“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:8-11 NRSV).
“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
It might be helpful to define in certain terms what I mean by “joy”. What might be the most common expression or definition of joy is that of an emotion or feeling of happiness and pleasure. That is certainly part of how we understand joy, yet there is a deeper and fuller meaning that is found in Christ; a deeper joy found in the depth of our very souls that might exist event apart or in spite of external situations.
Before you continue reading this post, I have a disclaimer and a question. The statement below and reflection that follows is based on the assumption that you want to experience fullness of joy in Christ. So, a question as you read, pray, and reflect on these things; do you want to experience the fullness of joy, a joy beyond our understanding that is complete in Christ? Maybe you’re not totally sure what that even looks like and why you might desire that. Below is a brief statement and reflection on pursuing this “fullness of joy” as we abide in Christ.
“To experience fullness of joy, it is essential that we spend time set apart in the presence of Jesus, that we would produce fruit that remains and our joy would be complete in him.”
Several weeks ago, I lay in bed wide awake with all these thoughts on John 15 and fullness of joy. The Lord began to stir up these thoughts and speak clearly this phrase above on what it might look like to experience fullness of joy in Christ. When I got up and began to scribble some thoughts and write down this phrase, the four words in bold were highlighted and emphasized on my heart.
ESSENTIAL: It’s not optional, only good and helpful. It is absolutely necessary, extremely important, fundamental, central to who we are and how we live our lives.
If you’re in a place where you don’t need God… where you’re not utterly dependent on Christ, then maybe, just maybe, you need to move.
SET APART: It is essential that we spend time set apart. When we look at scripture, we can think about being set apart as becoming holy, sacred, or consecrated. Not only do we need to take time to pray and fix our thoughts on “things above” throughout our day, it is essential that we set apart intentional time with the Lord.
If we track with Jesus through what we know of his life and ministry throughout the gospels, it’s clear that he depended on time set apart with the Father (John 5:19). Sometimes Jesus woke up very early and went to a solitary place. Other times we read that he went out beside the lake, to a mountain, or by boat to a solitary place again. He would spend the night praying, and even in one account was silent and peaceful in a crowd. What sums much of this up for me is this: Even though there were demands and expectations on Jesus, he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Mark 1:35 & 45, 9:51; Luke 5:15-16).
FRUIT THAT REMAINS: When we talk about fruit that is produced in our lives as followers of Christ, there is a danger of making it about law and our performance. Bearing a certain amount of fruit, performing up to par or completing a specific set of tasks, is not a test for making the cut, being able to stay on “the vine”, or in the Kingdom. Rather, it is a byproduct of remaining in Christ. There are a couple passages that help put this into perspective:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“If we live try the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:25-26
To produce fruit that remains, pruning is necessary. It is essential, not optional. In John 15, Jesus speaks about removing branches in us that bear no fruit, and that the truth he has revealed to us has cleansed, or pruned, us (15:2-3). This can be a painful process, but if our goal is Christ, and experiencing fullness of Joy IN HIM, then it is necessary!
COMPLETE: Merriam-Webster defines “complete” with the following statements: having all necessary parts; not lacking anything; not limited in any way; not requiring more work; entirely done or completed. “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Our joy is only complete with the Joy of Christ in our lives. It’s not a formula, but it sure seems that if we do these things, abide in Christ with a very intentional and set apart (holy!) life, we will produce fruit that remains and experience fullness of joy!
Through all of this, Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us. This pursuit of fullness of joy in Christ isn’t meant to be pursued alone! As we are in community, loving one another, we walk through this journey together and experience joy together.
Questions For Reflection and Discussion:
If you look at your calendar and how you spend your time, does it reflect spending time set apart in the presence of Jesus as essential to your life?
How do you connect with God? Is there a special place you like to go to retreat and spend time alone with the Father?
For those in worship ministry, how does fullness of joy in Christ impact our communities and worship together?
Prayer: Holy Spirit, search my heart for what might be holding me back and how I need to be pruned to produce fruit that remains. Let your truth permeate the depths of my soul, and fill me with your joy! In Jesus’ name, Amen.