The Bare Soul - March 11, 2012
Joy to Overflowing

John 15:11-12 - These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

We all desire to live happy lives. Some will succeed, even outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, to live a life filled with joy is only possible by knowing the Savior. David tells us in the Psalms that to be in God's presence is to experience fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). To experience God's presence and conversely His joy to overflowing, is a paradigm jointly supported by both parts as joy and presence are dependent upon each other. Simply, if we are experiencing God's presence then we will know His joy. Likewise, if we are overwhelmed with His joy it's because we are in the presence of the Almighty. There seems to be no divorcing the two. Having established that the two are inseparable the question remains: How do we get there and stay there? I believe the word of God tells us plainly how we can experience the joy of the Lord. However, I believe it also shows us how to experience joy to overflowing.

It is simply not enough to cloister ourselves away in study of God's word to experience the fullness of His presence. We cannot expect God's overflowing joy to overtake us through continual prayer and fasting. While these are necessary tools to the deeper things of God, they are not enough in and of themselves. There is a final ingredient to fullness of joy and living in the presence of God and that is revealed in verse 12 of our opening scripture. Jesus first tells His disciples that the commandments He has given them, if obeyed, will make their joy full. He implies they must love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength as the great commandment states (Mark 12:29-31). However, He then reinforces the second greatest command stating they should love each other perfectly, even as He loved them. This must have been one of those moments for the disciples similar to the Sermon on the Mount where they understood Jesus was once again expecting perfection (Matthew 5:48). They had been the recipients that very evening of their Lord humbling Himself and washing their feet. They must have thought it impossible to behave as their Lord served them, because it would have never entered their minds to do such a thing! Probably not until after they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost did they understand how God could fulfill all His expectations through them. Once empowered by the Holy Spirit, they found serving one another an effortless undertaking as they held each other in higher regard than themselves (Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32).

How do we practically go from the place of impossibly loving as Jesus loved, to the the place of being the servant of all? I believe there are four criteria to entering into a life of joy overflowing.

Confession -- It is much like when we come to the Lord initially in repentance, telling Him we are a sinner in need of salvation. We must come to Him with an honest appraisal of ourselves and tell Him we need His help in drawing closer to Him. As James stated, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Unfortunately, many believers don't make it past this elementary stage, leading to a frustrated, unfilled walk with God.

Profession -- We must profess who we are in God. Paul reminds us throughout his letters how we are children of the King and we possess all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; II Corinthians 5:21). To allow the devil or the flesh to tell us differently is contrary to Jesus' love message to His beloved church.

Obsession -- If we say we love God, we will want to be with God. That means time in prayer, reading His word, and meditating on His love for us. It means obsessing on our Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many Christians believe if they have given their lives to Jesus through the aforementioned acts of consecration, then God's joy should overtake them. After all, are we not continually in His presence if humble and walking with our Lord? There is one more criterion.

Expression -- Without expressing the love of Christ to others, we have failed the Great Commission to make disciples of all men. Who will enjoy the fruit of the Spirit in our lives if we don't allow those who are hungry for God to taste of His goodness through us?

If we are expressing the love of Christ through a confessed, professed, and obsessed life, we will know the fullness of God's joy. In the same way as there is joy in the presence of the angels when someone repents on earth (Luke 15:10), there will be fullness of joy when we are pouring out our lives for others as Christ commanded. Are we content to just enjoy Jesus without ever dying to self and living for others? We will not experience His fullness if we are. Once we begin to pour out our lives for mankind through His great expression of Christ within, then we will know His overflowing joy like we have not imagined!

Heavenly Father, allow us the privilege to be poured out wine and broken bread for all who would hunger for You. As we draw near to You, draw near to us and even nearer as we fulfill Your Great Commission to make disciples in the image of Your Son. Consecrate us and then empower us for this wonderful endeavor, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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