Friday, April 06, 2007

Day Thirty-Nine: Joy, Obedience, and Love for Others

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

On day twenty-four we meditated on John 15:9-10 which says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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.” From this I concluded that to obey Christ is to love him, and to love him is to obey him. Or put another way, obedience makes our love for Christ visible, tangible, objective, and measurable. Obedience is more than adherence to a list of rules; it is the manifestation of passion for God. True, biblical obedience is not legalism, it is love. Then on day twenty-six we considered some of the joy-producing benefits of obedience, namely, that we grow in communion with God, we grow in communion with the Body of Christ, and we incur the manifold blessings of God, even if through suffering. All to say, when Jesus commands our obedience he invites us into fullness of joy!

Today I want to show how our obedience produces joy for others, and how their joy in turn completes our own. Obedience to God is at times directed towards God, but more often than not it is directed towards others. For instance, while the first four of the ten commandments have to do with our relationship to God, the last six have to do with our relationships to others (Exodus 20:1-17). When Jesus was asked what is the first and greatest commandment, he did answer that it is to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength, but then added that we must also love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). Paul said that to love our neighbor is to fulfill the law: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). And John writes in no uncertain terms, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

So, more often than not, when God issues a command he has the good of others in mind. And therefore when we walk in obedience to his commands others benefit in a variety of ways, not the least of which is that they get joy! It is a great joy to be the recipient of someone else’s obedience to God! Brothers and sisters, we must pause to consider this: Jesus means to fulfill our joy by using our obedience to produce joy in others. There is no joy in the world like being used of God to produce joy in someone else.

And even greater is the joy that sees the joy of others eventuate in their obedience to God. As Paul said to the church in Rome, “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice [i.e., take joy] over you…” (Romans 16:19). Oh may we strive to be obedient people that we may be joy-producing, obedience-producing, God-glorifying people!

Prayer Focus: Pray that the Father will help us see his designs in obedience, and give us soft hearts before him that we might follow him wherever he leads. And pray that as we do, he would fulfill our joy by producing joy in others!

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