In the Same Way…
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to be incredibly happy—no matter what you are enduring for His sake.
The Pursuit of Happiness!
How many of you like or liked surprise tests in school?
I guess I should have asked how many of you remember school before I asked that!
Well you have a pop quiz this morning.
You need to tell me which of the documents the quote that follows comes from.
- The Constitution of the United States
- The Bill of Rights
- The Magna Carta
So here is the quote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So which is it?
What—weren’t all your pop quizzes filled with trick questions? 😊
So do you agree with the Declaration of Independence? Do you think that we have the right to pursue happiness?
Be careful—this might be a trick question as well!
So if you want to be happy, scripture this morning had a surefire way to be happy.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
There you go, to be happy just follow Jesus! Then people will persecute you and say all sorts of evil things about you!
But you will be happy!
- The Standard
SO the next question—what does it look like to follow Jesus in such a way that people will persecute us and say nasty things about us?
Seriously, most of us know how to get persecuted. There is always that one person who we can irritate, even without planning it. We might even enjoy it! But then they try to get us back!
But to get persecuted for Jesus, because we are like Him, is a different story.
The Beatitudes show how Jesus lived, how we can live, when we are focused on Him. It all starts with our need for God! It all starts there, when we realize that we are poor in spirit. You usually don’t think of Jesus as poor in spirit, but hear how Paul describes Jesus.
7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being ( Philippians 2:7 (NJB)
That emptiness is what being poor in spirit is about. Whether we are wounded by someone else’s sin, or broken by our own, or simply choose to live humbly, dependent on God the Father for everything.
That is what makes believers different, what has made those people we look up to spiritually, so amazing. They could depend on God during challenges, during good times, too. We have seen that in so many of those who have gone before us here. They knew God was with them. Whether it was Pastor and Mrs. Meier, or Clyde or Armando, or Barbara, Tony and Wanda or Bonnie, or this year Kurt, Joan, Ben, Valter, Diana and Chuck over the last year.
The rest of the Beatitudes make sense after you realize you are completely reliant on God.
Because you realize your need for God, if you are mourning, He comforts you.
Because you realize your need for God, if you are humble (and rely on Him), then He gives you everything.
Because you realize your need for God, if you want real justice, God provides that on judgement day.
Because you realize your need for God, you see the mercy that you wanted others to know, shown to you.
Because you realize your need for God, the Holy Spirit changes your heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
Because you realize your need for God, because you are His children you work for peace, where peace seems impossible,
Because you realize your need for God, you do what is just and righteous in God’s eyes, even if there is a cost to you. And there are times where the cost will be high, because others don’t like being just, when you decide to help others rather them. Or when you show mercy to those who don’t deserve it.
(of course—why would you need to show mercy to someone who doesn’t need it.)
Because you realize your need for God, and He meets that need, you realize you found happiness!
When peace, justice and mercy are seen as a major thing in your life, no matter the cost, you are showing the work of the Holy Spirit as He guides you into becoming more and more visibly like Jesus.
But that will irritate people who don’t understand God.
That is where the persecution comes from!
Not from being considered holier than thou, or from being judgmental. When we deal with people in bondage to sin, our demeanor should be like Jesus’ demeanor
That is why all these characteristics show God has blessed us, that He is with us, that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. It shows us we aren’t alone.
God is with us.
As He has been with His people since Adam and Even and Cain sinned.
Because God is with us, in the same way, He was with the prophets and martyrs and all our examples who have depended on God.
This is where happiness comes from, God who loves us, who has promised us a great reward in heaven, who walks with us know, blessing us in our need. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for this Day:
13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? 15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” 16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Malachi 3:13-17 (NLT2)
The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Ghost.
59 All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily to increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins. Then, when we pass from this life, he will instantly perfect our holiness and will eternally preserve us in it by means of the last two parts of this article.
I know it is part of the Declaration of Independence, but I’ve see too many people try to pursue happiness, and get lost in the frustration, and come to the conclusion that being happy is simply an excecise in futility.
That futility leads to the kinds of sin that the reading from Malachi above talks about. If we are pusuing happiness or pleasure for its own sake, we will never find it. Then we will start to question God, as if somehow He was responsible to make us happy, or at least remove the barriers to happiness.
There is a problem in this that the founding father’s of the United States didn’t see two hundred and fifty years ago. Simply put, happiness should not be the goal, it is not the destination or our reason for living.
Happiness is caused by life being lived in the maner it should be… not by something we do, or something we chase. It happens when we find contentment and peace, a side effect of those two things that cannot be pursued as well.
Luther understood this, as he saw the need to reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. That work, strengthening our ability to trust, to depend on Jesus. It is there, dwelling in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in ours. that our lives set apart to walk with Him, that we find everything we need, including joy. The joy that comes when we realize our lives, as broken sa they appear, are treasured by God. A joy that goes far beyond mere happiness, that sustains us in the midst of every thing… even the hardest trauma.
A joy that passes all understanding, for our hearts and minds are maintained in Jesus, secure and safe.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 418.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
38 And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” TEV Mark 14:38
23 “We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. 24 None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (TEV)
Games, balls, feasts, dress, theatres, are not evil things in their nature, but indifferent, and may be used both well and ill; yet, notwithstanding, these things are dangerous, and to have an affection for them is yet more dangerous. I say then, Philothea, that although it may be lawful to play, to dance, to advice yourself, to be present at moral dramas, and at banquets; yet to be over fond of such things is contrary to devotion, and very offensive and dangerous. It is no sin to do such things, but it is a sin to pursue them to extremes. It is a pity to sow in the garden of our heart such vain and foolish affections, which take up the room of virtuous impressions, and hinder the sap of our souls from nourishing good inclinations.
When my devotional readings harmoniously scream the same message and grab my attention, I tend to want to hide, accosted by a law which seeks to conform us to the image of Christ.
It’s too random to be random, one might say.
As I did my reading this morning, this happened. De Sales’s comments struck a chord, thought I would replace the events with other things. Hobbies, Television, “computer” games, golf, even social media, all these things can be neutral, and even positive. Moments to relax, times to share with friends (Pokemon hunting with 4 or 5 is kinda fun, and other conversations happen ) theses are all beneficial. We could add to that even our religious traditions, music, cultural identity, etc. We in the USA talk about the “pursuit of happiness”, which, divorced of the joy of God’s presence, becomes a demanding idol to pursue.
Any of these can dominate our lives (and some are programmed to!) as they become things we grow in affection for, as we grow fond of, and those feeling turn to desire, desire which enslaves us. Which is when what is permissible become unprofitable, when our desire for these things override our desire to love God, and love our neighbor.
Which sounds all too easy.
For we are like St. Peter, so desiring to follow Christ in the spirit, yet so weak. Affections for things distract us, anxieties cause us to turn away. We deny Christ, we allow our time with Him, and our time working in his kingdom to be minimized. Am I one of His? Hmmm, I will be after I do this. I’ll get back to you after I….
I am not talking about asceticism here, that too has its ability to become an affection, it too can become a form of pietism, and looking after out own self-interest. (think about the idea that those who fast should not show their hunger – but how do you do that without your own pride taking control?)
I am talking about realizing the presence of God, in our lives. I am talking about depending on Him, asking the Spirit to mold us as He would. To see others needs before our own, because God puts us in the place we are, not for our benefit, but that they would be reconciled to Him, that they would be cared for, that they would realize they are loved.
The only way to see these things put in their proper place, is to find Christ’s love so incredible, that it draws our attention. To become so enamored, so wanting to know His love, that all else fades, and is dropped asidee.
This isn’t easy…. for it means shedding those things we are overly attracted to…. to allow God to break their hold on us.
Lord have mercy on us! Help us to have no greater desire that to know your presence, and then to minister at Your side to those you bring into our life. AMEN!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.