As with anything in life, foundations are necessity. When formulating any hypothesis there must be some assumptions from which we make conjecture. You cannot say, in a “real” discussion, this is right/wrong solely because this is my opinion. You must have some basis, be it logic, science, philosophy, religion… some assumption of Truth from which you draw conclusions. Now, I realize that I do NOT own the one and only view of Christian thought and practice. There are a multitude of positions taken on varying subjects, sanctification or the sovereignty of God are both good examples. Scripture provides space for disagreement and variation on many different topics. However, there are also quite a number of things that simply aren’t up for debate. Murder is an easy one, bearing false witness against your neighbor is also an easy one, adultery, hate, greed, lust, lasciviousness, covetousness and so on.
It is important to distinguish between those two categories, and to determine how you go about the distinguishing. Christians are often guilty of justifying sin in a Christian context. This is done by making a false assumption about God, and circumventing scripture to test that assumption. One such assumption goes something like this, “If God loves me wouldn’t He want me to be happy?” Now, I totally understand for the non-Christian this rhetoric is nonsensical and a simple emphatic “Yes!” However, for the Christian, scripture clearly delineates between happiness and joy. They are not equivalent.
Happiness is for the flesh, and joy for the spirit. Things that make you happy are often things that do not bring you joy. Happiness is circumstantial whereas joy is a result of who you are in Christ. Here are a few examples, many of them Christians won’t like. Eating fried food and sweets 3-7 days a week might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. Never exercising but making certain to catch all your favorite TV shows might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. Poor health, premature death, inability to do simple things that we take for granted can all result from choosing happiness over joy, and severely hinder your ministry and life in general. Playing video games for hours on end while you should be spending some time with your family might make you happy, but it will NOT bring you joy. A couple who works every day and doesn’t prioritize time for family might find moments of happiness in promotions and raises, but the day their child leaves for college and they realize they don’t know each other anymore and that they’ve missed getting to know their child… will NOT find joy in their current lifestyle. Living by culturally accepted truths that pander to your desires may bring you a measure of happiness, but the Truth that sets you free from those desires will bring eternal joy.
So to answer the question, “If God loves me wouldn’t He want me to be happy?” NO! No He wouldn’t. He wants you to walk in obedience with His Word, not because He will benefit from it, but because it will lead you to joy. For the Christian, scripture is plain; not just in Acts but virtually all of Paul’s letters we see a recurring theme. Regardless of circumstance, whether bond or free, abased or abounding, in little and in much, married or single, sick or well, we find joy in our walk with Christ. While on the surface this may not seem like a complex statement, it is basically the crux of all arguments between culture and scripture. The question to answer is whose “truth” do you want to follow… man’s or God’s?
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