Vol. 12 No. 4 April 2010
No doubt you’ve heard the above phrase before. Typically it’s used by people to condone a sinful lifestyle. Since they can’t appeal to Scripture to justify their behavior, they appeal to this statement. While it is oft-repeated (which many times seems to give phrases a sound of authority), it is incorrect. While God does offer us joy (Philippians 4:4), and a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), nowhere does Scripture even hint that God condones activity simply because it makes us happy.
First of all, we understand what makes one happy today may not make one happy tomorrow. Happiness is a subjective, emotional response subject to change. I am reminded of Tigger, when asked by Winnie the Pooh if he liked honey, responded quite enthusiastically, “Tiggers love honey!” It was after tasting it he would, in disgust, say, “Tiggers do not like honey!” with equal enthusiasm. What we think we would enjoy, after experiencing it, may not bring the happiness we thought it would, or desired it to. God has our eternal well-being in mind, and as our Creator, knows best what is good for us, even when we may not. He will not do that which ultimately would harm us, just to gratify our whims. James clearly tells us, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure” (James 4:3).
Also, God would not, for my pleasure or short-term happiness, use another person in a way that is harmful to him or her. If God truly cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), would He do something hurtful to me, to satisfy what makes someone else happy? Paul wrote Timothy, “Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works” (2 Timothy 4:14). Obviously, God did not approve of Alexander’s actions, no matter if Alexander received satisfaction from what he did to Paul. Claiming God wants me to be happy, no matter what that does to others, makes God a respecter of persons, which He is not (Romans 2:11).
In reality, if one’s happiness was the ultimate criteria by which God operates, then our will supersedes the will of the omnipotent, omniscient God. However, this is what one does in making the claim that God wants us to be happy. Many people look for God to allow them to do whatever they please, without any consequences, now or eternally. I remember an individual telling me, as he thought he was closing in on death, that while he had committed adultery, stolen from others, used profane language, and about 10 minutes worth of descriptions of various sins, that he was a good person, that he was okay with God. That was his definition, not God’s. I wonder what he thought he would have to do not to be okay with God? God does have an ethical code for us to live by, revealed in His Word. It’s not what we decide is right or wrong, but what God has decided what is right or wrong. He has defined what sin is and the truth that the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23). God will always be true and hold to the truth, not someone else’s subjective opinion (Romans 3:4).
God does offer us His blessings, and He is our source of joy, but these come from living for Him, not for ourselves. Sometimes the way to these may bring pain and suffering in the flesh (John 14:27; 16:33; Hebrews 12:7-8). What we truly live for is not pleasure in the here and now, but eternity in heaven. That calls for faithfulness to God’s revealed will (Revelation 2:10). The fleeting promise of happiness is a delusion of Satan; the promise of eternal life for those who live faithfully is grounded in God Himself. No matter what life throws our way, God’s grace is sufficient for us, too (2 Corinthians 12:9). We may not always be happy, but in Christ we are always blessed. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs…Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:10, 12).
The program committee for a national barber’s convention devised a graphic means of demonstrating the effectiveness of their profession. They found a social derelict on skid row with long, dirty hair. His face was unshaven and his clothes were ragged and filthy. His body reeked with odors of cheap liquor and filth.
The barbers cleaned him up. They gave him a bath, shampoo, shave, haircut and manicure. They liberally sprinkled talcum powder on him and added spicy cologne. He was dressed in a new suit and was presented before the convention as a changed man. He certainly looked the part. However, within a week the man was back on skid row, back in the gutter, back in his former pattern of living. The barbers had altered his appearance, but their tonsorial services had not changed him on the inside.
Due to our sin, each of us is on “skid row,” destined to die (Romans 6:23). However, God loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16) so that we might have forgiveness, transformation and the hope of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:7). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The change that Christ desires to bring about in our lives is not superficial. Rather, we are transformed by Christ from the inside out! Our hearts are changed by faith, placing our trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31). Our practices are changed when we turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), committing ourselves to the intention of refraining from sin. Our commitments are changed when we confess that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9-10). Our condition is changed when we are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
The apostle Paul explained the change that occurs in the penitent believer when he is baptized into Christ: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
Anyone who has the money to spend can put a man in a new suit, but only Christ can put a new man in the suit. Won’t you allow Christ to change you from the inside out as you trust and obey Him?