Does God want us to be happy? That’s a loaded question for many Christians. The church hasn’t given a clear answer on it for over a generation. Yet from beginning to end the Bible gives us a very clear answer, and it’s meant to transform the way we live.
In America I see great churches full of godly, loving people. I rejoice that the Lord has blessed his people here incredibly. In many congregations, the presence of Jesus is awesome—the worship is glorious and the altars are regularly filled with hungry, repentant people. But American Christians have to come to grips with something. If we continue only to drink in blessings and neglect to give them out, we’ll face what happened to the church in Jerusalem.
I come from a long line of preachers that goes back several generations. So I wasn’t surprised when my oldest son, Ashley, wanted to preach as soon he was old enough to form sentences. My dad was visiting when Ashley announced he wanted to preach his first sermon to us. He led us to his room where he’d set up a cardboard box for a pulpit. Dad and I sat on the floor as Ashley launched into a message he called “The Day the Sins Got Out.”
It was the night of the Last Supper, and Jesus was winding down his final conversation with the disciples. Everything he said that evening was with the knowledge he was about to leave them. So he concluded the gathering with an encouraging prayer about things to come: a church that would overcome and be triumphant; a people whose love for each other would be a testimony to the world; a divine power and authority flowing through his followers; and the glory of the Father resting on his people. These were all things Jesus would give to his church through the Holy Spirit.
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, KJV). What does Paul mean when he warns his Christian brethren, “Take heed, lest you fall”? Was he concerned that these believers were in danger of falling back into grievous sins of flesh? Corinth was indeed a great trade city full of gross sin. And many Christians there had indulged in fleshly sins before they were saved.
On the night before his crucifixion, at the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:19). What an interesting statement for Jesus to make, knowing the disciples wouldn’t grasp it. One of them asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (14:22).
It was Jesus’ final night with the disciples and he knew his time was short. They had just finished supper and Christ wanted to impart to his friends one last teaching while on earth. He summoned them, “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31, ESV) and led them on a walk. Along the way he gave them this analogy:
John 6 contains one of the hardest passages for me in all of Scripture. It’s a difficult text for pastors especially because it speaks of followers who end up rejecting Christ and turning away. The passage I’m referring to isn’t a teaching or prophecy. It’s a scene in which people literally left Jesus in droves.
He had just miraculously fed a crowd of thousands. The people were amazed and thrilled by what he’d done, ready to follow this wonder-working Messiah. But when Jesus challenged them about what they were really after, they scoffed and left by the masses.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). Of all the wonderful promises God gives us in the 23rd Psalm, this is one of the most glorious. He is pledging to set a table for us, spread wonderful food on it and serve us a feast. And he does it all in front of our enemies!
Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). Christ shared these words with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. It was meant to give them comfort and reassurance in what would be the darkest hour of their faith. Since that time Christians down through the ages have drawn comfort from Jesus' words here, to sustain them through their most difficult trials.