It is simple as this, “What is it that we find happiness and pleasure in?” The answer shows us the issues of our hearts. God is concerned with our hearts because their condition determines our final destination. Most Americans take the preamble of the Declaration of Independence as their God-given right. This determines the desires of their hearts and sad to say, our American thinking has permeated the world. Wikipedia explains.
“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.
These words have been used to justify the worldly pursuits of our soul natures and living however we like. Many have adopted a hedonistic lifestyle, “doing our own thing.” The mantra of the hippie generation of the ’60’s and ’70’s was, “If it feels good, do it!” A large part of the western society adheres to this philosophy today.
But is this the gospel of Christ? I think not, yet the gospel we hear preached in churches today has been heavily influenced by this kind of thinking. One of the most seditious things spoken among Christians today is, “After all, we are all sinners.” In parroting this line we make room for sin in our lives as if it is normal. We use it as an excuse to not grow up in Christ. Yet concerning this attitude John wrote, “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” (1John 3:4-6, nrs).
The soul in man, also known in the Bible as the heart, is seen by God as something very contrary to life in His Kingdom. Jeremiah prophesied, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, KJ2000). Because of its nature, the heart of fallen man cannot be trusted.
Now let us look at the real gospel of Christ and what Jesus actually taught,
And he who does not take his cross and take the same road with me which I take, is not worthy of me. He who has found his soul-life, shall ruin and render it useless, and he who has passed a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake shall find it. (Matt 10:38-39, Wuest’s)
This is not exactly the “seeker friendly” happy, happy gospel of today’s churches, is it? The word translated soul-life in this passage is psuche (from where we get the word psyche). How often have we heard a person say, “I am trying to find my life” or “I just want to be happy”? When I started to follow Jesus, I had the idea that I could use all my natural talents and abilities as I saw best to further His kingdom. That’s what all the rest of the Christians I knew were doing. I remember them saying, “Man, if that rock star (football player, etc.) would just get saved, what a witness he would be for the kingdom of God!” No one showed me the words of Jesus where He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” and “The flesh profits nothing.” Our natural abilities and propensities are the very life that Jesus said must be crucified as we take up our own God-given crosses. Christ’s death on the cross dealt with our sins, but the cross He gives each of us to take up as we follow Him, if we truly are His followers, deals with all soulish things in us, both the “good” and the bad. What is the outworking of this cross in our lives? Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is the real gospel of Christ! We lay down our soul lives and take up His. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
And what is this higher life that we gain from the working of the cross on our soul lives? It is the very life of Christ in us. Yes, we can “pursue happiness,” but the happiness we are to have comes from pursuing the fullness of God as we deny ourselves:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal.” (Job 5:17-18, RSV)
“Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psalm 146:5, RSV)
“Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Prov 28:14, AMP)
Contrary to popular religious sentiment, all our suffering as the saints of God does not come from the devil. As a good father chastens his children for their own good, God does not spoil His kids. Yes, we are the King’s kids, but the gifts He gives us are not the soulish kind that titillates our flesh, but rather the greatest gift of all, conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son.
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know [intimately knowing] the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hos 6:1-3, NRS)
“Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1John 3:2, KJ2000)