If you were to ask me to describe myself, I might respond by saying that I am happy. I could also say that I am Michael Seewald, thirty nine, husband to a wonderful woman, father of seven children, and I love my family.
My lovely wife’s name is Guinn, and from oldest to youngest my children are, Benjamin, Jessica, Danielle, Michelle, Ethan, Faith, and Thomas. I am blessed beyond measure to have such a fine family. To support this group I install glass in automobiles. I started out in home construction as a young man and got into auto glass about a decade ago. I am a blue collar guy, and when I work my hands get dirty, I sweat, and I am in great need of a shower when I arrive home in the evening. I put in nearly sixty hours a week to provide for my precious family, and although it takes up most of my time, work is not what makes me happy, though I do like my job.
My family is awesome, but there is something even greater than my wife and children that I live for. I am a happy guy, but it’s not because I have a job I enjoy, or a beautiful family to love.
What is the secret to happiness? It is something we all pursue. We Americans see it as a God given right. Our founding document lists the pursuit of happiness right up there with life and liberty as the most basic of human rights. We are free to pursue it, but how many of us have found it. People search for happiness in a myriad of different ways. Some seek it in money. They think if they just had enough money to do the things they want to, they will be happy. Some seek happiness in people. If they just have great relationships with people that would make them happy. Some seek happiness in power. If they could just get people to do what they want, that would make them happy. Others try to find happiness in pleasure. They recklessly pursue the most pleasurable things hoping that is what they need to be happy.
All of these things may provide a person with temporary joy, but this fleeting intoxication with cheer, always seems to end with a hangover of sorrow. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14) There is nothing more basic to humanity than self love. Eph. 5:29. Because we love ourselves we want to be happy. But true happiness can never be found in selfishness. Selfishness produces offenses, and offenses guilt, and guilt, among other things, generates unhappiness. But where do unselfishness and true happiness intersect? This is a good question. There is only one place where the relentless pursuit of happiness and unselfishness converge. And that, my friends, is only found in a personal relationship with God our maker.
A God to be Feared
But when we read the Bible we see in very short order that God does not think like us. God can be frightening. He cursed the world for Adam’s sin including every one of us. He killed everyone on the planet in a worldwide, catastrophic, deluge except one small family on a boat. He had a man’s whole family killed because he took forbidden booty in the conquest of Canaan. But the problem is not with God. Sin is the problem. God hates sin. God violently hates sin. But if we believe the Bible, we are all sinners, and have broken God’s commandments.
Here is a summary of our misdeeds. We have not worshiped God as he deserves. We have constructed other gods and served them instead. We have taken his name in vain. We do our own pleasure on the day he set aside for his worship. We have dishonored our parents. We have taken what does not rightfully belong to us. We have hated our brother without a cause. We have lusted after others besides our own spouse. We have told lies since we were able to speak. We have coveted that which was another man’s property. In light of this, how is it possible that sinners can find happiness in a God who hates sin? The solution to this dilemma is the theme of the whole Bible.
A Righteous Judge
God also has a dilemma. He is a righteous judge and will not justify the wicked. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15) So, how can God be just while at the same time justifying those who have committed wickedness? We would condemn a court that justifies thieves and murderers. Yet, when it comes to God we think that he will just overlook sin? Not so, my friends. God will bring every work into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) Even our words God will judge. “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36) So, how can a God who delights in mercy, actually show mercy without being an unrighteous judge?
The answer to both of these questions lies in a single word: substitution. God was pleased to carry out his justice on a substitute. He provided someone to take the fall for all of our misdeeds and rebellion. This substitute was typified in the Old Testament sacrifices. The guilty one was to bring an acceptable animal to the tabernacle, and there lay his hand upon the head of the innocent animal, signifying the transfer of guilt. He was then to kill the sacrifice as his substitute and the priests were to cut it up and burn it upon the altar. God would then pardon the guilty on account of his justice being carried out on the innocent one.
The Perfect Substitute
Yet these Old Testament sacrifices were only an object lesson to the true Substitute. God the Son, took to himself a true human body and soul and came to live among us. Though he was Lord of all, he humbled himself to be born of a virgin in a poor family. He grew up as one of us. He identified with us by participating in this world and all of its pains and sorrows. Yet, unlike us, he lived a sinless life, always doing the will of his Father in heaven. God was pleased to carry out his justice for the sins of all who will ever lay their hand of faith upon that sinless head, transferring their guilt to the innocent one, God having punished him in their place. The prophet Isaiah put it this way. “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10,11) The apostle Paul said it like this. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) So God transferred our guilt to Christ, Christ’s righteousness to us, and punished Christ in our stead on the bloody cross. This is the answer to how God can be just while justifying sinners. Look at how Paul sums it up, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:24-26).
God accepted the payment that Christ made and the resurrection of Jesus is proof of that acceptance. All who trust in him alone to atone for their sins now relate to God as their loving, merciful, Father, and no longer as the offended Judge. There is no further payment that can be made to help atone for our sins. Jesus paid it all.
The Secret to True Happiness
So, what is the secret to everlasting happiness? It is finding forgiveness from God in our redeemer, Jesus Christ. How much do you think a person will love someone who gave their life to rescue them from certain destruction? How happy do you suppose a person would be to know that the God who made them desires a personal relationship with them?
God rescued me, a poor, miserable sinner from certain destruction. This is the reason I am a happy guy, and knowing God through Jesus Christ is the source of this joy. Come what may, nothing can take that away from me. David, the man after God’s own heart, knew something about this delight in God. He writes, “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9) [reminder]How about you? Are you truly happy? Have you found perfect peace and happiness in Jesus Christ?[/reminder]