I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
The Bible is a book of gladness. Rejoicing, shouts of joy, sound throughout its pages. At times you can hear gladsome praise with the cadence of marching feet as the people move through the open sea. At times you might hear screams of terror underscored by rumbling thunder. But soon, you will hear, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” The Lord Jesus Christ is still calling men to quit distress and take his joy. The Bible is a book of joy. Now the one source of our joy is Jesus Christ the Lord. He alone is the source of true and real joy. In Scripture therefore, the believer is taught: “Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous…” Psalm 97:12, or, over in the 132nd Psalm — “May your faithful people sing for joy.” Both Testaments tell us repeatedly to be happy in God — to enjoy him. That’s the teaching of the Bible. It is tragic that some are sad and dejected in the Lord but glad and delighted in sin.
Perhaps you’ve seen a young person get a new car — we’ll say a flashy, yellow convertible — his first real sports car. He leaves it parked out front so the other teenage kids will be goggled eyed. I’d like to do something like that today. I’d like to bring out a spiritual sports car of a real sort and leave it out through several messages so that you will be drawn to have a look for yourself. I’m speaking on the sheer joy of Jesus here and in several messages to follow. Today we will go into the matter of Joy of Answered Prayer. But, let me for just a moment examine the Joy of Jesus. And as we make this general study it is my hope that you will enter into a deeper experience of it yourself. For, after all, He is the source of our joy. His must be ours or we will have no joy. Turn in the Bible to John 15. It is so tragic when people are glad in sin and sad in the Savior. Notice these honey-filled words “my joy” found in John 15:11. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” “My Joy”, Jesus talks definitely of it. So, the first fact about his joy I’d like to underscore is that his joy is real. It is real. It is not some fiction.
So many when they hear the name of Jesus right away think of a face that’s lined with care. They think of a heart that is torn and broken. And, it is true. His burdens were greater than we can imagine, but so is his joy. The joy of Jesus irrigated the desert way he had to take, always. His joy — the joy of the Lord is to be our strength, too. Now, when you think of Jesus you should think of joy because He is so often associated with it.
Let’s go back to the birth of Jesus. For example, when his mother was promised that she would bear the Messiah, she went and visited her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was already carrying the unborn John the Baptist. And, Elizabeth testified that at the sound of Mary’s voice, the voice of the mother of Jesus, the babe within her leaped for joy. Then Mary herself exclaimed, “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,” Luke 1:46-47 “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people,” said the angel to the shepherds when Jesus was born. And when the wise men saw the star, “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,” the Scripture further records.
Then, throughout his brief life, Jesus’ ministry and teachings, even as he trained his disciples, they returned back with joy. His miracles relieved distress and drew bursts of praise. He caused joy wherever he went, lived and ministered. You haven’t met Jesus if you haven’t tasted of his joy, really. Because, Jesus and joy go together. Concerning his resurrection, it is written: “And they departed from the sepulcher filled with fear and great joy and did run to bring the disciples word.” Matthew 28:8.
Luke 24:51-53 records the Savior’s last moments on earth with his disciples. Notice what he is doing as he leaves and the effect upon them. We are told that when Jesus ascended and departed from them, “then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” They were with joy because the Holy Spirit was promised to keep Jesus in contact with them, to bring him to them — as we are going to see just a little later.
Now to fully understand the joy of Jesus and to enter into it, you have to make some real search in behind: Where does this joy come from? What is it like? First, I’ve said his joy is real. Now, this, his joy is deep — it is very profound, it is deep and founded on something real. It makes sense, it is no surface reaction like a mere facial expression. That is not the joy under consideration. We are looking toward that which keeps the heart in a state of good cheer. We are investigating something that can under-gird the very depths of our heart with a kind of peaceful cheer that lasts and lasts. Searching deeply, we discover the man of sorrows is the man of sheer joy.
Now, our text begins, look at it: He says in John 15:11 — “ I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” What is this “my joy” that he is speaking about? Sometimes as we read in the Scripture of all the burdens Jesus shouldered that it seems as though his joy is as an illusive, golden cloud in a stormy sky. Not so. It was ever there in the peaceful depths of his heart. We’re going to look into it just for a moment. Do so, if you will turning to Luke 10:21-22, we discover his secret. Examine these words carefully. Luke 10:21 – “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’” Here, then, is a teaching, a specific occasion of Jesus rejoicing deep in his spirit and he gives this instruction at this time. Now, this teaching of his joy is followed by a benediction: And he said, “for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (verse 24) These same words occur over in the book of Matthew 11 — almost the same. And at that place, it follows not with this benediction but it is followed by an invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Now what is the occasion over there in Matthew? The occasion of his speaking those words of thanksgiving and joy from his heart came after he had pronounced woes upon the cities. He said, “Woe to you, Capernaum; you’re going to be hauled down from your lofty position and it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than you sinful cities around here. I preached to you and you’ve rejected me. Woe to you.” And then he turns with thanksgiving to his little band. Now look at the occasion in this text in Luke 10:1 — it says that Jesus appointed 70 of his workers and sent them out into the various towns where he was going to minister.
Then you get down to verse 17 and it pictures them as coming back — these 70 workers — come back with joy and they said, “Why Jesus, even the demons move out when we order them. We’ve got great power.” He said, “Don’t rejoice in that. You’d better rejoice and celebrate that your name is written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Be happy about that.” And, then, verse 2, it was in that hour — it was on this occasion, at this point in time, Jesus started rejoicing himself. Now, why? What is the secret of Jesus’ joy? It’s right there. He says, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I’m so happy and full of joy when I consider that you have such a plan as to perfect your strength in weakness. That, you’ve not chosen the mighty, look at these 70. This band of nobodies who are your somebodies! And it just thrilled him.
I do not know any other way to have joy, except you’ve got to see something that’s not in this world, or not of the world. There is just so much trouble and trial in the world and if you get your joy just from the way it looks, you have had it. You can just keep yourself tickled and having a bunch of fun but you’ll never know joy — real joy — until you are in on the secrets of God’s Providence. And, it so happens that this is the God with whom we have to do. This is the God that was worshiped by the Psalmist in that great Psalm 8 — O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth. You have perfected your praise using babes and sucklings and that’s what shuts up the enemy. He goes on to say, O, Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, that you would visit us and use us to praise your great name. Not many mighty and wise are chosen but God has chosen the foolish things of the word to confound the mighty and that’s why Jesus’ joy. That’s the way it is. You see, we live with a God who has decided that the control of the universe would be in the hands of a crucified one. We live with a God who took Jesus from Calvary where he was crowned with thorns and put him now on a throne of glory crowned with honor and splendor. Jesus, even as he was hanging on the cross in his hour of deepest anguish and his eyes so dilated that he couldn’t even see the faces of his friends about him, he still could see the joy of heaven with the inner eye. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that we ought to look to Jesus who just discounted the shame of the cross and its suffering because of the joy that was set ahead of him. And even in his deepest agony he had joy in his heart, because he knew what God was doing.
This cannot come to you with any amount of human effort. You cannot ever smile long enough and hard enough to make joy real in your life. It has to come through a spiritual operation, through seeing facts that are ultimate and not immediate in this world. And, then, you can enter into the joy of Jesus that sustained him through suffering unparalleled in the world.
I think a subject like this is worth a lot of study. We are going to spend several messages on it (this is Part 1 of 8), looking at different aspects of it. And I believe you will be helped even as my own heart has been helped.
In recent days, the newspaper carried the story of a man in another country who was served his last meal before being hanged. He cared not for the food but broke the plate and with a jagged piece began slashing himself to pieces. He was trying to kill himself. Why? Because he did not want to hang and he was to be taken out and hanged. So, he was so weak by the time they got to him that he wasn’t able to make it to the gallows. Perhaps, he will die anyway. If you had gone to that man and you had a nice vase of flowers and you said, “sir, don’t you worry about that hangman’s noose anymore. That must be a horrible thought. I’ve fixed it up. You see, as you are walking toward the gallows, I have this vase of flowers and I’m going to spread them all along the way. And you’ll be so full of joy by the time you get there you won’t notice.” Now, that just won’t work. But, that is what some of you are trying. You think you can tiptoe through enough rose petals, you won’t notice eternal judgment and death forever. What a difference between the pleasure in sin on the road to judgment and the joy that Jesus Christ will give you. Do you want that?
Turn back to our text, then, and I will show you the way. Our text says here in verse 11 of John 15, “My joy, Jesus said, you can keep it. It will remain in you that your joy might be full.” Same way over in John 17:13 he also adds that he wants “my joy fulfilled in you. I just want it to be a filled up possession of yours.” But the whole thing is, if I can’t possess it and have to keep it for myself, what good is it? The answer is this: if you have a fading joy, it’s not the real thing.
A little sentence you might remember that man’s fun, fame, or fortune fall underfoot like fading flowers on the road to forever. Friend, it will not change things for you to have fun, to make money, to arrive at any goal you set, except Jesus and have him and have life forever.
Here’s a man, the man I just pictured — suppose this morning they say to him, as well they might, “It’s the gallows for you, sir, today. Let’s go.” Now, if you want to give that man joy, don’t spread a few flowers in front of his trembling way, come to him and say, Wait! Stop! the King says you’re free. Pardoned! All of your crime is forgiven! You’ll see a man leap for joy. That’s the only thing. And, friends, that the secret. It’s not your next fun time that’s going to do it for you. It’s not escaping problems that’s going to do it for you. Jesus had more problems than you will ever know, but he had joy.
The secret is this: being right with your Father in heaven. And, here’s how: Jesus Christ, when he died on that cross, was purchasing our pardon. It is appointed to all of us once to die and after that the judgment. Christ has once borne our sin in his own body that we might be reconciled to God. What a wonderful thing to have that peace. And, our Jesus in this text comes along and says only to his disciples, only to that man who is marching to the prison when he hears the word “Repent” and, my son, if you do, be of good cheer. Your sins be forgiven you. (Matthew 9:2). And once you’ve repented and had him pronounce that word of cheer, your sins are forgiven.
Then, the Lord Jesus makes a promise to you. My disciple, now, my child, you may have my joy fully filling you. But, how can that be? The same way it was with Jesus. There is a hint back in Luke 10:21: It says, in that hour Jesus rejoiced, (if you have a RV it will say, in the Holy Spirit) not just in his human spirit but it was through ministrations of the Holy Spirit that Jesus as our Savior was able to rejoice. And Jesus said, that Spirit I give to you. You see, then, the Kingdom of God is not in meat and drink. It’s not in material things, physical things, that you may have, but it is in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17. May God grant that to you. The joy of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God comes upon us and he brings what Jesus promised to really happen — he brings Jesus Christ within us and he becomes ours in actual fact, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That’s why back in the Old Testament in Psalm 126 when the people were released from captivity of Zion, he said we were just like people who dreamed of that happy day. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and tongue with singing. Then said they among the heathen, “The Lord hath done great things for them.” If you want to have the enemies of God close their mouths and stop saying, “Aha!” then listen, you start singing and how else will the world know anything about joy? They don’t know. It’s only what they have and what happens to them. It’s in the happenings that they have a little bit of fun here and there. And, it’s like a fading flower. But Jesus is the Rose of Sharon, that continues to bloom within the heart who is his. And, if God, then, has given his Son as our Savior from sin, if Jesus Christ has made reconciliation between us and God, then, we have joy also through the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, through whom we have received this reconciliation, as Paul wrote to the Romans. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13