Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

6. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Joy – Part 2

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John 15:5-11

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

In John 15 we see Jesus in the upper room with His disciples the night before his crucifixion. In a few hours, He will leave for the garden of Gethsemane where He will wrestle in prayer over the coming persecution. Soon He will be arrested, tried and convicted of crimes He never committed. Soon He will be spat on, slapped, and scorned, soon He will suffer humiliation and hatred. Not only will they mock Him but they will murder Him, nailing Him to the cross to slowly suffocate and die. Yet Jesus fully conscious of the circumstances to come said: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” The cross is not what we would call a journey of joy, but here we see a significant difference between joy and happiness. Where happiness is based on the circumstances of the journey, joy is based on Jesus.  Unlike happiness that is based on fleeting feelings that ebb and flow on the currents of circumstance and fizzle out at the first turn of the tide, Jesus’ joy is full to overflowing. Jesus joy is not caned and contained by our circumstances.  Jesus teaches us a powerful principle here, that difficulty does not have to jam up or dam up your joy, and when the trials and tests of this life squeeze us from every side the juice that seeps out will reveal the hidden fruit of your heart. Just like a grape that is put in the press the juice that seeps out will either be the joy of Jesus sweet to the taste or junk that is sour. While we may not like the trials of this life they reveal what’s really going on in our life. Sadly, many Christians today reveal a foggy faith, where you can’t see God for the gloom. Instead of living a life of belief and blessing its burden and bondage. Where is the joy of Jesus today? When situations squeeze us where is the joy juice that should run out, overflowing and overtaking our lives? If you call yourself a Christian, then it’s not just who you follow but how you follow. If the who you follow is Jesus then the how should be with joy. Yet many of us act like living for the Lord is a pain instead of a privilege. I think it’s time for the church to stop making Christianity a chore and a burden and start living like it’s a blessing. Jesus makes it clear that we will face crummy circumstances, you see the goal is not to live a problem free life but a purpose driven life that pleases Jesus. How do we please Him, by living a joy filled life instead of a junk focused one. Yet in our pursuit of a pain free life we often trade pleasing Jesus for pleasure. But in our pursuit of happiness through pleasure the church has crashed into the culture, like a derailed train we have left the tracks of truth. We have a faith that frets instead of following. It seems that the only religious works that are of value are those which are somber, serious and sullen. Today there are those that only appear to be joyful when they are depressed. This is unbiblical behavior, and no I am not suggesting that we be unrealistic about life’s troubles or silly in the face of suffering. I’m saying that we should look like Christ regardless of the circumstances. Today as we journey together toward joy we are going to see in John 15:5-11 both joy builders and joy busters. The first joy builder is:

  • Builder #1 Recognize you are loved by the Lord

Jesus says in verse 9 “as the Father loves me so I love you.” Our rejoicing revolves around relationship. We are loved by the Lord with a love that is not based on personal performance. This is a refreshing reassuring love that we can rest in. Have you listened to the Lords words, “I love you.” Could there be three more beautiful words coming from the mouth of God? These are more than just words mouthed by Jesus, these are words that moved Jesus to the cross. Words He modeled through His sacrificial death for our sins. Don’t miss the magnitude of his love: “as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” He doesn’t just tolerate us He treasures us.  The magnitude is found in the measure of Christ’s love; He loves us as the Father loves Him, with a divine affection, unrestrained, holding nothing back. First Jesus declares his love, second, he describes his love and third, he demands that we remain under the assurance and influence of his love. Living in His love is not just vertical between you and God but also horizontal between you and other people. Living in His love means extending that love to others, which brings us to our first joy buster:

  • Buster #1 – Unresolved conflict

Our joy evaporates when we allow conflict to ruin our relationships with others. Instead of living in the joy we end up living in the junk. Anger clouds our view of God and blessing is replaced by bitterness. When we looked at cultivating Christs love in our lives we saw that love keeps no record of wrongs. If you’re still keeping score then the fruit of joy will be squashed in your life. Paul points to the link between joy and unity in Philippians 2:2: “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” So, let me ask you are you living in the Lord’s love? Are you motivated by your performance or Christ’s passion? Often when we look in the mirror we look at the image reflected there with critical eyes instead of through Christ’s eyes. We focus on the flaws instead of on His fondness for us. Why does it matter if we are living in His love and looking at life through His eyes of love? Because if you are not living in the Lord’s love you will never be able to live out His love and touch others with His tender care. What about you is there any unresolved conflict that is causing you to wallow in the junk instead of walking in His joy?

 

 

 

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