Qualities of Genuine Happiness, Pt. 6
Study Guide, November 15, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
I was thinking that the kind of signs or Billboards that would really be helpful would be to have like those of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 posted all over the country. Since most people are completely fogged about the essence of real happiness, or totally deceived about how to be genuinely happy in life – how great would it be to have this list of Jesus’ instructions posted all around the highways about how to truly be happy in this life! Like, a family is driving along and their kids are comparing their phones and their tablets to what their friends have, and complaining about the things they do or don’t get to do, and declaring what they think would make them happy…and all of a sudden you look up, and lo and behold, in huge letters are the Beatitudes, Jesus instructions on how to be genuinely happy in life! Wouldn’t that be great?
Well, we are unpacking Jesus instructions in our series on the qualities of genuine happiness. And, first, we were celebrating the great gift of Jesus’ righteousness that He clothes us with that makes us right with God and gives us right standing with God forever. It is the gift of God’s grace to all who call upon Jesus in faith to forgive their sin and to be their personal Savior forever. And then we began to unpack the next Beatitude which instructs us to now pursue or to practice righteousness in the way we follow our Lord and Savior in our day to day lives. So let’s return to that.
By the way, speaking of ‘God’s grace’, would you be surprised to hear that God’s grace comes with instructions? What? Grace comes with instructions? What’s that about? Well, let’s see. Take a look at what Paul says in Titus 2:11-14- “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” NASU
So, embedded in this gift, embedded in God’s grace, are instructions about how to now live out this gift of salvation, or how to now ‘work out’ your salvation…not work for your salvation, for that is God’s gift, but to work it out. It’s like Paul explained to the Philippian believers in Phil 2:12-13- “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” NASU
Now, some words from the Bible Knowledge Commentary would be very helpful at this point, so let’s check that out together. “It is commonly understood that this exhortation relates to the personal salvation of the saints at Philippi. They were told to “work out,” to put into practice in their daily living, what God had worked in them by His Spirit. They were not told to work for their salvation but to work out the salvation God had already given them. Paul told the Philippian saints that God worked in them so that they could do His good pleasure and accomplish His good purpose. Both divine enablement and human responsibility are involved in getting God’s work done. Believers are ‘partners with God’, laboring together with Him. The verb ‘work’ in verse 13 means “energizes” or “provides enablement.” So God makes His own both willing and desirous to do His work.” And remember that ‘willing and desirous’ part, because we’ll come back to that.
But remember this: God works His salvation into us, and then He empowers, and even energizes us and enables us to work out that salvation through us. Plus, we are then like His ‘partners’ in this work that He has planned for us. ‘Partners with God’? Really? Again, feeling significant yet? Yes! We are God’s partners in doing Kingdom work. He worked His salvation into us and now He has works for us to do, and we do them out of the salvation that He already worked into us! We now have the unique opportunity to be ‘righteousness influencers’, to be ‘kingdom difference makers’, and to impact this world for Christ as a ‘partner’, a ‘co-laborer’ in the works of God and for God! How amazing is that?
Now back to that part about God making us both ‘willing and desirous’ to do His works. And in going back to this we have to go back to our Beatitude. So look again at Matt 5:6- “Blessed (Happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” NASU There is a phrase that is often used in relation to different aspects of life where things are just sort of ‘optimal’. They call it ‘being in the zone’. You know what we mean? It’s often used to describe when an athlete is competing at his or her optimal level…or when a musician is lost in the song, playing or singing at their optimal level…or when a craftsman is building with their best talents…or a business person is working according to his or her highest abilities…they are ‘in the zone’…at their optimal level. And not only are each of these competing or composing or crafting or contributing at their optimal level, but they are also experiencing optimal satisfaction as a result of being in this ‘zone’.
Do you know what that zone is in Christian living? The ‘zone’ is the zone of righteousness and godliness. Righteousness and godliness represent this ‘zone’, this optimal level of living life on planet earth. Included, of course, are the aspects of worship and service, but these are all part of being in this ‘zone’ of working out your salvation at the optimal level, using the time and the talents and the treasures of your stewardship for the glory of God and the gain of others, which God then passes that gain also on to you! And as you do this, as you seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness in living out your day by day life, you get into the zone, and into this sense of ‘it is well with my soul’. And this not only satisfies your spirit, but it also creates a hunger and thirst for experiencing that again and again, because nothing satisfies your soul like the practice of righteousness and godliness!
Here’s another way to describe this ‘zone’ of optimal living which creates optimum soul satisfaction. There is one particular passage that describes optimal living beautifully, along with a special description of this ‘zone’ that followers of Christ really want to make as their goal for experiencing day after day. The passage is found in Jude…not the song, ‘Hey Jude’, but the Book of Jude. Actually, there is a verse in the song ‘Hey Jude’ that is surprisingly good advice: “Hey Jude, Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders, For well you know that it’s a fool Who plays it cool By making his world a little colder.” Hey, that’s pretty sensible stuff right there. But the Apostle Jude has the best counsel…or the best instructions for life. Here they are: Jude 17-25- “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” NASU That ought to be on Billboards, too, all across the country! Maybe we should start a ‘Bible in Billboards’ campaign, you know? This would help inform our country what God says about the issues our country faces, right? Bible Billboards! Let’s do it!
But again, Jude gives us one of the clearest descriptions of what righteous living looks like in daily life. And one thing it involves is understanding the times in which we live. We need to be like the ‘Men of Issachar’ who understood the times and knew what they should do. We are living in the last days. And thus, we are to understand that this is now a world living under more and more deception about everything, as ultimately guided by the great Deceiver of mankind. We need to understand that the world is under the pressure of being molded into mockers of godliness, and deniers of truth, and promoters of division, and pushers of intolerance against anything that stands in the way of the Beast system. And the ‘Beast system’ is the Anti-Christ world system that is now being formed and is obsessed with controlling what people believe, controlling how people behave, and trying to make people conform to a world that bows to man instead of to Christ alone. You see, Jude is speaking to our times. And so, in order to live righteously, to live godly, we will have to examine everything by the timeless truths of God’s Word. In fact, here’s an example of what we mean.
The world likes to throw one accusation, in particular, at Christians. And, it’s important to note that they are totally twisting the meaning of the verse, but that doesn’t stop them from doing it. And you probably know where we’re going with this. Whenever any Christian tries to share God’s commands about righteousness and living by Biblical righteousness, the world grabs this verse and throws it as hard as they can at them. Matt 7:1- “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” KJV Actually, I’m always a bit surprised by a couple things: One, is how many people know this verse in the King James Version; and the other is that it shows that people really can memorize Scripture when they want to! (They seem to have that one down pretty good.) But the real point is that Jesus was not talking about not judging…He was talking about not judging according to man’s standards about anything! In fact, He later stressed His expectation that His people only use His standards when it came to judging, and Jesus even commanded them to practice judging everything in life and everyone in life, including themselves, according to His standard. And notice what His standard was…and I’ll go to the New King James Version on this to make it even more clear: John 7:24- “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” NKJV And actually, not many people know about that verse at all! So Jesus commands us to judge, that is, to judge with righteous judgment. And another word for ‘righteous judgment’ is ‘righteousness’. And ‘righteousness’ is defined by the revelation of the Scriptures. So, again, to be faithful to Christ, we are to judge whatever we hear from other’s mouths or even our own heads, we are to judge whatever someone else is doing and what we are doing, and we are to judge whatever is going on around us or within us according to one all-encompassing judgment… ‘righteous judgment’. And, again, righteous judgment is the righteous revelations of God’s Word.
So judging all of life according to the righteousness of God’s Word is one facet of living according to the righteousness of God’s Word. And now we get to the answer of ‘so what again is the zone’ of Christian living? Back to Jude 21 – “…keep yourselves in the love of God…” Note that this is not referring to keeping God loving you…for God loves His children unconditionally. What this is referring to is keeping ourselves in the place or in the center or in the ‘sphere’ of God’s love. It’s making sure that we are keeping ourselves in the place where we are practicing righteous thinking and speaking and living, and guarding against unrighteousness is our thinking and speaking and living, because this is the place where we then experience all that God has for us to experience of His great love for us. Again, it’s like a sphere where His love operates at the optimal level. So when we commit to practicing righteousness and godliness in our daily lives we keep ourselves in that ‘sphere’ where we can optimally experience this love of God. Righteousness is like the ‘miracle grow’ fertilizer for growing all the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and experience! And it’s when we experience this love of God that we are not only energized by God’s love, we even then hunger and thirst more and more for the things that God loves. We experience this love of God that Paul said constrained and controlled his life.
When Paul was in this ‘sphere’ of experiencing God’s love, it was like he was in the ‘zone of Discipleship’! It was the ‘sweet spot’ of life. It was ‘optimal living’, experiencing the height and depth and breadth of God’s love for him. And he didn’t want to leave it, or miss out on the experience of that by going outside of this zone of God’s love. And the key to staying in this ‘zone’ is this: “Blessed (Happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Brothers and Sisters, get in the ‘zone’, stay in the ‘zone’, live in the ‘zone’…and then you will find yourself living your life at its optimal level; for the glory of God, and the gain of others, and yourself.