Cross Points 3.5.21

The Dangers of Happiness

“The celebration called worship has less to do with the pursuit of happiness than with the abandonment of the pursuit of happiness.” Richard Neuhaus
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…  A person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.; whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Jesus in Matthew 10:34-39

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  Philippians 3:20, 21

Such words fly in the face of the typical attitude of many “Christians,” who seem more attached to the U.S. declaration of independence than the words of Jesus and his apostles.  We treasure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to a selfish extreme, thinking God should bless us with smooth sailing.  Then we get confused and disappointed when life takes a turn for the bad, wondering why God has allowed such to happen.

What we fail to recognize is that this perfect world God created has been thoroughly messes up by sin, which touches us all to some degree.  Satan plays his part, tempting us to follow any path except God’s path.  Do you want such freedom, to go your own way?  Hear the applause from Satan’s lair as the demons celebrate your independence!  But it “feels” good, reinforces our insecurities, makes us “happy,” at least for a moment or two.  Happiness is circumstantial, fleeting.  Real life returns quickly.  When it comes to sin, we add our own fuel to the fire, we are not guiltless, we complicate things with God-dishonoring decisions.  We need a Savior.
Only as we abandon this pursuit of happiness, only as we truly set our sails for God and his Messiah, Jesus, only as we follow in true faith - knowing the reward is in heaven, not in sustained happiness now - only then do we find life!  Only then do we experience the joy found in Christ, not circumstantial, but based on our reconnection with God, with a path that leads to heaven, with purpose and fellowship among like-minded people.  There will be happiness, believe me.  So many wonderful things as we live with a God-focus, serving people, sharing the good news, enjoying the good things in this world God has provided.  But we experience it while honoring the Lord and obeying his commands.  When happiness fades (as the sinful world touches us), the joy in Christ continues! The Christian life is not burdensome IF we truly love Jesus.  The burden comes with rules, instead of loving our Savior.

You might still be wondering about the words of Jesus, bringing a sword and putting family against family.  He’s not purposely causing family issues, not physically handing out swords.  But being a Christian comes with a cost, we must follow, accepting his direction.  The world (with Satan prompting) does not like people of faith who tell them their selfishness is leading them the wrong way.  They resist and fight.  The Christian must stand strong, continue to love, but it will at times cause problems with family and others.  You see it in places where other religions are strong, like the middle east, where you are disowned (or worse) if you become Christian, or in atheistic cultures.  It’s starting to happen in the U.S., where atheistic thinking, or at least polytheistic thinking, is gaining a foothold.

Do you want to be happy?  Is that your chief goal in life?  That will not lead you to God and salvation.  Only a willingness to abandon happiness for the sake of Jesus and following him (which does include a lot of happiness if you have the right attitude, don’t forget), will take us where we need to go.  Whether happiness comes much or little, there will be joy in the Lord for those who belong to him.  And a future beyond compare in heaven!  Are you willing to count the cost (Luke 14:28-33) of being a disciple?  
Cross Point: Some translations use the word “happy” when communicating what are called the B-Attitudes from Matthew 5:3-12.  I think “blessed” is a better translation.  Read what Jesus says there.  What does he mean?
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