Jesus Wants Us To Be Happy
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t give me many warm fuzzies. It doesn’t elicit a “sign me up” response.
Though most wouldn’t admit it, I have a feeling that followers of Jesus think His primary purpose is to make His children happy. At least in America anyway.
Just look around, there doesn’t appear to be much denial of self amongst God’s people. We have it all and expect to have it all. If a believer isn’t affluent and up to date with the latest trendy stuff … surely, Jesus’ blessings aren’t on that person.
When I think about what denying myself is supposed to mean, it’s like my brain goes on “tilt” like a pinball machine. My brain just sort of locks up, freezes, goes numb. What does denial of self look like? How does one know if and when they are denying self?
If I look at myself honestly, after 45 years of salvation I think I actually deny myself less now than when I first begun.
I kind of smile to myself after writing that sentence because I’m pretty sure someone at some point is going to critique me as to what’s wrong with me. The measuring stick will be taken to me and I will come up short … as measured by them.
But the truth is, I’ve applied my own measuring stick to “most … followers of Jesus.” I’ve made myself a measuring stick to others and I can’t even figure out how to measure my own level of self-denial. It’s always easier and self-assuring to focus upon others, isn’t it?
Admittedly, it’s hard to live a life of denial to self in an affluent society. Everything around us screams “eat, drink, and be merry” for you’re not going to die tomorrow. Why not grab the golden ring on the merry-go-round of life? Everybody else is.
So, how are we supposed to determine what denial of self is to look like? If I measure myself, I come up short. When I measure others, they come up short. We all come up short. What is the standard we are to measure against?
It’s Yeshua Himself.
We all know that. We just don’t want to admit it to ourselves. Why? Because once we do we’ll be held accountable. We don’t want to rattle our lives of blissful ignorance.
But maybe we should.
Truth is, God’s people really aren’t all that happy. Outwardly, yes. Inwardly, no. Why is that? Because He didn’t save us to live unto ourselves. He saved us to live for Him. That’s it. That’s our purpose. There, and only there, can we find true fulfillment, happiness.
That’s why we’re an unsettled people always chasing after the next thing, the next experience, the next … anything. We have the best of homes, cars, clothes, jewelry, knickknacks. We have endless pursuits to occupy our time. But at the end of the day, none of it leaves us truly satisfied, truly happy.
So where do we start?
First off, I think we need to accept that there is an inherent cost to a life of self-denial. It isn’t about building bigger barns for our stuff. It’s about living our lives so that we don’t need or want ANY “barns.”
Ouch … I’m preaching to myself!
Consider Luke 12:16-22
“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, TAKE NO THOUGHT FOR YOUR LIVES ….”
Most of us would easily cluck our tongues at this guy. Of course we see the folly of his life. But are we really much different? Sure we’re going to Heaven, but that’s all the more reason to live a life of self-denial now.
I think Luke 9:23 is talking, first and foremost, about dying to self. Whatever that is supposed to look like and however we’re supposed to get there, we have to accept that our Saviour expects us, commands us, to be DEAD TO SELF.
Paul talks about this in a few places.
First off, he sets an example for us to follow. And we’re told to follow him as he followed Yeshua.
I Corinthians 15:31 — “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I DIE DAILY.
Galatians 2:20 - “I AM CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Paul even gives us guidelines as to how to get started.
Colossians 3:1-5 — “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For YE ARE DEAD, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Romans 12:1-2 — “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies A LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
I think, in all actuality, we’re hungering for more people like Paul to model our lives after … just like he did with Yeshua. I’m not saying they aren’t out there. I am saying we’re in need of more. I’m saying … I need to become one of the more that is needed.
While writing this, a song kept coming to mind.
“This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
The saints on every hand are shouting victory
Their songs of sweetest praise
Drift back from heaven's shore
And I can't feel at home In this world anymore
Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home Then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me From heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home In this world anymore”
We’re really not supposed to feel at home (happy) in this world, are we?
Are you ready to sign up? :-)