The Gospel Applied: The Fullness of Joy
Please go back with me to John 15. Throughout the summer we have been looking together at the gospel applied and have been focusing the last several weeks on joy. This morning, as I had already mentioned in the scripture reading we are going to be looking at the fullness of joy that Jesus intends for his followers. Nothing more clearly marks a believer as joy. No matter what the circumstance that you find yourself in trial, tribulation, or difficulty, joy can be experienced. While we have looked at this together, over several weeks, that while the joy that Jesus describes can have a type of emotional elation, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it, but there are sometimes where that joy that God provides the emotional elation of it is not always there. Because joy, that Jesus gives, goes beyond just an emotion. Joy is, though you will recall, an attitude. It is a good feeling deep within you, in your soul, that is produced by the Holy Spirit. It allows you and I, the church, to see the beauty of Jesus and our personal circumstances don’t matter. That is why you see this Paul express this, often times when he was in the most destitute of situations. Certainly we understand that Satan wants to rob us, as believers, of our own joy. When we do so, we make an odd reflection of the image of Christ in us. He desires that, the image of Christ being distorted in us. Jesus wants us, not only to know that we posses joy, but that we can be a part of the fullness of joy. When you get to John 15, he uses some metaphors. Sometimes in the bible, I would say we all fall prey to this a little bit, you can press a metaphor beyond the intention of what is trying to be stated. When you do so you begin to look at the text and the text begins to fall apart. While I want to set some of this up, because I want you to understand this as you read this text, and undoubtedly as many of you have, as I have over 40 years of being a Christian, there are aspects of it that can be confusing. So I want to set up a part of this. In doing so I want to give you the end game, just as I stated in the scripture reading, the purpose of the first ten verse and the metaphor that Jesus will use here is so you and I, as he says, will have a full joy. Again to create this setting, Jesus is in the upper room and at this point he is with, only the 11 disciples. Judas went to the upper room with them and yet, as you recall back to John 13 as they were enjoying the meal that would be the Passover meal that would become part of the picture of the Lord’s Supper. Judas goes into the night. Jesus having loved him in a face to face way, he walks away from Jesus. So that when you get to this part of the text in John 14 - John 17, Jesus is isolated with his disciples whom are not quite catching that he is going to Calvary, he is going to die and resurrect. They are really going to recall as these things, because he is going to teach them about the Holy Spirit and, again, in this particular text he is teaching them about the fullness of joy. The reason why I mentioned about metaphors, in John’s writing (we are not going to turn to all the texts, but I am going to give them to you) he will sometimes use the word believer that aren’t genuine believers. You see this in John 2:23-25. He will use the word disciple in John 6:60-71 and he will talk about disciples that will walk away. In John 8:30-37 there is a similar text about this discussion about abiding in him that leads us to this. The reason why I am mentioning this to you because when you look at verse 2 and verse 6, there is a picture of judgement. You get this and it is a picture in the context of Judas. Judas Iscariot. Though he was connected and appeared to look like a believer, though he was connected to the inner group, the original 12 and looked like a disciple, the bottom line is, the futility that Jesus wasn’t going to bring in this physical kingdom, he walked away from Jesus because he never was a believer. He never was a disciple. At the very essence, friends, to be a Christian true belief in the gospel is that you are exchanging your life and that faith is in Jesus. That you want Jesus in your life is not the attempt to do something religious. Participate in the table, get baptized, say a prayer, any sort of thing as this type of relieving expressing, “Okay I have done that I can do back to my life.” It is an exchange. In essence when you believe the gospel, you are saying Jesus I want you in my life. So it is, we know as we have looked at this, you are. We found that Christ abides in you. Every waking moment the testimony of Christ is on your mind and soul. Sometimes even when you have been running from God or you are enjoying a fullness of joy. Christ abides in you and you are abiding in Christ.
We know furthermore in the upper room discourse that Jesus will teach that you can’t lose your salvation. That is what I want to settle on because aspects of Christianity, certainly in our country, will teach that in John 15 that you can lose your salvation. This is where they press the metaphor about abiding in me. Judas proved that he is lost, and the proof of that is that he walked away from Jesus. While that is not our central focus, you can come across that and think, “Wow, can I lose my salvation?” I want to assure you that you can’t. You can’t lose your salvation. It is God himself that is protecting you in your salvation and it is the cross of Christ that saves you.
Jesus is not teaching that you can lose your salvation, but what he is doing here is addressing his true followers and he is telling them that unbelief will not abide in the vine just like genuine belief will abide. The branches can know a full joy. In the gospel of John, Jesus describes himself here in chapter 15 as the True Vine. The True Vine. You know this to be true as well there are other portions throughout John’s gospel where he speaks of the I AM sayings. Which are very significant because there is an Old Testament connection to this. Jesus would say this in John’s gospel, “I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the door for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection in life. I am the way, the truth, and the life.” What Jesus was doing is saying “I am” he was identifying himself with YHWH of Exodus 3:14 when he tells Moses, “I am who I am.” These disciples, obviously who are Jewish, hear this in their ears, they are hearing his deity. He is God.
What is it specifically that Jesus means here when he says he is the True Vine? God had a special relationship with the nation Israel. They are described as a vine. Israel is the vineyard that God planted, that God nurtured, that God pruned, and he did so that they would produce fruit and that they, as a people, would nurture and enrich the world. Let me just give you several verses. I am going to read them, and you can certainly write them down if you are taking notes. Speaking of Israel. Psalm 80:8. The Exodus type language. Isaiah 5:7. Jeremiah 2:21. Ezekiel 19:10. Turn with me to Hosea 10. As we continue along with this and we now catch that this was a metaphor often times used with the vine as Israel, Jesus is speaking to something much more significant here. But he gives them, again, symbolic or metaphor type language so they will draw their attention to the scriptures they know to be the Old Testament to teach them to a greater fulfillment. We all know this, Israel failed to reach the world in the ultimate sense. It is Jesus who the gospel writers will identify from the Old Testament, he proves this that Jesus is the true Israel of God. Look with me at Hosea 10. Israel went out and worshipped in idolatry as a people and as a nation. Look again to chapter 11. Bearing this in mind, turn to Matthew 2. This is where we begin to understand the text of John 15, that Jesus himself says, “I am the True Vine. Not Israel the nation, but I Jesus am the true Israel.” In that writing of John 15, of course the disciples pick up on this and the Spirit inspires Matthew to write these types of words that were found in Hosea 11:1 to describe Jesus to us in Matthew 2:13-15. Like Israel was in Egypt, Jesus goes off to Egypt. Notice this, because this is speaking of our Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who is the true Israel of God. Where the nation failed to enrich the world, Jesus passes the test and he tells them that he is the one who the True Vine, who enriches the entire world. That Jesus is the Israel of God.
As a result of this, Jesus describes again, this metaphor. You and I are the branches. Jesus is the life through the vine. This gives us, things that we have looked at before in relationship to joy. You and I, as his followers have a union with God. We have a union with Christ. Paul will put it this way in the epistles. The Spirit has baptized us into the body of Christ, and that is the resource you have. When you are in some of the most difficult trials in life, where you feel like they are so heavy you can barely breath or even speak, there is this union and connection because you are in the Vine. The True Vine that has given you life, this is Jesus. The Father here is described as the vinedresser. He plants, he prunes, he trains, he cultivates, and all the branches on the vine are going through this aspect. But it is Jesus himself who is the True Vine. What does he mean by that? He is letting them know, I am the one that is true. I am the one that is genuine. I am the one who is authentic. I am the one who gives life. He does so in this context so their joy would be made full. Jesus does, and fulfills, what Israel was supposed to do because Jesus is faithful. Jesus accomplished the task and as the true vine he gives life to the branches. The branches, as they are described in the text, are us the church, the followers of Jesus. Those disciples who were, at that time, was alone with him. He has given them life. He is the True Vine. The True Vine, that you and I and those who know him have placed our faith and trust alone in Jesus. Well it is pretty significant here in the text from verse 4-10, Jesus uses this phrase 10 times. Abide in me. Abide in me.
What is he talking about? He says to abide in him for our productivity. For our fruitfulness. That our capacity to be productive, our capacity to be fruitful, because we are linked to the life of the True Vine. Jesus and the Father are bearing fruit in our lives. Let’s be honest, this varies in degree, doesn’t it? In the realm, just along now what we are focusing on, of joy some of you may sit here right now and you are struggling with your joy for whatever circumstances going on right now outside of your life that has caused your joy to be robbed. Or perhaps, even this morning, you are completely in on that and the spirit is nurturing your heart and cultivating it in a way because even though you may be in a difficult spot you are enjoying Christ. Well how do we get more productive? How do we become more fruitful. Please listen to this, because I believe everyone in here desires real joy. You must give yourself to the means of grace, for greater fruitfulness. What does that mean? The means of grace? You need to stay close to Jesus. You need to think about him in a day to day way. You need to be connected with him in church and allowing the word of God to bath your mind and heart, where Jesus speaks to that good feeling in your soul, bringing correction and also building and adding. You need to give yourself to the table. No we are not those who believe in transubstantiation where Jesus’ life goes into the bread and the cup, but rather he has given you new life and he dines with us with his presence in a very special way, bringing and giving us joy. You must give yourself to prayer. You must give yourself to the word and testifying and sharing. When you draw closer to Jesus, he provides his means of grace where he is pruning you. He is causing you to be more fruitful.
Fruit here, in these 11 verses is used 6 times. What is the fruit? Often times people will say, the fruit is this, it is the number of people you win to Christ, the number of souls you win in your ministry. Let’s be honest, there is nothing wrong with evangelism. We believe in evangelism and we want to testify and we want people to become Christians and we want to see salvations. The fruit here that Jesus is describing is Christ-like life. The life of Christ that you got when you exchanged your life for life in Christ is filled in your life, producing in you the beauty of Christ so that we are being changed, where ultimately we will be completed in change in the resurrection. Christ wants our life changed. What does that mean? He wants our character and our attitude to bear the fruit of the spirit, so that we yield a type of Christ likeness. He gives us this in three ways, and they are all found in verse 11, where we can experience the fullness of joy. Here is the purpose of this metaphor, I am the vine and Jesus is the True Vine, my father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches. The ones who abide in Christ, the ones who are bearing fruit. You are going to go through pruning seasons, God is going to cut things back and prune them down so that you will bear more fruit, so that you will bear much fruit. Now understand this, you will bear fruit, though for all of us it might vary in degree. Right? We will bear fruit because we have been given life by the vine. Just as you will look at your trees this afternoon and you see those branches are alive because they have leaves on them or some type of blossom on them because they are attached to the vine, so it is for you and I. We have life.
God is changing our character. This is the purpose. He does it in three ways. Sometimes Satan tries to pass off joy as materialistic things or things we find happiness like the world does, just like we looked at three weeks ago, things that happens to us. But Jesus says that those who abide in him, those who will give themselves to the means of grace, to the church, to devotion, to his word, through giving, through serving, through testifying, he will produce in them greater fruit. The result of this is in verse 11. Three ways that Jesus wants us to have the fullness of joy. Three things that you can measure for your own self. 1. My joy may be in you. The first question you want to ask yourself as you think about your joy, is your joy centered in Jesus? Or are you being robbed? Jesus wants to give you his joy. Jesus wants our joy to be him. Just as, when Jesus gives his peace as the prince of peace, the same things applies in the fruit of the spirit to joy. His joy is available to us and he wants to give us more of his joy, and he does so when we abide in him. When we give ourselves to the things of God, so that God continues to prune and we blossom more and more and richer and fuller. Is Jesus joy? Is your joy, first of all, centered in Jesus? 2. He doesn’t just want us to have this joy and kind of fix for a little while, he wants his joy to remain. That his joy would remain there. Jesus wants us to have a type of permanent joy. Not riding along in a roller coaster of moods. Joy to misery. Misery to joy. We want to have more of a consistent type of joy. Joy that God provides is available to us when we abide in him, over against being miserable. Over against being marked by bitterness, which is a sign of unbelief. Jesus wants us to be filled with joy. Filled with joy in him. When we do abide in him, we can experience the fullness of joy. Now he says this in John 15:11. Then he prays this for us in John 17. As Jesus is offering this intercessory prayer, he prays this for me and you. Verse 13. Jesus was going to die and return to his father. Jesus knew he was going to send these men into the world where gospel ministry was going to be difficult, where building gospel marriages was going to have strife, when maintaining gospel centered church ministries, where Satan was going to come against. Jesus says this. The question you want to ask yourself, are you on that roller coaster ride? Or are you sensing and thoroughly enjoying a more fullness of joy? Because whatever degree of joy you now have, God is always rich in his grace. It is a picture of a cup running over. There is more. The joy of Christ is boundless. It knows no end. He seeks to richly apply it to us, when we will abide in him and we bear fruit, his character, his attitudes. As you abide in Christ and you nurture yourself in the means of grace, as you obey Jesus in simplicity, as you serve Jesus out of love, he will supply you his joy and he will cause that joy to increase. Friends, as we begin to consider the table, I ask you this, do you want Christ’s joy? Or do you just want a partial joy? Jesus wants his joy to be full in you. So that you will love him as he has loved us. So we will obey Jesus out of that love. So that we will serve Jesus out of that love by abiding in him. Jesus will richly abide in us.
There was an acronym that was given to me when I was a kid in church. I think it was Sue Weldon, that said joy is pictured like this: it is Jesus, it is others, and then it is you. Perhaps if you are not in the position where the fullness of joy is yours you’ve got some of that mixed up. Jesus, others, and you.