Tag Archives: John 15:12

Joy – Nectar for our Hearts

It was the night before he would be cruelly murdered. He knew it, but they had no idea. To them what Jesus did was unheard of. He washed their smelly, grimy feet, a chore traditionally performed only by slaves. Peter was so shocked he almost refused it. But this sacrificial act of service began a demonstration of Christ’s love which would culminate with the sacrifice of his very life the next day.

After his betrayer left, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”[1]

Later that night, as he made his way to the garden of tears, he unveiled his love in words, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.”[2]

He went on to explain that if we love others with the same sacrificial love he demonstrated towards us, we would remain in his love. This establishes the great cadence of the Christian life, receiving Christ’s love and giving it away. After all, we only love because he first loved us.[3]

Then Jesus makes a connection between love and joy, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”[4]

Jesus wrote these very important things about love for the purpose of our joy. He’s basically telling us that if we focus on loving others as he’s loved us, we’ll have the joy our hearts crave.

As with our physical hearts, our spiritual hearts are vital to our health. We get our word “courage” from the French word for heart – “cour”. Without a vibrant inner heart we become “dis-couraged” and life becomes drudgery.

What’s the key to a healthy spiritual heart?

Consider the ancient proverb, “A joyful heart brightens one’s face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit.”[5]

Our hearts were designed to run on joy. When we’re joyful, our inner core[6] is bright, otherwise, our spirits are broken.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re all searching for joy. We were designed for it.[7] But sustained joy can’t be found in worldly affections or smooth circumstances. Lasting joy, producing a vibrant, “en-couraged” heart, can only be found in nearness to God.

David wrote of God: “in your presence is fullness of joy”[8]

Joy is more than a “nice to have” add on to life. It’s fuel for the soul. Jesus wants us to have complete joy. It’s essential to our spiritual health and vital for the courage we need to face the moments of our lives.

Do you want joy?

Jesus tells you how to stay connected with his love and how to have his joy:

love others as he’s loved you.[9]

 

 

for the joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10b

[1] John 13:34 (NIV)

[2] John 15:9 (NIV)

[3] I John 4:19 (NASB)

[4] John 15:11 (NIV)

[5] Proverbs 15:13 (CEB)

[6] From the Latin for heart – “cor”

[7] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[8] Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

[9] John 15:12 (NASB)

Turning Failures into Joy

I started the morning bemoaning. Rather than focusing on Christ and His work, all I could think about were my failures. They were like pesky gnats swirling around. But these unwelcomed intruders of my peace and joy found nowhere to land. God is doing a deep work in my heart. Father is teaching me that if I’ll bring these feelings to Him and not stuff them under a rock in my heart, He’ll expose them. So, I sat down, asking Him to center me in His truth.

Opening my Bible, headed one way, He redirected. Philippians 2:21 leapt off the page, “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ.”

Isn’t that what I’m doing? I thought, looking after my own interests. Worrying about how I did instead of what Christ accomplished on my behalf, seeking my identity again in success instead of the fact that I’m loved by the Creator of the universe.

So what are Christ’s interests? Digging into the passage more, I see Paul is comparing Timothy to others. And in the verse before, I see my answer. Speaking of Timothy, Paul writes.

“For I have no one else of kindred spirit, who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.”[1]

What are you showing me God?

Following is what I hear in my heart:

“Robby (this is my childhood nickname and I hear God speak to me tenderly as speaking to His loved child), you see I’m teaching you slowly, but very deeply that you can truly rest in what I’ve done. Those lies you woke up with can’t penetrate My love. Before they would have landed, taken root and spread. I’m healing your heart from deep lies and making you whole.

What I want to show you this morning is that you can trust Me with you. I’ve got you. I always had you and nothing can disrupt My incredible love for you. Being loved and cared for by Me completely frees you up for the work I have for you.

Look at every person I put in your path, starting with your wife and family, as my invitation to you. When you are with a person, or a person comes to mind, know these are from me. Don’t worry about what you think your work is. Trust all that to me.

My work for you is this:

Love them as I have loved you.[2]

I’ll show you how.

And it’s not really you doing it. As you yield to My Spirit in you, I’m the one really loving them.

And by the way, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:11

You will stay rooted in My love and walk around in full joy as you love others as I have loved you.”  [3]

Challenge: Think of an area of your life which consistently makes you feel like a failure, an area you blew it big time. It’s okay if there’s more than one.

Assuming you are a believing child of God, does God see you as a failure in this area?

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The answer is no. Remember, When God sees you, He sees His Son Jesus Christ, in whom He is well pleased.

You have a choice. Do you want to assess your value based on what God thinks about you? Or do you want to assess your value based on what you perceive others think about you because of your failure?

Based on your answer, either joy or sadness awaits you.

If you are not a child of God,  this one failure does not define you either. In fact, feel free to replace the failure you’ve been thinking about with your most shining achievement. The result will be the same. Or, feel free to use the moral record of Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. Same.

All fall short of the glory of God. If it weren’t so God wouldn’t be God. And the penalty for not being perfect is separation from God. Sounds very harsh if you don’t understand Christ’s rescue and deliverance.

Without Christ, we live with our failures. We aren’t identified as His children. We can’t be with Him now or ever. We’re left to fight for purpose, identity and hope in the roller coaster of  the human struggle to survive in a world filled with evil.

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With Christ, all our failures are taken away as far as the east is from the west. Our past, present and future is swallowed up in His great love. We have moment by moment purpose, joy and hope.

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There is great joy in resting in what Christ has done, forgetting failures and delighting in His everlasting love for you.

[1] Philippians 2:20

[2] John 15:12

[3] John 15:9-12

What is Abundant Life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

It’s Saturday morning in South Carolina. Though it’s before 10 am, it’s already hot and I have a fan whirling. I sip my coffee and watch the birds visit the three bird feeders we’ve placed beyond the reach (at least for now) of relentless squirrel visits.

I love Saturday mornings. Unless I’ve packed my schedule too tightly, there’s time to sit and relish God’s nearness.

This morning I read John 10:10. I pause at the promise of abundant life.

Abundant Life. What does it really mean?

Through our country’s eyes, abundance has a lot to do with possessions. Yet we know this kind of abundance doesn’t produce abundant life.

Statistic show that half the world’s wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population. Can these 1% say their possessions have given them abundant life? History is dotted with sad stories that say no. Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes and Earnest Hemingway are just a few who lived in abundance of possessions, yet their lives ended sadly, not reflecting the abundant life Jesus is referring to.

In fact, it can be argued that abundant possessions inhibit abundant life. Stuff can drain much time and energy, leaving little margin for true abundance.

By implication, abundance can also be associated with success, good health and overall good circumstanced. There is certainly nothing wrong with desiring all these things,  but we know that circumstantial happiness does not translate directly to abundant life either.

The abundant life Jesus refers is not tied to possessions or circumstances. In fact His abundant life is exponentially more satisfying and stable than either.

Years ago, during a two week missions trip to Lima Peru, I was deeply saddened by the living conditions I saw.  Poverty forced mothers to do the unthinkable, releasing their young sons to fend for themselves on the streets.

Our group served at Casa Hogar, an orphanage designed to feed and educated these children. But many of the abandoned children were already steeped in a life of glue sniffing, stealing and prostitution. Chained to this life, they  refused the long term help of the orphanage. Some were adopted, however, and shown the love of Jesus.

In spite of all the poverty and sadness in Lima, there was a quality of love we saw in the believers which I had not experienced in the United States. The folks who worked at Casa Hogar seemed to be refreshingly free from the pursuit of possessions and smooth circumstances.

We all experienced such a depth of the love of Jesus during our two weeks in Peru that many of us dreaded to return to the  “rat race” of the American culture.

We had the audacity to think we were traveling to South America to “minster” the love of Jesus to folks in dire straights. But we were the ones who were deeply touched by the love of Jesus flowing through the Peruvians, even the children.

As I take another sip of coffee, and notice a squirrel repelling down a wire to once again help itself to our bird seed, I write the following words:

Abundant life is not abundant possessions or smooth circumstances. Abundant life is Abundant love.

The Bible is saturated with remarkable language about God’s love,  but there is no better demonstration of abundant love than what Jesus did for each one of us on the cross.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.[1]

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)[2]

As I watch the squirrel wrapped around the feeder, spilling seed everywhere, I conclude that  the kind of abundant life Jesus promises us has everything to do with His love.

But how does God’s abundant love translate into an abundant life for us on a day by day basis? In other words, what is our part in God’s story of abundant love?

I believe the answer is in John 15.

In verse 9, we get a such an astounding definition of abundant love that only the Spirit of God can fully reveal it to our hearts. Jesus tells us “Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you;”

Pause a moment. Jesus loves us as much as God the Father loves Him. This is stunning!

Allow this truth full access to your heart, penetrating every hardened sinew  of protection and blowing away every argument of self hatred.

Jesus loves us beyond our comprehension and He demonstrated it by dying in our place on the cross

The second part of  John 15:9 is a command:

“Remain in my love.”

Remain where God has placed us, in the love of Jesus.  We did nothing to earn this love, ours is to not move from where we have been placed.

Verses 10 and 12 tell us how.

If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love. (10)

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. (12)

We remain in Jesus love, by loving like Him; by being willing in every situation to love sacrificially. This is what we experienced in Peru; folks being freed up from chasing possessions and smooth circumstances to love like Jesus in spite of their poverty and difficulties.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to not have the burden of the “rat race” facing us every day; to rather ask God each day, by the Indwelling Spirit of Christ, to love the people He brings our way; to yield to the Spirit in us to allow Him to love as us.

This is abundant life. Allowing the abundant love of Jesus to flow through us.  ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38

If you don’t see already that abundant life is abundant love, allow me to seal the deal.

Couched in between verses 10 and 12 in John 15 is the following verse:

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:11

Abundant life is abundant love.

 

[1] Romans 5:8

[2] Ephesians 2:4-5