Holiness Over Happiness

(1 Peter 1:16)

What is God’s plan and purpose for you? For each of us? For His Church? If you listen to many sermons today the undeniable conclusion would be that more than anything else God desires our happiness. Unfortunately that has led to many false doctrines and teachings as well as broken and destroyed lives, relationships, families and more.

Nowhere in Scripture will you find that God simply wants us to be happy.  Now before you stop reading and lose your religion with your choice of words for me, let me say…God certainly wants us to be happy. It’s just that it’s not His top priority for us and He knows happiness done our way ultimately brings ruin. He desires us to know happiness…His way. He, being The Author and Creator, knows that we live in a fallen world and in our injured and sinful flesh; happiness can be easily found in the moment in both those settings (world and flesh) only to end in devastation and destruction.

Also, happiness is closely tied to blessing. However, as we take a closer look at this concept of blessing and happiness, we find that these are always tied to obedience and/or the state of the heart (see Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12; also see John 13:17 and 14:15).  This means that happiness in Scripture is much more about the consequences of our lives, actions and hearts than simply circumstances being what we want and us getting what we want. 

With that said, let’s look back at the opening Scripture and find out what God is calling and commanding us to do and be…HOLY!  We are created in His image and in no way can we mirror that image apart from Christ. Any “happiness” separated from Christ and His Spirit in our lives is fleeting and circumstantial and will ultimately lead to our ruin. Only in the holiness that Christ has imparted and imputed to us can we find and know who we are created to be…and experience joy and happiness that’s real and lasting.

God’s desire for you above everything else is for you to be holy. Real happiness and joy is a byproduct of holiness…while at times worldly happiness may be the farthest thing from your being holy and choosing His righteousness. With this in mind we’ll explore how we should interpret Scripture from the Kingdom perspective of Holiness rather than the worldly and fleshly perspective of happiness (the latter being the case in so many churches and teachings today).

As believers in Christ we should always seek His Kingdom perspective above all else as we are commanded to do in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His Kingdom and righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.” What are all these other things? What The Lord knows you have need of…not what you think you need. He loves us way too much to give us what our selfish hearts desire because He knows our own “needs” (usually just selfish desires justified by calling them “needs”) will ultimately destroy us.

As we look at several Scriptures keep this in mind…it’s OK for us to have things in this world but when we claim that we’re seeking The Lord and His Kingdom while deceiving ourselves, we will never find the peace, contentment and joy that comes from seeking Him and His Kingdom. We may find momentary happiness but it will never last. The only true joy (happiness) that lasts is found in His presence and perfect provision as we become holy in Christ.

There are 2 questions that are asked over and over in our book, “The Authority of Love, 2nd Edition,” which essentially compels us to determine whether or not we are living in God’s Truth, i.e., seeking to be Holy or just happy?

Everyone of us has a Lord or lord…1) Who’s your Lord or lord? 2) What does your life say about who you are a disciple of?

This is laid out very poignantly in the following quote…

“Love for God competes in our hearts with love of self (remember love of self is rooted in the enemy’s deception from the beginning). Love for God battles with our craving for the love of others. Material things and physical experiences command our affections and our motivations…

I find that most of the things that lay claim to my heart and battle for the position that only love for God should have are not evil in and of themselves…But here’s the thing you and I need to remember, what the battle for the love of our hearts is all about: a desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing (who’s your Lord or lord?). When good things become controlling, they command the affection of our hearts and then shape our words and behavior. When this happens, they take the place in our hearts that only God should have.

You see, we are always placing the love of our hearts on something (you have a Lord or lord), and it is important to remember that there are only two places where we can invest that life-shaping love–on the Creator or on the creation. It’s not wrong to love God’s glorious creation, but it’s a spiritual disaster to be ruled by that love.” (parenthesis mine)

Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies

This is the essence of Lordship and discipleship and why we must know who our Lord or lord is and whose disciple we are. Apart from Christ we have no hope of being holy, which is what we are called to be and what He has made us by His grace. Also, those who are mature in their faith, walking with Christ as Lord, must be willing to help others do the same (2 Timothy 2:2-6).

Let me ask you one question and suggest something to think about that will likely change completely how you live your life and deal with all that it entails…What are the major problems, sins or issues that you are enslaved to in your life?

Now the suggestion that I know is true in every life but we fail to recognize and therefore do what needs to be done…You first and foremost don’t have a personal problem; a relationship problem; a marriage problem; a parenting problem; a porn problem; drug or alcohol problem or __________ (fill in the blank) problem…

First and foremost, you have a God problem! Every person or couple I meet with, every circumstance or problem presented, in every situation has ultimately always gone back to the real issue that they don’t truly know Christ as Lord and are deceiving themselves (Galatians 6:7-9). They are living for the false idol of happiness first in their life (lives) rather than the holiness that God designed us to live and bestows to us only in Christ.

This is hard to hear but it is the same lie and deception the enemy used through the serpent in Genesis 3:1-5

Do you really know God’s Word/Truth (v. 1…”did God really say”)?

Can you detect the lies and deceptions of the enemy, the world and even your own flesh (v. 4…”you certainly will not die.”)?

Are you drawn in by the lure of “being your own god/lord” (v.5)?

Therein lays the root of every sin, addiction, problem that we have ever had…and the answer is the same for every one of them…Jesus Christ (John 8:31-32; 14:6)! This is the God/god problem and He is the solution to every sin, addiction or issue in your life. Get right with Him and you will be able to handle every other temptation, problem, sin or addiction in your life…and you will be walking in the holiness that He came to give you when you receive Him as Savior…and Lord!

Holiness is found in The Living Word – Christ, and in His written Word – The Bible.  What do you think of when you think of God’s Word?

Let me give you 3 things that may help you both appreciate it and desire it even more than you already do…Here is where you can learn to live out “being holy” even as He is holy.  God’s Word is…

1) The very life that God gives. His Word brings life (Psalm 119:25). Where is your life coming from?

2) The very breath of God that gives that life…2 Timothy 3:16 the word “inspired” in many translations literally means “God-breathed.” His breath is what gives life (Genesis 2:7) therefore His Word is the breath that gives life.

3) The very Word (Logos) of God…the final Word of Truth that should guide every part of our lives and Jesus manifested it by becoming The Word (Logos) in the flesh (John 1:1, 14).

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Why would we look to anyone other than God and His Word for anything in our life? (Psalm 19, emphasis vv. 7-11…notice all the synonyms for His Word) This is how you live a life of holiness and trust Him for the blessings and happiness that are a result of His holiness in and through you.

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s)

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article and ask The Holy Spirit to teach you.
  2. Honestly assess and list the things that you look to for happiness. Where does this rank in your life compared to holiness?
  3. How do you see holiness in your life and how are you pursuing this holiness that Christ has placed in you?
  4. If you haven’t surrendered to Christ as your Savior and Lord seek out someone (contact us at L&L) to find out more so you can “be holy” as He is holy.  You won’t regret it!