Psalm 119:1 – The Bible, Holiness, and Happiness

Christianity has recently fallen in the observer’s eye to what is now being called ‘moral therapeutic deism.’  Christian pulpits, Christian books, Christian t-shirts, Christian bumper stickers, etc. have one contemporary message: do better and be happy; or do better to be happy!  Nothing could be more antithetical to the Gospel.  The proof is seen when doing any sort of casual survey of the evangelical landscape: those who are to be indefatigably joyful are thrown and tossed by the winds of circumstance like any other unanchored, unregenerate unbeliever without a certain hope in this world.  Let a bad thing happen to them and they are quite ruined for the day.  There is no real, abiding joy – because the happiness they are taught to seek is shallow and in no way tied to a passion and pursuit of loving obedience or holiness, a holiness that is developed by one’s faithful application of the Bible.  

They are told to be happy, but they are not told why or how to be so – least of all in the midst of suffering.  God, they are told, exists to make them happy irrespective of how they behave.  So long as they try hard to be a good Christian – and what this means is left to individual speculation – they are Christians who can hold their head up high – God certainly does expect anything more.  Much of this is the infiltration of the prosperity Gospel: do good, tell yourself you’re a fine specimen, and seek to be blessed – that is, attend to health, wealth, and happiness.  “Accept Jesus,” they say,”and God will turn your life around,” “you have a problem, accept Jesus: problem solved.”  There is no mention of the condition of the soul, of sin, of repentance, of saving faith in Christ alone because Christ alone is precious – His excellencies to save, or of holiness, the obedience of faith and the food for both: the Word of God.  And this is why there is a famine of daily, abiding joy in the church – the Bible has been replaced with therapy, and holiness based upon the Righteousness and Spirit of Christ set aside for wimpy, whiny unholy moralism.  And they do not know that it is out of a Bible saturated holiness that true happiness is had.

Psalm 119:1 is one of many passages that address this reality: God cares more about our holiness than our happiness, and God has given us His Word that we may be holy even as He commands we be.  The opening verse of 176 dealing with the centrality of God’s Word in the life of His children reads this way: “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!”

That is to say, contrary to many prosperity gospel preachers and to the larger American gospel, “blessed are those who are holy,” and secondly, “who are holy insofar as they walk in the law of the Lord,” which is the means of holiness; for as God is holy, and requires that we be, in His amazing grace He has given us this to believe and behave accordingly: His Word!  Therefore, it is holiness springing up from communion with God that is the seedbed of blessedness, or covenant joyfulness.  To all prosperity preachers and weak-hearted brethren: the Old Testament concept of blessedness belongs to the language of God’s gracious promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 (as well as Deuteronomical blessing – chapter 28 – for obedience to the Mosaic law of God, certainly traced back to the promise to Abraham), a promise extended to all creatures through the faithful obedience of the one man Abraham, and his Offspring.  While the promise was certainly unconditional in that it emanated from the pure grace and mercy of God, yet it contained elements of condition in that those who partake in the promise and belong to God’s family are expected to then walk in a certain way: the way of holiness! No holiness, then no happiness, no blessedness, no true, and abiding joy.

Immovable joy, then, is most fully realized and experienced when one’s way is blameless or holy.  Now this brings us to our Lord Jesus Christ.  His way was not only blameless, as the Bible indicates our way can be, but His way was sinless quite unlike our own.  And as we have seen that the Word of God is God’s gracious provision for such a walk, no one fed upon it more than Jesus who was and is and will always be, Himself, the Word of God (John 1).  And therefore, while He was certainly a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief, and no more so than on the cross of His passion, He was the most joyful man the universe has ever seen, indeed, it was because of the joy set before Him that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).  And therefore, joy is not evidenced by smiles and giggles, or health and wealth, but by a holy treasuring of the value of God that reigns supreme over any inclination to avoid pain and suffering on account of that infinite worth; by a holiness refined in the fires of God’s Word; by a holiness born of a preeminent regard and love for God and His name and glory.

It was because of an abiding joy in God that Christ resisted every temptation, willingly died upon the cross, bore His wrath for us, and was raised and ascended and now reigns, bringing in the kingdom of God.  By the reasoning of Psalm 119:1 –  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord,” – Christ was the most blessed person to have graced the world, and yet, by that same line of reasoning, He was uniquely qualified to become a curse for us in order that we might become blessed and be a blessing to others by our proclamation of Him to the nations.  It is because He has made us new that we now can be holy – and therefore, abidingly happy.  Indeed, He has given His joy to us – God’s joy in God!  

Let us then be anchored in law of the Lord, the Word of God – it is God’s gracious provision to us for us to know Him and imitate Him, to be holy even as He is holy; and let us strive to be holy knowing that this is why He has saved us, to make us like His Son; and let us understand that Christ, sinlessly and seriously holy, was yet supremely and abidingly joyful; let us consider then that while God does desire our joy, the joy He desires is that which is the companion of Word-saturated, God adoring holiness.  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.”

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One Response

  1. …and holy obedience is learned in hardship! Amen to this post! –Lisa http:/www.gracewonder.wordpress.com

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