Welcome to week 3 of the Pursuit of Happiness.
So far we have defined what true happiness is. And we have defined what true freedom is.
And in both cases, the happiness and freedom that the world supplies (especially in America) is practically upside-down from the happiness and freedom that God supplies. For the full scoop, you’ll need to watch those talks online.
But there is one thing that I believe we Americans have right about freedom and happiness that bears repeating.
I said that, at least for the American, our happiness is directly linked to our freedom. We believe that while it may be possible to be free and not be happy. It’s absolutely not possible to be happy if you are not free.
And on this, I said that God is in complete agreement, although in both cases He is talking about a different kind of free and happy than what we are. But even within the biblical understanding of freedom and happiness, it is true that one cannot be truly happy if one is not truly free.
And what I’m going to talk about today is no different, and is maybe even more true than what I just said.
Yes it may be true that one cannot ultimately be happy if one is not free, but they could perhaps be happy at times.
Even more absolute and true is the undeniable fact that one can NEVER be happy on this earth if one is NEVER allowed to LIVE on this earth.
That’s right, once again the founding fathers hit the nail on the head. The other key ingredient required for happiness, and not just in America, is not only freedom, but LIFE itself. And according to Jefferson and all those other signers, LIFE is just as much a God-given right as liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
And so today, we are going to talk about LIFE – because without it you can’t be happy. And even with it, there is again a backward-to-our-thinking kind of way to have the best kind of life possible.
First, let’s talk about simply having life, and specifically human life.
January is Sanctity of Human Life month, and today happens to be Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. All over the country churches will be talking about this…at least I hope. Unfortunately many remain silent on this subject, but I will not.
Why is human life so sacred? Why is it different than the life of a dog or cat or horse or mosquito or amoeba?
You would think the answer is obvious, but unfortunately the prevailing “theory” about how our world and life itself began cannot actually answer that question.
And even more unfortunate is that many believers in that worldview simply don’t believe that human life IS sacred, except, of course, their own human life which is very sacred and entitled to all kinds of things.
Because if our world and everything in it really is the end result of eons of random chance, then human life is not sacred. In fact, it has no worth at all except for my own life because I don’t want to be worm food just yet.
And while I’m at it, I’d much rather that the humanoids that I like and who are like me be around more than some others that I don’t like. After all, isn’t my inconsequential life ultimately about my own self-gratifying pleasure and happiness?
And if other humanoids are standing in the way of my personal gratification, doesn’t it only make sense to remove said humanoids? In fact, I believe the world (at least our world) would be so much better if we just systematically killed off all the humanoids who we don’t like or are inconvenient to our way of living. Because it’s not like there is anything special about human life, and isn’t it the survival of the fittest anyway?
Now I’d imagine you have one of three reactions to that kind of talk.
- You’ve heard this kind of talk before, or you were half asleep, and it really had no effect on you.
- Every ounce of your being believes the exact opposite of this and you are abhorred at the thought and hoping I would stop soon and get to the point.
- You are somewhere in the middle of those two and you know that SOHL is about abortion so you assumed I was talking about that and either are cheering me on or hoping I won’t go further.
Well if you are in the third camp, you are wrong. I was actually referring to Hitler killing off the Jews. The whole basis of his reasoning was rooted in his belief in Darwinian evolution, so he thought he would help out the evolution of man by eliminating the clearly inferior and thus lower on the evolutionary tree Jews. And he succeeded in killing off about 6 million of them.
Quite horrifying I know. To put that into perspective, the population of all of Hampton Roads is less than 2 million. Imagine everyone one in our local area being killed in gas chambers over a few years. Just terrible. Atrocious. Disgusting. Only the insane would suggest that what Hitler did was a good or acceptable thing.
Fortunately this is not something we have to worry about much anymore. At least not in America where right in our DOI we make it clear that life is an inalienable right (meaning not able to be taken away) of all human beings. There will be no genocide here.
Around here we just kill unwanted people off before they are born…by the thousands…every day…in far more horrific ways than gas chambers. Just in America we are up to over 56 million since it became LEGAL (publicly acceptable) in 1973.
But what does it matter? We are all just random collections of molecules that are animated for a time and will later just be part of another life form after we die. If a baby, oh I’m sorry, a fetus (makes it sound less like murder), if a fetus is going to mess up your life then just eliminate it. After all, shouldn’t parenting be planned?
I’ll stop now.
If this kind of talk makes you sick to your stomach, congratulations you are truly human. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what will.
Because everything about what I just said goes completely contrary to what we all know to be true – that human life IS sacred, it IS special, and not to be treated with such contempt. Because we are not just random collections of molecules, we are the uniquely created image bearers of Almighty God!!
Dogs and cats and mosquitos and amoebas cannot claim that. Only man. Only woman. It says it right there in the beginning:
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
And not only that, but in the more detailed account from chapter 2 it says this:
7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
The “breath of life” – the very breath of God breathed into the nostrils of man to become a living being. And that same God does the same for each and every one of us as he “knits us together” in our mother’s womb.
Human life absolutely IS sacred. It is holy – meaning set apart, different from other kinds of life, distinct. It is special because we bear the very image of God. Which is why it comes as no surprise that the enemy of God has gone to great lengths to make ending that life easy and even socially acceptable.
It is more acceptable in our nation to butcher the unborn image bearing gift of God than it is to cause dogs to fight to their death. I’m not saying that is good either, but the same people who are abhorred at bloodied dogs celebrate the mutilation of babies as “freedom of choice.”
And if you think this is anything new, think again. In the first century when Jesus lived and the Bible was being written – they killed off babies at about the same rate. But instead of abortions, which were dangerous and usually caused major problems for the woman and often death, they would just take the newborn and leave it out on the street or put it somewhere so it would be exposed and starved and would just die. It’s called infanticide. This happened ALL THE TIME! And it was socially acceptable!
But guess what happened? The Christians as they started to grow did something crazy – they started picking up these abandoned babies and raising them. And as the faith spread, and especially when the emperor became a Christian, the practice of infanticide finally became outlawed and almost eliminated – why? Because human life was finally seen as sacred because of Christ himself affirmed that human beings are created in the image of God.
Today the battle is a little different. Most people in our nation would be abhorred at the idea of leaving a newborn out to die, so that doesn’t happen often. Now, it’s the same thing, but done before birth as if that somehow changes what is being killed. Well, it doesn’t, and so we as Christians must, and in this church we WILL and we ARE doing something about this.
As you’ve heard me speak before, we are partnering with the local Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater to help save the lives of these babies. A few months ago I went to their annual banquet and committed us to $200/mo to help them open the new clinic in Chesapeake.
- We have several who are currently volunteering with them.
- This month they are our mission spotlight – meaning they will receive the excess of our 10% missions pledge for this month. You can see about that in your bulletin.
- At the end of this month we are doing a LIFEchange campaign where we fill up baby bottles with change.
- In April we are participating in the Walk For Life.
And why are we doing this?
Because human life is sacred, and we like the early church will not stand by as the enemy does all that he can to kill off these precious gifts of God before they ever have a chance to breath.
And we are doing that through the CPC.
To give you an idea of what the CPC is all about, please watch this short video.
As you can see, while our end goal is to save the lives of the babies, it is the mother’s that need our attention. They are not evil people bent on killing their children. They are people just like you and me who find themselves in a difficult – crisis – situation, and even though they know deep down that it is a baby that they must cherish – the world around them and the enemy whispering in their ear tells them to kill it. But there is also a small voice of the Holy Spirit that says “call the Kaim Center” – and some do, and WE are able to help save both the mother and the child. In the past year they were able to save about 1700 babies, 1700 families, and with the opening of the new clinic in Chesapeake that number will only rise. But they need our help to do it, so we will give it. Both financially and with our hands and feet.
If you are interested in volunteering with them, there is a place on the back of the response card where you can indicate that, and we will get back with you on how to do that. If you care about this mission and cannot volunteer, I encourage you to perhaps contribute more financially so we can help them more. Because human life, from the moment of conception, is a gift from God.
Now, we are going to shift gears a bit. You may even call this Part 2 of the sermon.
I’ve just talked at length about why human life is sacred and should not be deprived of anyone – just as the founding fathers suggested – but now I want to talk about the life of those of us allowed to live past birth and grow up and such. After all, there is more to life than just being alive. We don’t want to just survive, we want to thrive, to be happy – right?
Well, that’s what God wants too – (in the definition of happy from week 1 – of course) – in fact, didn’t Jesus say that he “came that we may have life and have it to the full” or “have it abundantly”?
Let’s talk about what that means.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This is part of a larger parable that Jesus is telling that I may preach on another time, but for today I am going to focus on just this one statement: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I quoted from the NIV, but the ESV and others render it: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
And the NLT makes it say: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
What kind of images do these statements conjure up for us? More than likely they are images of monetary, physical, and emotional prosperity or abundance. Plenty of money, good health, and good relationships – a rich and satisfying – i.e. happy – life.
So, the question that always begs is – Is that what Jesus is actually talking about here?
And as is often the case, we can go to the original language to figure it out, because just like in any translation from one language to another, a lot gets lost in translation.
In this verse, the Greek word translated as “LIFE” is “ZOE”, which is actually one of three Greek words for life used in the New Testament.
The three Greek words are:
BIOS – This Greek word refers to the physical life of the body and is where we get the word biology.
PSUCHE – The Greek word here refers to the psychological life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.
ZOE – Here the Greek word refers to the uncreated, eternal life of God, the divine life uniquely possessed by God.
And it is the ZOE life that Jesus is speaking of here.
Most of us generally only think of our life in the BIOS and PSUCHE sense. In one sense, life is simply being alive, breathing, heart beating, and such. And in the other sense life is what we do with our physical life, which involves our thinking, and emotions, our desires, and dreams. It is PSUCHE life that we most often think of when we think of an “abundant life” or “life to the full” or a “rich and satisfying life” – WE think mostly in terms of BIOS and PSUCHE, but Jesus is speaking in terms of ZOE – because ZOE is the kind of life that you can’t get on your own in this earth.
Because Jesus himself is the ZOE.
That’s how John introduces him in his Gospel.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life (ZOE), and that life (ZOE) was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This is the life of the famous John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life (ZOE).
This is the life of the slightly less famous, but arguably the most important statement Jesus ever made in John 14:6 when he claimed: I am the way, the truth, and the life (ZOE). No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is also the life that the small gate and narrow path lead to in Matthew 7.
Matthew 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (ZOE), and only a few find it.
The life that Jesus came to give us in abundance is not the physical BIOS life or the more abstract emotional and mental PSUCHE life – but the eternal ZOE life that can only come from God and is by definition in abundance because it is ETERNAL. BIOS and PSUCHE are temporal. ZOE is the eternal life, the divine life.
Jesus did not come to give us health and wealth, Jesus came that we may have the divine life, the eternal life, and have it in abundance!
Sounds great, doesn’t it!?
But do you know what makes me sad about this?
It makes me sad that in my own heart and mind there is a little bit of disappointment in this knowledge. It’s sad to me because it means that having been a Christian or at least in Christian circles most of my life – the idea of God’s amazing free gift of ABUNDANT ETERNAL life doesn’t immediately impress me. Maybe that’s just me.
Maybe it’s because it’s far off in the distance, and what I want is a good life right now. I want to have plenty of money, good health, and good relationships now. I want an abundant PSUCHE and BIOS life, but Jesus is saying that instead He gives me an abundant ZOE life – eternal life – which of course sounds great, but what does that do for me right here and now?
I know this may sound sacrilegious coming from a Pastor, but I’m just keeping it real, and I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way. We as finite human beings really can’t conceive of eternal life, and so it doesn’t really feel like something very immediately pressing. We are naturally more concerned with our physical and emotional lives in the here and now because that’s where we are every day.
So, don’t feel too bad if the eternal life is hard to grasp. Jesus knew it would be, so he also offers us a good PSUCHE life as well.
In fact, Jesus spoke of the PSUCHE life several times.
It’s in this passage:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (psuche). 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
That sounds nice doesn’t it?
Another notable place is in the Sermon on the Mount:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life (psuche), what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life (psuche) more than food, and the body more than clothes?
I went into depth on this during the last series, you can catch that online if you wish – but the conclusion was that when you seek first the kingdom, all the other things of your PSUCHE life are taken care of – which is why you don’t have to worry. Because your heavenly father cares for you.
Jesus says a similar thing later in Matthew…
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
In this passage, both the words “life” and “soul” are all PSUCHE.
This is a very deep passage that actually has a simple meaning that is a bit convoluted because in the English we use the word “life’ to mean all kinds of things, so let me try to clarify.
For whoever wants to save their life (PSUCHE) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (PSUCHE) for my sake will find it.
This is not necessarily talking about physically dying. If it was the word would be BIOS. To lose your BIOS life means you are physically dead.
We are talking about the PSUCHE life when we say things like – “he lived a good life” or “she wasted her life” – that’s the life Jesus is speaking of here. It’s the LIVED LIFE, not the BIOLOGICAL LIFE. The life of the mind, emotions, and WILL.
And this statement in particular really centers on the human WILL. The life we are trying to save is not our physical life, but our desired life – our hopes and dreams, our plans for the future, the life that I WANT to live – my way.
And Jesus is saying that if you want to hold onto and save your plans for your life, to do things your way, then you will ultimately lose out on the very thing you are trying to obtain.
But if you are willing to give up on those plans, to lose your life for His sake, to give your life to HIM – then you will actually find the PSUCHE life that you didn’t even realize you wanted but is so much better than what you could have done on your own.
The life without worry.
The rest for your soul.
And so much more.
And when you do that you will also find the other secret. The ZOE life is not something that starts after you die and then goes on forever. It begins right now. It’s the very life of Christ – living inside of you. It’s the well of living water. It’s life that supernaturally fills you up to overflowing so that it overshadows and overwhelms your BIOS and PSUCHE life to the point that you are like Paul when he said in Acts 20:24“I consider my life (PSUCHE) worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
His PSUCHE life was only worth nothing to him in COMPARISON the all-surpassing greatness of his ZOE life found in Christ Jesus! He was willing to give up his PSUCHE and his BIOS life because when you fully realize the magnitude of the ZOE life, those things become worthless in comparison.
So, Jesus is saying here that if you wish to keep your own life all to yourself, if you wish to gain the whole world apart from Christ – you will actually lose all of that and your own soul.
But instead, if you lose your life, if you give your life, if you spend your life for Christ, then you will actually not lose anything, but gain everything.
So, the quality of the life you live ultimately depends on how willing you are to give that life away.
It’s like the story told of a plantation slave in the old South who was always happy and singing. No matter what happened to him, his joy was always abounding. One day his master asked him, “What have you got that makes you so happy?”
The slave replied, “I love the Lord Jesus Christ. He has forgiven my sin and put a song in my heart.”
“Well, how do I get what you have?” his master asked.
“You go and put on your best Sunday suit and you come down here and work in the mud with us and you can have it,” came the reply.
“I would never do that,” the owner retorted indignantly as he rode off in a huff.
Some weeks later, the master asked the same question and was given the same answer. A few weeks later, he came a third time and said, “Now be straight with me. What do I have to do to have what you have?”
“Just what I’ve told you the other times,” came the answer.
In desperation, the owner said, “All right, I’ll do it.”
“Now you don’t have to do it,” the slave said. “You only had to be willing.”
WILLING is the key. God will not necessarily ask you to give up anything or do anything, but then again he might. In fact, it’s better if He does, because His plans are always better.
But you have to be willing before He will ask.
And it’s not like He’s asking for more than or even close to what He’s already given to you.
THE LIFE SPENT GIVING
IS THE ONLY LIFE WORTH LIVING
The life spent rather than saved.
The live given away rather than hoarded.
Is the only life truly worth living.
And it’s probably easy to convince yourself that you are willing to do anything for God…until you are asked to do what you are unwilling to do. So, rather than asking yourself what you ARE willing to do. Perhaps you should ask yourself this key question:
WHAT ARE YOU NOT WILLING TO GIVE TO OR DO FOR GOD?
I knew someone once that told me he felt called to be a pastor, but for several years he made no headway. Every door seemed to be shut and most of his efforts just fell short, yet he still felt the call. During one conversation I had with him, he mentioned how one of the roadblocks he was currently facing was that he didn’t have as much time for ministry because he was working extra jobs to pay for his new house. And without me saying anything, he also made it clear that he wasn’t giving up that house. He’d invested too much time and money into it, and his family needed it, etc. etc.
It’s not unlike the story of the rich young ruler who had done all the right things and came and asked Jesus what else he must do to inherit eternal eternal life. Jesus told him to go sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, and then to come follow him. The man walked away saddened and unsaved because Jesus had just asked of him what he was unwilling to give.
Sometimes I wonder if, had the man said “Ok, I’ll do it.” if Jesus had said, “Nevermind, all you had to be was willing.”
Here’s a truth that is worth remembering.
Whenever you say to God, “No, I won’t.”
His rightful reply is, “Neither will I.”
But if you say from your heart to God, “Yes I will” before He even asks.
He says, “That’s great! Now I can show you what the life abundant is really all about!”