Friday, March 1, 2013

John 15:9–11 Abiding Joy

John 15:9-11 (KJV)  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

What a way to start a post!  Jesus, speaking to the disciples, says that He loves them as the Father loves Him!  And, if we apply “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), then it applies to us, too!  Perfect love from the the Father to the Son is mirrored by Jesus’ love to us!  When He says “continue” in that love, once again it’s meno – long term, with peace and rest.  Whether we consider that part of the sentence as a suggestion or a command, Jesus is telling us that it’s to our benefit to make a long time living arrangement in His love.

Verse 10 sounds wonderful and scary at the same time.  Those who have a performance based image of our relationship with God will use this verse to prove that we must be obedient in order to remain in God’s love.  That’s the scary part.  Especially since it’s not true.  Scholars like Gill and Barnes point out that this verse correlates with John 14:23-24, which is similar.  But, if we look at the two together, there’s a clear picture.  Jesus was not loved by the Father based on His performance.  He was loved by the Father before time, as a part of Himself, without Jesus having come to earth, yet.  The truth is that Jesus is telling the disciples that obedience and this love coexist.  We can’t do anything on our own, in the flesh.  But, when we recognize that we have God’s love, we’ll want to be obedient and we’ll connect with God’s power to allow us to do His will.

In verse 11, Jesus tells us that He’s said all the things in verses 1-10 so that His joy might stay with us and our joy might be complete.  We have another interesting word picture.  The word “joy” is translated from the Greek word chara.  When we talk about God’s unmerited favor or grace, the Greek word is charis.  Joy and grace are related.
  1. Both joy and grace come from God,
  2. Neither requires any prior performance by us,
  3. The result is beyond what we could create, and
  4. Both are for our benefit or blessing.
Beyond that, there’s the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is transient.  It depends on external circumstances.  Because of that, happiness can disappear very quickly, as soon as those circumstances change.  In comparison, joy is based on our relationship with God.  Joy continues, even when circumstances become negative.  And joy may even be part of the grace God gives us to get through bad situations.

Romans 8:31 (KJV)  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
The Word speaks of the world, our flesh, and the devil as being against us.  Those three things work at nullifying our relationship with God, an impossibility but they try anyway.  They also try to lead us away from obedience.  Think about our original passage, today.  If there’s a dent in our obedience, we don’t have as great an experience of our relationship with God or His love for us.  Which means that our experience of God’s gift of joy will be diminished – just the experience, not the joy itself.  The world (prodded by its own flesh and by the devil), our own flesh, and the devil all work toward killing our experience of our relationship with God, His love for us, plus His grace and the joy He’s given us.  Sometimes, they’re successful enough to convince us we’ve lost all of those.
The good news is that God has said He’ll never leave us or forsake us.  Once we’ve really aligned ourselves with Him, we may sometimes think that connection and love have changed because of something we’ve done, but God doesn’t just drop us every time we mess up.  He doesn’t run off and pout because we did something wrong.  We’re important enough to God that He hangs onto us, continually nudging us in the right direction. 

God’s love for us is boundless.  That’s amazing, especially if you compare it to even your best friend.  God isn’t thin skinned about our behavior and attitudes.  Instead, He uses whatever is necessary to draw us closer to Him.  At times, that may seem like brute force.  Other times will be much gentler.  That all depends on us, not Him.  God just loves us so much that He wants to give us the most wonderful eternity possible.  He cares that much for us.

Maybe you’ve had a relationship with God and wandered off the proper spiritual path.  Or maybe you’ve never been shown how much God loves you.  Either way, His desire is for you to be close with Him.  All you need to do is ask Him to make Himself and His love real to you.  He will.  And you can experience the love and the joy that many of us already know.  If you think you’re not good enough, welcome to the club.  Grace is a gift that doesn’t depend on our performance.  It only depends on Him.  And experiencing that love and joy only comes through His grace toward us.  As the old TV commercial used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”.

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