“A man once appeared at my office door, and in so many words, he said, ‘I’m very busy and very successful and don’t really have time for this, but I wonder if we could talk for five minutes.’ ‘By all means,’ I said.
‘Well,’ he went on, ‘my wife has been attending this church and now at dinner she’s talking about Jesus, and I don’t know anything about Jesus, so I thought I’d come by for a few bullet points about Jesus.’
‘Wow, I’m not sure I can help you. For one thing, I’m not good with bullet points, and for another, even if I could give you some good bullet points about Jesus, I’m afraid it could have a way of getting into your life that would cause you to rethink your power, your success and your money and your marriage and your family – and everything.’
‘Oh, I don’t want to do that. Not at all! I just want some bullet points about Jesus.’
[I suggested to him], ‘How about changing the subject matter at dinner...’” (Mark Labberton).
Ready for everything to change? A little bit of Jesus isn’t enough. The Lord Jesus Christ is waiting for your invitation to change you completely. The world does not need a little bit of religion, a bullet point list of Jesus. The world needs a lot of Jesus.
Today begins a series using an outline from the Fruit of the Spirit found in Gal. 5. The first fruit is love, followed by 8 more. (challenge to memorize) Some think love is the only fruit, each of the 8 that follow are expressions of love… That is possible.
You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.
Kay Bishop, a faithful Christian woman who died last year in her mid-90s… My last conversation with her as she was on her death bed. She whispered something so soft I wasn’t sure I heard right. I repeated loudly what I thought I heard: “Glory?” Her roommate immediately piped up on the other side of the pulled curtain, “What’s Kay saying about me? I’m Gloria.” On cue, Kay mustered up a voice of strength and said with a clear voice, “I am so thankful God gave me a new friend.” Kay was full of joy even with her last breath. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Joy is a gift from the spirit, the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. Each of the fruits of the spirit are a gift that shape us, create us into people who are more and more like Christ.
In the last phrase in Gal. 5 where the Fruit of the Spirit is listed, it ends with this instructive description: “Against such things there is no law.” You know what that means? Nobody can stop you from being a loving person. There is nothing anybody can do to keep you from having the Joy of the Lord. There is no law! People can threaten you, the world may seem against you, your health and world may fall apart, yet Joy is a quiet confidence for those who love the Lord. One young woman on FB posts every other day how bored she is. That is her choice./// There is no law that keeps her from finding and living Joy. If she is going to depend on favorable circumstances to find satisfaction, then joy/happiness will come and go.
Let’s look at a perfect example of joy in John 15. Jesus is speaking. The situation is critical: It’s the night before Jesus is crucified. He is in the upper room with His disciples (flip ahead). Soon He will go to Gethsemane. Soon He will be arrested, put on trial, and convicted of crimes He did not commit. Soon they will laugh at Him. Soon they will put a crown of thorns on His head. Soon they will slap Him, spit on Him, whip Him. Soon He will be nailed to a cross. Soon He will die. And He knows, even as he speaks of complete Joy that all of this is going to happen.
Amazingly, listen to what He says in John 15:8-10 ~ READ. This does not sound like a man that is about to face an agonizing death, the crushing weight of persecution, abuse, betrayal… Yet he says in John 15:11 READ. On the last night of His life, Jesus talks about love and joy./// The next day He goes to the cross and dies for us. Hallelujah! what a Savior. In the same discussion, John 16:20, Jesus speaks about a coming joy in prophetic terms: READ. The writer of Hebrews picks up the same theme as he looks back at the suffering of Jesus and says in Hebrews 12:2; READ. How can we experience that Kind of JOY? The completion of JOY, the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, is rooted in the need to develop & maintain a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 15:5-6, READ. Joy is the fruit of living a Jesus Christ life. It is the result of knowing God. JOY is not the main thing. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the main thing. Joy is the fruit. The vine, the branch, the fruit… If you’re here today and you are not a Christian, you need to become one…You can never have the joy that this passage talks about until you are attached to Him.
If you are a Christian and your life is colored by apathy, depression, negative thinking, fatalism, if there isn’t much joy in your life, I’m not talking about those who are experiencing grief from loss or major changes, but a general darkness you cannot shake ~ if this is you, then you need to be reattached to the vine. (Ill. This is a forsythia, a herald of spring, last Fall I pruned my large forsythia and threw this branch into the slough/field. When I was mowing a week ago, I noticed this branch was growing. This branch is as good as dead, but it just doesn’t know it…is this you? The appearance of being alive, but reality is that you are hanging on, limited in energy....) You find JOY by looking to the Lord, drawing closer to him. Older translations use the wonderful word, ABIDE IN ME (in v. 4). ABIDE, dwell, remain… never lose sight.
I like the story Vernon J. McGee tells. He talks about how the closer you are to the Lord, the less the pains and suffering of life hurt. There are real reasons to grieve, but we are called to abide, endure in him….Vernon McGee says, “The closer we are to God, the less [the pains of life] will hurt. I can remember playing hooky from school when I was a boy. We left our books at school and took off for the creek and went fishing. Although we didn’t catch any fish, we had a lot of fun. We came in about the time school was out to get our books before going home so our parents wouldn’t suspect that we had played hooky…when we walked into the room, [the principle] walked right in after us. We had to go to his office and wait while he got his switches. One of the fellows with me had been through this many times, and he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever had. He said that when the principle started switching, we should move a step closer every time, instead of backing off. The closer to him we were, the less it would hurt. So the first time he hit me, instead of stepping away, I moved in right close to him, and he wasn’t hurting me at all.”
That is good advice also when we are going through hurts of life, abide in Christ, get closer to the Lord….and the hurt is not quite so painful…
How do you live with complete Joy? Know God. Abide in Him. And next, Fellowship with other believers. READ John 15:11-12. Complete JOY is found in community with others. Joy is found in loving others. Let’s also add John 15:13 READ. Love and sacrifice for others. Complete JOY does not come from living by yourself or living for yourself, but loving and living for others. As Christ has done for each of us.
Come to Church! Until you’re rejoicing in the fellowship of believers, until you’re spending time with brothers and sisters in Christ, you will not have a firm attachment to the vine. It’s not a healthy plant if there is only one branch off the main vine! I am absolutely convinced people need a church family in order to find completion in Christ! Love one another, learn from one another, grow with one another, sacrifice for one another, And the joy of the Lord will be your strength. Joy is one of the fruits of living a Jesus Christ life. Complete JOY comes through Knowing God, Abiding in Him, Fellowshipping with other believers.
Finally, Focus on the eternal, not what is temporary. The reason Jesus could endure the cross is because after the cross came the resurrection. He is talking about the Fruit of Joy as a hallmark of those who live a Jesus Christ life. As we go through the experiences of life we need to see that one day there’s going to be a glorious resurrection when we will be with Jesus, too. Jesus knew what was coming the next as he spoke to his disciples about complete Joy and loving one another. We need to take a long view perspective… we too know the promise of God that is waiting for us… this is how we endure, how we endure with joy, because we know the end of the story…. A few verse later in John, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples assuring them they will understand the eternal perspective: READ John 16:16-17.
As you grow in Christ you gain a greater understanding of an eternal perspective. The things of this world matter a little bit less, and the things of God matter a little bit more. This world is temporary; the world to come is forever. READ John 16:20-22.
You know what’s given me an extra measure of JOY these past few days?
I met with Phil DuFrene on Friday and we scheduled a week coming up for him to preach: March 22. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than honored/amazed, that anyone would want to hear anything I have to say each week, but the idea of having a week that is a bit different in preparation, a minor adjustment in a month, makes my joyful.
If something as simple as a change in my schedule gives me joy, if something as a simple as an anticipated vacation gives you pleasure, How much more to think of eternity with the Lord. The problems of this world, the grief that is present today, is softened to know that this world’s heartache and tension is coming to an end tomorrow, and we will be forever with the Lord.
A little bit of Jesus is not enough! Settle for no less than abundance! JOY, the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. Joy is one of the great gifts offered to all who seek to live a Jesus Christ life. JOY is a fruit of the spirit. Know God. Abide in Him. Love and live for others. And look to eternity when all will be made right. Complete joy is yours through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.