God-Based Happiness

// July 14th, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Christian Hedonism

Christian Hedonism… You can listen online or download it and listen later…July 12th Sermon Audio Or you could use this link to watch the whole service on YouTube:https://youtu.be/roACvI3z2Qw?t=1599

– that is not a term that we hear much in normal life.  Over the years, I have read several of Pastor John Piper’s books and listened to numerous sermons via podcast and have often felt a kindred spirit with him.  He was the Preaching Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 33 years, has written numerous books and is the founder of Bethlehem College and Seminary, also in Minneapolis.

In his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Pastor Piper tells of referring to Christian Hedonism during a Sunday sermon.  After the service a parent came up to him and said, “Our little girl thought you were saying Christian heathenism?”

I’m guessing I will run the risk of people making that same mistake even though I will try to pronounce it correctly…some will no doubt hear Christian Heathenism.

The theme of this 9-sermon series is Christian Hedonism.  Some might think “heathenism” because you believe hedonism is a heathen philosophy of life.  And you are partially correct, because the popular meaning of hedonism is pleasure seeking and moral indifference.

Let me explore that for a few moments.  In 2 Tim. 3:4 Paul warned that in the last days men would be “lovers of pleasure rather that lovers of God.”  You don’t have to be a professional analyst of our society to recognize that we are in those days.

In 1981, an author by the name of Daniel Yankelovitch published a book “New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down”.  In this book the author, on the basis of extensive interviews and nationwide polls, argues that massive shifts have occurred in our culture and that the widespread search for personal self-fulfillment has created a new set of rules that govern the way we think and feel today.  He wrote, “In their extreme form the new rules simply turn the old ones on their head, and in place of the old self-denial ethic we find people who refuse to deny anything to themselves — not out of bottomless appetite, but on the strange moral principle that ‘I have a duty to myself.’”

He wrote about a young woman in her mid-thirties who complained to her psychotherapist that she was becoming nervous and fretful because life had grown so hectic — too many big weekends, too many discos, too many late hours, too much talk, too much wine, too much pot, too much lovemaking.

The therapist asked, “Why don’t you stop?”  The patient stared blankly for a moment, and then her face lit up, dazzled by an illumination and then burst out with: “You mean I really don’t have to do what I want to?”  That kind of almost makes the brain hurt!

But, if you think about it, is that not the trademark of our post-modern society?  He wrote, “They operate on the premise that emotional cravings are sacred objects and that it is a crime against nature to harbor an unfulfilled emotional need.”

And, I would suggest to you that I think it is in the whole area of marriage and gender identity that self-fulfillment seekers and their new rules have caused the greatest upheaval.

Here’s one more quote from Yankelovitch – he shows tremendous insight when he wrote, “Successful marriages are woven out of many strands of inhibited desire — accessions to the wishes of the other; acceptance of infringements on one’s own wishes; disappointments swallowed; confrontations avoided; opportunities for anger bypassed; chances for self-expression muted. To introduce the strong form of self-fulfillment urge into this process is to take a broomstick to a delicate web. Often all that is left is the sticky stuff that adheres to the broom; the structure of the web is destroyed.”

Marriage as an institution granted by God out of His love and grace, in Canada, was forever changed in 2005 when Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Liberal government passed a bill that made gay marriage legal.  A secular organization from the US has concluded that the impact of that bill in Canada is that any person now taking a stand against gay marriage is a bigot or a homophobe.  This thinking then threw open the door for all of the gender confusion that exists in our nation today.

Piper wrote, “I have a deep empathy with those who are free enough from our culture to react to the word hedonism by saying, ‘Enough of it!  Our homes, our schools, our businesses, and our society are all being destroyed by hedonistic self-fulfillment seekers who have none of the moral courage and self-denial and rugged commitment and sacrificial allegiance which holds together the precious structures of life and brings nobility to our culture. We don’t need hedonism; we need a return to rectitude, integrity, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, self-control!’”  Believe me, this is our society today.  I ask is that you give me an open and discerning ear for nine weeks before you make your conclusion about Christian Hedonism.

Instead of giving you a concise definition of Christian Hedonism, let me start by pointing to some Biblical examples of it.  David, the Shepherd/King counsels Christian Hedonism when he commands, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart” – Ps. 37:4 – that is the Key Verse in this discussion.

The sons of Korah demonstrate Christian Hedonism when they cry out, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” – Ps. 42:1-2.  Piper wrote, “The desire to be happy is God-given and should not be denied, but directed to God for satisfaction.”

Moses was a Christian Hedonist – according to Heb. 11:24-27 – he denied himself the “fleeting pleasures of sin,” but “he thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.”  The saints in Heb. 10:34 were Christian Hedonists because they chose to risk their lives because they knew that they themselves had a better and eternal possession.

The apostle Paul commended Christian Hedonism when he said, “Let him who does acts of mercy do them with cheerfulness” – Rom. 12:8. And, our Lord Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith set the highest standard of Christian Hedonism – Is. 11:3 – “His delight was in the fear of the Lord”; and, Heb. 12:2 – “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Christian Hedonism teaches that the desire to be happy is God-given and should not be denied or resisted but directed to God for satisfaction or fulfillment.  Christian Hedonism does not mean that whatever you enjoy is good.  Micah 6:8 says it well – “…this is what he [God] requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  And so, doing what is right ought to bring you joy!  And since doing the will of God ought to bring you joy, the pursuit of joy is an essential part of all moral effort.  If you abandon the pursuit of joy – refusing to be a Christian Hedonist – you cannot fulfill the will of God.

Listen to what some godly saints have discovered:

  • 8:36 – “We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
  • 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice.” Christian Hedonism does not join the culture of self-gratification that makes you a slave of your sinful impulses.
  • Rather, Rom. 12:2 – Christian Hedonism insists that we not be conformed to this age but that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can delight to do the will of our Father in heaven.

 

According to Christian Hedonism, joy in God is not an optional part of living for Jesus.  As a matter of fact, joy in God is an essential part of saving faith!

It is my hope to establish the foundation of Christian Hedonism this morning, which is, God-Based Happiness!  I want to turn our attention to the 3 pillars of Christian Hedonism – first, God is happy because:

  1. He Doesn’t Play Second Fiddle to Anyone

Our God is ultimately happy because He delights in Himself.  If we were to make that statement about a person, it would be so very wrong.  But God would be unjust if he valued anything more than what is supremely valuable.  We need to be absolutely convinced that God is supremely valuable.

It is the right thing to do, to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of their glory.  The Scriptures are loaded with passages that show how God unwaveringly acts out of a love for His own glory.  Is. 48:11 in The Message reads – “Out of myself, simply because of who I am, I do what I do. I have my reputation to keep up. I’m not playing second fiddle to either gods or people.”  The last line in the ESV reads, “My glory I will not give to another.”

We see the same thing when we consider the relationship of God the Father to God the Son.  There is a mystery in that relationship that goes beyond all human comprehension.  The Trinity is too much for the human brain to fully comprehend and appreciate.

All of our theological efforts to describe the self-consciousness of God and the Triune God-head relationship in the Trinity are like the jibber-jabber of a baby trying to describe his father.

But even out of the mouths of babes may come wisdom if we follow God’s Word.  John 1:1 teaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God!  Listen to Heb. 1:3 – “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

2 Cor. 4:4 speaks of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.

These passages tell us that from all eternity God the Father beheld the image of his own glory perfectly represented in the person of His Son.

Therefore, one of the best ways to think about God’s immense happiness in His own glory is to think of it as the delight He has in His Son who is the image of that glory.  When Jesus entered the world, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”

When God the Father beholds the glory of His own essence in the person of His Son, He is infinitely happy!  Is. 42:1 says, “Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”  So the first pillar is that God is happy because He delights in himself, as His nature is reflected in His Son.  Pillar #2, God is happy because…

  1. He is Sovereign.

Ps. 115:3 reads, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  This verse implies that God’s sovereignty is His right and power to do whatever makes Him happy.  He is in heaven — He is over all things – subject to no one.  Therefore, He does whatever He pleases —always preserving His ultimate happiness.

He is happy because of His righteous way of working…His will can never be frustrated.  Listen to these OT verses:

  • 43:13, I like the way it reads in The Message“I’ve always been God and I always will be God. No one can take anything from me. I make; who can unmake it?” Or,
  • 46:10 – “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” And then,
  • 4:35 – “All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’”

“God is infinitely happy because he has absolute right and power to overcome every obstacle to his joy.”

You might be thinking – how can a good God be happy when the world is plagued with suffering and evil?  That is a hard question.  Two things help me navigate through this:  One it doesn’t help to save God’s reputation by saying that He is not really in charge.

Back on Jan. 13, 1975, when my sister was killed, I would not have been comforted by someone saying, “God didn’t will this to happen; you can still trust Him; He’s good.”  We don’t get any comfort from believing that our God is so weak that He can’t stop a 1974 Ford station wagon from hitting my sister.

My God is sovereign! He took her in his appointed time; and I believe someday I will understand how that was good.  Through walking with Jesus, I have learned that God is good.  The biblical solution to the problem of evil is not to rob God of His sovereignty.

The 2nd observation that helps me with this question is that God’s attitude toward tragic events depends on the focus of the lens.  God does not delight in pain and evil in and of, themselves.  I believe that when His view is narrow, God has shown how He hates evil and grief.

But, when His consideration is on the connections and effects of a certain thing, the event is part of His artistic ability to create a mosaic beauty that He delights in.  That which man and the devil are intending for harm and evil, God is able to use to create beauty and intentional impact.

Take the death of Jesus, for example – Satan, the religious leaders of Israel and the Roman authority saw the death of Christ as their victory, but in reality, the death of Christ was the work of God the Father.  For this reason Is. 53 reads, “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted . . . It was the will of the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief.”

There is no doubt that God the Father saw the agony of His beloved Son and the wickedness that brought Him to the cross – God did not delight in those things in themselves.  Sin, and the suffering of the innocent, these things are abhorrent to God.  But according to Heb. 2:10 – God the Father thought it was fitting to make the founder of our salvation perfect through suffering.

God willed that which He detested because it was a fitting way to demonstrate His righteousness and bring His people to glory.  When our omniscient God scans all of redemptive history from beginning to end, He rejoices in what He sees.  Therefore, I conclude that nothing in all the world can frustrate the ultimate happiness of God.  He delights infinitely in His own glory; and in His sovereignty He does whatever He pleases.  Pillar #3…God is happy because…

III. His Happiness Produces Mercy Towards Us. 

Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy?

What if God were bi-polar, given to depression and pouting or uncontrolled anger?  What if God were despondent, gloomy, dismal, discontented, dejected and frustrated?  Ps. 63:1 would have lost it’s meaning, “God — you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.”

Children who have a gloomy, dismal, discontented, frustrated father are never sure how they will find him, and so they can’t enjoy him.  They can only try to avoid him and maybe try extra hard impress and make him feel better.

The foundation of Christian Hedonism is that God is infinitely happy!  The aim of Christian Hedonism is to be happy in God, to delight in God, to cherish and enjoy fellowship with God.  These things can’t happen when the Father is not infinitely happy.  And so the basis and foundation of Christian Hedonism is that God is the happiest of all beings.

Or, think of it this way:  In order for a sinner to pursue joy in relationship with God, the sinner must be confident that God will not shut Him out when he comes seeking forgiveness and fellowship.  It is out of the assurance that when we repent from our sin, God responds in mercy where we start to experience the depth of joy we are able to have in our relationship with God.

Jer. 9:24 – “‘I am the Lord who performs mercy and justice and righteousness in the earth, because in these things I delight’ says the Lord.”

God show mercy to you because it thrills Him.  He shows mercy because He delights in doing so.  There are no principles or rules that force God to save you and me.  He is so full of life and joy in His own glory that the peak of His pleasure is to pour His mercy on us.

As I wrap up, I want you to hear the heartbeat of the perfect heavenly Hedonist from the words of Jer. 32:40-41 – you have to get this – why does God do good?  How does he go about the business of loving you? Listen:  “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.  I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.”

God does good to you because it brings Him so much joy!  The happiness of God spilling over in joyful love is the foundation and demonstration of Christian Hedonism.

These precious and amazing promises of God’s favor are not for every person.  You see, there is a condition.  It is not a condition of works or repayment.  An infinitely happy sovereign does not need anything from us…He already owns everything.

The condition is this – He desires for you to become a Christian Hedonist — that you stop trying to repay Him or earn what He wants to give you, or stop running from Him…and rather, that we would begin to seek Him with all our heart.  To pursue the incomparable joy of fellowship with the living God.

Listen to Ps. 147:10-11 – “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

So, the condition for inheriting all the promises of God is this:  all the hope for happiness you have planned for yourself – through your family, through your job or through leisure – all things need to be shifted over to great God.

I challenge you to memorize the key verse for this series – “Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  May these not be just words in Bible, but our real experience of drawing near to Him, giving us the ability to truly give Him all the glory!

Let’s pray…

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