Let us look a little into the subject of joy as spoken of in the writings of the Apostle John.
"He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." (John 3:29.) Now that is the joy of John the Baptist, and very beautiful, unselfish joy it is. A wonderfully beautiful joy, for he had not the best place, and he knew there were others, who would have a deeper joy; still it was intense joy to him to hear the Bridegroom's voice. There was no jealousy about it, he delighted in the blessing he had, and in the thought that others would have a better place still. It is a very sad fact that at least half the sorrow that there is in the world is because of the blessings of others. This sounds very strange, but if you look into the matter you will see that it is true. The thing, which troubles most people and causes the most discontent and murmuring, is that some one else is better off than themselves. Oh! the misery caused by this envy and jealousy. If you take up one of the Indian papers, you will see it full of letters complaining because some one is better off than the writer is. In contrast with this it is very beautiful to see the unselfish joy of the Baptist.
Now we may have a far higher joy set before us, and yet we may have little or no enjoyment of it. We will come to our proper joy presently, but first wait for a moment and contemplate this unselfish joy. My mind is so taken up with it that I do not like to leave it, for I do see every day how the fact that some one has a better thing so often spoils a thing before delighted in. But there is no need to look outside for evil, for there is not a single evil that you find in the world that you will not find among ourselves. And there is no evil in the world that you will not find an answer to in your heart. The selfishness, oh, the terrible selfishness of our hearts, how it comes in! What damage it does. There is not a day but it comes in to hinder the cause of Christ.
"These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." (John 15:11.) Now see the beauty of the Lord Jesus in speaking thus so that His joy, the joy of the eternal Son, who became flesh and dwelt among us, that His joy might abide in us and that our joy might be full. Now this is a joy much deeper and greater than that of John the Baptist. What is this joy? It is the joy that came to the Son from the knowledge of the intense love that the Father had for Him, and His desire in these chapters is to put His own into His place, that there might be the same sense of the Father's love that He had, and that thus their joy might be full. Now I want to say a warning word. I think some of us are over-zealous in some matters. For instance, some Christians, if they see a person saying the Lord's prayer, at once tell him he is all wrong and not spiritual. They take him beyond his depth, and make him legal, and in result he often breaks down altogether. If you take a Christian beyond where he is in his own soul, the result will be disaster. A snake for instance does not cast one skin till there is another ready to take its place. If a person gets a sense of the blessing spoken of in these chapters he will not be able to help seeing that dispensationally this prayer is in some measure out of place for him. If, however, he has not reached this in his soul, you will take him beyond his measure and damage him.
As a matter of fact most of us have not got beyond the title, "Our Father, which art in heaven." The question is have we got up to it, for it means a great deal? If I know God as my Father in heaven I shall not have a single anxiety about myself, because I know that my Father is looking after me with tenderest love, and has a thought for everything concerning me down here. Even this will not take us to the end of this wondrous title. It goes far beyond this, it includes the truth that the Father will take care of all the interests of His Son on earth. Look at Matthew 16 and 18. This is the title used there, and therefore all that is revealed there is involved in that title. The title taken by the divine Person is always the key to the revelation.
Now is it not true that a great many of us have not got up to this title much less got beyond it. Can I say to God that not only have I not got a single care, not only do I know that He will perfectly care for my interests, but also that I am sure that He will look after the interests of Christ down here, so that I can rest about Christ's interests as well as my own because He is the Father in heaven.
When, however, you come in your soul to the title "The Father," then you have more even than what is stated above. That something more is that you have entered into what the Father is to the Son, and what the Son is to the Father outside the interests of this world, outside of everything that goes on down here. It is only where we enter into this love and this joy that we know a higher title than "Our Father which art in heaven."
John 16:23, 24 is, however, sometimes brought forward to shew that this prayer is not meant to be used by us. The argument is this, the Apostles had up to that time asked nothing in His name, that prayer is not in His name; therefore as all prayer henceforth is to be in His name this prayer must necessarily be dropped from the time of His death. I think, however, that those who use this argument do not understand the force of the passage, nor have they understood what asking in the Son's name involves.
The Apostles of course had not asked in the name of the Son up to the time of Christ's death: but to ask in His name is not the tacking on of certain phrases at the end of the prayer. It is right enough to say, "For the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ," "but to ask in the Son's name is much more than this. It implies a state of soul, and is not a matter of words. When you pray in His name, it is not yourself at all, it is Himself who asks. You are lost, you are gone. That prayer must be answered in full. There is no other condition necessary to such prayer as this. When you pray in the name of the Son, it is the Son asking through you. How can it but be answered. If, however, you say to me, Would you like all your prayers answered thus? I say, God forbid! I could not imagine a greater curse. Look at 1 John 5:14, "If we ask any thing according to His will He heareth us." That is another matter, that is not asking in His name, but that when we ask according to His will He hears. This is very blessed, but it does not rise to the asking in His name. So also Phil. 4:6, 7. This, too, is very blessed, but does it mean we get all we ask? Certainly not, that would be the worst result. We get a much better thing. We get the peace of God which passes all understanding. No one can ask in the Son's name but as identified with the Son. The speaker is gone, and there is nothing but the Son, who is speaking and acting in him. Thus it is that it is not the words, which are said, which constitute asking in the Son's name, but a state of soul in which you are lifted outside yourself by the knowledge that you are here as the Son was, and loved with the same love wherewith He was loved.
If you really want to get on and rejoice the Father's heart you must have this joy. This does not mean that you will have no sorrow; on the contrary, you may have very difficult circumstances indeed in your pathway here, but you will be so lifted up above these circumstances by the Father's love that your heart will be filled with joy. This is not patience or resignation, it is fulness of joy, an infinitely higher thing, the same joy the Son had from the sense of the Father's love.
But why is the next word about loving one another? Because the sign of all signs of this joy being made good in us is that we love one another: that we have the deepest longing for the interests of God's Son in one another. If now there was only something of that among us how it would stop ten thousand things that continually happen among us. Mind you "one another" means "one another." It does not mean certain special Christians, it includes all. But you say, So-and-so is not nice. Well, if you can only love the nice ones how do you differ from the world. You must love the nasty ones as well as the nice ones, if you are to carry this out; and you will not be able to help yourself. If this nature is in you you must love all the family. You do not try to, the love comes of itself. You must love.
Well, it was the joy He had in His Father's love which kept the Son amid all the ignominy and the shame of His sorrowful life down here. The love of the Father filled His heart and He does long for us to have this joy. (See John 16:19-24.) How full these verses are of joy. He says, Ye shall weep. Why? Because you love Me and you will weep for My absence, but your sorrow will be turned into joy because you have Me back again, and far nearer than I ever was. The Son has not gone further away by going to the Father, on the contrary He has come much nearer. He is a great deal nearer now than when the disciples handled Him with their hands, and when John leaned upon His bosom. There is a far nearer place for you, if you will have it. Those were the figures, you may have the blessed reality figured by that handling and that leaning. How marvellous, the Father Himself loves you, not pities you, nor is gracious to you, but He can find His joy and pleasure in you. It is the same delight that He, the Father, found in His own Son. It is so blessed, so wonderful. There is nothing which can be compared to it. It is outside all the sorrowful circumstances of earth. This love takes us to the place where none of these things ever come: the place of the infinite love of the Father to the Son, outside all the failure and the strife down here, and the sense of this love fills your soul while you walk down here. Alas! how very little we know, it is such a very wonderful joy. Then He goes on, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." It is identification with the Son, the promise is absolute. There is no condition there except that you ask in the Son's name. These truths are so blessed and we lose so much by refusing entrance into them. The world seeks to rob us of this joy by presenting what will allure the flesh.
The Lord wants us to challenge ourselves about this, whether we know anything about this deep joy. It is the wonder of wonders that, at the present time, while yet in the body, and walking in the scene of His rejection, we should have the same joy that the Son had when He walked through this world of sorrow.
In 1 John 1:3 and 4, the Apostle tells us that he declares to us that which he had seen and witnessed of the eternal life, which was with the Father in the eternity passed, and was manifested unto them, the Apostles, in time. The Apostle declares this that we may have fellowship with them, and their fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. This it is which will give you fulness of joy. It will be the part fulfilment of the prayer given us in chapter 17. In verse 11 it is the blessed fellowship of the Apostles with the Son in His fellowship with the Father. They were brought into this blessed fellowship. In verses 20 and 21 we are brought in. "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us." This is a lifting out of all that is of ourselves, there is nothing of human nature here, nothing even of Adam unfallen, but a new order altogether. All brought to the same blessed fellowship of life and affections; one aim, one desire filling all, the same love permeating all and bringing all into the same joy.
This love is altogether unique, it is not a thing of earth at all. The Apostle will not call that love which is not of God, nor will he allow that any one can love, who is not of God. (1 John 4:7.) Even a mother's love is not love according to John. Just as the brightest light that you can make upon the earth, if held up before the sun, becomes a black spot; so it is that a mother's love is no love in the presence of the infinite love of God made known in the Son. We all know that God is very good to us, we are thankful He has blotted out our sins, but how little we know of love. This alone will give fulness of joy. This alone will bring you into a fellowship where there is no failure, and no breaking down. This fellowship is in the light, there the Father is fully expressed in the Son, and there it is that the love of the Father is known in contrast with all that is of the world.
"I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full." (2 John 12.) "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 4.) Now this shews what was the practical outcome of that love in the Apostle.
The sense of the love must manifest itself thus. The Apostle had a great joy in his children and he longed to be with them that his joy might be full. His love came out thus. He would be with them for his own joy. Love seeks the company of the loved ones. Yet this was not the love that allows a person to go on with evil. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." His joy was in the truth, and in seeing his children walk in truth. It is not the false love, which acquiesces in that which is not of the truth in order that Christians may be pleased. In both these little epistles we see those, who have to be resisted. It is the love, which is founded on the truth; and which, while it must love, and cannot help loving, yet must act according to truth. This is love that we walk after His commandments, and this is the commandment that, as we have heard from the beginning, we should walk in it. Those, who love thus will have much sorrow, but their joy will super-abound above all the sorrow, for in the midst of the sorrow they will be filled with joy. It will happen to them as is said in Isa. 43:2, death will prove to be their life, their sorrow, will turn into joy and that which threatens to consume will only consume that which hinders their entrance into the life of joy eternal. No lesser joy than this can the Father give to His own seeing He has to express by this joy His delight in His own Son.