He has made you holy and blameless in God’s eyes by taking your sins away on the cross. He wants you to spend eternity with him in heaven. His love is constant and reliable. When sorrows and troubles come into your life, you can still know that you are the object of God’s love. This is an important key to a joyful life.
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed 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, that he lay down his life for his 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 to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
In an article in Psychology today (July 19, 2016), Dr. Robert Puff, a clinical psychologist, offers his take on the two keys to happiness. They are quite simple. Keep your mind still and be in the present. His suggestion is that you should go outside to an absolutely quiet place: a park, a garden, a lake. Be completely quiet. Allow yourself to be completely free from any thoughts for a few minutes. Choose something – a bird, a tree, a butterfly or anything else you can be 100% attentive to – and listen to this object, watch it, and just be with it. That’s it. Don’t analyze the object, just be there. Your mind is still, and you are being present with the thing you have chosen. When the exercise is over, ask yourself how you feel. Were you depressed or sad? Were you worried or upset?
Most likely, you were completely calm, at peace and happy. The real question is: how do you capture that kind of happiness 24 hours a day and seven days a week? Dr. Puff’s two keys to a joyful life don’t really answer that question.
Our Savior offers a better solution. Let us consider two keys to a joyful life from the Word of God. They are quite simply:
Remain in Jesus’ love
Experience Jesus’ friendship
You and I were not born in love with Jesus. We were born enemies of God. We hated God’s will and God’s law. We actually applauded people who defied God’s will with their actions. We were arrogant, lovers of money, immoral, God-haters. Every inclination of our heart was only evil all the time. And we took a sick pleasure in wickedness. We didn’t need God in our lives, we were getting along just fine without him.
But Jesus immersed us in his love. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” God the Father loved his one and only Son dearly. He said about Jesus, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” The Father loved his Son unconditionally. He was proud of him and gave him the name that is above every name, the name Jesus. Jesus never needed to doubt his Father’s love for him. Even when his Father turned his back on Jesus and punished his beloved Son for the sins of the world, he still loved Jesus.
Jesus loves you in the same way. Because he loves you unconditionally he has made you holy and blameless in God’s eyes by taking your sins away on the cross. He wants you to spend eternity with him in heaven. His love is constant and reliable. When sorrows and troubles come into your life, you can still know that you are the object of God’s love. This is an important key to a joyful life.
God’s love for us isn’t the issue here. It is our love for him that gets twisted. Somehow or other people seem to think that they can love God and still break his commandments by living and doing things God has forbidden in his Word. Jesus says that the key to a joyful life is to remain in Jesus’ love. He says you do that by living according to his commands. Listen to what Jesus says: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Obeying God’s commands isn’t forced out of a Christian life. It is like the fruit that naturally grows out of the branch connected to the vine as we heard last week.
Obeying God’s commands is always the desire of the child of God. Jesus’ greatest joy was doing the will of his Father in heaven. Your greatest joy springs from the same source! God’s commands guide your life. You find joy and peace and contentment in life as you let God’s holy will guide your life. Simply put: Your love for Jesus is reflected in your willingness to live in harmony with God’s commands.
Then Jesus speaks these important words: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Nothing dampens joy faster than sin. Disobedience to God’s will brings shame and guilt, sorrow and heart ache into our lives. Perfect joy and happiness can’t be found in “clearing your mind or living in the present” as Dr. Puff suggests. A joyful life is a life lived in harmony with God’s holy will. Jesus wants us to live with the same joyful heart he has. Real joy is found in living according to God’s commands. Because of sin, we live life as on a roller coaster with its highs and lows. Here is Jesus advice on how to remain in his love.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus summarizes all of God’s commands with the single word “love.” Remember the self-sacrificing love he has poured out on all of us. His humble, servant mentality is a guide for you as you interact with others! Loving one another is putting others ahead of yourselves. Loving each other is seeing yourself as a servant to others. Remember the love Jesus has showered on you. Then love one another with the heart of a servant. It is the secret to joyful living.
But there is more: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus calls you his friends! Ask yourself what it means to be a friend. A friend is someone you can count on. As is mentioned in your bulletin a friend is someone with whom you share common interests or goals, common likes and dislikes. If Jesus calls you “friend,” that means you can count on him. It means we share the same goals and interests, the same likes and dislikes. To let you know how much he wants to be your friend he died on the cross. You can count on him! He has brought you into his family and has convinced his Father to call us his sons and daughters too for Jesus’ sake! Real joy in life is experiencing Jesus’ friendship.
Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” Just as surely as you cannot love Jesus without doing God’s will, so also you cannot be Jesus friend without doing God’s will. We hang our heads in shame knowing full well that we have no right to be loved by God or to be called Jesus’ friends. We confess with King David, “I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me.” Looking into my heart makes me sad and saps the joy right out of my heart. Maybe the “doc” was on to something! Maybe we have to keep our minds still. Maybe we need to forget all the junk and focus on something pleasant, peaceful, and safe. Such activity produces no long-term solution to a sin problem. Our best friend provides the solution. You can count on Jesus! He understands your sin problem and that is why he suffered and died for you! To know
Jesus Christ by faith is to experience his friendship. It is a key to joyful living.
Listen to what Jesus says, “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.” Because Jesus has decided to call us his friends, he has shared with us everything that he had learned from his Father. He wants us to know our heavenly Father better, so he reveals his Father to us through his Word and sacraments. The better you know God’s Word, the greater will be your joy!
It’s not that we chose to be friends with Jesus! He chose to be friends with us. He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” Jesus established the friendship with us. He chose us for salvation before time began and caused us to come into contact with the gospel during our lifetime through which we came to know him better. He chose us to have eternal life and to live with him forever before we were born! He converted us to faith and made us his best friends.
He did it for a reason. He wants us to “bear fruit.” Last week we heard Jesus say, “I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Part of the “fruit” we bear is accomplished through prayer. Jesus said, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Jesus gives us the privilege to pray. We can lay any request we want before our heavenly Father in the name of Jesus because he is our best friend. For Jesus’ sake, our
Father will give us what we ask for. Because Jesus has established this friendship with us, we will learn to pray as a friend of Jesus. We always want what Jesus wants for us because as you recall we are friends and therefore we have common goals and interests, likes and dislikes.
Jesus doesn’t’ tell you what you have to do to be his friend. He tells you what you are doing because you are his friend. You are bearing fruit – fruit that will last. Doing the will of God isn’t coerced out of a Christian. Doing what God wants happens as naturally as fruit appearing on the branch of a vine. Jesus makes the friendship work by motivating us to love him back.
The love Jesus has for us inspires us to love one another. Jesus said, “This is my command: Love each other.” Jesus spoke these words on Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” means “command” or “mandate.” The command Jesus gave his disciples before he went to the cross was to love one another. It is hard work to love others. We fail every day. Therefore, always remember that it is Jesus’ love for us that saves us! Jesus makes the friendship work. We experience that friendship when we run to him with our problems and listen to his love proclaiming to us that he loves us still and will bless us always. You have no better friend in life than Jesus.
So Jesus offer you the two keys to a joyful life. Remain in Jesus’ love. And, experience Jesus’ friendship. Do that and no one will ever wipe the smile off your heart!