St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Two Keys To A Joy-Filled Life

Sermon on John 15:9-17

Text: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

An ever-growing portion of any bookstore is the self-help section. More and more so-called experts tell you that, by buying and reading their book, you can achieve a specific goal. There are self-help books on dieting, marriage, and business relations. There are books to help with your self-esteem. They all claim to have the same goal: a happier, a more complete life. Some of these books have worthwhile things to say. Others are worthless. This morning, we are going to talk about a sure-fire way to have a happier, more complete life. We look at THE TWO KEYS TO A JOY-FILLED LIFE. Key #1 is Remaining In Christ’s Love and Key #2 is Experiencing Jesus’ Friendship.

Just prior to our text, Jesus used the picture of a vine and branches to show the close relationship between himself and his followers. It was vital that they remained attached to him, for if they did not, like a branch cut from the vine, their faith would wither and die. Just like the dead branches, they would be thrown into the fire, the fire of hell. Jesus stressed the importance of their faith and trust in him.

Now, Jesus continues with the idea of remaining in verse 9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” They were to remain, keep closely connected to Jesus’ love. As Jesus said, it is the same type of love that the Father had for his Son, Jesus. Since God is perfect, his love for his Son would be perfect. The same, then, would be true of Jesus’ love for us. It is a perfect, selfless type of love.

Jesus continues in verse 10, explaining how we remain in Jesus’ love, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Here Jesus tells us how to remain in his love. It is by keeping his commands. By living lives of faith, ones filled with the fruits of faith, we remain in Jesus’ love.

The prevailing idea or thought that comes to mind when one hears the word, “command,” is that this is something I have to do. It’s not going to be something that we enjoy doing. It will be drudgery. It will be hard work. These and other thoughts like them fill our minds when we hear the word, “command.” The world looks at God’s commands and says that they take all the fun out of life. However, listen to Jesus, as he speaks of his commands in verse 11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” In other words, what Jesus is saying is that #1, ‘When you obey my commands, you make me happy. I am pleased with you.’ In addition, #2, your lives will be happier. Remember the first Key to a joy-filled life is remaining in Jesus’ love and, as Jesus said, remaining in his love means obeying his commands.

What is this command? Jesus said in verse 12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” This command sounds easy enough. We’re supposed to love each other. However, don’t forget the qualifying phrase, “as I have loved you.” We are to love each other as Christ has loved us. Jesus speaks of this love in verse 13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The greatest act of love that one friend could do for another is to sacrifice his life for them. Can any of us imagine doing that for someone else, even if it was a very close friend? Yet, as Paul wrote in Romans 5:7&8, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul points to the greatest love that has ever been shown, the suffering and death of Jesus. When we were still sinners, enemies of God, who wanted nothing to do with God, Jesus sacrificed his life, so that we would be saved. Jesus sacrificed his life so that we would be set free from the sins that entangled us and surely would have pulled us into hell. These sins are gone. We have been forgiven of every one of these sins. Each of us has seen, first-hand, the love of Jesus. Now, Jesus tells us that we are to love each other as he has loved us.

This doesn’t mean that we will die for someone else and, of course, we could never die to give someone else salvation. However, we can have the same type of self-sacrificing love that Jesus had, as we deal with those around us. We look out for the interests of others and, by doing so, we remain in Jesus’ love. We show our faith and thankfulness by what we do and, in doing so, we will have a joy-filled life. How is this so? First, as was stated earlier, obeying Jesus’ commands pleases him, and how can we, who have been given so much, want to do anything less than that which pleases Jesus? Secondly, when we look out for others, our lives will be more joyful. We will find our lives to be more joyful, as we take others at their word, rather than always looking for a hidden motive. We will find the world more enjoyable if we help others out when they have a need, rather than saying we’re too busy. Enjoy the people God puts in your path, rather than look for their faults. By doing so, you will remain in Jesus’ love, which is the First Key to a joy-filled life.

The Second Key is as enjoyable as the First. It is experiencing Jesus’ friendship. Being a friend of Jesus is a unique position. It says in verse 15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Being a friend means being in the know. An employer will not necessarily tell his employees everything that is going on. He may just tell them what they need to know. However, close friends share everything: their thoughts, plans, likes and dislikes. This is also true of our relationship with Jesus. He has been very clear about the plans that God has for the world. We find them in his Word. For example, we find how the universe got its start. More importantly, we see God’s plan of salvation as he carried it out. We see perfect Adam and Eve falling into sin, dooming themselves and all their descendants. We see God promise a Savior to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to David, and to Mary and Joseph. When that Savior came in the person of Jesus Christ, we see how he perfectly carried out his Father’s will, which ultimately led him to the cross. We read of his glorious resurrection. Jesus has also told us that the condition of the world will deteriorate before the world comes to an end. He has shown us the glories of heaven. Since we are friends of Jesus, he has told us many great things. He has shared all of this with us, because he is our friend.

Our friendship began in a most unusual way. Normally, friendships develop mutually. You are introduced. You discover that you have things in common. You grow in your affection for each other. This is not the case when we speak of our friendship with Jesus. He refers to this in verse 16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last.” Not one of us decided on our own that we were going to be Jesus’ friends. That would be impossible for us to do because all people are, by nature, enemies of God. However, Jesus, in his great love for us, chose us before the creation of the world to be his friends. It was not because he saw what wonderful people we were. Nor was it because he saw that we would believe. Rather, he chose us to be his friends and created faith in our hearts through the working of the Holy Spirit, by the washing of Baptism and the working of the Word. This makes our friendship even more special. Jesus chose to like, indeed, to love us, despite our position of being lost and condemned creatures. How great is the love that the Son showed us that we became his friends.

There are a great many benefits to being Jesus’ friend. One of them is found in verse 16, “Whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” Only believers can come to God in prayer because the wall of sin has been torn down by the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a great privilege to be able to come and talk to God in prayer. We can bring any problems or concerns to him and know that he can and will answer all our prayers. He is the friend that helps you out when you have problems. He is also the friend that is always there when you need him. At times, our friends forsake us and leave us to our own devices. However, Jesus is always there for us.

Jesus is also a true friend in that he completely knows and understands us. Because of our close relationship, he knows everything about us. He knows when we are hurting and when we are concerned about things. Our friends might misunderstand and leave us. Jesus completely knows and understands us. There are times when we face certain situations, and we go to our friends for their help or advice. Sometimes, unfortunately, their advice is not sound. However, Jesus offers us perfect advice in his Word. When we face these things, we can turn to his Word, and he will help us. There are times when we are invited to a friend’s house for a meal. Jesus invites us to attend a great banquet in his home, heaven. We will have a wonderful time there, far and above even the best time we have had at the home of our closest friend. We have great joy when we experience the friendship of Jesus.

Experts say that there are certain needs that everyone must have fulfilled if they want to feel loved and accepted. There are many people who don’t feel this. Sometimes, we even get down in the dumps and feel alone. However, the good news is that we don’t have to feel this way. There are just two keys to having a joy-filled life. #1 – Remain in Jesus’ love. #2 – Experience Jesus’ friendship. Jesus does not leave us. He is always there for us. Revel in the joy that is yours because you belong to Christ. Amen.