How sad and tragic it is when one’s Christian walk is done with mere duty but no delight!
Look at verses 9-11:
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.
The Father has lavished a great love on His beloved Son! In fact, the times when the Father spoke from heaven, whether at Jesus’ baptism or at his transfiguration, he said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Or, “This is my beloved Son—listen to Him.” All throughout John, Jesus kept telling his disciples that he only spoke what he heard the Father say and only did what the Father did.
You see, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the Trinity—are what Jonathan Edwards called “a sweet and holy society.” The Father has loved the Son throughout all eternity. And as a gift to the Son, God called out a people for Himself known as the church. This is a love gift from the Father to the Son.
Jesus has made it clear that we are saved in order to be set apart for His use. The Father authored our salvation. The Son accomplished our salvation. The Spirit applied our salvation. Why? In order that we may abide in His salvation. So here, Jesus is not saying, “If you do this then I will save you.” No, he is saying, “If you do this, then you will show you are already saved.” You see, this is called perseverance.
John Calvin rightly said in his commentary on this verse:
For these two things are continually united, that faith which perceives the undeserved love of Christ toward us, and a good conscience and newness of life. And, indeed, Christ did not reconcile believers to the Father, that they may indulge in wickedness without reserve, and without punishment; but that, governing them by the Spirit, he may keep them under the authority and dominion of His Father. Hence it follows, that the love of Christ is rejected by those who do not prove, by true obedience, to be my disciples.
The more we abide in His Word and His love, the more joy we have in Christ. And there is no other joy to be had than that which is in Christ. How often do we wonder, “Why is my Christian walk so dull? What aren’t I getting anything rolling? Why am I not progressing? Why do I not have the joy in Christ that another has?” A number of reasons may abide:
First, you may not be connected to Christ. Have you considered that? You may not have ever surrendered and placed your trust fully in Christ. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” But in Christ, you receive all the spiritual nutrients you need.
Secondly, you may not be letting the word prune you. Are you letting things sap your spiritual strength? Are there dream chasings, time wastings, irritations, aggravations, concentrations on the things that will not build you up spiritually? Is there disobedience? Are you using the wrong ingredients? Going the path of least resistance? Just doing what’s expedient? The Word needs to clean us out. The whole process of sanctification is killing the flesh so that the Spirit may move and prosper in us through the cross of Christ. C.S. Lewis once said in a very famous quote:
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
It makes us wonder what kind of mudpies in what kind of spiritual slums we are dealing with that are showing the weakness of our desires. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourselves in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. What is robbing your joy in Jesus? There is no other joy than in trusting the one who lived, and died, and rose again to rescue you from your sin and yourself.
Vance Havner once said, “You have not really learned a commandment until you have obeyed it. . . . Nothing clarifies a doctrine like doing. Each new thing learned becomes a millstone if we do not make it a milestone.”
I want to leave you with a quote from Spurgeon. Part of this text is about self-examination. In a sermon entitled, “A Sharp Knife for the Vine Branches,” he spoke:
Does your religion ever give you joy? Is it mere matter of duty, a heavy chain for you to drag about like a convict, or is your religion a harp for you to dance to the tune of? Do you ever rejoice in Jesus Christ? Do you know what the “joy of the Lord” means? Does it ever give you joy to think that He is the same even when the fig tree does not blossom, and the herd is cut off from the stall? Do you feel a joy in reading the Promises of God’s Word? Have you a joy in secret prayer; that joy which the world never gave you, and cannot take away from you? Have you a secret joy, like a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, which is only open to you and your Lord, because your fellowship is with Him, and not with the sons of sin? He who never mourned because of sin, has never repented; but he who has never rejoiced because of forgiveness, cannot have seen the Cross. Come, then, have you produced this fruit of joy? The Lord give it more and more to you! If you have never had it, then hear the sentence—“Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away.”
A disciple’s life is filled with an inner joy that comes not from circumstances but from the Savior who rescued them from their sin by atoning for them on the cross. Are we connected to the vine?