Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Complete joy

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 19
  • John 15:5-17

Introduction

A lady was crossing a certain London station, when an old man stopped her, and said: “Excuse me, ma’am, but I want to thank you for something.” “Thank me!” exclaimed the lady. “Yes’m. I used to be ticket collector, and whenever you used to go by you always gave me a cheerful smile and a ‘good morning’, and you don’t know what a difference it made to me. Wet or fine, it was always the same, and I thinks to meself, `Wonder where she gets her smile from; one cannot be always happy, yet she seems to,’ and I know’d that there smile must come from inside somehow. Then one mornin’ you comes by and you had a little Bible in yer hand, and I says to meself, `P’r’aps that’s where she got her smile from.’ So as I went home that night I bought a Bible, and I’ve been readin’ it, and I’ve found Christ, and now I can smile too, and I want to thank yer.” (The Way of Faith.)

In John 15:11 our Lord said:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (or complete). (John 15:11, NKJV)

I always want to squeeze the last drop of fuel into the tank of my car, but let’s face it, when it’s full, it’s full.  When Christ fills us with his joy, we need not go and look for more joy.  But tragically, Christians are not really joyful people.  Why not?  Let’s search the Scriptures.

Main points:

  1. Joy is a mark of a true Christian
  2. The joy which comes from communion with Christ
  3. The joy of Glorifying the Father by displaying fruit of communion with Christ
  4. The joy of knowing God

Joy is a mark of a true Christian

We’re not talking about having fun, or being frivolous.  Of superficial Christian we have enough filling the church pews in our day.  Joy to the Christian is not an option, it is a necessary characteristic of a Christian to be joyful.  The Bible almost make being joyful a command.  The festivals of the Old Testament were times of joy.  Of the place of worship God commanded:

There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:7, NIV)

David wrote in the Psalm we heard right in the beginning:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1–2, NIV)

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is, amongst other things, “joy” (Galatians 5:22).  To not be joyful before God is to not live as He intended; in a way not be joyful, is to show Him that we do not think much of his grace.

The joy which comes from communion with Christ 

All of us immediately start to assemble the flatpack we bought, but soon nothing works out:  we have less panels on one side, more screws we think we need, and what we assembled resemble anything but what is photographed on the packaging.  But deep down on the bottom of the box we usually find the instructions.  Embarrassed we follow the instructions and eventually all works out.

Many Christians are angry Christians. For them serving God is tedious and frustrating. Their spiritual life is unattractive.  Like justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years once said, explaining his choice of a career: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Remain in Me.  Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Without Him we are frustrated and joyless flatpack Christians.

Three very distinct tools for being joyful Christians – the way God intended – are mentioned in the paragraph from John we read this morning.

The Bible

If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NIV)

We heard it last week:  The words of Christ is like the trellis against which we are trained up to grow and bear fruit. The Word is also like the pruning knife which cuts away the access to assure better and more fruit.

Many Christians wonder why their spiritual life is so miserable and unproductive.  But if their study and knowledge of the Word of God is poor, so will their fruit be.  In 1 Peter 1 the Apostle teaches us that we “are born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23, NIV)  This Word is preached to us (1:25).  But Peter goes on saying,

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2–3, NIV)

We heard in our reading of Psalm 19 how precious God’s Word is:

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7–11, NIV)

The have complete joy is know the God of the Scriptures and the Scriptures of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, and made true by the testimony of the holy Spirit.

Prayer

If you remain in Me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, NIV)

A joyful Christian is a praying Christian.  Or put the other way round:  a prayer-less Christian know no joy.  How can he be joyful if He never talks to the One who saved Him?  A prayer-less Christian is somebody who does not remain in Christ, and as a result his life displays signs of spiritual death.  There is no fruit.  Such a Christian runs the danger of being thrown away, picked up only to the used as fuel for fire.

How much to you pray, my friend?  Let’s not beat around the bush.  Weigh up you life against the standard of Christ and ask, ‘Where is the fruit in my life?’  If there is none, go back to on your knees and have communion with your Saviour.  When you start trusting God to provide what you need to glorify Him, the fruit will follow.  Our Lord said, “It will be done for you.”  This might apply to individual Christians, but let’s not lose the context of the words of Christ:  He speaks to his disciples.  The command to pray and the promise that He will give what we need, is foremost a command to the congregation.  And it says a lot about the fruit a congregation bears:  if there is little fruit, is probably because there is little prayer.

Bearing fruit

A fruitless Christian knows no joy; or put the other way round, he who bears fruit in Christ is a joyful Christian.  And according to the paragraph the best of all fruit is true Christian love born in the heart of the Lord.

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (John 15:9–10, NIV)

There is a continued line of love from eternity into our earthly existence through Christ, which goes back to the Father from our joyful hearts through our Saviour.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12, NIV)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16–17, NIV)

Being a disciple of Christ is not possible without communion with Him through his Word, through prayer and through bearing fruit of love – no, not the sentimental rubbish put forward today as love.  Never allow the world to give you any definition of love and how you should love.  Your benchmark for love is Christ’s love, who did as his Father commanded.

The joy of glorifying the Father by displaying fruit of communion with Christ

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8, NIV)

For those of you who grew up with the Larger and Shorter Catechism you will know the first question and answer:  What is the chief and highest end of man?  The answer:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

Why?

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36, NIV)

The fruit of being in Christ is necessarily that of glorifying our Father.  To praise Him is to bear fruit.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15–16, NIV)

Bearing fruit does not make us children of God.  We cannot try harder to be children of God by trying to bear fruit.  The opposite is true: the fruit we bear displays the fact that we are in the Vine, Christ, because without Him we ca do nothing.

Bearing this fruit of praise and glory to the Father through love towards Him and towards others has the effect that it makes us truely happy.  We are not baptised in vinegar.  His praise should be on our lips, and praying through Him we will have joy.

The Joy of knowing God

Our Lord said:

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15, NIV)

Right in the beginning of the Gospel we learned that because of the darkness of sin, sinners do not and cannot know the Father.  Christ came to make known the Father.  He is the door, the shepherd, the vine, the living water, the bread of life.  Who the Father gave Him He saved and none of them will be lost or snatched from his hand.

My friend, through Christ you may know, really and truely know, the Creator of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches you to call Him “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:16).

What more can we ask for in this life?  Paul says:

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him …  I want to know Christ! (Philippians 3:8–10, NIV)

Conclusion

My dear friend, are your joy complete?  What gives you most joy?  Do you really know God through Jesus Christ?  Our ticket collector of our introduction had this testimony:  I bought a Bible, and I’ve been readin’ it, and I’ve found Christ, and now I can smile too.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 5 March 2017

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