Today’s sermon is kind of a potpourri of topics that I want to address to finish out this series on what I have called “Hallmark” Theology. It’s fluffy, feel good stuff that isn’t full of the substance of biblical truth as much as it is full of the ideas of our culture. Just because something sounds good or makes a person feel good doesn’t mean it is true. Too many believers are getting sucked in to believe untrue things about God and His Word. I know this because I see people posting the sentiments I am going to address today on their social media. I’m not responding to any specific person, so please don’t feel targeted. I am blessed with a fuzzy memory and don’t remember one specific person in our church who has posted any of the messages I am going to deal with today.
The first sentiment is one that I often hear or see on social media from people when someone loses a loved one.
- “God must have needed another angel in Heaven.”
Sometimes the same idea is stated by saying, “So and so gained their wings” or by saying, “So and so has become my guardian angel and is now watching over me.”
The problem with that understanding is that angels are entirely different from humans. God has created both, but they are not the same. The angels have an entirely different purpose from people. Honestly, the idea of becoming an angel isn’t a promotion. Jesus did not come to shed His blood and give His life for the angels. I Peter 1:10-12 tells us the angels don’t even understand salvation because they do not have a need for it. While they rejoice when people give their hearts to Christ (Luke 15:10) salvation isn’t for them.
In the story of the Transfiguration where some of Jesus’ disciples got to see Jesus, shining in all of His glory, Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah, two men who had died many years before. They were recognizable as the humans they had been when they lived on earth. They had not been transformed into angels. Just as when Christ rose from the dead, He appeared in a glorified body, so too, will we have a glorified body! (I John 3:2) Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus was seen with wings after the Resurrection. His glorified body could pass through walls, but we don’t read that His glorified body included wings.
Galatians 4:7 and Romans 8:17 tell us that we who have received Christ as Savior are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We have an inheritance in Heaven that angels do not possess. The Bible calls us royal. It says we have been made a Kingdom of Priests. Angels are none of those things. They are ministering spirits, sent by God, to support us! There is even a Scripture that says one day we will judge the angels. (I Corinthians 6:3.) Psalm 8 says we have been made a little lower than the angels in terms of our earthly existence, but we will be above them in eternity.
So, when a believer passes from this life into eternity in Heaven, a new, glorified body is gained, but believers do not become angels.
- God wants me to be happy. This cultural view is often expressed when someone wants a free pass to live whatever way brings instant gratification or satisfaction to their flesh in a way that seems good or pleasant to them. Our culture says, “Do what makes you happy.” I wouldn’t argue that our happiness isn’t important to God. I also wouldn’t say that He wants us sad, bored, frustrated, discontent, and depressed, but what if what makes us happy isn’t OK with God?
I think the key here is in understanding where true happiness is found. CS Lewis, in his book “Mere Christianity,” writes that it is futile to find true happiness apart from a relationship with God. If happiness is tied to satisfaction, nothing satisfies a soul like a right relationship with Jesus. If happiness is tied to success, no one gets truly established in life in a way that enables them to grow and flourish and find favor with people, like a right relationship with Jesus. If happiness is tied to a sense of well-being, nothing gives people an underpinning of joy like a relationship with Jesus.
True happiness isn’t found in an experience that has a shelf life and expiration date. It isn’t found in a thrill or a high, an escapade, a trip, a drug, a drink, or a fling that will not last. Most often, those experiences, the ones that feed the flesh or stroke the ego, result in regret which drains people of the happiness they thought they had found.
The word, “happy,” in Scripture is translated as “Blessed” in the NIV. Psalm 144:15: Blessed (Happy) are the people whose God is the Lord! Here is a direct correlation between knowing God, being under His authority, and being happy. When a person is living not just with a belief about God, but is truly seeking to live under His Lordship, under His authority, Scripture says there is a lasting positive effect on that person.
Psalm 146:5: Blessed (Happy) is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. The person who is described here is someone who has experienced help that comes from God. When you know you have trusted God to provide and He comes through, it feeds your soul. When you pray about something and God sees fit to answer with supernatural support, it is a satisfaction that runs deep. That kind of happiness comes from knowing from personal experience that God can always be counted on.
We also see in the second part of the verse, someone who isn’t looking to any earthly experience to make him happy, but it is his hope in the LORD which keeps him in this state of blessedness. Hope in the LORD is a hope beyond a situation. It is a hope beyond a job interview. It is a hope beyond a physical outcome. It is a hope beyond a time period. It is an eternal hope, and it is this hope that keeps that person in a state of blessedness or happiness.
Proverbs 3:13: Blessed (Happy) are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.
Wisdom keeps us from a lot of impulsive and stupid decisions that can steal a person’s happiness. Learning to walk in wisdom will protect us and we will live satisfied with the results of decisions made from a place of wisdom.
Proverbs 28:14: Blessed (Happy) is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. This verse isn’t talking about being afraid of God, but it is about revering Him and holding His ways up as the blueprint for your life. God only wants the very best for us. God will never withhold anything beneficial from us. Joining our lives with His is the way to find out what is beneficial, what is best, what will lead to blessedness.
One more. Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed (Happy) is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. There are people who can mess with our “blessedness.” There are people who can have a negative impact on us over time. These verses also say that happiness is a byproduct of knowing and living by the Word of God. If I could have an audience with every new believer and if they asked me, “What one piece of advice would you give me as a new Christian?” I would say without a doubt, the one thing that will help you experience the happiness that God has for you above all others is to fall in love with the Word of God. Let it shape you and let it mold your thoughts about true happiness.
God does want you to be happy, but His definition of happiness is different from the way the world would define it. The kind of blessed happiness that is sustained, that is soul-deep instead of situation-deep is a result of pursuing the life of Christ. So many people are trying to go after the things the world has to offer instead of simply receiving all that Christ has to offer. You can try to work to be happy and strive to be happy and run from person to person or job to job or circumstance to circumstance or whatever to try to find happiness or you can simply receive what God wants to give you.
Ephesians 1:3-4 say, 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
The reality is, if you go all-in with Jesus you will never live dissatisfied. You will never lack contentment. You will never wonder if the grass is greener somewhere else, and when that is the case, you will be happy, you will be blessed.
Now review the second part of that text. Verse 4 says that God chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight. Holy living, blameless living, purity and morality here is connected to being blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. When we live according to God’s standards we won’t have to deal with the embarrassment, the shame, the guilt, the regret, the depression, the unhappiness that can come from doing what we thought would make us happy based on our own assumptions.
Too many people want to live according to their own standards with the expectation that they can ask God to bless those decisions, to bless their desired path to happiness and that He will bow to their will and comply just so they can be “happy”. God says the path to happiness is holiness. The bottom line here is that if you choose holiness, you will experience happiness. Rather than thinking of doing what makes you happy, find out what makes God happy. When you make those choices, you will find the ultimate happiness!
- We are all God’s children.
Let me be clear about something. When a person is conceived it takes more than the work of a man and a woman. God is the Creator. God is the Life-giver. God is the One who forms and fashions us. In that sense, we all belong to Him because we are His creation. He has a vested interest in us. He has a plan for us. He wants us to know Him like He knows us.
Genesis 1:26-27 helps us see that we have been made in His image. He has blessed us with certain capacities so that we can reflect His nature on earth. Colossians 1:16 explains that we were made for His glory. John 3:16, probably the most famous Scripture text, affirms that God loves all people. No one is born unloved by God. In fact, God loves everyone so much that He gave His only Son’s life to save each person who would become His child. He did this because all people, the people He loves, are all born as slaves to sin. Someone had to redeem us, to free us, to cleanse us from our sin that keeps us from having a right relationship with God. Jesus was and is that Someone. You see, we have an opportunity to become more than His creation. We have the opportunity, because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, to become His children. Let me explain that further.
In the same John 3:16 passage where God’s love is prominently on display, we also read that in order to become a Child of God, a person has to be born again. Born a second time. We are born once when we are born physically, but there has to be a second birth, a spiritual birth, in order for us to claim that we have become a Child of God. God wants to do more than make us; He wants to remake us. Where sin has marred the image of God in us, He wants to remove our sin nature from us so that who He intended for us to be all along, His children, could become our reality.
“We are all God’s children” suggests that everyone is in a right relationship with God as Father, but that is not the case. That phrase can be corrected by saying, “We can all become God’s children.” In II Peter 3:9 He says that He doesn’t want one person to miss the opportunity to become His child. He wants everyone to receive eternal salvation.
I Timothy 2:4b-6 says: God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator (go between/bridge) between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
These verses are plain. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to see that God’s heart longs for every person to be saved and to know and live in the truth that Jesus is the way to God. He qualifies as the way because He was perfect, and He gave His life as a ransom to free everyone who wants to be freed from the penalty of sin which is death. God doesn’t want to exclude anyone. God doesn’t have a certain kind of person in mind to be His child. He wants us all. The tattooed and the unmarked, the yellow, brown, black, red and white. The wealthy and the poor. The young and the old. The West Virginian and the rest of the world, yes, He even wants them! God wants all people to be saved, but not everyone has been or will be. Perhaps not even everyone in this room is. The truth is that only those who have come to faith in Christ and allowed Him to be the sacrifice for their sin and the Lord of their lives have received eternal salvation and become Children of God.
John 1:12: Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
It is so plain. We do not become God’s children simply from our connection with Him as our Creator. We become God’s children from a relationship with Jesus as our Savior.
No one is unloved by God, but there are people who are unknown to God. Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that not everyone who uses religious words or does religious works is known by God as His child. There are people who are not His children because they have preferred their sinful nature over the new nature God wants to give them when they are born again.
People who are Children of God are people who are in love with Jesus.
John 8:42: Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.
People who are Children of God love other people. I John 3:10: This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
Those who are unloving, those who hate others, the Bible says, are children of the devil. That isn’t a cultural crowd please, but it’s the truth. That is hard to swallow, isn’t it?
People who are Children of God are under the control of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Children of God don’t just believe something, but they also strive for something. They want to be under the control of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to walk in the blessed or happy state. It is the Holy Spirit who produces joy that consistently energizes us. It is the Holy Spirit who removes fear and instills peace. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to think well and to have a sense of confidence in the midst of chaos.
People who are Children of God seek to obey God. I John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
I’m not saying that Children of God are those who do everything perfectly, but it is the desire of their heart, on some level, to seek to obey God’s principles and plans for their lives. The Bible says that People with no regard for the Word of God, the ways of God, or the will of God aren’t Children of God. As we understand our status as Children of God, we will grow more and more in our desire and ability to want to do what is right.
I remember, when I was growing up, one of my motivations to do the right thing, to make good choices, was because I wanted to please my parents. The same thing happens for a person who is growing in their faith. They will want to please their Heavenly Father.
What about those people who pass away as children or youth who didn’t have the ability to understand what Jesus has done for them? We understand from experts that our brains are still forming until we are 25. Or people who are mentally impaired and cannot understand the truth the way others would be able to? The doctrine of grace that permeates God’s Word from beginning to end, gives us the assurance we need that God always does the right thing. He won’t hold someone accountable to a standard that they cannot comprehend.
But God won’t recognize someone as His child who has intentionally rejected His offer of grace. It isn’t fun to think about two possibilities for eternity, so when someone passes from this life, the automatic go-to is that the deceased is in a better place because, after all, we are all God’s children. But we all aren’t. But we all can be.
Perhaps the bottom line for this four-series message is this: Don’t let the world tell you what God thinks. It won’t be the truth. To know the truth, you need to study the Word of God and grow in your understanding of the truth you find there. The Truth is, God’s Word is truth, and if you follow what you find there, you won’t be led astray.