Sunday 16 January 2011

No greater joy (3 John 4)

In Sunday School, kids are taught that JOY stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. That is the secret to joy – putting Jesus first and others before yourself. J-O-Y.

(Conversely, getting the order wrong and putting yourself first; others second; and Jesus last means you end up with YOJ instead. “I’ve got YOJ, YOJ, YOJ, YOJ, YOJ in my heart!”)

In the bible we find the apostle John expressing just such joy.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 4

This is an amazing statement. “No greater joy,” says John. Numbered among the twelve apostles, he had spent time with Jesus in the flesh; sat under the Lord’s feet during his preaching ministry; seen powerful miracles of healing, exorcism, the feeding of the five thousand, the calming of the storm; witnessed the events of the crucifixion. Yet here John says his greatest longing is to hear that these new believers in the faith were “walking in the truth”.

This is the same expression of joy consistently found in all three of John’s letters in the New Testament. It is rather memorable as all three occur in the fourth verse of each letter.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
1 John 1:4

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.
2 John 4 (NIV)

It sounds a lot like a father’s pride in his son or daughter’s accomplishment. It is the kind of selfless pride over someone whom you love and feel a deep affection for. It is a joy that seeks another’s good. It is satisfaction that comes from seeing another’s blessing.

Yet this isn’t quite the sentiment John is expressing. It isn’t their accomplishments he is proud of as much as the believers’ obedience that the apostle rejoices in. They are “walking in the truth”. Or put it another way: For John, joy means seeing others put Jesus first.

That is why it is so important for John that his children know this “truth”. It is the truth of the gospel – that God has saved us through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. John is concerned to remind believers to remain in this truth (1 John 2:24). And when he hears that they have, he rejoices.

Who are the people in your life you most love? That person who means so much to you. Someone who has been there with you through thick and thin. For whom it is so easy for you to thank God for. Just thinking of them brings a smile to your face?

Will you pray for them to put Jesus first in their lives? Have you told them the truth that will allow them to do this – to walk according to the truth of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ?

If you have, you too will know this greatest of joys. Of putting Jesus first, in the lives of others, who matter the most to you.

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