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Part 4: We Pursue Happiness - the Christ-Centered Life

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Your greatest happiness, the happiness your heart longs for every day, can only be found in Jesus Christ. He is the satisfaction you were made for.

Scripture: Philippians 3:7-14  Matthew 13:44

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Every one of us has longings and yearnings deep within our soul

            -there is something we want – something we desire – something that we are driven to pursue
            -If I would ask you what you are after in life, what would you say it is?
I think what we are really after is happiness
            -we have a desire for happiness that wants to be satisfied
            -we want to be happy
            -whatever we choose, whatever we do, seems to be motivated by our desire for happiness
            -whether we do right things or wrong things, whether we do good or bad, we have the same motivation
            -deep down, we long for happiness – we long for satisfaction
Pascal – “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all
                     tend to this end.”
            -what he is saying is that whatever you do is always motivated by your desire for happiness
            -if you look deep within your heart, you will see that what you really want is to be happy
So what do we do with this?
            -one standard response, often by Christians and non-Christians, is to get over your desire for happy
            -they say you need to forget about happiness and instead do the right thing
            -they say that you should be driven by morality, not happiness
            -that if you go after happiness, you will end up doing the wrong thing
                     -so forget about happiness - trying to be happy will lead you astray
But yet there is no getting around this fact – we all seek happiness
For many years, I missed the role that God intends our desire for happiness to have in our lives
            -I thought that God was kind of frustrated by our desire for happiness
            -as if Jesus calls us to himself, but usually loses out because we desire happiness more than him
            -as if God created us but then by some accident this desire for happiness slipped in somehow and works
                     against God’s purposes
                     -as if God is up in heaven wondering “Well how did that ever happen?”
But this view gave God so little credit
            -If we all desire happiness, why do you think this is?
                        -If we all desire happiness, who do you think created that desire within us?
            -our longing for happiness is inside of us because God put it there
            -God’s plan is that our desire for happiness will lead us to him
                        -since only God himself can satisfy the longing he placed within us
So the problem is not that we seek our happiness – that is a given – God has given us this desire
            -the problem is that we try to find our happiness and satisfaction outside of him
            -we run after other things that we think will make us happy
                        -but these other things can never satisfy our deep desire for happiness
            -they tempt us by promising that they will make us happy, but they can’t deliver
            -their promise of happiness is a lie
            -temptation’s only hope is in deceiving you – because they can never truly make you happy
            -you have been created by God – and you have been created for God
            -in fact, God cares more about your happiness than you do
What we will see is that in the Bible, God doesn’t push us away from happiness
            -instead he calls us to Jesus as the only source of our greatest happiness
 This is one of the discoveries that has radically transformed my life - grateful
            -I am not alone, this message of happiness is a core conviction of our church
            -6 weeks on 6 Core Values of our church – core convictions that we love and cherish
            -Core Value #4 – We Pursue Happiness – The Christ-centered Life
Now with our other Core Values, almost anyone could read them and think, “Yeah, that sounds about right”
            -but this one may catch you off guard – you may hear it and think, “That can’t be right”
            -when we first hear it, it doesn’t seem right
This is our Core Value which needs the most careful clarification
            -because you could look at this one and easily misconstrue what we are saying
I want to make one crucial, essential clarification right at the beginning
            -Here it is – Our greatest happiness is not from God, but in God
            -our greatest happiness is not that God gives us things that make us happy
            -as if God is like a genie that gives us what we want and fixes our problems whenever we are in a bind
            -God does not just give us things that make us happy
                     -he himself is our greatest happiness
            -our greatest happiness comes in knowing Jesus - in loving him, in obeying him, in worshipping him
Let me give you an example
Suppose you had a rich uncle – a rich uncle who gave you a lot of stuff
            -he gives you great gifts – he gives you whatever you want
            -he sends you a hefty check every month to make sure that you can afford whatever you want
            -but you don’t like being with this uncle
                        -he’s boring and he’s boorish
            -you don’t like being with him at all
            -you have to spend at least a little bit of time with him to keep the stuff coming – but you dread the time
Contrast that rich uncle with my wife
            -I love my wife dearly – the older I get the more I love to spend time with her
            -I delight to be with her because I know her, I treasure her, I delight in her
            -now if you are looking strictly at dollars and cents, I don’t get much from my wife
            -she contributes a ton to our family –but that doesn’t come across if you’re looking at accounting figures
                        -Korinda has not earned a paycheck in 15 ½ years
Yet who brings me more happiness? The hypothetical rich uncle or my wife? No question, is it
This is what I mean when I say that our happiness does not come from Jesus, but is found in Jesus
            -we don’t use him to get other things that make us happy
            -knowing Jesus is our greatest happiness
            -the greatest joy you can ever experience is in knowing Jesus and loving Jesus
            -He is your greatest joy
                     -your greatest joy doesn’t come from Jesus but is found in Jesus
1. Our Happiness is Important to God
What I want us to see here is that in the Bible, God speaks about our happiness a lot
            -he doesn’t talk in the language of moral duty
            -instead, he points us to our greatest happiness and joy, which can only be found in him
Psalm 36:7-9 - How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow

of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
Psalm 92:4 - For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 73:25-26 - Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
                     26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 43:4 - Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy
Psalm 16:4a, 11 - The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; . . . . You make known to me
                     the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
            -God is not against pleasure – he is for our real pleasure – “full joy” “pleasures forevermore”
            -he wants to protect us from things that rob us of pleasure and joy
Isaiah 61:7c – They shall have everlasting joy.
God describes his message as a message of happiness
Isaiah 52:7 - How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes
                     peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God

reigns.”
We see this good news come to the earth in the person of Jesus - angel announces Jesus’ birth to the shepherds
Luke 2:10 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be
                     for all the people.”
Jesus spoke about the happiness and joy his coming brings to all who believe in him
John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it
                     abundantly.”

John 15:11 - “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
When we come to believe in Jesus, we are filled with joy
1 Peter 1:8b - You believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
God is not indifferent to our happiness and joy
            -in fact, God commands us to be joyful
Psalm 32:11 - Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 37:4a – Delight yourself in the LORD.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
            -these are not suggestions – these are commands from God
Now maybe you are thinking that this works as long as everything is going ok for you
            -but what happens if you go through some rough times – suffering
            -then you can’t be expected to be rejoice
Matthew 5:11-12 -  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil
                     against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
James 1:2 - Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
Suffering cannot extinguish the joy of the believer, because our suffering cannot separate us from Jesus
                     -God even uses suffering for our good
                     -God uses suffering in your life to increase your joy and satisfaction in him
Now the Bible does speak about self-sacrifice and laying down our lives
            -Jesus himself said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily
                     and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
            -but this does not mean that we must give up any hope of happiness
                        -instead it is the exact opposite
            -living a life of self-sacrificial love, laying down our lives for Jesus and for others IS the path to joy
            -we see this most clearly in Jesus himself
Hebrews 12:2a - Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before
                     him endured the cross.
When you start to look for it, you will see this idea that God cares deeply about our happiness is everywhere in
                     the Bible
2. The Gospel of Jesus Makes Us Eternally Happy
The Gospel – the message of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ
            -the message of Jesus coming to the earth, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead
            -because of the message of the gospel, you must believe in Jesus
            -when we do, this message fills us with unimaginable happiness
                     -and what Jesus accomplished has secured our happiness forever
Think about what changed when Jesus came to the earth
            -all throughout human history, death reigned over human existence
            -the Bible tells us that sin leads to death
            -so when Adam turned against God in rebellion, death gained the upper hand
            -we have all been under the sentence of death because of our sin and rebellion against God
            -this means that we had absolutely no hope
            -we were under the judgment of God and there was nothing we could do about it
            -our end appeared sure and certain
Then Jesus came to the earth
            -but it looked as if death got the upper hand once again
            -Jesus was falsely accused – he was convicted in a quick and speedy trial that was a mockery of justice
            -and he was killed on a cross and buried
            -even though we may have hoped that Jesus would be able to do something for us, our hope was
                     squashed
            -once again, death looked unstoppable and triumphant – it even overpowered Jesus
But then Jesus Christ rose from the dead (hover)
            -in the blink of an eye everything changed – God raised Jesus from the dead
            -once God raised Jesus from the dead, we see that the cross was not another victory of death
                        -the cross is where Jesus defeated and overcame death once and for all
J.R.R. Tolkein – Jesus’ rising from the dead is “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy
                     that brings tears” (quoted in Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ, 64)
This is exactly the response that Jesus told his disciples they would have the night before his crucifixion
John 16:20, 22 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be

sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. . . . So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoiced, and no one will take your joy from you.”
When Jesus rose from the dead, it changed everything
            -throughout all of eternity, we will never get to the bottom of all the Jesus accomplished for us
            -we can be born again to a new life - we can be forgiven of our sins
            -we have been released from our slavery to sin and freed from the judgment of God
            -we get eternal life and heaven for ever and ever
But the greatest news is that because of what Jesus has accomplished, we can be reconciled to God
            -we get Jesus – we get to know and love and worship Jesus
God uses a number of word pictures to descry be the drastic change that has occurred
1. We have been brought into a new kingdom
Colossians 1:13 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his
                     beloved Son.
                     -we have a new king – a just, good, and merciful king – a beautiful king
                                 -he doesn’t treat us as conquered slaves but as sons and daughters
                                 -we will reign with him forever
2. We have been adopted into a new family
Galatians 4:4-6 - But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under

the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
We were in a terrible family – destructive, poor, abusive, dirty
            -we were not just the victims of our family sins – we were also the perpetrators
            -but if you believe in Jesus, God has adopted you into his family
            -he is now your beloved Father
                     -you are made a son – given the full rights and privileges of Jesus himself
3. We have a new husband
            -in Ephesians 5, God makes it clear that human marriage is a picture of Christ and the church
Ephesians 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that

he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
The end, when God brings about his full and complete redemption, it is described as a marriage
Revelation 19:7 - Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and
                     his Bride has made herself ready.
In this picture, you are a poor, dirty, wretched girl – sexually promiscuous, running after evil lovers
            -but then Jesus, the king, takes us and makes us his bride
            -we are united to him in marriage and all that belongs to him is now ours
            -in Jesus, we have a new husband
Isaiah 62:3-5 - You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your

God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Listen to how Jesus described his great love for his people
John 15:9 – As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
This is the love and grace of our God – What could ever fill our hearts with a greater joy and satisfaction?
The good news is that all who believe in Jesus will be with him forever
Revelation 21:3 - And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with
                     man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their

God.
What makes heaven heaven is not the mansions and the streets of gold and the gates of pearl
            -what makes heaven heaven is not all the stuff that is there
            -what makes heaven heaven is that we will be united with Jesus, forever
This, and only this, is the happiness that your heart longs for every day
            -the gospel of Jesus is the only way we can be eternally happy
            -because the gospel of Jesus is the only way we can be reconciled with God
This is why we don’t have to choose between the glory of God and our happiness
            -those are not two separate paths – they are not two opposite options
            -because the gospel of Jesus is the most glorious thing about God
                        -and in the gospel of Jesus we find our greatest happiness
            -Core Value 1 – We seek God, Core Value 4 – We pursue happiness
            -those are one and the same – because our greatest happiness if found in God
3. Going Forward: The Christ-centered Life
This truth, that our greatest happiness is found in Jesus, changes the direction of our lives
Because the greatest goal of our lives is to be united to our Savior Jesus Christ
            -this is how we best glorify God
            -this is the greatest happiness and joy we can ever find
            -finding our greatest happiness in Jesus is the way that we can glorify God and enjoy him forever
            -this is what you were made for
            -this, and this alone, is the satisfaction that your soul has longed for all of your life
This means that growing in our faith is the most important thing we can do
            -for many reasons – 1. It pleases God, and 2. It brings us greater and greater happiness
            -sanctification – process of becoming holy, becoming more like Jesus
            -but we don’t see this rightly if we think it means becoming better at keeping some impersonal list of
                     rules
            -sanctification is about knowing Jesus and growing closer to him
            -God’s commands are a way that he directs us towards greater life in him
            -God’s commands are a reflection of his character and ways which he invites us towards
            -keeping God’s commands are how we grow in our love and relationship with Jesus
            -Do you see that? The goal is not some impersonal checklist
                     -the goal is to know a person, knowing Jesus
This means that wage war on sin in our life and battle to put it to death
            -sin gains power in your life by promising happiness
                        -it is a lie – it is a deception – but it tempts you by telling you that if you give in to this sin, it will
                     make you happy
            -seeing Jesus as the only source of your true happiness frees you from falling for the lies of sin
If you are indifferent to Jesus, if your heart is unmoved by Jesus, you are tremendously vulnerable to lies
            -because your heart longs for happiness – if you don’t find it in Jesus, you will look for it elsewhere
            -the sad part is that you will look for it in places that lead to sorrow and death
Romans 8:13 - For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds
                     of the body, you will live.
            -sin promises life and happiness, but it is a lie – it will never deliver on its promise – it leads to death
            -but “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will life”
Greatest power to overcome sin comes through finding a greater satisfaction is Jesus
The Christ-centered life means that your active engagement in the church is absolutely essential
            -we will look at this next week – Core Value #5
            -what great harm has been done by the thought that following in Jesus is based only on what you believe
                        -with church involvement as an optional add-on if you get around to it
            -you cannot follow Jesus without being a part of his church
            -on our own, we are weak and vulnerable
                        -on our own, our hearts’ satisfaction in Jesus will grow weak and sin will grow in its allure
            -but Jesus never intends for us to run the race alone
                     -God has brought us together to run the race together
            -the church is God’s primary instrument to keep and grow our satisfaction in Jesus
And lastly, the Christ-centered life means that we give our lives for the mission of God
            -in two weeks – Core Value #6
            -once we have found our greatest satisfaction in Jesus, we want others to find him too
            -we labor and serve for their joy
            -our mission is motivated by a desire to please God and for the joy of others
2 Corinthians 1:24b – We work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
We want our lives to count for the glory of God and the joy of all peoples
Close with verse we opened with
Matthew 13:44 – The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.
                     Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Believing in Jesus isn’t simply believing some factual truths
            -believing Jesus is discovering a treasure – a treasure greater than anything we could ever imagine
            -because of what God has done, we can know Jesus
            -knowing him is what we were made for
This is why here at Sovereign Hope, we want to pursue our happiness with all our heart and soul
            -because our greatest happiness is found in loving Jesus and being loved by him
            -we don’t want to waste our lives on lessor things – we want to know Jesus
            -we want to know Jesus and find our deepest satisfaction in him

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