9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9-11)
Last week we left off at verse 7, which means we would typically pick up in verse 8 today. However I must confess that I made a mistake in dividing these verses up, and if you look at the flow of thought, verse 8 really ought to go with the previous verses, as it summarizes the fruit bearing emphasis. Verse 9 and following continues the union with Christ theme, but instead of using the analogy of vine and branches, different terminology is used so as to further our understanding of the vine and branches analogy. Being that verse 8 is really a wrap up of the preceding verses, I feel satisfied looking at verse 9-11 this afternoon.
When our Lord taught us to pray, He gave us a pattern to follow. And one of the things He taught us to pray was to pray that God’s will would be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Heaven and earth are not isolated from one another by an un-crossable chasm. Heaven is not completely blocked from our sight. Of course no person can climb a ladder or stairway to heaven, or peer into heaven whenever they like. It has to be that heaven comes to us, and reveals itself to us. Indeed it has done so at various times in various ways, ultimately of course in the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of Jacob’s ladder, think Mt. Sinai, think of various prophetic visions of the throne room such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Apostle John. So Heaven and earth are not isolated from one another, but are in fact more related than we moderns might think. One of the aspects of the relationship of Heaven and earth that we see throughout Scripture, and in our text today, is that Heaven is the pattern for earth. Heaven is the pattern for earth. This is the very essence of our prayer that what is done in Heaven would be done on earth. And we can trust that God will indeed answer that prayer.
This idea that Heaven is the pattern for earth is not speculation or an imposition upon the text, it is what the text of Scripture itself explicitly says. In Exodus 25 Yahweh is speaking with Moses about the sanctuary and the tabernacle and how Moses is to construct it. And in verse 9 God tells Moses, “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” Then all kinds of instructions are given throughout the chapter, then at the end of the chapter in verse 40 it says, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” So Moses is on the mountain and Heaven is opened, there is a window into heaven, so to speak, through which is revealed to Moses a pattern of the Heavenly dwelling place of God, which Moses is to follow for God’s dwelling place in the tabernacle. And the New Testament confirms this, the martyr Stephen mentions this in his speech in Acts 7 and verse 44, “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.” And then again in Hebrews 8, speaking of the Old Covenant priests on earth, verse 5 says, They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
So when Heaven is opened to us in the Scripture we are not shown things that have no concern for us here on earth, as if Heaven was the spiritual realm and earth is the physical realm. Instead when Heaven is opened for us to see it is a pattern for us to follow on earth, in both Old and New Testaments.
The Pattern of Heaven
So here in John 15:9-10 Jesus is revealing to us a pattern. He is showing us the pattern of how His disciples are loved and He is giving us a pattern for how we are to abide in His love. When God gives us instructions they are based upon a pattern already set, such as His own character, or His own actions. So what is this pattern? The first aspect of it is that as the Father has loved the Son, so has Jesus loved His disciples. As the Father has loved the Son so has Jesus loved His people.
When we see in English that the Father “…has loved…” and Jesus says, so “have I loved…” – the idea here, that we don’t see as easily in the English, but that the Greek indicates, is that this love from the Father to the Son and the Son to us, is a perfected, complete, perfect love. It is a perfected, complete, or whole love.
This is the pattern of love in Heaven. The pattern of love is the perfect love between the Father and Son, and as we know from the whole testimony of Scripture, between the The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our Triune God. And that pattern of love has come to us, in the Father’s sending of the Son, to love us as the Father has loved the Son. And that pattern of Jesus loving us, is the pattern for how we extend that love to others, we are to love as He has loved us, as we see in verse 12, that we will look at more next week, Lord willing. So the pattern in heaven is a pattern of complete and perfect love amongst the Godhead.
And since God is love, and He is perfectly and completely love, He so desired that this love not remain only in Heaven, but that it would set the pattern for what happens on earth. And the way God determined to extend this love to earth was indeed the greatest act of love, as we see in verse 13. The love of Heaven has come to us and been revealed to us in the second person of the Trinity who put on flesh and came to earth to love us, as the Father loved Him.
The Pattern of Heaven on Earth
Jesus is the most clear window into Heaven we have. He opens it up and reveals it to us, such that He brings it to us, and us to it, and makes us acceptable and fit for Heaven. Jesus reveals the pattern of Heaven’s love to us. He not only reveals this pattern of love to us, but He instructs in how to imitate it and follow that pattern.
First we notice in verse 9 that after Jesus tells His disciples that He has loved them as the Father has loved Him, they are then to abide in His love. This may seem at first like a super spiritual, even mystical command that is difficult to know exactly how we are to follow. How do we abide in His love? If we remember this in context, this is the same language that was previously used when speaking of the vine and the branches. We were repeatedly told to abide in Him. Now Jesus says “abide in my love.”
The Example of the Son
So what does it mean to abide in the love of Christ? How do we abide in His love? It is actually very simple, and Jesus tells us: “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.” So we abide in His love by keeping His commandments, following the pattern of heaven that Jesus has set for us. It is not by some mystical spiritual practice, but simple obedience. It is not by making up new laws or new disciplines to practice, but simply obeying the ones we have given to us. It is not about trying to envision how to abide in His love, or being left without a blueprint, it is simply following the blueprint and pattern that has been revealed and given to us. Remember the Pharisees. Their problem was not that they cared too much about keeping the law, it was that they were hypocrites. They were so strict in keeping their own traditions that they neglected the matter of the true law. They made up their own traditions and patterns, instead of following the one that was given to them. Such is false religion.
Now the main distinction I would make between our text today and the previous discussion of the vine and the branches, is that I believe this text is speaking exclusively to the Christian, and thus the abiding in His love and the filling up of joy in verse 11 is concerned with the experience of His love and joy. The main reason I make this distinction is because of the transition Jesus makes when He says that as the Father has loved Him, so He has loved them, in verse 9. This I would take to be His electing love and covenantal relationship – and you will recall that Judas has gone out and is not currently with the disciples. Thus what is in view is the experience of His love and joy. For if Christ has loved us with His electing love and covenantal faithfulness it cannot be shaken. We cannot drop out of it. It cannot fail. Yet we know by experience that we do not always feel that reality, and it is due to our sin.
Christ’s love is completely gracious and undeserved, yet our enjoyment of that love must be obtained the same way Jesus enjoyed His Father’s – by obedience. This is the pattern of heaven: the enjoyment of perfected love in complete holiness.
As A. W. Pink says, “Christ’s love to us is unaffected by our changeableness, but our enjoyment of His love depends upon our continuance in it.”
The way to be happy is to obey Jesus.
When we live like Heaven, according to the pattern heaven has set for us, we can have the joy of Heaven. But the reason we do not always feel this way is because we do not obey as we ought.
Sin leaves us feeling miserable. We have all been there. Some of you may be there today. You are not living like Heaven, so your joy is sapped up and you feel miserable.
When there is sin or conflict between us and our spouse, we can be miserable and the home is joyless. But when a husband and wife strive for unity and strive to do to one another as they ought, their joy begins to fill up and so the home becomes a much happier place.
Boys and girls, you know this too. When you do not obey your parents it is never fun. You always get in trouble, and you can feel miserable. But when we obey we are always much happier in the end.
It is very simple, but more often than we think, when we are miserable we need that simple admonition to stop sinning and start obeying. How many of our problems would be solved if we would but obey.
Heaven came to Earth
The reality is that we disobey. We do not love as we ought. We do not always remain in His love, but wander to and fro into sin and worldliness. At the beginning I mentioned that Heaven and earth are not separated by an un-crossable chasm. Yet for us, on our own, it is un-crossable. We cannot ascend into heaven by ourselves, our own morality, or our own willpower. But since earth could not ascend to Heaven, Heaven has come to earth. Heaven has come to earth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were rebels that rejected the pattern of Heaven. That is what Adam did in the garden. It is what we have done since. Israel, many times said, “no thank you God, we reject your pattern, we will worship how and who we want!” Today we say, “no thank you God, we reject your pattern of love, we will love how and who we want!” God has given us a pattern of law, justice, righteousness, and morality, and we reject it and rebel against it thinking ourselves to be wise and to be our own gods. Just this week there was a congressman who stood up for the truth of God’s Word, in that it defines human beings as made in the image of God as male and female, and our maleness or femaleness is determined by God. It was a wonderful thing to hear. This congressman was using God’s will found in Scripture as the blueprint for what we should follow and it was wonderful and Christ-honoring. But as soon as he was done speaking, another congressman immediately gets up and says, “Mr. So and so, whatever any religion says is God’s will, is of no concern of this congress.” What arrogance, pride, and utter blasphemy. The gall and ignorance to utter such words! We have rejected God’s blueprint. We have rejected the pattern of heaven in favor of hell.
But let me tell you something: it is such a good thing that the gospel is not: follow this pattern and blueprint for your life. We are absolutely to follow God’s law, but there is not a one of us who has done so sufficiently. Nor is the law sufficient to save. The good news is that the Lord Jesus Christ descended from Heaven to earth, and did not simply give us a pattern to follow, but He Himself accomplished the pattern for us Himself.
Jesus was the perfect Heavenly Man come to earth who obeyed perfectly, loved perfectly, rejoiced perfectly, and He did so for you, Christian. In the Old Testament they were given the pattern for sacrifices for sin, and when Jesus came, He did not just give us another pattern of sacrifice, but He Himself was the sacrifice. I mentioned Hebrews 8 at the beginning, that spoke of the Old Covenant priests serving as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, but then it goes on to say that Christ has obtained a ministry that is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. You see the Old Covenant priests and sacrifices were copies and shadows patterned after the heavenly things, but Jesus is The Heavenly Thing. He is the substance of the promise. He is the sacrifice, and the great final high priest. He does not simply come and give us another pattern to follow, although we indeed follow Him, but most importantly, He fulfills the pattern. He is the thing patterned after. And He is what we need since we cannot fulfill God’s pattern of perfect obedience, and we cannot kill enough bulls and goats to atone for our sin.
The pattern of Heaven is that God is all sufficient in himself, completely happy, holy, and is life in Himself. And after that pattern, Jesus has loved us. As the source of all happiness, holiness, and life, Jesus provides for us what He demands. Jesus provides for us what we cannot provide ourselves. The Triune God is the source of all happiness, holiness, and life in Heaven, so He is also on earth. It is not up to us to accomplish those things on our own, for we could not. It is provided by Christ, as in Him, Heaven has come to earth.
I love the simplicity of what Augustine says, “Unless He loves us we cannot keep His commandments.” That is the truth. The law says, “Obey.” We say, “I cannot.” Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” We say, “Yes, Lord.” Unless He loves us we cannot keep His commands, but since He has loved us, we rejoice to.
The Union of Heaven and Earth
Last week we talked much about union with Christ, and in verse 11 we see it again. Jesus speaks these things to us, that His joy may be in us. According to the terminology we are using today, this is the union of Heaven and earth. The union of Heaven and earth is a union of joy. Jesus says that the reason He has spoken these things, and these things would certainly go back further in the discussion, but He has spoken these things, that His joy may be in us, and that because of that, our joy would be full.
Do you ever think of Jesus as joyful? We ought to. He is the second person of the happy triune God.
Jesus puts His joy in us, so that our joy may be full, or complete.
He makes our joy full, for in Him is the fullness of joy, as in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
How does He put His joy in us? By speaking His Words to us (by words). What words it is that fills us with this joy. It is the Word of comfort, the word of assurance, the word of the gospel, the word of his promises, of being with us always, that brings us such joy. And since it is His Words in us, that He puts His joy in us, how much should be hiding His words in our hearts? If we are not happy it is because we do not obey, nor keep His words in us. But the way to be happy is truly very simple.
Not only is Jesus, by virtue of His deity, the source of all joy, but in context of our discussion in these verses, as we talked about our obedience being the way we abide in and experience His love, we must recognize that this is the pattern we are to follow: Jesus is the most perfectly joyful person to ever live because He lived in perfect obedience to the Father. That’s verse 10.
Our enjoyment of Christ’s love changes. Our joy, it ebbs and flows, comes and goes. But let us remember this: Christ’s love for us does not. It remains. His loving of us is not dependent on us enjoying that love. When we don’t enjoy His love, He still enjoys loving us. This is how He has loved us – perfectly.
Again I love what Augustine says here of Christ, “He had a joy over us that was already full.” Our joy, sometimes is bursting full, sometimes it’s on a quarter tank, it’s on empty. But that is not because Christ’s joy over us is lacking, it is something in us, some sin in us. And no matter how we feel, His position towards us does not change, and we always have access to the source of all joy and love.
This of course should cause us to jump up in obedience and be filled with His joy.
This teaches us that the ground of the Christian’s joy is not in himself, nor another mere man, nor in his circumstances; but in Christ, and Christ only.
Because of this, Jesus wants our joy to be full, and indeed it can be, even in difficult circumstances, harsh trials, and trying providences, just as in the larger context Jesus is preparing His disciples for his betrayal, arrest, and death – and after his ascension and departure, a great time of persecution. Yet He tells them, in that context, their joy can be full. It is not as though we can maintain some amount of joy even in difficult times. It is that our joy can be complete in difficult times, because our joy comes not from our times, but from the Words Christ speaks to us, which we have in His Word. The completeness and fullness of our joy does not require our circumstances to be just right, because the foundation of our joy is Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So whatever we face in the coming days, persecution, poverty, prison, pain, it is all from the hand of providence, the same hand from whence comes the fullness of joy.
If you have never experienced this joy. If you are sitting here today, yet separated from Christ, there is joy enough for you. Though Christ gives joy to His people, it does not take away from His fullness. He gives from plenty and abundance, not scarcity. There is joy for you, if you would but confess your sins, and trust in Him alone to forgive your sins. He stands ready. He stands able. Come to Him today.