Joy to the Full
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 15:11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
Do not confuse joy and pleasure. They are not identical. A Christian’s joy rises from the sense of a finished work accomplished in our behalf. True joy springs from receiving and returning the self-sacrifice of love.
Only one joy in the world is ultimately worth having. Christ’s joy is central and perennial, though on the surface are sorrows and cares. The world gives shallow joy, leaving underneath an aching unrest and sadness. In Christ is full joy.
John 15:12a (Holman) “This is My command: love one another. . .”
“This is My command” – as if all other commands are somehow included in this one. Jesus emphatically, and repeatedly commanded us to love each other.
No duty, with the possible exception of prayer, in the New Testament is more frequently urged on us than to love one another. It is presented as the most necessary of all commandments.
In the Old Testament, prohibition of idolatry was the command most insisted on. God foresaw His people’s addiction to that particular sin.
Jesus evidently foresaw we would constantly have troubles in the area of loving each other. Hence, He stressed it.
If we love Jesus, we attract grace our direction, and find ourselves coming into contact with, and thus becoming more like, perfect virtue.
I remind us of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Great Stone Face.” On a mountain side, Nature carved a huge human face, having the glow of one with a sweet, warm loving heart.
Little Ernest lovingly looked upon the face, and his mother told him the old prophecy, someday one would come with such a face as that.
Little Ernest looked up at the kind face and longed for such a one to come. Soon a native-born millionaire returned to town, and all believed he would be the face’s duplicate, but he was not.
Ernest grew to be a young man, gazing often on the Great Stone Face’s tender, pleasant smile, and ever longing for someone to come with that countenance.
One day a native-born soldier returned to the valley as a decorated commander. Everyone hoped he would be the one, but he was not.
As Ernest slipped into middle age, he continued to watch the gentle features of the Great Stone Face, living life quietly, being a blessing, and finally becoming a preacher.
One day a famous native-born political orator returned to town and everyone thought this would surely be the one of prophecy, but he was not.
Ernest finally became an old man, with white hair and wrinkles. He had lived a kind life. People felt he talked with angels as his daily friends.
One day a native-born poet returned to town. Everyone thought he would surely fulfill the prophecy, but they were again disappointed.
However, it was the poet who, while listening to Ernest preach, suddenly by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms aloft and shouted, “Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!”
The prophecy was fulfilled, the Great Stone Face having been duplicated not by the ones who had money beneath its shadow, fought under its inspiration, spoke eloquently about it, or wrote beautifully of it, but by the one who loved it and spent a lifetime looking at it.
As we love Jesus, we will inevitably become more like Him, and what greater role model could we have? In the God-man, Jesus, every virtuous and positive quality which can dignify human nature appeared.
He crowned grandeur of character with flawless loveliness. To love Christ is to love perfection – spotless purity, moral beauty, unparalleled goodness.
We desperately need to love one another. Even the closest of friends have disagreements. Love is the oil we need in all our relationships to minimize damage caused by friction.
Love takes bitterness out of diversity, softens our tones, and can make a rebuke a blessing. Love sets things right; the absence of love makes nothing right. We need to love one another.
John 15:12b “. . .as I have loved you.”
Jesus’ love for us is the model after which we pattern our love. His love motivates our love. “The fire of love is never extinguished, but will always be rekindled, by the wood of the cross” (St. Ignatius).
“As I have loved you” refers ultimately to the Calvary event, which would happen within the next 24 hours. To measure our love, we look to Calvary. The comparison can be painful.
Our love, at its best, is a flickering candle held up against the sun. Our best love is too often willing to suffer little inconvenience, sacrifice little leisure, and give away little money to help others. Our strongest love falls very short of our pattern: Jesus the spotless Lamb of God nailed to a cross on behalf of sinners.
No Pastor would dare challenge his people to love one another as Jesus loved us if Jesus Himself had not commanded it. We find it hard to contemplate the command. It is easier to skirt the issue.
Instead of watering down the command, we should embrace it at face value. This law, as with all of Jesus’ commands, helps us to be conscious of our weakness.
Our failures can drive us to prayer and deeper dependence on Him. His standards of perfection are meant to waken in us a need to depend on His strength.
Unfortunately, we often respond to His commands in another way. Thinking they are impossible to obey, we decide obedience is not really expected of us. Such thinking implies sin is a necessity, and thus not to be worried about.
This mindset lowers a believer’s standards. It robs Jesus’ precepts and promises of their power by making us think, “I can’t obey anyway, so there’s no need to seek God’s strength.”
Jesus’ commands are to be obeyed. He meant what He commanded. If we fall short, we are guilty of sin, in need of forgiving.
Our duty is to learn how to lean entirely on Jesus for help. We must quit making excuses. Repeatedly confess and repent. Pray without ceasing.