This week's message is kinda like a continuation of this idea that Jesus invites us to abide in him and bear good fruit. Jesus’ invitation is to be so close that you can’t help but to learn from him and begin to behave like him; and reap the reward – complete joy.
READ THE ENTIRE MESSAGE FROM JOHN'S GOSPEL HERE:
This week on Facebook, I asked you all how do you find or define joy. And here’s a sample of what was submitted:
Think about that for a moment: Joy begins with a connection to Christ that already abides inside you. Joy is Jesus. And Jesus is joy. To abide in him is an invitation to experience overwhelming sense of euphoria and share it with others. This is the fruit-bearing stuff.
You might find joy reading a good book, listening to great music, or getting lost in a beautiful painting. Or you might be the kind of person who finds joy working hard and partying harder. As fun as all that can be, it only produces temporary joy. Eventually the bar closes, the record finishes, and emptiness returns.
The joy Jesus is offering us is more; it’s everlasting. And all you have to do to receive it, Jesus said, is to “Love one another.”
Joy is love. And Love is joy.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Now the very same love Jesus received from God is offered to us if we want it. The joy Jesus is offering us is grounded in God’s love for us.
God is love. And love is relational.
So the first step to complete joy begins with a relationship with Jesus who wants to share God’s love with you.
And where God’s love is, God’s joy abounds.
Jesus knows that all who abide in him will have their hearts open like his - always ready to receive the outpouring of God’s grace in the most unexpected ways.
An old friend of mine has taken up a new relationship with Christ. At first her joy ebbed and flowed in and out of a temporary euphoric state as she grasped with trying to understand God’s grace. And how that grace fits into her life.
In the last few weeks I’ve receive numerous text messages from her with nothing but crying emojis in the text box. She opened her heart, and made herself vulnerable to God’s love that is being poured into her life in abundance. She never knew such love was possible – at least not for someone like herself. Her tears are her joy!
God’s love catches us off guard. And as Darlene is discovering, this intoxicating, euphoric, and no-strings attached happiness is hard to contain. Her joy can’t help but to affect Others.
Another post read, “Joy is smiling at a stranger and having them smile back!” A smile is an invitation to joy – it can reach heaven through the heart.
And so a relationship with Jesus is an invitation for us to create a relationship with others.
Can you think of a time when you were invited into a group and how it made you feel when they wanted to know about you? It produces joy, a smile on your heart, right?
I remember when Barbara Brown Taylor, a wonderful author and amazing theologian, invited me sit with her because she wanted my opinion for a class she was teaching at Piedmont College. My heart leapt with joy. Because of her invitation, I felt like I was somebody.
When we abide in Christ, we learn how to welcome people with a compassionate heart, help strangers with loving hands, see the other with compassionate eyes, and listen with compassionate ears. It’s in this loving of one another that causes God’s heart to smile with joy.
Jesus said, “Bear good fruit that will last, so God will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Complete joy is God’s gift for You.
Jesus said, “Love one another just as I have loved you.” Think about that for a second. You are love (present tense). And You are loved (past tense). You are both the giver and the receiver. Love must flow both towards and from you to experience and enjoy its full effects. The Law of Flow is this: “Love One Another.”
In order for this to work you must be grounded in the sure and certain truth that God loves you – in spite of who you think you are.
I’ll admit I still have trouble accepting this. I often feel unworthy or undeserving of such love & grace. In my moments of doubt, God reminds me of the sacrifice one made for me, not so I would live with guilt and shame, but so I could have grace and life. It’s in this recognition my eyes well up with crying emojis.
No matter whatever has gone horribly wrong in your life, your failures and rebellion, your hardened heart...in spite of what’s been done to you or what you’ve done, God has made peace with you.
And invites you and me to experience unbounded joy; “the wholeness of emotion satisfied, a swelling of the heart, a filling up of the soul and a bursting at the seams kind of feeling.”
This complete, eternal Joy begins with Jesus who came to be with us and invited us to be with him.
Jesus joyfully gave his life for Others so we might to experience eternal life with him; including people inside and outside his social circle; the strangers, the awkward, the dirty and gross. We are all welcome to abide in him.
Including You. Especially you. You are the joy of God’s heart! And if Easter has taught us anything, it’s that God will do anything for you.
Now it’s your turn, as Paul writes in Philippians 3, to “live up to what we’ve already attained.”
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”