The Radically Normal Christian:
Part VIII: Happy Holiness
November 6, 2011
* 155, 51
Scripture reading: Ps 1 (?)
A boring testimony
As many of you know, I have a boring testimony. I’ve almost been embarrassed by that – it was always the guys with the cool testimonies that were showcased at youth camp and the like.
* I get why they do; it says “God can save you from anything.”
But I worry that it intentionally conveys that you should go have your fun, then have Jesus forgive you, otherwise you are missing out.
* It’s like the ideal life is to live a wild life, then have a death bed conversion – that is really living!
I think that it show we profoundly misunderstand sin and righteousness, and accordingly miscommunicate it.
The big Lie
I am basically confronting the world’s first recorded lie. It is the most powerful deception we have ever fallen prey to, and we continue to fall prey to it.
It continues to wreak havoc on your life, to destroy homes and families, to break relationships, to bring devastation to our planet, and make you miserable.
Genesis 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Q Do you see what Satan is doing? What is his tactic?
He is questioning God’s goodness – he makes God sound miserly, begrudging us the joy of experiencing his good gifts. He says that God does not have our best interest in mind – as if he knows eating the fruit will make us better, but denies it to us.
* I believe the most fundamental lie of the enemy continues to be God is not good and that his rules keep us from having fun.
Life of the Party
Think about how our culture portrays God and fun. You ask 100 people who they associate more with fun, Satan or God, what do you think they will answer?
* It’s like God and fun are the antithesis of each other.
Q How do you into this lie?
Q Who do you associate more with “fun,” God or Satan?
I remember growing up in church we would have these New Year’s Eve Parties, and all the kids would have fun, running around and playing, eating, being able to stay up late. But just before midnight we would stop the fun so we could pray in the New Year.
* Nothing can kill a good party like bringing God into it!
It is normal to think that God is a cosmic killjoy, that deep down he doesn’t really want us to be happy and his rules are for keeping us from happiness.
* What is radical? To serve him anyway.
This lie that God doesn’t want us happy has been reinforced in the name of “good theology,” by many good pastors who think they are honoring God:
* They overemphasize obedience for the sake of obedience and for God’s glory and underemphasize that obedience brings us joy.
We are held back by this unbiblical idea that obedience for the sake of obedience is better than obedience for the sake of joy.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.
It’s like on an episode of Friends where Phoebe was trying to do some good deed without enjoying it. We have this same mindset that if we enjoy obeying God, it doesn’t count.
* EG: Guy at His Place.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory1
This quote is really the genesis of my book – understanding that seeking God because he is our greatest and highest happiness is a better motivation than duty.
Q Which is more Biblical: To obey God because he is God or because it brings us greatest joy?
I don’t think that is an either/or question. Obedience to God brings him glory because he is good and obedience shows him to be good.
* Because God is good, obedience must bring the longest lasting joy.
I think the Bible teaches that we obey God because obedience, joy, and glorifying God create singular unit that cannot be taken apart without destroying the whole thing.
This is basically where things stand:
* It is normal to think that God is a cosmic killjoy.
* It is radical to serve him anyway.
It is radically normal to obey God to bring him glory and us joy, even if we can’t understand how obedience brings joy.
I watched “Inception” with DiCaprio. Great movie. The setting is that he steals information from people by sneaking into their dreams. But one client wants him to do something everyone thinks is impossible – implant an idea into a target.
Q If I could do that, what idea would you implant?
Would it be for your husband to pick up his underwear? For people to be nice to each other?
I would insert one thought: God’s commands are for our joy.
At its core, all sin is a type of unbelief, not believing in God and his character. We believe we will be happier and healthier ignoring God and doing it our way.
* I wonder how different this world would be if we really believed obedience brought joy.
God is Good
I want to begin by reminding you of what you already know: God is good and loving, and loves us.
James 1:16-17 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And so many of us are deceived! We think that fun comes from sin and misery comes from God. Every good gift comes from God, not from Satan.
Matthew 7:9-11 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Or in the OT:
Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.
And according to Deuteronomy 28:63 he delights in doing good to his children.2
Q Is this the picture of God who wants to keep his kids from enjoying life?
Is his law a delight?
If God is good, the next logical step is his rules are good. In the Bible, God’s Law is seen as a blessing, not a curse.
Psalm 1:1 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Q When was the last time that you thought of God’s rules as a delight?
Either they were more spiritual than us, or they understood something we do not – that God and his laws bring delight.
This is the basis for my saying that “Sin is that which harms you...”
Q Nice thoughts, but what do we do with that?
I want to you bring to mind something that you are doing that you know you shouldn’t, but don’t want to stop. Or something that you know you should do, but don’t want to.
* I am not about the sins you really want to get rid of, these are the ones you want to hang on to.
It could be the sort of things we’ve talked about:
* Being generous.
* Not drinking to drunkness.
* Not having sex outside of marriage.
* Being part of the church
* Spiritual disciplines
* Forgiving a family member
* Asking for forgiveness
Whatever that thing is, bring it to the front of your mind. Now we are going to share it. Not really.
Q How can you take this factual information and use it to change how you think about these sins?
This more or less the process I try to use:
1. Acknowledge them and why you want to keep them.
God, I don’t want to do this/not do this, and I really don’t understand why I should. Just be honest about the situation.
* I am afraid that if I am generous, I will have to give up some stuff I really want.
* I fear letting go of this bitterness lest I get hurt again.
* I am afraid you will let me down.
This may take digging beyond the obvious.
2. Ask God to help you see his perspective and try to understand it as best you can.
Q How will God’s way bring more long-term happiness?
* “More” and “long-term” is the key, it won’t be perfect, nothing is. And it may not be instant.
This is basically what Proverbs means by “wisdom,” it means understand the moral cause and effect of the universe. The majority of God’s commands make sense.
* Volunteerism vrs. Asherism.
How do you do this? Use a consequence inverter. Talk to some friends.
3. Trust God on the ones you don’t understand.
We can’t figure them all out. Some of them just don’t make sense to us. That is why Proverbs (the most “Asheristic” part of the Bible) says:
Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
This does not mean “don’t think.”It means that when what you think is right differs from what he says, go with what he says.
This is how we need to think: If you are not submitted to God, your wisdom will always be limited by your knowledge, when you fear the Lord, your wisdom is not limited by your knowledge.
The Bible is filled with things we don’t understand, and with rules that don’t line up with our thoughts. We can:
a. Ignore it
b. Dismiss it
c. Commit ourselves to obedience even while we try to figure it out – many time the hardest stuff we need the most.
4. Trust God.
This is where you say, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
I wish this was the magic step where you overcome all our sins, but it is. Knowing something and doing it are very different.
* EG: Skydiving.
What you are doing here is knocking the enemy’s most powerful weapon out of his hands. When you want to obey, you are switching teams, working with God, not against him.
And God, who is rich in mercy, grace, and forgiveness, is also very patient. He knows how weak you are, he is not disappointed in your failures, he wants to remove the sin that entangles you.
This is not ever about becoming good enough for God, but receiving the best he has to give you.
2 If you take the time to look up this reference, the second half of the verse seems odd. The basic meaning is that God will pursue judgment with as much vigor as blessings, but in Deut. 30:1-3 we see the goal is still restoration.