The psalmist declares, “In your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). This means that we can find unrivaled satisfaction in the Gospel, a deep satisfaction whose essence cannot be tainted or colored by our circumstances, no matter their heights or depths. However, I don’t always feel the fullness of joy in the presence of God, even though I cannot alter the reality that such joy is accessible to those who come to God through the mediating, sufficient work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So what is the joy-killer in life? Jesus gives us a clue in the Gospel of John. “As the Father has loved me, so I have 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. 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).

Faithless disobedience steals our joy in the presence of the Lord. God’s satisfying joy is found through abiding in His love, which is found in obedience to His Word. When we are walking in the Spirit, living in obedience to the Gospel through the abiding power of God, we experience deeply satisfying joy in Christ. However, we must remember that even our obedience comes from the Lord, lest we find satisfaction in our efforts and not the Gospel itself (Philippians 2:12-13).

What we also need to understand is that we don’t have to experience the absence of joy even when we fail to honor the Lord with our thoughts and actions. It is true that disobedience to God’s voice is an enemy of joy, but the Gospel is deep enough to satisfy even when we sin. Joy is made full in our obedience, but it isn’t obliterated by our disobedience because we aren’t giving an accuont to God on the basis of our righteousness. Our reckoning comes through the righteousness of Jesus, received by faith in His work on the cross (2Cor 5:21).

In other words, when we fail to experience the fullness of joy in God’s presence because we have sinned, we have failed to rightly understand the profound, far-reaching effects of the Gospel. We are not accepted by God on the basis of our performance. We are accepted on the merits of Christ performance on our behalf. Even in our sin, when we confess it in repentance, we can still experience the fullness of joy found in the presence of God through Christ, because the fullness of joy is secured by God’s work in us.