When Are We Truly Ever Happy?

The happiest people I’ve known are also the ones who I’ve watched selflessly serve others.

My Grandma and my wife are two people in my life who exemplify this. They are people pleasers. Now, there are good and bad people pleasers.

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The bad ones want something out of you. But both these ladies are simply happiest when they are making others happy. They just do it to do it. Why?

Jesus, who is the perfect human image of God, fully pleases God, and it delights Jesus to do it, as only one perfect Being can please another. It’s part of the perpetually pleasing back and forth of the members of the Trinity.

As humans, we are made in the image of God, so we have some sense of it, too. That’s why when we please other image bearers, it just makes us happy.

You can only find happiness in either the true image or the image bearer.  You can’t find it in yourself or in an inanimate object, because its something that has to be reflected back at you by another Being.

  • Happy in the True Image: It’s a not-so-vicious circle. We live by God’s good- are happy in it- so we do more of God’s good- and are even happier. And since God is most pleased with us when we love and obey Him, so we are pleased and content, too.
  • And Happy in the Image Bearer: what brings happiness in others, bring happiness in us. And who doesn’t like being around happy people? So when we please others- love your neighbor style- they are happy, and so are we.
So we are designed to do good things. And the degree to which we are able to do those good things- we’re happy when we do it, and less happy when we don’t.

An Un-hypocritical Love

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Law starts with love. Because how did Jesus say we are to do the law? By loving God and neighbor as ourselves.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

“Love must be sincere…” And then Paul continues in the chapter with all these things we should be doing: hating evil, clinging to good, being joyful, patient, blessing those who curse us, etc.

And not just love, but sincere love. If we’re focused on the list, box checking, refrigerator list Christianity, even though they are all things you should be doing: you are practicing hospitality or sharing with those in need…there’s a danger- we may have a secret ulterior motive.

One of our motivations is the hope that we’ll be loved back.

So, in that case, you’re really doing it for yourself. It’s self-love.

  • What can I get out of it?
  • Will people like me more?
  • Will God love me more?

Self love is not sincere love. Sincere means without hypocrisy. And if we’re not sincere, we’re hypocrites. Self love is hypocrisy.

We’re not really doing it because we love others, we’re doing it because we love ourselves.

Check out how we learn to do it the right way, in love, here:

The Wall Between Us

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One thing your going to find in Christian community- and its going to be unexpected- it might be surprising. Your going to find a strange mix, this strange brew of people. People that you normally wouldn’t be hanging out with. Different ages than you, backgrounds, nationalities, family types.

The gospel does that. It takes away all the boundaries and groups that we tend to clump ourselves into and uses the most unlikely people in our lives. And it makes for an unlikely church.

Now, if Christ is your Savior, God has broken down the wall of partition between you and God. A consequence of that, a side effect- is that partitions between people, walls between nationalities and tribes, skin color- rich/ poor, red state/blue state- those walls are also torn down.

Because we should no longer be identifying ourselves like that- those things are no longer most important- where we go for our acceptance. Now- our identity- is supposed to be found only in Christ and in what He accomplished for us. In other words, groups aren’t so important. So we no longer find our worth and accomplishments there.

In Paul’s time- a wall similar to what we see today, separated Jews and Gentiles. We often refer to this in theological terms- but in simple terms, they really just hated each other. Some of them would’ve been fine throwing down at a first century version of Charlottesville.

Here’s what Paul wrote about that- speaking of Christ- he says in Ephesians 2:14:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

Dirty Windshield Effect

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Sometimes during winter, the chemicals on the road put a light film on my windshield. At night, when I am driving on a dark road alone, I really don’t notice it.

But when an oncoming car shines its headlights onto my windshield, that slight, unnoticeable film makes it almost impossible to see. I had no idea that something that potentially blinding was there until it got illuminated.

  • God’s Word is the set of headlights that reveals the junk that keeps us from seeing things as they are. Stuff in front of us, on a collision course even, that we might not have even noticed before.

Psalm 119:105 states:

God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Christian, God is at work, even in your darkest times. But God’s will, the Law He has written in His Word and in our hearts, may become clouded over and difficult for us to see in the middle of it.

Church family helps to hold and aim that lamp as an instrument of God, helping us to see clearly and putting us back on the road. That’s one reason that Life Groups are so important.

  • True change can only be accomplished if we allow the Holy Spirit to rewrite our code with God’s.

Ezekiel 36:26- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

 

Jeremiah 31:33- I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

From Exclusive to Inclusive

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Here are some things we ask our small groups to consider at my church every summer break:

  • Has your group been together for several years? AND
  • Is your group too big?

Answer yes to either of these- and you may be unintentionally hanging the “closed” sign on your front door.

Your “closed” to new members for two reasons:
  1. unofficially: nobody wants to be the new kid on the block OR 
  2. officially: they are simply too big numerically, so there is no room at the inn.
The problem: exclusivity 

The solution: plant a new group

Allow the leader you have trained to lead your group. Then you and one another experienced member leave and plant a new one. It can be the same night, the same place, the same everything- just mostly new members. Then…

Exclusive becomes inclusive:

Yes, people will not want to get out of their comfort zone. But when we don’t, we exclude. And the gospel is never exclusive- in fact, exclusion is the opposite of the gospel.

Christ didn’t die to keep people out- he died to bring them in.

So we make a sacrifice of our own comfort and exclusivity to include those who have not experienced what we have experienced in community. We bring them in.

 

The Politics of the City

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So we have this biblical wisdom- Christian beliefs, theology- based on scripture. And we have a mandate to live them out. Biblical wisdom teaches us what is desirable- and politics is a way we implement it. Biblical wisdom teaches us what ends are desirable. While politics teaches what means are effective. Wisdom is the end- politics are a means to that end.

Now the means doesn’t always justify the end- so biblical wisdom also tells us what means are permissible- not all laws are lawful…scripturally. You can find a clear example in the sanctity of life issue, i.e. abortion and euthanasia. But what about the poor? There are different and perfectly acceptable political means that we can disagree on as ways to try to remedy that.

  • Biblical wisdom is the heart changing, lifelong growing and maturing guidance that comes from scripture and the gospel. It’s bottomless.
  • While politics has a very limited scope. There are only so many ways to apply government, laws and regulations.

But when we take God out of the equation, we’re left with politics alone- and that’s pretty limiting. Trying to use politics alone to make the world a better place is like using an ice pick to sculpt a glacier.

Listen to the whole talk here:
Or here: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-politics-of-the-city/

Sanctuary Cities

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God is so interested in justice, that one of the first things He told Israel to do in their new land was to create sanctuary cities. If someone accidentally killed someone in ancient Israel, they were to flee to one of these cities. There they could find justice. They had some familiar protections: the right to face their accuser, trial by jury, and witnesses. No ransom was allowed either. So there was equality under the law for the poor. If the death was accidental, then the killer was to safely reside in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.

So even manslaughter is sin. In fact, all sin requires blood. And its the job of the blood avenger to get it. In the sanctuary city however, the sinner is safe, but if the offender is found outside the city, the blood avenger has the right to kill you. An avenger is someone who gets something back- as in, I’m gonna get you back for what you did. But if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to run any longer, because the blood of the ultimate High Priest has paid for your sin. He has also gotten something back for you- you’re place with God.

Click the link below to hear the whole talk and learn three things about sanctuary cities: the refuge of the city, the justice of the city and the blood of the city…