joy is one flowering of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)—and that joy in Jesus is both exquisite and profound—yet joy, like hope and peace, can be elusive at this time of the year. We feel things like time pressure, money pressure, and relationship pressure—and when you add to these pressures the occasional lack of rest, lack of proper nutrition, and seasonal illness, joy seems nowhere to be found. Remember, even when going through such things, that Jesus speaks: in order that His joy may be in us, and in order that our joy may be full. Let us hear Him as He speaks in His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to y’all….” To what does these things, which Jesus has spoken, refer? Perhaps He refers to the words He just uttered, namely, “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10). We get the picture: Jesus loves us, and we abide in His love as we obey Him. Perhaps, though, Jesus refers back to the start of John 15, where He calls Himself the Vine, and we, the branches, have life only in Him. Perhaps Jesus reaches even wider with His phrase these things. Perhaps He includes all that He has said on this night of His betrayal (John 13:1 ff.). Perhaps Jesus means all that He has said throughout His entire earthly ministry—captured for us in the Gospels. Or, widest of all, Jesus may mean the whole of Scripture, which bears witness to Him everywhere. We may consider these senses as concentric rings from a single center, to wit, these things. Jesus has spoken these things to us in order that His joy may be in us and that our joy may be full.
Now let’s look at Jesus’ joy (Greek chara [cara]). We see Jesus’ joy, that is, His profound gladness, in two senses. First, we see Jesus’ joy in His Father’s pleasure—His sovereign will. We see this in Jesus’ joyous exclamation at His Father’s pleasure to reveal His truth to babes and to hide it from the so-called wise and understanding (Luke 10:21). Second, we see Jesus’ joy, paradoxically, in the prospect of the Cross, as the author of Hebrews notes, “…Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus, despite His physical agonies and spiritual torments, saw these as joys set before Him. In the Cross, Jesus both blesses a covenant people profoundly via redemption and glorifies and pleases His Father. Now that is joy indeed.
Let’s now look at our joy being to the full (Greek pleroo [plhrow]). We may see our joy in Jesus, first, as being full even to overflowing; when a container is full, and the substance filling it keeps flowing, the containers necessarily must overflow. We may see our joy in Jesus, second, as complete. Nothing further ever need be added to it—in fact, nothing further could be added to it. Yet this joy, to which nothing can be added, grows throughout life in Christ to utter fullness in eternity. Now this is fullness indeed.
Again, recall all that is ours in Christ. We, by new-birthright in Him through faith in Him, shall enjoy eternity with Him. Once with Him, either when we go to Him in Heaven or when He comes at the end of all things, He frees us from all the ills of this present life. Also recall that we have abundant life now in Him. He makes our lives inexpressibly richer by His Spirit indwelling in us. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, quickens Scripture, the Word of God, so that it burns within us. Jesus’ abundant life also includes His people—our fellow Christians, with whom we enjoy worship and fellowship. This abundant life also includes the bounty of good things that God supplies from His good, generous hand. Truly this life in Christ, and all the benefits that flow therefrom, is ground for immeasurably joy in Him.
Therefore, recall these things—truth rising from Scripture, either expressly stated or reasonably inferred therefrom—when events and situations in life threaten to steal your joy. May the Lord, by His Spirit, fill you, one and all, with His joy—even to overflowing.