Truth is Truth

"You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me." - Psalm 40:11 This is a sometimes monthly column concerning the truth of Christ Jesus and the issues that face our world as published in various newspapers and journals by Pastor Dave Seaford. You can return to the home page of the church by going to:

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Location: Redway, California, United States

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Human Happiness and the Humble Heart

We error incredibly as Christians when we assume happiness and joy are synonymous. No doubt you have heard sermons on the subject and perhaps you can even make some verbal distinctions between the two. But if I were to ask you for a clear pathway to joy as opposed to happiness could you give a concise biblical teaching on the subject? Further could you objectively put your own life to the self tests prescribed by the apostle John and be pleased with the results?

Have you ever considered the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows found in every person’s life? The deviant theology of the Word of Faith movement has taken advantage of these emotional fluctuations and created a powerful following, who long for that “Jesus high” that does not fail. Yet, inevitably the formulas of words prescribed disappoint. In those moments of despair the chant from these Word of Faith teachers has become predictable: “the Faith did not fail you, only your personal faith failed.”

The people that have been sold the Word of Faith bill of goods are often disillusioned, more often hurt and more often than not look for relief in all the wrong places. As a result depression is easy and the seeds of bitterness, anger and defeat are commonly the unsought fruit.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, the British novelist said:

“No man chooses evil because it is evil. He only mistakes it for happiness, which is the good he seeks.”

I believe for the most part she is correct. Other than those suffering with certain kinds of mental disorders and those that have allowed themselves to be subject to demonic works, the desire of most people is not to pursue evil for evil’s sake. While I do not believe in the natural goodness of the human heart (“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” Jer. 17:9), neither do I believe that most people have evil as their stated goal and purpose in life. Evil is much more deceptive than that. People often find themselves doing evil things as a result of 1) pursuing a good end at any cost, or 2) pursuing happiness and finding evil the shortest distance between where they are and the feelings they long for. In this effort they either conveniently ignore the evil or justify it in their minds as a “necessary evil”.

One can even set out in the work of Christian ministry teaching the truths of God’s word with accuracy but find his own actions and personal words defy the very teachings he professes. 1st John calls this person a “liar”. This is perhaps the saddest and most hurtful of all evil. False teachers can eventually be exposed and left to defend themselves in the emptiness of perverse relativism. But, the one who teaches with accuracy and then allows his life to defy his own teachings, finds only cleaver sophistry his ally in defending his divergence. His words eventually ware then, and in their wake we find hurt and destruction. Sadly those hurt often hurt others… and the beat goes on, all in the name of Jesus.

Believers seeking the easiest way to defeat evil were likely the plague that, somewhere between Paul’s commendation of them, and John’s condemnation of them in Revelation 2, caused the Church at Ephesus to fall far short of God’s approval. They stood up against false teacher and did so with persistence and patience. In pursuit of good works, like the Ephesians, we can find it easy to accept the adage that the ends justify the means. We often forget that the results are the Holy Spirit’s work, and that the means we chose are the reflection of our true submission to God’s Word and His Holy Spirit in our lives. Often our efforts to defeat evil are really nothing more than a pursuit of happiness and the means we choose become secondary, if considered at all. In the end, like the church at Ephesus, if we are not attentive we will find that in our good work we have lost our first love.

Where the humble heart finds joy, the hardened heart mistakes evil for the good he seeks. As we work our way through 1st John, we will find those that walk in this darkness (whether false teachers or teachers of truth whose lives defy their words), consistently end in places of evil. Finding themselves there unexpectedly, they will either repent (turn and go the other way) or in a knee jerk reaction, dig in for the fight. Those walking in the light may be hurt by their own actions and embarrassed but are repentant. Those walking in darkness, cover their sins in the cloak of night and find it easier and easier to justify who they are and what they are doing… usually in the name of Jesus.

1st John teaches us to test our own lives against true north. It provides us an acid test of the genuine Christian Faith. It may not be easy to subject ourselves to this standard, but it will result in joy that is lasting where all pursuits to find human happiness fail.