Far More Happiness

A popular quote says people can do what makes them happy OR what glorifies God. This means pleasing God requires a joyless existence serving a selfish demanding task master. While this is true for those living apart from Christ, it is not God’s intention for His born-again children! As one popular song explained, far more life is a great adventure in Christ, a journey more amazing and glorious than our wildest dreams!

Are there times when Christians sin, thinking it will make them happier than actions and attitudes that glorify God? Absolutely! Accepting Christ’s offer to forgive our sins does not guarantee we will never sin. But the Bible describes several important changes that do occur:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27, NIV)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4, NIV)

When we invite Christ into our lives, He makes us a new spiritual creation! Our looks and personalities remain the same. We retain our talents and skills as well as many of our interests. But our desires change from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God. Our motivation changes from making ourselves look good to making God look good. Many things that used to be fun or make us happy now become unpleasant, unfulfilling, or even disgusting. Without Christ, we were seeking significance, acceptance, and belonging, hoping they will fill an internal void. Once Christ fills that void and our foundational needs are met in Him, we discover new desires. We find far more life while using our time, skills, possessions, and money to bless others.

A relationship with Christ not only changes our desires, it also gives us power to change our habits:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  (Colossians 3:5-10, NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Notice we are not instructed to try harder to be good people. God tells us to put off, put on, put to death, rid ourselves, do not, and be because He has given us the power to do those things! Some changes are easy. A friend of mine lost his desire to cuss as soon as he accepted Christ; he did not have to work at cleaning up his language, the curse words were simply gone! But the majority of the time, change takes time and effort. God helps us recognize sinful or unhealthy habits and we have to choose different beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. One example of this in my own life concerns the music I enjoy. Before I started living for Christ, I loved the feelings stirred up by love songs; even when they made me feel lonely, I was hopeful that someday my “prince” would meet my emotional needs. Over time, I recognized some of those songs tempted me to look to a romantic partner instead of God for significance, acceptance, and belonging. As I explored new recording artists, I found that I preferred those who pointed me to deeper spiritual thoughts, eternal perspectives, and truth about God’s character and love. As my beliefs and thoughts changed, so did my listening habits. Far more life recognizes spiritual transformation is a life-long process that leads to increasing happiness.

This verse outlines three ways God’s followers can make Him happy:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

When we embrace far more life and join God in His plans for life, these things make us happy, too. We are happy when we act justly and work toward justice in our society. We are happy when we show mercy and compassion to others. We are happy when we let God be the boss and do what He says is good and right. Injustice, cold-heartedness, and disregard for God and His ways make us sad or unhappy.

When you are following God, you are in sync with His values and desires. Doing what makes you happy brings inner peace and a deeper connection to Him. Far more life is doing what makes you genuinely happy, knowing it is making God happy, too!

Sisters,
Have you believed that only you OR God can be happy? How has that negatively impacted your desire to live for Him?
When you accepted Christ, what void was filled in your heart? How did that change your motivations, desires, and actions?
How has the Spirit empowered you to change? In what area are you currently working to change?
Embrace the fruit of far more life — happiness — as you live for God today!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Facing Forward

Do you identify as a “sinner saved by grace” or a “saint who sins”? It may sound like semantics, but there is a big difference between these mindsets. The one we choose impacts our self-perception, which is critical in our pursuit of far more life.

Biblically speaking, sinners are people who are separated from God and have no relationship with Him. The Bible clearly contrasts them with those who are in good standing with God.

Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things. (Proverbs 13:21, NIV)

All the sinners among my people will die by the sword… (Amos 9:10, NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32, NIV)

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. (John 9:31, NIV)

Separation from God was not His plan for us; He created Adam and Eve to be in fellowship with Him. But when they chose sin, they became sinners and experienced spiritual death. All future humans, including us, were born spiritually dead and separated from God by a sinful nature. So God sent Jesus Christ to redeem sinners and restore the relationship between Himself and people.

…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Those who accept Christ — acknowledging they are incapable of meeting God’s standard of perfection and accepting Christ’s death as payment for their sins — are no longer separated from God. The relationship is reconciled. They become a member of His family, and He makes them into a new and different spiritual person, transforming them from sinner to saint. This is our first taste of far more life!

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. (Colossians 1:13, HCSB)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household. (Ephesians 2:19, NASB)

But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come. (Daniel 7:18, NASB)

Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, GNT)

…Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7, NASB)

Although God has changed us, we are still tempted to look at ourselves in the old way and forfeit far more life. This is tempting because we still sin. We still make wrong choices and have wrong thoughts, every day. We can still be deceived by Satan. And our understanding of God and the systems of this world remains imperfect. The changes God makes are not always obvious; our outward appearance and life circumstances stay the same. So we consider ourselves, our identity, to be the same as it was before accepting Christ.

But our identity was irrevocably changed; we are a new spiritual being that is alive and longing for far more life. We have a new desire: a yearning to grow in righteousness. We also have the ability to say “no” to sins that we felt powerless against in the past. But we also have a new enemy who wants us to continue living in sin and miss far more life. The battle between good and evil can trick us into forgetting that we are a new creation, a saint.

Psychologists tell us that how we view ourselves influences our choices. So if we view ourselves as sinners, we expect ourselves to sin. We also expect to feel empty, defeated, discouraged, fearful and more. But understanding that we have become saints enables us to expect ourselves to live righteously. We also have the power to feel and share love, joy, peace, patience, and other aspects of God’s character. We realize we will not be perfect in our actions, thoughts, or feelings, but we are willing to keep growing in understanding and righteousness. Each step that we take toward righteousness brings the experience of far more life, which increases our desire to keep growing.

Consider this analogy. We can only face one direction at a time, either backwards or forward. When we cling to our old “sinner” identity, we are facing backwards to our life before Christ. We are focused on the bad things we have done and continue to define ourselves by those thoughts and actions. But when we turn toward our new “saint” identity, we are facing our future with Christ. We can focus on the good things we want to do and can define ourselves by His qualities that are growing in our lives. Rather than striving to be less sinful than we used to be, we can strive to be the most righteous we have ever been. Would you rather be facing your future with anticipation or facing your past with regret? I choose the future and hope you do, too!

…This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, GW)

Will you join me in facing forward, saint? Far more life is waiting for us each step of the way!

Sisters,
Are you a sinner, a sinner saved by grace, or a saint who sins?
If you have never acknowledged your separation from God, would you like to do so now? If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask for help at farmorelife@gmail.com. I’m happy to talk with you about it.
Have you missed far more life by facing backward? How?
How have you grown in righteousness by facing forward?
Thank God for the prize — eternal life — waiting for saints in Heaven. And for far more life as we journey toward Him.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso