What do you go to God for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I went to speak to a financial advisor yesterday who is also a Baptist minister. I assured him I would not hold that against him. Naturally, in the middle of talking about my finances a lot, we talked a lot also about theology. One recommendation he gave me was to listen to a sermon called Ten Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead given in the 1960’s that can be heard here.
I honestly don’t remember what led to this message being recommended, but I did listen to it. The reference comes from Judges 17. In it, a young Levite agrees to serve a family as a priest for ten shekels and a shirt a year and willingly sacrifices that when he gets a chance to be a priest for the tribe of Dan. This young man is an opportunist just going wherever he can get the biggest reward.
Reidhead’s point is that too many times we are doing the same thing. Are we just talking about the liberals who are all about the happiness of man? No. The conservatives do the same thing. A liberal Christianity is often about making you happy in this life. Too often though, a conservative focuses only on happiness in the next life. Both have the same focus, but just in different times.
I remember years ago attending a church and the pastor finished a sermon with a prayer like this. “Lord Jesus. I know I am a sinner, and without you, I cannot get to Heaven. So come in to my heart and be Lord of my life from this day forward. Thank you for my salvation. Amen.”
True, the prayer says we are sinners and calls Jesus Lord, but what is the point in the prayer? Sadly, it’s about going to Heaven. I am honestly at the point where I wish Christians would stop talking about Heaven so much, at least the way that they do. I have even said we talk about the joys of Heaven and God is an afterthought. It’s like saying God’s purpose is to make us happy.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being happy and wanting to be happy. The question is what will make us happy. A Christian should happily serve Jesus because they do it all for the glory of God. In the end, if you do glory in God, you will wind up finding happiness. Too often though, we choose a path and think “This path will make me happy” but if we sacrifice holiness, it will only be a short-term happiness.
This can happen in any number of ways. A person can cheat at the job to get some extra money and it can even be for a good reason, but yet they have sacrificed their soul to some extent. A couple can decide they love each other so much that despite their not being married, why not just have sex anyway? A little here and a little there and it adds up. What are we willing to sell our souls for? Do we really think if we want happiness and we’re Christians that we’re going to find it going against the ways of God?
This becomes a way of using people, and we can often do this. If we are dating, we often want to date someone who makes us happy, and our spouse should want to make us happy and we should find happiness in them, but do we think “How can I make this person happy?” Much of our marriage culture is all about our happiness and that only leads to destruction. Gary Thomas has a book called Sacred Marriage where he asks “What if the purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to make us holy?”
In reality, the Bible does tell us to seek happiness to some extent. When Jesus tells us to sacrifice and give, He also consistently points to some reason for it. He tells us about treasure in Heaven and that we will have the Kingdom. The Ten Commandments say to honor your father and mother so that it might go well for you and you will have a long life on the Earth. Romans 2 praises those who persist in doing good by seeking glory, honor, and immortality. Yes. We are to seek those things.
But why do we seek them?
If we all do it for ourselves, we are empty beings indeed. We do it also for the glory of God. If we come to God just because we want the goodies, you could say in some way we are raping God as it were. We are using Him for what we want and then dispensing with Him when life doesn’t go our way. There is nothing wrong with wanting forgiveness and salvation, but let’s try to remember we do this because we have dishonored a holy God and we don’t want to do that. Too much of our thinking today assumes God owes us something, which is also behind a lot of atheist argumentation with the idea of “How dare God judge person XYZ!”
To get back to what we do in conservative circles, we have made Christianity all about what happens when we die and we say hardly anything about what happens before that. We don’t talk about the kingship of Christ or the glory of God. All we do is pretty much give people “Get out of Hell free” cards. Is it any shock that if that’s all we’re doing there’s not much passion for evangelism? That’s also hardly a loving Father we present. “Come to God so He won’t send you to Hell.” I can’t imagine why it is atheists don’t just flock to that.
This is not to say we avoid teaching about Hell. We should. It is to say we need the positive too. Come to God because He is worth it. Come to God because He truly is goodness and love.
My biggest concern with Reidhead’s message is that yes, we can have a message that focuses too much on the happiness of man, but let’s not go so far as to say that doesn’t matter a bit. God cares about it for He did create Heaven to be a place of joy to remove everything sorrowful from us and He did send His Son to the cross. God cares about our happiness too, but He also knows the best way to bring it about. You will never find true and lasting happiness by going against Him. God’s rules for living are not to hinder our joy, but to enhance it.
It is a fine line. We do not exalt the glory of God by choosing to be miserable, but we also don’t go to God just because we want to be happy only and don’t care about Him. That is like a man doing good for his wife because he wants her to do something to make him happy and he doesn’t really care about her. The great joy is in knowing you did something loving and if you get a blessing from it, even better. If not, you still did what was right. You bettered your own soul.
Where is the balance then? I don’t claim to fully know at this point. Our lives are caught in a state that we don’t really know what is good for us and often run contrary to what we think is good for us. However, I am sure we can never find true happiness apart from God and we can’t find it in using God. One might start with coming to God for less than noble reasons at first, but when we start to grow in Christ, we should think more about His glory and honor and let that be motivation for serving.
At this point, I ask, what about you? What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment and let me know.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)