This week, we looked at the Beatitudes and what it means to live a life that is “blessed” or happy. Just over a week ago, a video of the wife of a prominent preacher went viral. She said that the purpose of worshiping and obeying God is to make us happy, which is what pleases God most, so we should obey and worship, not for God but for ourselves. The church was up in arms. But while she was certainly off in her thinking, behind the confusion was a kernel of truth.
It is true that God doesn’t need anything from us; we’re not doing Him any favors by obeying and worshiping Him (Acts 17:24-25). More to the point, God not only wants us happy in our worship of Him, He expects it. John Piper likes to say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” meaning we glorify God most in worship and service when we are happy. John MacArthur has even said “God is in the business of making our lives full of joy, full of gladness, full of happiness.” God wants us to be happy. Jesus makes that clear when He says “Blessed are” these Beatitudists (not a real word). Another way to say it is, “Happy are” they.
God wants us to be happy! The Bible is clear on that point. Where the prosperity preachers get it wrong is they say God makes us happy by giving us things we want. The Beatitudes paint a very different picture, though. The happy ones are those who are poor—or bereft—in their spirits, who mourn over their sins, who hunger and thirst for righteousness they cannot produce in themselves. The Sermon on the Mount introduces an ethic, a way of living and thinking rightly that none of us has ever lived up to completely, but it also calls us to strive for that ethic in our own lives. Jesus alone lived it out perfectly, and He died to make us righteous before God. When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ instead of our own failings.
I used to think that meant only that God the Father sees what Jesus did in His life on earth and how He obeyed perfectly rather than how we have failed to so—and that is true—but it’s more than that. Having been declared righteous by faith, we then start to be changed little-by-little by the Holy Spirit Who comes to live in us, so that we begin to become in fact what we are in position, righteous and obedient followers of Christ. We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but true faith leads us to strive for perfection, to be more like Jesus.
So when God looks at us, yes, He sees the righteousness of Christ and not our own sin, but it’s not just the righteous life Jesus lived on earth that He sees. God also sees the righteousness that is lived out in our own good works that are done in Christ, that mark us as His children. As Piper says, speaking to the Fifth Beatitude (Matt. 5:7) “You’ve got to rely upon the mercy shown to you to enable you to show mercy, so that mercy can be rewarded with mercy in the future.”
It’s pretty heady stuff, but one thing is clear: God desires our happiness, and He is the only One Who can give us true happiness. We only need to trust and believe it, and since we have been given Jesus, the greatest Gift of all, why would we need anything else to make us happy? How could any lesser thing make us happier than we are in Christ? As we are changed more and more into the likeness of Christ by the gospel, we can say, with Him, that we are truly “blessed.”