Experiencing the Joy of Jesus1
It’s one thing to be filled with the joy that comes from earthly comforts or accomplishments. The joy of winning the game or completing a project is truly a wonderful thing. But nothing can compare to the experience in one’s heart of the very joy that filled the heart of Jesus. In John 15:11 Jesus said this: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He virtually repeats himself in John 17:13 – “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Continue reading . . .
It’s one thing to be filled with the joy that comes from earthly comforts or accomplishments. The joy of winning the game or completing a project is truly a wonderful thing. But nothing can compare to the experience in one’s heart of the very joy that filled the heart of Jesus. In John 15:11 Jesus said this: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He virtually repeats himself in John 17:13 – “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Although it is not stated explicitly that this was what Jesus prayed, it clearly describes his intentions toward them and us, his desire for them and us, his hope that they and we would experience in ourselves the same joy that he himself experienced.
What specifically was the ground or reason for the joy of Jesus? Some say it came from his perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Perhaps. But I think it is more likely something else. I think the joy of Jesus was the delight and satisfaction and thrill and spiritual ecstasy he experienced in beholding the beauty of his Father. In other words, the joy that Jesus felt in beholding and enjoying the Father is the very joy that he wants to be in us. He wants us to enjoy the Father in the same way that he does!
And how does he propose to give us this joy? How do we get it? In John 15:11 he tells us: “These things I have spoken to you.” The same thing is found here in John 17:13 – “these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Now listen carefully. We live in a world that has increasingly grown to despise and dismiss what may be called propositional truth; that is to say, objective, eternal, unchanging truth communicated to us in words and propositions or statements of fact or assertions regarding what is true. But Jesus says that the way we come to experience the fullness of his joy in us is precisely by means of the “things” that he has spoken. His teachings, his declarations that are preserved for us in the four gospels, as well as all the teaching of Scripture that makes known the truth he came to reveal, this is the way we enter into the experience of the very joy that Jesus himself experienced.
It was in light of this that I recently asked the people at Bridgeway if they understood why I preach the way I do. I asked them: “Can you see why my primary approach to preaching is to take the statements of truth found in the Bible and unpack them for you and apply them to your heart and mind? I don’t do it because I’m an overly educated egg-head. I don’t do it because I am more cerebral than other preachers. I don’t do it because it feeds my intellectual ego. I do it because of what Jesus says. In his statements, in the things he taught and the things that the apostles later would teach about him in the rest of the NT, in understanding these propositional truths is the key to your everlasting joy!”
When the things or the truths that Jesus spoke and taught are received in your heart and mind the Holy Spirit ignites them and sets them on fire to awaken in you “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The statements and teachings and truths that Jesus had in mind here are what we often call “biblical doctrines.” So I make no apology for teaching and preaching as I do. For if I don’t, people will fail to feel and enjoy and be empowered with the very joy that energized the heart of Jesus himself.
Think of it this way. If you want to start a fire you need two things: wood or kindling, and a spark. The words of Jesus are the wood, the kindling, and the Holy Spirit is the spark. The Spirit ignites the wood and a fire rages. Likewise, the words of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the doctrinal truths of Jesus are set on fire in your soul when the Spirit ignites them, resulting in a volcanic explosion of inexpressible joy! In the absence of the wood, the spark does nothing. And in the absence of the spark, the wood remains dry and unchanged. That is why we must have both the words of Jesus, the truths he communicated, together with the Holy Spirit who sets them aflame in a conflagration of holy joy in our hearts!
We see this principle numerous places in Scripture, but none any clearer than what we read in Nehemiah 8:9-12.
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:9-12).
Why did they “make great rejoicing”? Through what means did they experience “the joy of the Lord” as their strength? It was because they heard and understood and trusted in the truth of the words of God that they heard, words which the Spirit set on fire in their souls.
May we set our hearts to hear, learn, memorize, and meditate on the things that Jesus spoke, for therein is found joy inexpressible and full of glory!