“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
John 15:11 ESV
In September of 1977, Columbia Records released The Stranger, arguably Billy Joel’s most iconic record. Brimming with melodies and refrains that have stood the test of decades, one of the most memorable lines in Joel’s masterpiece reads:
“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”
Though nearly four decades have passed since the release of “Only the Good Die Young”, its non-religious anthem continues to ring mezzo-forte in our modern world. At worst, Jesus is seen as contrived or fabricated. At best, Joel proclaims that a life spent following Him is dull, stale, and even depressing. In short, why would anyone choose to follow Christ? It just isn’t any fun.
In John 15:1-11, however, the Master disagrees.
In this famous text, he implores his followers to “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Just as a branch derives its existence entirely from the life-giving vine, Jesus urges His followers to remain intimately connected with Him. Over and over, He calls them to “Abide in Me … abide in Me … abide in Me!"
After making his appeal clear, Jesus reveals His purpose in verse 11: “I want you to follow Me so that you will experience My very own joy in its entirety.”
You see, Billy Joel got it wrong. True joy knows no other wellspring than Jesus Himself. He does not offer earthly or temporal joy, but rather His very own divine joy – the same joy that He shares perfectly with the persons of the Father and the Spirit. Joy that is real, true, and divine.
Andrew Murray, renowned 17th century author and pastor, puts it well: “Oh, that Christ’s voice might reach the heart of every young Christian, and persuade him to believe that His joy is the only true joy, that His joy can become ours and truly fill us, and that the sure and simple way of living in it is only this – to abide as branches in His our heavenly Vine.”