#2 The Myth That One Must Choose Either Joy Or Obedience.
“9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.“
~ Colossians 1:9-14
It is a soul shriveling myth that says one must choose between being happy or obeying God’s will.
Is Christianity truly a decision to either make yourself or God happy? Is Christianity a lifetime of gritting your teeth, frowning, and obeying rules you chafe under until you *hopefully* (cross those fingers and knock on wood) die in God’s good graces and receive your reward?
Maybe that is how you feel.
Maybe you found yourself in a legalistic or even spiritually abusive church.
Or, maybe you read Jonathan Edward’s “gods in the hands of an angry sinner” or was it “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”? Hard to recollect, really. There was just so much going on in High School, not the least of which might be called osmosis: the developing of worldview by proxy.
All this to say: maybe.
Maybe Christianity is just an excuse for sour pusses to intrude on other’s lives.
But then again, maybe you have watched “Foot Loose” too many times. You may have even watched the remake, which may be a sin, but far be it from me to tell you how to live.
However, do be honest: If John Lithgow were preaching, you’d show up Sunday morning.
Any who, maybe you’ve developed your view of Christianity from reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”.
Maybe we are making some of the more important decisions about eternity based upon gut feelings caused by impressions made by the most grotesque of caricatures?
Can one obey God and be happy at the same time? Or, does following God automatically equal perma doldrum?
I happen to be a Christian, and I’m a happy fellow. Do you know when I’m not happy? When I eat a salad. But the food shamers guilt me into it with all their talk about “eating clean” and sugary cereal causing cancer. Yes, it won’t be long before you’ll get the same side eye for handing your kid a box of fruit loops as you would for handing your kid a carton of Virginia Slims.
Now, now, I’m all for eating in a healthy fashion, especially in theory, but it is liberating to know that my religion sorted out the “unclean” food stigma with the Apostle Peter back in Acts 10.
No matter though, there aren’t any plans to produce a movie about a tyrannical personal trainer who leads a witch hunt against idealistic hot dog loving students.
That sort of thing is reserved for the Church and her shepherds.
While I’m flattered to play the part of the foil, I do wonder if truth is the casualty.
Speaking of food shaming, perhaps I could share a dilemma I once wrestled with?
I love the Kit-Kat bar and the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup equally.
Yes, I like mass produced chocolate.
Oh? Your friend with the mass com degree opened up an artisanal chocolate stand on the corner? I’m not living until I try it, so I simply must travel over land and sea to try it, you say?
He carves each chocolate by hand, you say?
He traveled to South America and met with the cocoa growers to insure justice, you say?
No thanks, I like my populist chocolate. Chocolate to the people, I say.
The Kit-Kat Bar is crunchy.
The Reeses is peanut-buttery.
And whenever I have one, I think of the other. Such is life.
As a child a Halloween basket with both would have froze me with indecision.
The child grew into a man with a paycheck and now buys both. Problem solved.
The Kit-Kat and Peanut Butter Cup live in harmony, in my tummy.
Que the food shaming.
The text says that growing in the knowledge of God’s will, and walking worthy of God and joy are all results of being transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His Beloved Son.
They’re the same. They can’t be divided. It’s not either or. Stop thinking in these “Can’t have your cake and eat it too” terms. Stop thinking in these “I can’t have joy and obey God at the same time” terms.
That isn’t the Gospel.
The Gospel says the grace of God fundamentally changes the source of joy so that you no longer get your joy from sin but rather from walking with Jesus!
That news releases you from the grey, dingy overcast burden of the either/or dichotomy many slave under.
Do yourself a favor: don’t shoot yourself in foot by believing the lie that you must either find joy in satisfying sinful desires or satisfying God’s will. The Gospel isn’t God will like you if you choose Him over yourself. The Gospel is: God Loved you so much He chose you over His Son.
The Gospel is that God changes what makes you Joyful. The Gospel is that God changes what makes you tick by redemption and the forgiveness of sins v.14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And all this by the blood of the Cross of Christ. (Colossians 1:20)