Thank For the Joy is Abiding in Christ
Study 6 THE SECRET OF ABIDING JOY – Words of Life Ministries
Key Verse: “…that my joy might be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15 :11)
These words were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is most important for us to notice when He uttered them.
It was a very strange time to talk of joy and gladness, for in a little while He would be in dark Gethsemane, and shortly after that He would be facing His accusers and hearing the taunts and mockings of those who hated Him.
Yes, it was just prior to facing the agonies of Calvary that He spoke of “My joy…”, and it is very significant that, so far as the scripture records are concerned, this is the only time He did speak of His joy.
How unique the Lord’s joy must have been if it still remained with Him in the time of such great trial and testing! – and His desire and provision for us (that is, for every believer), is that His joy, which is so different from that of the world, should be our joy – “…that my joy might be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
1. CHRISTIAN JOY SHOULD BE THE PREVAILING CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LIFE OF EVERY CHRISTIAN
Too often we are sad, gloomy and dejected; but as Christians we ought to be joyful in everything – look up Philippians 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16.
The A-to-Z of our Christian experience should be marked by joy: joy at conversion (Acts 8:39); joy when reading God’s Holy Word (Jeremiah 15:16); joy in prayer (John 16:24); joy in the midst of trials (James 1:2); joy when suffering (Acts 5:41); joy when serving (2 Corinthians 1:24); and joy at the journey’s end (Hebrews 12:22). If we love and belong to the Lord we should always be rejoicing.
2.WHAT, THEN, IS CHRISTIAN JOY, THE JOY WHICH WE AS CHRISTIANS SHOULD EXPERIENCE?
- It is Christ’s Joy: “…that My joy may be in you” (John 15:11). “My joy…in you…” The Christian life is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in a man or a woman – look up Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:4. Christian joy is Christ’s joy in a Christian, and this means that this deep-down, abiding joy is not found anywhere else except in Him. There are other kinds of joy found in other places, but His joy is found in Him alone.
- It is Fulness of Joy: “…that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). There is a great difference between joy and fulness of joy. The vessel may be partly filled or completely filled. Our Lord’s desire for us is that we should experience fulness of joy continually – look up Psalm 16:11; John 17:13 and 1 Peter 1:8.
- It is Abiding Joy: “…that My joy may be in you” (John 15:11). Notice the word “remain” in these verses – 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10. By “remaining” in Him and His “remaining” in us means that His joy will always be in us. Our joy is not an intermittent experience, but a permanent one. It is a joy which is unaffected by circumstances – see what the Lord said to His disciples in John 16:22. These first followers of our Lord were to pass through many trials and testings, but He told them that nothing could rob them of their joy – His joy in them. Consider the following three illustrations of the abiding nature of Christian joy, and of the fact that Christ’s joy in us is unaffected by outward circumstances and conditions:
- John 15:11 – as we have seen, our Lord experienced this joy in the shadow of the cross – compare John 17:13.
- Luke 10:20 – surely our Lord meant by this: “Do not let your joy depend upon anything earthly or temporal, but let it depend upon that which abides…in Heaven.”
- Acts 16:25 – Paul and Silas, though in great trouble, were filled with Christ’s own joy which enabled them to sing praises at midnight – compare Isaiah 61:3; 2 Corinthians 8:2 and Hebrews 10:34.
It is a remarkable and a wonderful thing that true Christian joy is not only unaffected by adverse circumstances, but it is actually promoted by such trials and testings – look up James 1:2.
3. HOW MAY WE HAVE THIS JOY?
- By having Him. If this deep-down, abiding joy is Christ’s joy, we can only have it by having Him. In Acts 8:8, we read that – “There was great joy in that city.” Why was this? Verse 5 tells us! Verse 35 tells us! If we would possess His joy we must possess Him – look up John 17:13.
- By reading His Word. When we read the Bible and receive the truth, we experience great joy – look up 1 John 1:4. This is akin to having a “burning heart” as the result of fellowship with the Lord as He speaks to us – look up Luke 24:32.
- By submission to Him. Notice in Luke 10:21 that we are told two things: first, that “Jesus was full of joy…”; and second, that He was completely submissive to His Father’s will. His joy was the joy of complete and continual submission to the will of His Father in Heaven.
It was Madame Guyon who said, “Oh, the blessedness of an accepted sorrow!” When we accept suffering from His hand, sorrows as well as pleasures, then our joy will be full indeed.
- By the Holy Spirit. The literal rendering of Luke 10:21 is: “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”, and one translation reads: “In that hour Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit with rapturous joy” – look up and compare Romans 15:13.
At this very moment the Lord Jesus is exalted, the perfect Man in a perfect human body, in Heaven.
His desire is that His joy should be complete in us. How can this be, for He is there and we are here? He is in Heaven and we are on earth! The answer is – by the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is…joy…” – look up Galatians 5:22, and compare Acts 13:52 and Ephesians 5:18!
For the Joy that Lay before Him
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is said to be God’s “hall of faith.” Thrillingly, it chronicles a variety of marvelous examples of Old Testament faithful obedience, which are intended to encourage us in our Christian lives. With reference to this matter, the author declares:
“Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of the faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1-2).
There are so many rich truths here tucked away that it is scarcely possible to consider them all in a brief article. Let us, though, mention a few matters.
We Are Compassed About
The heroes of the Old Testament are said to represent a great cloud of “witnesses” which, almost stadium-, surrounds us.
This does not affirm, as some surmise (Coffman, 309), that our deceased spiritual kinsmen literally are looking down, observing our present activity (cf. Eccl. 9:5-6).
Rather, it merely suggests that their abiding examples of faithful endurance are a cheering crowd, urging us toward victory.
Lay Aside Every Weight
the ancient runner who was compelled to shed every hindrance, the child of God is to lay aside every distraction, especially “the sin” which so easily besets (encompasses). The definite article seems to suggest a certain sin.
While some would see this “besetting sin” as any weakness to which one might be especially vulnerable (e.g., drunkenness or temper), more ly — consistent with contextual considerations — the expression denotes the sin of unbelief.Earlier the writer had emphasized: “Take heed, brothers, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God” (3:12).
A.T. Robertson says that “the sin” was “apostasy from Christ” (433) — quite a concession from a Baptist. Charles Stanley, the popular television preacher, has argued that a Christian can completely abandon his faith, but God still will not allow him to be lost (84ff)! Such a notion is wholly foreign to the Bible.
Let Us Run
The inspired writer urges that we are to keep running (the verb is a present tense form, denoting continuous activity) the race that is before us. As we run, we are to be “looking unto Jesus.
” “Looking” reflects a present tense participle form, and the original term suggests turning “the eyes away from other things” and fixing them on something else (Thayer, 90).
Obtaining the goal of heaven requires the utmost concentration; a haphazard disposition is not conducive to eternal salvation.
The Author and Finisher of the Faith
Christ is said to be the “author and finisher of the faith.” The common versions have “our faith,” but “the faith” is more precise (see Milligan, 343; Vine, 56).
Here the expression denotes the fact that Jesus is the source (the originator) and consummator of “the faith,” i.e., the gospel system (cf. Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 5:8; Jude 3).
No person has a right, therefore, to add to, subtract from, or to modify the New Testament body of doctrine. Let innovators who repudiate what they call “pattern theology” be admonished.
For the Joy that Was Set before Him
The most enigmatic portion of this verse is the affirmation that Christ endured the cross “for the joy” that lay before him. A key word is the preposition “for.” The Greek word is anti, which has several possible meanings. It commonly connotes “instead of” (see “in the stead of,” Gen. 22:13, LXX; cf. also Mk. 10:45).
This would suggest that Jesus chose to come to earth and endure the agonies of Calvary instead of continuing in his preincarnate heavenly state. It would emphasize the great sacrifice he made (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9).
Harris tends toward the meaning that Jesus came to earth “‘instead of’ the joy of continued fellowship in God’s immediate presence” (1180).
On the other hand, anti can mean “in exchange for,” in the sense of “to obtain” (Thayer, 49).
If this is the significance of the term here, then the meaning would be that the Lord willingly endured the shame of the cross in anticipation of the joy of effecting redemption for Adam’s fallen family.
Morris says: “He looked right through the Cross to the coming joy, the joy of bringing salvation to those he loves” (134). This view is probably more consistent with the context inasmuch as Jesus is portrayed as the model for the saints who long for the prize which is yet in their future.
Can we fathom the depth of love that Jesus Christ had for lost humanity? The horrors of Golgotha paled into insignificance when the Savior contemplated the refreshing salvation that would be available for all who choose to obey him (Heb. 5:9). This is absolutely astounding. How utterly selfish our own level of dedication appears by comparison.
He Endured the Cross
On account of his incomparable love, Christ “endured” the cross. The word is interesting. It derives from hupomeno.
Meno basically means to “abide, remain,” while hupo (under) is a preposition attached as a prefix to strengthen the term. The idea suggested is to “bear up under.
” It hints of the magnificent courage of the Lord as he hung suspended from the cross for six hours. For a consideration of what was involved in a crucifixion, see Edwards, et al. (1986).
Additionally, the inspired writer affirms that the Savior “despised” the “shame” connected with the cross. It was not merely the prospect of physical death that so repelled the Lord. Rather, it was the association of the cross with sin. His holy soul recoiled at the idea of being involved with the shame of man’s rebellion against God.
In Galatians 3:10-13 Paul discusses the “curse” that was associated with Jesus’ death on the cross. “Curse” hints of the fitting doom of which sin is deserving. The disgrace of the cross is clearly stressed by Paul in Philippians 2:8. Filthy human beings can hardly appreciate the magnitude of this matter; we can only express our profound gratitude and humbly submit to his holy will.
Hath Sat Down
Finally, as Christ won the victory (having sat down on the throne — the perfect tense emphasizing the permanence of his accomplishment), so also shall the faithful. Too, observe that Jesus has achieved the “throne” already; it is not a future hope, as alleged by millennialists.
This passage thus sets forth the wonderful example of Christ. May we ever follow in his path.