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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Happiness Dilemma - Part 1

By Justin Edwards

The following is from Chapter 3 of Ray Comfort's God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message. The book answers many questions including:

  • Why do 9 out of 10 children raised in Christian homes leave the Church?
  • Why do many professing Christians show little or no evidence for their faith?
  • Why do 80-90% of those making decisions for Christ fall away from the faith?
I highly recommend this 128-page book to anyone wanting to be sure the gospel they present to the lost is a gospel that has the power to change lives the way God intended.

Due to its length, I have broken the chapter into 4 parts and will post over the next few days.

 ["Problem" People]

As we have seen [in previous chapters], telling people that God has a wonderful plan for their lives isn't being honest about the realities of life. And here is the double tragedy. When the Church declares the message that "Jesus solves problems" or "Jesus provides happiness," it restricts the fields of evangelistic endeavor to those in society who will be interested - those who are unhappy and caught up in their problems.

These "problem" people are not given the message of sin, righteousness, and judgment with the command to repent and flee from the wrath to come. Instead, they are told that Jesus is the answer to their alcohol, drug, marriage, personal, or financial problems, and that He is the one who can fill the God-shaped hole in their lives. Many, therefore, come only to have their problems solved.

However, if they do not repent of their sin (because they haven't been told to), they will have a false conversion (see Mark 4:16-17) and they will not become new creatures in Christ. Though they may call Jesus "Lord," they will continue to "practice lawlessness" (see Matthew 7:23). Consequently, they will bring their sins and their problems into the local church, which has the following unfortunate effects:

  • Wearing out the pastors. Instead of being able to give themselves fully to feeding the flock of God in the capacity of shepherd, pastors find themselves forever counseling those who are only hearers of the Word and not doers.
  • Tying up the laborers (who are already few in number) by having them spend their precious time propping people up, when what these "problem" people really need is repentance. 
  • Hindering the furtherance of the gospel. Probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for unbelievers is what they see as rampant hypocrisy within the Church.
In a publication titled What Do You Want from Life?, the conclusion is drawn that we all want to be happy. Despite the list of things cited - sex, money, friends, fame, love, and so on - the question is posed: Can we be truly and continually happy? The answer provided is, of course, that knowing Jesus produces "ultra happiness...your happiest moment magnified a million times over."

Not many would see that there is anything wrong with this publication. However, the call of the gospel is universal and is not confined to the unhappy, "hurting" world, as it is so often promoted. The gospel is a promise of righteousness, not a promise of happiness, and it therefore may also be offered to those who are enjoying the "pleasures of sin for a season." Prior to my conversion, I was very happy, satisfied, thankful, and joyful. At the age of twenty I was a successful businessman with my own house, a beautiful wife, a car, money, and, being self-employed, the freedom to enjoy it all. I was loving life and living it to the fullest. Therefore, I was not a candidate for the modern gospel, I wasn't hurting in the slightest. I had a wonderful life without Jesus. However, when I was confronted with the biblical gospel and understood that "riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death" (Proverbs 11:4), I saw my need for the Savior.

Let me repeat: Because of the erroneous belief that the chief end of the gospel is man's happiness on earth rather than righteousness, many fail to see its God-given intention. They think the gospel is only for those who lack money, those who are brokenhearted by life's difficulties, those who are the problem people in society. The belief is further perpetuated through popular worship choruses that have splendid melodies, but carry this message: "Heartaches, broken people, ruined lives are why You died on Calvary." How often do we therefore neglect to share the gospel with those whose lives are going well, because we know they won't be interested in the "wonderful plan" message? We may wait for a crisis to come their way - and in fact, secretly hope that it does - so their "heartaches" will then make them receptive to our offer of a better life.

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