If there is one thing people believe in, it is the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, it will always be that; a pursuit. They will never get there. Solomon told us that he had learned that centuries ago when he wrote Ecclesiastes. If they would pursue joy they could have greater success. Joy is something we can have now and which will only get better. John the Baptist, Jesus, and John the Evangelist all mention joy being complete.
First, consider John the Baptist. In John 3:29, when John was pressed by his disciples to give an opinion of Jesus who was attracting bigger crowds, John explains that Jesus was meant to be greater than he. Instead of being jealous he said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”
This sort of joy reminds me of how a tuning fork works. When you strike a tuning fork, it vibrates and it will make any nearby wire of the same frequency vibrate. Jesus is like the tuning fork, and all who are attuned to him likewise respond. John’s joy was complete because he recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah and hope for the world. He more than recognized him, he knew, he understood, he vibrated. His joy resulted from really knowing him and having fellowship with Him. This is why we Christians rejoice when we recognize God’s work in the life of someone we know well and love.
Joy From God
In John 15, the famous chapter of the vine and the branches, Jesus tells us how to have complete joy by having an abiding relationship with Christ. But perhaps to our discomfort, he connects this with obedience. In verses 9-11 he says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus then is telling us that our joy is made complete by remaining in the love we enjoy from God, which Jesus says we do as we keep his commands. Some people interpret keeping the commands negatively as a legalistic approach, saying, “Who wants a dry religion?” and others positively, “I can do that!” thinking that by keeping them one earns salvation, that they can control their future. Neither is what God intends.
In the Torah, the law is given, not just the 10 Commandments, but many other laws. Paul in Romans tells us these are like a tutor to bring us to Christ when we were young in the faith; after we grow up we don’t need a tutor because then we keep the laws painlessly, their having become ingrained in us. We are all familiar with “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from them.”
The laws give us boundaries. Dr. James Dobson, by whose advice I raised my children, tells us that children need boundaries. (Don’t climb on the furniture; Don’t cross the street without looking) It makes them feel secure. Because God is our father, he gave us rules. He gave us laws as a favor (“grace” would be the church word). The law circumscribes the covenant relationship (“I will be your God and you will be My people”) – God’s purpose for us from the beginning. As we keep these laws, we find ourselves being God’s people, and his being our God. Keeping the law does not make God love us, as many an O.T. Prophet has vociferously warned God’s people. It is not a conditional thing – God doesn’t say if you do this then I will reward you with my presence, guidance, and protection, but rather as we go about obeying His laws, we discover that He is blessing us and we are enjoying life in Him. We find that we abhor that which is evil and we cling to that which is good which we are instructed to do. This is an attitude change, not accomplished by merely obeying the law, but by being in fellowship with God.
Only a couple of chapters later in John 17:13, Jesus prays that his believers will have the “full measure” of his joy within them. “Full measure” sounds like complete joy to me. This is Jesus’ prayer for us. This is Jesus’ prayer for us. This is Jesus’ prayer for us. Complete joy is available to every believer.
In Philippians 2:2, Paul appeals to his hearers to make his joy complete which would happen if 1) any share a common bond being united by Christ’s love, and if 2) any enjoy “fellowship with the Spirit.” He says Christians make his joy complete when they thing alike, love alike, have the same spirit and purpose. (After all since we are being conformed to Christ, we are going to end up being alike in a lot of ways.)
Walk In Obedience
There is another place where having complete joy is found. It comes in the opening verses of I John. John is urgently trying to convince people that Jesus is who He says He is: He is actually God’s son who came to give us eternal life. John writes and I paraphrase: “This really happened. Believe me, I saw it. I was there.” He states that the reason he is writing is to invite others into fellowship with him and other believers whose fellowship is with the Father and His Son. John’s motivation, he declares in verse 4, is to “Make our joy complete.” Fellowship with God and each other completes our joy.
Then in a different letter by the same John (II John 12), to the chosen lady and her children (possibly a church), the evangelist addresses truth with a capital T and love. In verse 6 he states, “And this is love, that we walk in obedience to His command. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” (We are all familiar with Jesus’ summary of the law, expressed in terms of love… Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all your heart, mind soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourselves.) John concludes his letter saying he has more to talk about but must wait until he is with them. Then their joy will be complete (verse 12). I think he is talking here about a tuning fork experience. When we discover that other believers, maybe even strangers or foreigners, share the knowledge of the Truth with us, it is exciting and a glimpse of the fellowship that we will have in heaven.
Another example of a tuning fork experience was described by the disciples on the road to Emmaus who exclaimed, “didn’t our hearts burn within us when He explained the Scriptures!”
This is what God longs for in us and He has provided access to fellowship with him through Christ. He has done what he could to train us so that we would walk in His ways. There should be no joy lacking in our lives. The catch is that Jesus does not force us to have fellowship with Him. As He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). That’s fellowship!
Mrs. Kuykendall presented this program to the Vespers at Due West Retirement Center. She is a member of Due West ARP Church.