Seven identifying marks of the friends of Jesus John 15:9-17
Did you know that there are certain words we say and things we do that seem to have their roots in scripture but they actually don’t. For instance, there are certain sayings like: Moderation in all things. Spare the rod and spoil the child. God helps those who help themselves. Money is the root of all evil. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. This too shall pass. God works in mysterious ways. And the eye is the window of the soul. Some of these might actually sound like scripture and others are based on what scripture teaches but none of them actually are.
And then there’s the story of the three wise men who came bearing gifts at Jesus’ birth and the account of these three men isn’t based on scripture but I think its foundation is in Hallmark cards. The scripture says there were three different gifts that were presented to the baby Jesus but we have no idea of how many people actually gave them. There could have been forty and they might have all chipped in on the three gifts. I mean, there could have even been several people who brought the same thing, after all that always happens at a shower. And then there’s always the possibility that one person brought all three gifts. As I said, the number of gifts is not necessarily an indication of the number of people who actually came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. The fact is; we really don’t know how many wise men there were but history tells us that a lot of of them were known to travel with a large contingent of soldiers and servants, so, we could only guess at the number of people who were actually there. And the strangest thing is, whenever we see a picture or a play we always count to make sure all three are represented. It’s become so much a part of the story that we actually expect to see it.
Then there’s the sinner’s prayer which is a great prayer even if it isn’t in the Bible because it includes principles regarding salvation like confession of sin, repentance and accepting the Lord into your heart and although we agree with all these things but that doesn’t make the prayer Biblical.
And then there are the wedding vows. Many of these are different, some are even written by the couple and a few might even be based on scripture but none of them are actually found in the Bible, at least not as wedding vows.
The verses that I’ve heard used several times at a wedding are those of Ruth 1:16-18 which says, “And she said, behold thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. And Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee or to return after following thee: (And here’s where the wedding vows come from) for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” And as I said, these are often used as wedding vows and I think they’re beautiful words that describe the kind of commitment we’re hoping the couple will make but the fact is, when they were originally spoken they had nothing whatsoever to do with a wedding. This is the commitment of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law and these words might reflect the kind of commitment we hope the couple will make but the words themselves weren’t actually based on a wedding service. And when you think of it, there are not too many people who would want to compare their love for their husband or wife with the love they have for their mother-in-law.
And not only do we misunderstand many things that are not in the scriptures but we also have a tendency to misinterpret a lot of what is there. So, what I want to talk about today are seven things Jesus said we will do if we’re really His friends. These are not things that we’ll just believe but they’re things we’ll actually do because we believe.
A few years ago there was a nationwide survey that found that 67% of forty thousand people that were polled, did not have what they considered to be a close friend. I think this tells us that there is an awful lot of lonely people in this world.
Friendship is an amazing thing. We can have all kinds of relationships with people but our friends are the ones that really count. A good marriage can be a friendship, a good business relationship is often a friendship, our children can even be our friends, any relationship we have that goes the distance can be a friendship. I think there are as many kinds of friends as there are friends.
Several people defined friendship in different ways. For instance, they said, a friend is someone who knows you and loves you anyway. A friend wants you to succeed and they don’t stop being your friend if you don’t. A friend wants to do what you want to do and will encourage you to get out there and do it. A friend will support and care for you in the hard times and rejoice with you in the good times. A friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world is walking out. A friend can be your worst critic and is also your best encourager. A friend is someone who will always be straight with you but they’ll do it in love. A friend is someone who is strong enough to dump on but tender enough to see you through all the trials and tribulations of life. A friend will defend you to the end but will never let you get away with anything. And then my favorite is, a friend is someone who really knows you but likes you anyway. These are all nice and there’s some truth to all of them but Jesus takes it all a step further.
A And the first thing Jesus says is that His friends will love one each other. In verse 12 He says, “This is My commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you.”
It’s interesting that Jesus draws the line in the sand between servants and friends when He says in verse 15, “I no longer call you servants but friends.” You see, a servant was always a servant. They worked for you and you had standards and expectations of them and you might even be nice to them but they were not your friends.
Many of us have a misconception of what a servant was all about but we have to remember that a servant wasn’t a slave. You didn’t own a servant but they were someone who was employed by you. So, a servant wasn’t a position of shame but one of service and we often see the term used in the Bible to refer to those who served God. For example, Moses, Joshua, and David were all referred to as the servants of God. And then in the New Testament, both Paul and James also counted it an honor to be "a servant of God." And here, Jesus says to His disciples and to us as well, I want you to be more than those who work for Me, I want you to be My friends.
In the Old Testament, only Abraham was called the friend of God and he was called that because he had a unique relationship with God as the father of Israel. And here we see Jesus is bestowing the same level of intimacy on New Testament believers and that’s friendship.
I remember a few years ago some of the restaurants in Toronto tried to take a new approach to service. After you and your party were seated the waiter would come to the table but he wouldn’t just stand there and take your order; he would pull up a chair, sit down and introduce himself. Then he’d make a bit of small talk and when he felt the conversation had gone on long enough so that you were all friends then he’d take your order.
The problem that most of us had with this approach was; he was the waiter. And by saying that I’m not putting him down but He didn’t come with us and we really weren’t there to get to know him. All we wanted him to do was to take our order and bring our food and then we’d pay our bill. And if everything was done to our satisfaction we would leave a tip. We went there to be served. We weren’t there looking for friends.
Friends are different. A friend is someone who has access to your presence, who has input in your life and he or she has the inside scoop on what’s going on. I’m sure these guys were trying to do a better job but they were simply pretending to be your friend.
But, when Jesus calls us His friends He takes our relationship to a whole new level than what others had experienced in the Old Testament. We see this friendship in verse 13 where He says, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And the basis of this friendship is the love I talked about a few weeks ago. And of the four kinds of love that were used in the New Testament this is the agape love which is the unconditional and sacrificial love of God. It’s a real love that was shown at Calvary and it even goes beyond that because the Bible tells us that Jesus laid down His life for us before we were ever born and that means that every sin you or I ever committed or ever will commit was paid for long before any of it was committed.
So, how could we possibly lose our salvation if it was completely paid for before any of us were ever even found guilty? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
So, in this section Jesus is talking about the kind of love that exists between friends and it’s the love of God’s that’s in us that’s expressed through us toward one another. You see, it’s not just that we love Him but this love is expressed toward each other and if the love isn’t expressed then obviously it’s not there.
As John tells us in I John 4:20, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” This tells us that we need Him working in us and through us because in our flesh we can all meet people in the church that either we don’t like or people who don’t like us and yet Jesus commands us to love one another. And the fact that He commands me to do this tells me that loving others is an act of my will.
I’ve heard people say, “I’ll love them but no one says I have to like them.” Have you ever heard that? That’s sound like a great way around what Jesus said but it’s stupid. How can you love someone if you don’t like them? It’s like saying, “I’m willing to die for you but I can’t stand the sight of you.”
Many people are bothered when they hear this and say, "How can you command someone to love someone else? Love is a feeling. Some people you love, some people you don’t. If you don’t like them then you can hardly make yourself love them. You might even be able to tolerate them, but loving them is simply out of the question."
But listen, people who say such things don’t understand what the Bible means when it uses the word "love." The idea of love which is widespread in the world regards love as a feeling that automatically comes when one has a certain affinity toward someone else and it a love that’s limited only to those we naturally like.
We are to love in deed and actions. And let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than the syrupy kind of person who comes up and says, “I love you” and then they move on and say to the next person, “I love you.” Of course, when I hear that I always want to say, “Then why don’t you show it, by sending me a gift certificate to the Swiss Chalet?” And I can tell by their reaction if their love is real because if it is, then I get a free lunch. And if I do, then I really love them too.
When you struggle with loving somebody, when someone irritates you, and you do not feel like loving him or her, think about how Jesus loves each of us. I mean, not only did He save us but now He cares for us. He supports us and calls us one of his own and not only that but He also provides for our needs and disciplines us. And if we focus on that for a while God does something in each of us which Paul describes in Romans 8 where he says, "The love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." It’s this love of God that begins to flow through us to those who are around us
In I John 3:18 he said, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth.” And then he builds on or he amplifies this in verse 17 when he adds, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” In other words, he’s saying that the love of God ought to move each of us to meet the legitimate needs of those who are around us. The good news for those of us who love the Lord is that the love of God isn’t something we have to consciously act on but it’s something that just flows naturally.
So, God’s love is a decision to act for the benefit of someone else no matter how I feel about him or her. And until we understand that, there is no way we can even begin to obey our Lord’s command. Love is a decision to be kind, gracious, considerate, helpful, firm, or whatever will minister to the other person’s need no matter how we feel about them personally. This is the love Jesus commands.
When Jesus commands us to "love one another" He is not saying that we should get a good, warm, fuzzy feeling about every one but here the word "love" or agape in the original Greek is not just a feeling, it is an action. Jesus is commanding us to go out and do love. He is telling us to do those things which are good and beneficial for others.
Did you ever think about how difficult it must have been for Jesus to love His disciples, because these men were just like you and I. They could be stubborn, selfish, ambitious and often presumptuous. They actually thought they knew better than He did at times. They insulted, ignored and even disobeyed Him at other times. And listen, I don’t think He automatically felt love for them. I mean, how else can you explain those times when He said to them, "How long must I be with you?" And He actually said this three times in Matthew, Mark and Luke. It was clearly a strain to be around them because they were sinners just like you and I.
The command to love one another was stated in verse 12 and then repeated in verse 17. Why did He repeat this? I think He said this twice because they weren’t all that loving toward one another. So, when Jesus was about to leave and go back to heaven and He expected all His disciples, you and I included, to be His representatives on earth and He told us that the way we’d be recognized by one another is if we loved one another the way He loves us.
We notice that He didn’t say, people would recognize us by our special hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers or wrist bands but people would know who we are by the love we have for one another. It’s not a love for the church building or the services and it’s not a burden for the lost souls in China who we’ll never see anyways but it’s the love we have one for another.
Every once in a while Jesus seems to repeat Himself and I don’t think that He’s being repetitious or that the writers are just writing the same thing over and over again but there are some things that He feels need to be said more than once and when they are we ought to take special notice and ask our selves why. It’s kind of like when your mother sent you to the store for three things. Number one she wanted butter and then you talked her into buying ice cream and a bag of cookies. So, just before you went out the door she’d say, “And don’t forget the butter.” After all, this is the one reason you were going in the first place and loving one another was something Jesus wanted us to remember above all else.
It is not trying to love someone by trying to feel loving and then making ourselves act that way but the love Jesus is talking about is a love that flows from a heart that is conscious that it has been and is loved by God. I think that if Jesus had difficulty loving any of the people He came in contact with He didn’t just grit his teeth and try to be nice. He focused on how the Father loved Him and then the love He experienced is the love He expressed. I think this was why He went out on the hillsides at night so He could pray and renew himself in the Father’s love. Then He could come back and endure with patience the sinfulness of men.
Of course, if we study the life of Jesus, we’ll find an eternity’s worth of things that we could do but there was only one thing that was so vital that Jesus actually went so far as to phrase it as a command and that was that we are to love each other. We are to love one another, cherish one another and even lay down our lives for one another if need be.
And did you notice how we are to love one another? We are to love one another, the way Jesus loved us and when you think about it, that’s impossible. I mean, which of us is capable of doing anything the way Jesus does it? And that’s why I said it’s not just us loving others but it’s us allowing Him to love them through us.
So, Jesus was encouraging both His disciples and us to love each other sacrificially and devotedly, just like He loved us, because He knows how much we all need each other in order to survive in this world. And listen, the love we have for each other will sustain us in a world that can’t stand us.
B The second thing we see is that the friends of Jesus are going to know divine truth. We see this in verse 15 where He says, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
A servant would never be a friend because they were simply there to serve. The master of the house would never tell his servants his goals and desires. He just told him what to do. Servants serve because that’s what they do to earn their keep. But we who are Jesus’ friends are not simply obeying what He says but we share His heart and His purposes. Our greatest desire is to accomplish His will. After all, we’re not working to earn anything but we’re working because it’s our heart’s desire to be a part of His plan of redemption for a world that heading for hell.
And here’s the best part, Jesus has given us the inside scoop on His plan for the ages. You see, He doesn’t want us to be in the dark but He wants us to know what’s going on. He wants us to understand the times and seasons we live in. The Bible gives us the complete picture of the future of the world and those who are outside of the faith probably think we’re foolish when they hear us talking about prophecy but we can actually seeing all the pieces coming together.
I was watching the news a few weeks ago and they were talking about a Middle East peace plan and all I could think was; you’re wasting your time. I should have called both the White House and the Knesset and filled them in. The Bible says; there will be no peace without the Prince of Peace. Listen, regardless of what we know or say, the world will always think we’re foolish because they don’t know what we know and most importantly, they don’t know the Lord.
The friends of Jesus love one another and they also know divine truth and then third:
C The friends of Jesus are chosen and ordained.
Friends usually choose each other, but Jesus initiates or chooses His friendships. Verse 16 says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go." And here Jesus is talking about both salvation and the commission to go and spread the word. The Bible teaches that God has sovereignly chosen those who are saved but we also know that no Christian was ever chosen to stand around and watch but we are all chosen to go and tell the world about Christ. We know that the people of the world aren’t about to come to Jesus by themselves but we’ve been told that we have to go and reach them.
It’s interesting that one of the putdowns that the religious crowd used on Jesus was in calling Him the friend of sinners. And yet, this wasn’t a putdown for Him, it was a compliment, because the people He hung around with knew that they were sinners while the religious crowd didn’t. And because of this He could forgive the sinful crowd but the self-righteous crowd had nothing that they could be forgiven for and so they ended up dying in their sin.
We all know that friendship is a two way street and there are certain characteristics of those who are your friends. So, let me talk about the things we do because we’re His friends and I want to be clear, these are not things we do to become His friends because we don’t earn friendship. We either are or we aren’t.
Now, because I’m a friend of Jesus I should want to spend time with Him. And of course that means that each and every one of us should spend time in His word and learn what He wants us to do and how He wants us to do them. And then we want to spend time in His presence sharing with Him everything that’s on our heart. And the good news is, there’s nothing about our lives that’s insignificant to God. He loves to hear it all even though He already knows it. He simply wants to hear all about it from us. And we have the privilege of talking to Him anywhere we go. And then there’s the issue of attending church and we go to enjoy the preaching, the singing and the fellowship of God’s people. And then there’s the issue of giving and because I’ve learned to be faithful in my tithing I know I can freely tell God anything I need. I put Him first and because of this, He never lets Me down. He promises to meet all my needs and He often even meets My wants as well. Listen, there’s one thing I’ve learned a long time ago and it’s this; you can’t out give God. He gives back much more than any could ever give Him.
This verse also tells us that we didn’t find God but He found us. Look at verse 16 again, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.” We know that we have to respond to the call He gives but this tells us very clearly that the call originated with Him. And here’s the amazing part, the Bible says that God chose us from the foundation of the world. Listen, He not only knew you in your mother’s womb but He also knew that one day you would belong to Him and He knew all this before He even created the world we live in. And listen, here’s the best part. Once He grabs unto us He is never going to let us go or as Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ.” So, we are confident that He’s not going to quit until He comes back for us.
Here’s some evidence that His choice is permanent. In Revelation 7:3-4 it says, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God. Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel”. And then we see the same group again over in Revelation 14:1 “And I looked, and lo, a lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000, having His father’s name written on their foreheads.” So, of the 144,000 that were saved on earth and were all killed for their faith, how many do we find in heaven? Absolutely every one of those who were on earth are present in heaven. And there’s no reason to believe why we wouldn’t fall into the same category as they did. They were eternally secure and so are we.
And here’s one of the best part, He not only chose us for eternal salvation but we are told that He ordains us which is another word for prepares us to be part of what He’s doing in the world today. In other words, every one of us is chosen or ordained to the ministry. You see, God saved us to use us. None of us were saved just to go to heaven or He would have taken us there right away. And any impact your life is going to have for God is going to be in the world, it’s not in the church. The church is our place to get away from the world for worship and fellowship and the purpose for all this is to train and encourage us so we can go back out there and do what He saved us to do.
So, listen, the friends of Jesus love one another and the friends of Jesus also know divine truth, the friends of Jesus are chosen and ordained and :
D The friends of Jesus will have their prayers answered. In verse 16 it says, "That whatever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you." Now, I know we covered this before but He repeats it again and anytime Jesus repeats anything it’s because it’s important and also because He wants us to remember it. A true friend of Jesus has his prayers answered and to pray in Jesus name simply means that we’re asking for what we need to honor Him or for what He wants accomplished. The intent of such praying is not to ask for something so we can "consume it upon your lusts" as James 4:3 says but when our prayers are aligned with the desires of Jesus Christ, God promises to answer them.
E The friends of Jesus will bear fruit that remains. Last week when I was talking about bearing fruit I discussed a little about the vines and I was reading a little more about the vines this past week so let me add to what I said. The way a mature branch draws life from the vine is by producing fruit. For instance, as the leaves do their part to supply what is needed in the branch to make the fruit to grow they actually produce a vacuum in the branch to draw sap all the way up to the fruit but listen to this, if there’s no fruit on the vine then the vacuum isn’t there and eventually the branch will die. And as we grow more like Jesus Christ we’ll display the "fruit of the Spirit" and that means we’ll become more gentle, more gracious, more loving, more easy to live with and more able to cope with difficulties. In other words we’ll begin to handle life the way God intended us to and that’s what it means to become more like Christ.
And when you think about it, if all we do is take in the word week after week after week then eventually we’ll dry up spiritually. I’m not saying we’ll lose our salvation we’ll just look like we have. We need spiritual exercise just like we physical exercise because it’s the life of God that produces the fruit and then the fruit production keeps the life of God flowing.
Just think; even if you helped to lead someone to Christ in some small way they can be considered your fruit. Or, when you’ve taught someone else the Word of God and enriched their life and enabled them to live for God then you have produced eternal fruit. So, if we’re spiritually alive we’ll produce fruit and if we’re not producing fruit it’s a pretty safe bet that we’re either spiritually dead or at least we’re pretty sick.
F And then last of all, the friends of Jesus are going to be filled with joy. The word for joy in Greek is chara. It is not a slap-happy silliness that’s the result of positive circumstances but it’s the deep-founded joy that comes from God. The Greek word chara is the root for another great word in the New Testament which is charis or in English we say grace. And one translation for this is surprise gift. I remember years ago I had read the autobiography by C.S. Lewis and it was called ‘Surprised by Joy’ and I didn’t really understand the pun until I started studying this. It’s like he was saying he was surprised by the surprise.
Spiritual joy transcends circumstances. In John 16:20, Jesus told His disciples that they would weep and be sorrowful, but that their sorrow would "be turned into joy." And then He illustrated the overriding power of joy with the example of childbirth. And we all know that a woman has pain and apprehension in giving birth to a child, but that same incident also brings joy once the child is born.
Divine joy is full joy. You can’t add to it. 1 John 1:4 says, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." Jesus made a similar promise in John 16:24 before He departed: "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." So, our relationship to God brings joy and satisfaction.
The greatest example of joy is Jesus. Although Isaiah 53:3 says that Jesus was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," Hebrews 12:2 also says that Jesus endured the cross "for the joy that was set before him." Jesus had so much joy for what He was about to accomplish that the suffering couldn’t stop Him from paying the penalty for the sins for everyone who would accept His salvation.
Listen, when love is flowing out of you and divine revelation is flowing in, when you know you are chosen and ordained, and you are bearing fruit that remains and every prayer you pray has the potential for being answered, if you don’t have joy then you better check your heartbeat.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, big deal we’re going to be happy. Why if you just give me a double, double and a box of donuts and that’ll do the trick. And if you think this way, you’re missing the point because there’s much more to joy than simply happiness. The Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” And we can have joy even when we aren’t happy. Happiness is based on circumstances. You know, if everything goes my way I’m happy and if it doesn’t then I’m not.
Having joy doesn’t always mean that we’re always going to be happy or that we should pretend that we’re happy when we are not. However, joy means enjoying God and taking delight in Him and in our relationship with Him and enjoying the life that Jesus brings, which will often permeate our emotions, even in circumstances of suffering. The normal heart attitude of a Christian is to be rejoicing in the Lord.
We are privileged to have our faith tested. We are privileged to suffer and it’s something we should consider as a gift from God because it’s meant to make us more like Jesus and so we should accept it with joy. Whenever I’m going through a trial and I’m asking myself whether there’s anything to rejoice about, I’m always reminded that I’ve never gotten close to the kind of suffering unto blood as Jesus did. And if He could endure the cross and see it as a joyous opportunity to accomplish a great thing for the purpose of God, then how can I not go through my small trial with joy as well.
In Jeremiah 48 there was a judgment spoken against Moab which was a pagan nation that were south and east of Jerusalem. God had cursed the Moabites and there was not allowed to be any Moabite in the house of Israel. And there was a wonderful exception to that curse in the story of Ruth and this was simply by the grace of God. But in verse 11 "Moab--it says--has been at ease from his youth." And it’s like God treats Moab like it was an individual.
And do you know what Moab’s problem is? Moab was ungodly. Moab was unregenerate. Moab was wasting away from sin. And the reason was Moab never had any problems in his life. A life without problems produces a very weak character. Now watch what it says. "And he has settled on his lees." And lees are the sediment that settles in the bottom of a wineskin in the process of making wine. Settled on its lees. "And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel. Neither has he gone into captivity, therefore his taste remained in him and his smell isn’t changed."
Now when we hear this we say, "What in the world is this?" This is a whole picture of wine making and this is how they used to do it. You have a series of wineskins and you take the grape juice and you pour it in a wineskin and let it set. And after it sets for a while, what they call the dregs, or the lees or the sediment, falls to the bottom of the skin and begins to separate from the wine. Then, after a period of time, you take it out of that wineskin and you pour it into another and some of the sediment remains in the bottom. You pour it into the next wineskin and that process is repeated over a length of time and whatever lees or dregs are left fall to the bottom of each skin. You do that over and over several times and finally you’ll pour it into a wineskin and wait a long time and pour it back out again and they’ll be no sediment and it will be sweet.
All that sediment is collected. And from that sediment is made vinegar. But the wine has a sweet fragrance and a sweet taste. And it has gotten that way because it has been poured from vessel to vessel to vessel and in each case the pouring allowed the bitterness to fall out and settle in the bottom. And God is saying if Moab had only been poured from trouble to trouble to trouble then all that bitterness would have fallen out and Moab would have offered a sweet scent. But Moab has been at ease and that’s was obviously a bad place to be.
This tells us that we are to consider our problems to be the source of our joy and understand and submit to them because as God pours you and I from trial to trial to trial, all the bitterness is settling in the bottom until we bring before the Lord only a sweet savor, a sweet smell with no bitterness at all. And so, we can rejoice in our trials with that in mind. We understand the perfecting work of God and we willingly submit.
A trial can be something that happens inside or out and in the Christian life and our lives are made up of them. They come in the form of disappointments, frustrations, misunderstandings, unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, forms of loss, loneliness, fear, criticism, persecution, conflict and many more. And the good news is, they all have a purpose, G.K. Chesterton said, "I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean." And that’s one of the purposes of our problems.
How do we experience joy? First, it happens in fellowship with brothers and sisters who also have experienced joy, and from a Christian point of view, what Paul says in Philippians helps us to understand that kind of joy. He says to the Philippians, “Therefore my beloved, my brothers and sisters whom I love, who I long for, my joy and my crown.” The word for crown that he uses here is the same word used for an athletic crown. It is like saying to the Philippians, you are my gold medal. You are the crown of my life. You are my joy. And this is what joy is. It’s an experience of fellowship that we have with our brothers and sisters.
Secondly, another thing about joy in the New Testament is that it happens at the weirdest times. James says, “Count it all joy when you meet various trials because the trials of your life prove the durability and the faithfulness of God’s goodness.” James was one of the early martyrs in the Christian church and he certainly knew all about stress, and he is saying that in the midst of that stress, he experienced joy. It’s a time when you wouldn’t expect it and yet James is saying he had it because in the very experiences of trials he discovered the faithfulness and the goodness of God.
And also there is a third. It happens when we discover the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and His fellowship. In this passage of John 15 it’s only hours before Jesus is about to be arrested and killed and He says to His disciples, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full.” He says now you’ve got it and no one can take it away from you. As C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven. It’s the grand truth. It’s the surprise that happens when we discover God’s love."
So trials are the tests that reveal the genuineness and the strength of our faith and they result in joy. Now listen carefully because I want to tell you something that will prepare you for the week to come. If you meet a Christian and they have that look on their face like they’ve been baptized in pickle juice, you know that somber, sober, don’t smile or my face will hurt type look. Then these people are either imposters or they’re spiritually dead because if they don’t have any spiritual joy then they don’t have any spiritual life.
The true friends of Jesus love each other and the Bible says that we must love each other fervently. The true friends of Jesus know divine truth and the Bible says we should study the Word of God to show ourselves "approved unto God ... rightly dividing the word of truth". The true friends of Jesus have been chosen by Him, and yet we are exhorted to "walk worthy" of such a high calling. The true friends of Jesus bear eternal fruit and the Bible tells us that we will bear "more fruit" as a result of the purging process of the Father. The true friends of Jesus pray and God answers and the Bible says we are to pray effectively and constantly. And the true friends are marked by joy.