A running trend in certain Christian circles is understanding joy to be some supernatural gift that comes despite our circumstances. I would not deny such a meaning for joy in Scripture, using Psalm 16:11 and James 1:2 as examples. We would be quite amiss to limit our understanding of joy to merely this. Jesus discusses what it means to be His disciple in John 15:4 – 15. Jesus links joy in v. 11 to what He just discussed in the foregoing verses: (9) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (10) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (11) These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus shows Himself to be the Model after whom we mimic (v. 10). What is abiding in the Lord Jesus’ love? To follow His commands is to experience practically Jesus’ love even as Jesus “kept my Father’s commandments and abides in His love.” Whether the Father’s commands or Jesus’ commands to Their follows, these commands are designed to demonstrate and express love. They tell us what is right and good for us, and, if we do them, we concretely weave that love into our very action and being. In such weaving comes joy: “These things [about producing fruit, following commands, and abiding in My love] I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” To the extent that we do these commands based on our intimacy and love for Jesus, so likewise will our joy increase. Joy in John 15:11, therefore, can be occasioned by our affection and acting on that affection by keeping commands. Joy is not afar off or “too hard” or “unclear,” but it is near us in our hearts (love) and in our actions (command keeping). We can increase our joy beyond the joy at the moment by having ever greater love expressed in command keeping. Thus, greater joy than that now awaits you, and me, and all of us. Jesus has made it clear how to actualize it, by loving Him enacted in our keeping His commands, and all of this, in the light and in the Spirit.
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