Summary: “God wants me to be happy?” We often hear that phrase in our day, usually as an excuse for some kind of behavior that the individual knows is wrong. But is that true?
“In The Pursuit of Happiness”
“God wants me to be happy?” We often hear that phrase in our day, usually as an excuse for some kind of behavior that the individual knows is wrong. But is that true? Is that the be all and end all; that God wants you to be happy?
It seems that many if not most Americans have bought into the Wall Street version of happiness and are pursuing it with a vengeance. We see this ideal set forth in the 2006 blockbuster “Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith. This movie is based on the real life story of Chris Gardner and is the record of his epic journey from rags to riches. In the minds of many Americans, the “pursuit of happiness” is unconsciously equated with the pursuit of wealth and security.
That pursuit of wealth and security has even found its way into theology in our day - this “happiness theology” is often called the Prosperity Gospel. This theology (if we can call it that) this stitched together, homegrown theology is not clearly defined but is centered on the insistence that God’s top priority is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime and is advanced by proponents such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Joel Ostten. It has been defined specifically by the teaching that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth.” “Of the four biggest mega churches in this country, three – Osteen’s, Lakewood Church in Houston; T.D. Jakes , Potter’s House in Dallas and Creflo Dollar’s, World Changer’s Church near Atlanta, are Prosperity or at least Prosperity Lite churches.” [David Van Biema & Jeff Chu. “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” Time. Sunday, Sept 10, 2006, www.time.com/time/magazine/article /0,9171,1533448, 00. html.]
But perhaps of the most concern to us today is that it seems to be a portrayal of the church in America’s headlong rush into materialism. I like Rich Warren’s response, “One should not measure their self-worth, by their net worth.”
• Sermon on the Mount
Chapter five of Matthew’s gospel begins what is known as “The Sermon on the Mount” and it will run through the end of chapter seven. I believe that all of this was one sermon delivered by the Lord at one time. But in order for us to digest it’s truths we are going to spend the next several weeks examining it piece by piece. The Sermon the Mount is probably the best known part of the teaching of Jesus, although it may be argued that it is the least understood and certainly the least applied.
What we have in Matthew was probably part of a longer message or was the summary of a much longer message. The Sermon on the Mount in our English bibles can be read in about ten minutes, it can hardly be assumed that the crowd that Matthew talks about have walked all the way into this secluded wilderness only to hear a ten minute message from Jesus and leave. (Although many present day Baptist would be fine with a ten minute message. But don’t get your hopes up.)It is more likely that this is a sample of the message that Jesus often delivered to his listeners.
John the Baptist’s death ended the Old Testament and the New Testament begins with the ministry of Jesus. The Old Testament ended with warning of a curse, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children; And the heart of the children to the fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6) Yet the first sermon of the New Testament opens with the promise of a blessing. The Old Testament demonstrated man’s need of salvation and the New Testament message offers the Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ. [John MacArthur. “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7.” (Chicago; Moody, 1985) p.132]
• The Beatitudes
The first seven verses of chapter five constitute what is known as “The Beatitudes.” These do not describe eight different types of people but an abiding and progressive condition in one person in eight different experiences. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out three important points when studying the Beatitudes;
• They are a description of what every Christian is meant to be.
The “blessings” can be described as “be” attitudes, - the attitudes we should “be.” These are not meant as descriptions of some exceptional Christians or a few super-spiritual Christians, all Christians are meant to exemplify these characteristics.
• All Christians are meant to manifest all of these characteristics. It is not a list you get to choose from, every Christian is meant to be all of them.
• None of these come naturally.
Each one of them is produced by grace alone as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. [D. Martyn Lloyd Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount . (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pub., 1984) pp. 33-35]