pexels-photo-173385, HatHappiness can be a hoax. We recognize this most acutely when our realized dreams disappoint us and when the pleasures we sought just don’t satisfy. But there’s good news!

God wants us to be happy.[1] In fact, he commands it.[2] God’s commands are for our good.[3] He knows that all that glitters is not gold. In order to know lasting joy, we need to consider what’s pleasing to God. God’s glory is his highest goal,[4] and his will never contradicts that priority.[5]

Obedience to God glorifies him and leads us into joy.[6] God both reveals his will to us and helps us to obey. We aren’t capable of obedience on our own, so if we aren’t regularly seeking God’s help, we’re not standing against sin as we ought.[7] I’d be very concerned about my standing before the Lord if I couldn’t recall recent times of conviction by the Holy Spirit that led to repentance and God-powered course corrections, because “no one who is yielded to the Holy Spirit can remain the same.”[8]

Our obedient response to a holy God leads to spiritual transformation.[9] We’re called to bring even our thoughts into obedience to God.[10] Our obedience must be in step with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and consistent with the call for us to imitate Christ[11] in every area of our lives. This applies especially to ordinary and mundane things, because how we imitate Christ in these indicates whether we will be obedient in more significant matters.[12]

Not yet aware of the role model of the Proverbs 31[13] woman, I used to criticize my husband for things that didn’t matter. In disobedience to Scripture, I didn’t show him the respect I should have. My greatest desire was for a fairy tale marriage rather than for God. Until God opened my eyes, my efforts were destructive, dishonored God and churned the brokenness in my heart.

For true followers of Christ, glorifying God should be our greatest desire.[14] He created us for the purpose of glorifying him.[15] Obedience to God leads to righteousness,[16] and righteousness brings glory to God. Obedience leads to an abundant and eternal life[17] and the fullness of joy that comes from increasing unity with God.[18] This unity is what the Bible refers to as all followers of Christ being one in the Father and the Son, as our abiding in God and he in us, and as our having the mind of Christ.[19]

I find that the more I obey, the more the Lord blesses me with the revelation of himself and his will. The more he reveals to me, the deeper he helps me grow in obedience. Revelation and obedience pave the way for us ultimately to enter into Jesus’s glory in heaven.[20]

To grow closer to God, we need to grow in obedience, being good stewards of what God reveals to us.[21] As illustrated in Jesus’s parables, we must put God’s revelation of himself and his will to good use for his glory.[22] We can’t expect God to continue to provide spiritual insight—the vehicle for God’s power over sin and to do his will—if we neglect to diligently attend to that insight, studiously laboring and praying to understand it, meditating upon it, making good use of it, remembering it, and sharing it with others.[23]

As my pastor said a couple of weeks ago, our lives won’t really make sense and we’ll never find fulfillment until we live for his glory.[24] When we live for his glory, we begin to see that the other things we desire all are experienced by following Christ.[25] Then joy comes not from our circumstances, but from living for him,[26] from confidence that we’ll spend eternity with him, and from experiencing his presence and sufficiency.[27]

Psalm 73: 25-28

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

REFLECTION

  • Knowing that we all sin, give yourself an honest assessment of where are you being disobedient now. Is it with your time, your money, your words, your relationships, a ministry God’s calling you to, sharing your faith, or spending regular time with the Lord? Will you trust God to help you repent and come into obedience?
  • “If you only obey God’s word when it seems reasonable or profitable to you—well, that isn’t really obedience at all.”[28] “True obedience is the refusal to compromise in any regard our relationship with God, regardless of the consequences.”[29] If this applies to you in any area of your life, ask God for forgiveness and to change your heart to commit to obedience at any cost.
  • Are you desiring anything or anyone more than you desire God? If so, pray for him to align your priorities with his.
  • Do you have a passion for a closer relationship with God? If not, pray for him to give you that passion.

PRAYER

Father God, please help me to embrace more fully that your ways are not my ways and that your ways are far superior. Help me experience more of your love that is better than life.[30] Help me to submit to you in all areas of my life. Please open my eyes throughout my days to the sin that rules me and give me your promised power to turn from it. Increase my desire for the eternal joy that comes from obedience and growing unity with you.

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FOOTNOTES

[1]John 15:11, 16:24. John Piper explains that the terms for superficial happiness and non-superficial joy in Bible are not distinct—as these terms are used interchangeably in Scripture. http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-want-me-to-be-happy-or-holy. Understanding the meaning of individual passages is important rather than the focus on the terminology here. Oswald Chambers says that Jesus’s joy is his “absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice” to his Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent him to do” (Hebrews 12:2) and that “Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His.” Oswald Chambers, “My Joy…Your Joy,” My Utmost for His Highest. Clearly, for the follower of Christ, this is the ultimate happiness rather than anything this world can offer.

[2] Psalm 37:4, Psalm 32:11, Philippians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Romans 12:8, Psalm 100:2

[3] Deuteronomy 6:24

[4] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory

[5] J. D. Greear, numerous times in sermons at The Summit Church, North Carolina, 2001-2017.

[6] John 15:10-11

[7] Nancy Pearcey, “True Spirituality and Christian Worldview,” chap. 13” in Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004, 2005), 356-7.

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:51, II Corinthians 7:10, 1 John 5:18. Francis Chan, “A Lot Should Change in Five Years,” in Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013), 176.

[9] 1 Peter 1:14-16, 2 Corinthians 3:18

[10] 2 Corinthians 10:5

[11] 1 Peter 2:21, Philippians 2:3-8, John 13:12-15, John 13:34, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6, Ephesians 4:32

[12] Oswald Chambers, “Missionary Munitions (September 11),” in My Utmost for His Highest, reissued edition (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, Inc., 1963).

[13] Proverbs 31:10-31

[14] Psalm 63:3, Isaiah 26:7-9, http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Longing-For-God

[15] Isaiah 43:7

[16] Romans 6:16

[17] Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 15:1-2, Proverbs 2:7, Proverbs 2, Proverbs 11:5-6, Proverbs 12:28, Proverbs 13:6, Romans 8:6, Galatians 6:7-8

[18] Psalm 16:11, Romans 15:13

[19] John 17:20-23, Ephesians 1:7-10, Romans 6:5, 1 John 2:24, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. See also http://pastorrick.com/devotional/english/we-however-have-the-mind-of-christ  and blog post What does it mean to live for Christ? ~ Getting in Sync with God.

[20] John 17. An excellent resource on this topic is J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973).

[21]Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:29; Luke 8:18; Luke 19:26

[22] Jerry Bridges, “The Joy of Holiness,” in The Pursuit of Holiness: Run in Such a Way as to Get the Prize (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1978, 1996, 2006, Kindle Edition.), 210. https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/difficult-sayings/index.cgi?a=430

[23] Deuteronomy 5:32-33, Joshua 1:8. John Gill says that Jesus’s communication to the disciples in Mark 4:24 intimates that if they attended to what he said to them in these ways, they would receive a larger measure and greater degree of spiritual knowledge (http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/mark-4-24.html). For information on John Gill, please click here.

[24] J.D. Greear, “Chosen: Ephesians 1:1-14,” Love Incorruptible Sermon Series, 2/5/17.  http://www.summitrdu.com/message/chosen/.

[25] Aaron Earls, “Google: The Window to Your Soul,” The Wardrobe Door (blog), 2/11/17. http://thewardrobedoor.com/2015/03/google-the-window-to-your-soul.html.

[26] See blog posts What does it mean to live for Christ? ~ Finding the Way and What does it mean to live for Christ? ~ Intentionally Living for God.

[27] John 6:35, Psalm 107:9, Psalm 22:26, Psalm 16:11

[28] Tim Keller Wisdom (@ DailyKeller) tweeted at 7:35 a.m. on 7/ 19/14. https://twitter.com/ DailyKeller/status/ 490460022195757056

[29] A W Tozer (@TozerAW) tweeted at 10:09 a.m. on 7/17/14.  https://twitter.com/TozerAW/status/478902181681041408

[30] Isaiah 55:8-9

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