Because I’m happy!

What is truth?

 – John 18.38

A few weeks ago I was home and my mom introduced me to a song that apparently the entire world already knew except for me, “Happy” by Pharrell.  Ironically, the pastor at their church spoke to the theology and cultural tendencies revealed in just one short sentence of the chorus the very next morning.

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Happiness is the truth.

What does that even mean?  The next two phrases characterize beautifully the prevalent values in our culture:  individualism and tolerance.  “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you” and “clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”.  I am not going to make you clap along, but you are welcome to join in if you want to.  It’s totally up to you.  And we all have our own definition of happiness and consequently truth, so clap along if you have figured it out for yourself!

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

 – John 8.31-32

When Jesus spoke of the truth, He spoke of an absolute truth.  It is not different for me than it is for you.  It is how He defines it and it only sets us free if we know it as He teaches it.  When we know Him, and the truth that He teaches – only then can we hear His voice:

“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

 – John 18.37

Does Jesus’ truth of the Gospel make us happy?  Absolutely.  There is no greater pleasure on this Earth or in eternity than knowing and experiencing God.  But happiness is most certainly not the truth.  Happiness is a temporary consequence of knowing the truth.  But happiness ebbs and flows, and even though it is written in our declaration of independence that we are all free unto life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, happiness in and of itself provides us with nothing.  And life is not completed or defined by happiness.

Otherwise, how do we reconcile believers who remained joyful and strong during the Holocaust like Corrie Ten Boom?  What about the church for her first 380 years who existed as persecuted, hated, murdered and scattered – but went from a handful of people to the predominant religion of the world?  What about the faithful generation through both of the World Wars or the Great Depression?

What about this brave Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death by hanging because she will not renounce her faith and turn to Islam:

Christian-woman

Do you think she is happy right now?  Perhaps she has the joy of the apostles who were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5.41), but I doubt that she has a happiness that will clap along with this very catchy tune.  

There is only one truth, and it is not happiness.  In fact, it is centered in grasping reality and understanding our own sinfulness and the consequence of that sinfulness.  That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, and “those who mourn” (Matt 5.3-4).  Not because Jesus wants us to be gloomy and depressed, but because we can never truly be happy or joyful until we realize the depth of our wickedness, the height of His goodness, the breadth of His mercy and the weight of our forgiveness.  When we understand our sinfulness, we will mourn.  When we sin after having been forgiven, we realize that we are indeed poor in Spirit.  It is only then that we can rely on and trust in God through Jesus.

Jesus is the Truth.  He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14.6)!  And when we know Him, He sets us free.

So go ahead.  Clap along.  If you know that Jesus Christ has set you free from the bondage of sin and death.  He has forgiven you of your sins by paying your punishment and raising again.  But please remember.  Happiness is not the truth.  And Truth is not relative.  Truth is Jesus Christ.  And there will be times that you and I are not happy, but there is joy unspeakable and full of glory even through the trials and tribulations (1 Peter 1.8).

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