Monday, December 11, 2017

Christian Atheist - Session 7 - When You Believe In God But Don’t Want To Go Overboard



The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist.  If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist maybe along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ.  To hear the audio of the study group session click on the YouTube Thumbnail 

To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study.  

When You Believe In God But Don’t Share Your Faith

Many of us, and this includes me, are reluctant to share our faith with others. There may be many reasons; we don’t think the time is right; we don’t know what to say; the other person doesn’t want to listen, etc. If we somehow feel that the Holy Spirit wants us to share our faith with someone, whether we know them or not, I think that He has somehow prepared the person or the circumstance for us to talk to them. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples.

Matthew 10:19-20 (NLT)
19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

What we have to remember is that if we don’t share our faith it may be the last opportunity for that person. Plus the bible says something we should remember. Minister Brenda is always talking about a person's blood being on our hands if we don’t warn them about disobedience and not acknowledging Jesus is the one sin that is unforgivable. Here’s where she gets that;

Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NLT)17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.

There’s the example in the book about Craig going to see the man at the request of his wife to share the gospel in the hope that he would accept Jesus and receive salvation before his death which was imminent. It’s at the very beginning of Chapter 11. Craig didn’t want to appear pushy because the guy was an unbeliever so he never broached the subject. Feeling guilty later he went back the next day and the guy had died.

Like many of us he looked for the perfect moment to share. That moment didn’t come for this guy and it may not for people that we know or people that we come into contact with.

The Great Commission is really a command to Jesus’ disciples to evangelize.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The word evangelism comes from the Greek word euangelizo, which means “to proclaim or share the good news.” Our modern word gospel comes from the Old English word gôdspel. In Old English, gôd with a long “o” meant “good,” and spell meant “word.” So sharing the gospel meant sharing the good word or good news of Christ.

Yet for those who don’t believe in Christ, gospel sharing, or evangelism, often arouses skepticism, resentment, fear, or anger. The reputation of some televangelists and some street corner preachers may be the reason for this. For many self-proclaimed Christians, these words often induce feelings of fear and guilt. Christian Atheists know they should share their faith, but largely because of the strong emotions associated with it, they usually don’t.

Craig said something that I found to be very interesting. He said that in his opinion one of the main reasons that Christians don’t share their faith is that they don’t really believe in hell. His thought is that if we really believed in hell we wouldn’t want anybody to go there and we would do everything that we could to keep them from going.

He points to research that shows that while almost three out of four people believe in heaven, less than half believe in hell.

I wrote a post about hell not too long ago; Hell..What, Where, Who Has Been There. Here is some of what I wrote:

The experience of being in hell is like being constantly burned.

Matthew 18:9 (NLT)9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Mark 9:43, 45, 47-48 (NLT)43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

Hell is compared to darkness.

Matthew 22:13 (NLT) Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Hell is associated with tremendous grief.

Matthew 8:12 (NLT) But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It is also associated with great horror.

Mark 9:44 (NKJV) where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'

What the Bible does make clear is that hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs

We Should Always Be Ready To Share Our Faith

The apostle Peter says,

1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

Maybe you can relate. You’d like to be ready for anything, but you’re afraid you might choke under pressure. So to be prepared.

Preparation—studying and thinking about what you’ll say—will give you confidence. Not every chance to share will be set up for you. But no matter who starts the conversation, if you engage enough people, you’re going to be amazed how many of them are genuinely hungry to hear the truth from an honest, caring heart.

Now while I do believe that we all should evangelize I also believe that some people have a spiritual gift to evangelize and others do not have that gift.

The divine enablement to effectively communicate the message of Christ to unbelievers who respond in faith and discipleship.

Characteristics: This term literal means "messenger of good news". They have a strong desire to communicate the message of salvation to a lost world. A person with this gift often looks and prays for opportunities to work Christ into the conversation. They are regularly "harvesting" lost souls for the kingdom. An evangelist isn't concerned with imparting deep spiritual truths as the teacher is, but they are motivated to help people understand and respond to the basic biblical messages. The Holy Spirit flows out of them in a way that convicts people of their sins. Excuses for inactivity and indecisiveness are exposed by the light of the Spirit. Evangelists are active individual's motivating others to act. They are exciting to be around, like quick results, big crowds, fast change and are constantly moving.

Those of us who don’t have the gift should still be ready to share our faith. That sounds good but when we get the opportunity most of the time we don’t know where to start. Most of us are not as knowledgeable as Philip when he talked to the eunuch.

Acts 8:34-38 (NLT)34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

So tell your own story but be prepared. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. You may even want to practice it. In my opinion the best way to share your faith is by your life. Live in a way that people want to know what makes you tick. Then when they ask share your story and your faith.


When You Believe In God But Not In His Church

When we have been successful in sharing our faith the next thing that we should want to do is make sure that that person is discipled or taught the ways of the Lord and the place that is the church. Yes we are all the church including the new believer but I’m talking about the institution, the vehicle that God uses to deliver the gospel to the world and equipment its members to deliver it.

Many Christian Atheists don’t really believe in the church.


There are lots of Christians that say they don’t do church. They don’t do church for various reasons. They had a bad experience with a church member, or pastor, they fell for a false teaching and got hurt, they don’t see any difference in church goers and people who don’t go or are not even believers, they think they can read the bible and gain as much knowledge by themselve as if they went to church every week. Church repulses them because they feel it’s full of hypocrites.

Other people accept that people are hypocrites by nature; they just can’t stand churches talking about money.

Even if they can get past those issues, still others steer clear because church is irrelevant to their everyday lives. They tried church before, and it didn’t make a difference. Why bother?

Maybe they even want to attend church, but when they do, they feel even guiltier than they did before. The pastor and all the other put-together, perfect people just make them feel worse about themselves.

We talked about that in our study of the book “Overwhelmed: Winning The War Against Worry, more than three years ago.

In the church there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting is certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?

If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say as Noble says in the section The Problem with Church World where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”. There are two problems that result. 1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result is gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or 2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.

“When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change us.

Finally, there a the “super spiritual”. Their ideals are so high that no church can possibly meet their standards. They have detailed lists of what’s wrong with each church in town. The worship music isn’t “Spirit-led” enough, or it’s too loud, too soft, or too whatever. The sermons are too shallow or too intellectual. The missions program isn’t aggressive enough or it’s all the church talks about. They spend too much money on the building or not enough. Churches, with their mere mortals, can never measure up.

I talked about these people in my sermon on worshiping in spirit and truth. I said worship isn’t about you anyway. It’s about carving out time in our busy lives and responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about a deep, inner spirit response. Worship doesn’t always mean singing at the top of your lungs, or dancing or shouting. It’s about just entering into His presence and your response to that.

Here’s what God wants in worship.

Isaiah 1:16‭-‬17 NIV Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings

Micah 6:8 NIV He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

In other words we are to be completely devoted to him and compassionate toward others, not just giving lip service and empty sacrifices. God wants people to actually to know him, not just know about him while ignoring what God considers important which is obedience and love. Living a life of obedience and love is what worship is not just going through the motions: outwardly sacrificing and saying the right things, yet inwardly remaining far from God.

Here’s the thinking of a lot of Christians today. Who needs church anyway? We can get all the Christian content we need from websites, podcasts, and books—even television and radio.


Here’s The Key, Don’t Go To Church Be The Church

To many people, church is a place. It’s a building, bricks and mortar, a destination. This is from my sermon too.

We know that God isn’t confined to a church building or only available at certain times of day. So we don’t have to wait until we come to church or a certain time of day to worship Him. We don’t even have to wait until we feel spiritual. If we are delighting ourselves in Him we can be confident of His presence all the time.

Psalm 139 says that God's presence can be wherever are.

Psalm 139:1‭-‬10 NIV You have searched me, Lord , and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

The church is actually God’s chosen vehicle to meet—through other human beings—people's true needs (including our own).

Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Church allows you to do both and the church needs every believer. The analogy that Paul uses is that the church is like a body that needs every part.

Romans 12:4-8 (NLT)4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

1 Corinthians 12:12-28 (NLT)12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part!20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages.

I always end my sermons on gifts with this;

If you are sitting on your gift then The Church is missing it like a part of the body missing a finger. It can’t function at the optimal level without that finger as small and insignificant as you might think it is it still keeps the body from functioning as God would have it.

Christian Atheists Are Also Lukewarm Christians And Christ Doesn’t Like Lukewarm Christians

Many so-called Christians are lukewarm. They want enough of Jesus to get them by, but not so much that they go overboard.

The church in Laodicea described in Revelation 3 is the prototype of lukewarm Christianity.

Revelation 3:15-19 (NLT)15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.

Lukewarm Christians …

1. Crave acceptance from people more than acceptance from God.

2. Rarely share their faith in Christ.

3. Do whatever it takes to alleviate their guilt.

4. Think more about life on earth than eternity in heaven.

5. Gauge their morality by comparing themselves to others.

6. Want to be saved from the penalty of sin without changing their lives.

7. Only turn to God when they’re in a bind or when they’re in trouble.

8. Give when it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.

9. Are not much different from the rest of this world.

10. Want the benefits of what Christ did without conforming to who he is.

When we put God on the shelf and say, “I believe in you, but I don’t really need you right now,

Revelation 3:17-19 (NLT)17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.


Extreme Church

Many Christian Atheists today commit only halfheartedly to Christ’s church—if at all.
He doesn’t want us simply to believe in God. He wants us to give our lives to him through his church. In the first church described in Acts 2, “church” wasn’t something people added to their lives. Church was the center of their lives. Church was not a physical building; it was the community of people who shared a belief and faith in Christ. Their extreme commitment to Christianity contrasts sharply with our attitude today: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They didn’t go to church; they were the church, devoted to God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s mission.

“There were no needy persons among them.

For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:34 – 35). This is what happens when people stop going to church and start being the church, as Jesus intended. Every need in the church can be met by the church.

A Place to Belong

While the church meets physical needs, it also provides a place for us to belong. A Barna poll revealed that 92 percent of Americans claim to be independent. Though Independence is a goal for many, God never intended for his believers to be independent.

He wants us dependent on one another and on him. The apostle Paul writes, “So in Christ We who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5). As believers in Christ, we are incomplete without the rest of his body—the church. And the church is incomplete without us. We need others, and others need us.

Belonging to a local church also provides accountability, where wiser and more mature Christians can regularly counsel us, mentor us, comfort us, and help us heal. We can confess to God for forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9), but that’s only half of the equation.

We also need to confess to other Christians to help us ultimately overcome our sinful habits. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

According to Hebrews 10:24, we’re responsible both to hold each other accountable and to encourage one another: “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Verse25 tells us how: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”

A Place to Believe

In addition to belonging, church also gives us a place to grow spiritually. Romans10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Our faith grows as we hear God’s Word taught and proclaimed. Living out what we've heard solidifies it for us. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Our Father uses his church to minister to us, to draw us closer to him, and to equip us—these spiritual benefits aren’t just for us. God is transforming his church into extraordinary ministers. He calls us to change lives in our own communities and around the world.

God’s church continues to grow around the world because its people instinctively understand that the church exists not for them but for those who don’t yet know Christ. While the church at its best rarely makes headlines, itis changing lives—and the world—for good. It loves radically, serves sacrificially, and gives extravagantly.

Many Christian Atheists hesitate to join a church because they don’t think there's any way God would work through them and their imperfections. But the Bible says differently

When Jesus called his first followers, he recruited tax collectors, uneducated fishermen, and dangerous revolutionaries. Notice who Jesus did not call: not one rabbi, scribe, or priest. Not one Pharisee or Sadducee, nor any other person from the formal religious establishment of the day. When he chose friends, Jesus surrounded himself with the lonely, the broken, and the overlooked. God is calling you to be a part of his church, to be his church.

If we’re not overboard for him, then chances are we don’t really know him.

It’s time to seek him. It’s time to surrender everything. It’s time to let go of everything in this world.

In Mere Christianity, author C. S. Lewis writes about the problem with being a part-time Christian:

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self— all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition — and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastelyand humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.


Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it…. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

When we are open to go wherever the Holy Spirit leads us, he will use us to share the greatest gift of all—eternal life through Christ. And when he does, we may never know on this side of eternity how much of a difference we made. But someday—on the other side—we’ll know in full.

WANTING MORE THAN ENOUGH OF JESUS

Christian Atheists have a lot in common with Goldilocks — we like things not too hot,
not too cold, but just right. Yet when it comes to living out our faith, what might feel “just right” to us is what God considers nauseatingly lukewarm. God doesn’t want tepid commitment or a moderate devotion. He doesn’t want us to settle for just-right just-enough or a just-so life in Christ. He wants everything we’ve got — fierce commitment, wholehearted passion, and a blazing heart of love.

Many so-called Christians are lukewarm…. They want enough of Jesus to keep them out of hell and enough to get into heaven, but not so much of Jesus that he transform their lives …. They want enough of Jesus to get them by, but not so much that they go overboard.

Most wouldn’t admit that this is all the faith they can manage. We want God’s benefits without changing how we live. We want his best, without our sacrifices.

Of the Christians in ancient Crete the apostle Paul wrote: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfitfor doing anything good” (Titus 1:16). Paul’s letter to the preacher Titus addressed this problem in the church and emphasized the vital connection between belief and practice:

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every Read the passage once more, this time in The Message:

God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is wetting your appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears.

He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness (Titus 2:11 – 14 MSG).

“Whatever it takes” became my heart’s cry. Whatever it takes to know him. Whatever It takes to live like I truly love God. Whatever it takes to love eternity more than this world. Even if I have to fight, scrape, and crawl away from my Christian Atheism Into a genuine, crucified life of faith and radical obedience to Christ, I’ll do whatever it takes. - The Christian Atheist, page 235

Wholly surrendered. Those are beautiful, nourishing words for a God-hungry heart. They mark the beginning of a journey from life as it is to life as it could be. A life of knowing God and allowing yourself to be known by him. Of walking through hardships and loss steadying the hope that God is out to do you only good. Of experiencing the deep love of Christ every day. Of discovering God’s trustworthy provision when you put him in charge of your money and your happiness. These are the kinds of things that lead to the life that is truly life. And isn’t that what you really want? If so, it’s time to jump ship from Christian Atheism and go completely overboard — take a flying leap of white-hot faith and let the God who loves you catch you.

Welcome to true Christianity.

Bible Study Audio



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christian Atheist Session 6 - When You Believe In God But Pursue Happiness At Any Cost.



The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group is going through the book The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.  A Christian Atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist.  If you are courageous enough to admit that sometimes you act like a Christian Atheist maybe along with us we can shed some of our hypocrisy and live a life that truly brings glory to Christ.  To hear the audio of the study group session click on the YouTube Thumbnail 

To get your copy of the book click this LINK or the image of the book at the end of my notes for the study.  

Last week we looked at chapters 7, When You Believe in God but Don’t Think You Can Change, and 8, When You Believe in God but Still Worry All the Time.  We didn’t get to chapter 9 When You Believe In God But Pursue Happiness At Any Cost.  


HAPPILY BLESSED Who doesn’t want to be happy? Research tells us that happy people live longer, have better relationships, and are more satisfied with life. So happiness is good, right?
           
Not so fast. The problem for us as Christian Atheists is not that we want to be happy but that we settle for happiness when God has so much more he wants to give us. God wants us to be more than happy — he wants us to be blessed.


God doesn’t want you happy when it causes you to do something wrong or unwise.
        
God doesn’t want you happy when it’s only based on the things of this world.
        
There is a formula that virtually no one would admit to, but if you look at the way we live you would have to admit that most of us believe this: better possessions +peaceful circumstances + thrilling experiences + the right relationships + the perfect appearance = happiness.


We are not happy with the things of this world because we’re not made for this world!
              
Earth is not heaven. It was never meant to be. That’s why no amount of money, newhouse, new living-room furniture, new kitchen appliances, new clothes, new hair, new baby, new vacation, new job, new income, new husband, or new anything will ever satisfy us, because we were not made for the things of this world.


1 Peter 2:11-12 (NLT)11  Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.12  Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.


1 Peter 2:11-12The Message (MSG)11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:15 – 17 NLT).


The passage focuses on three desires or cravings that turn our hearts away from God: sensuality, materialism, and conceit.


Sensuality (“physical pleasure”): excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures. Sensuality includes all five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Which of the five senses represents the desire or craving you’re most likely to indulge in (for example: taste might represent a craving for food or overeating)?
        
Materialism (“everything we see”): preoccupation with material objects and comforts. What objects or comforts occupy your thinking or routinely make withdrawals from your bank account (for example: shoes or clothing, electronics, spa treatments, etc.)?


Conceit (“pride in achievements and possessions”): an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability or importance. In what ways do you engage in image management or try to prop up your significance in order to make yourself appear to be better or more than you are?


The more you fall in love with God, the less the things of this world will pull you and draw you. You sincerely desire more than anything else to live a life that doesn't bring you temporary happiness.


Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them,
and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be (Matthew 6:19 – 21 NLT).


So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:31 – 33 NLT).
           
The Greek word used for “treasures” refers to a place where something is kept — a treasure box, chest, or storeroom.2 As a metaphor for the human heart, it evokes the image of a secure container used to protect what matters most to us. In The Divine Conspiracy, author and pastor Dallas Willard notes what this means for our relationship with God:


The most important commandment of the Judeo-Christian tradition is to treasure God and his realm more than anything else. That is what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It means to treasure him.


When we treasure something, we place great value on it. We want to protect it and care for it.


God doesn’t want you happy, he wants you blessed.

Makarios [ma-KAR-ee-os] is a Greek word in the Bible that means “supremely blessed” and “more than happy.”
        
“Blessed [more than happy] is the [one] who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands” (Psalm 112:1).
        
When you lower your expectations of this world and instead pursue God, then you can be more than happy.
        
The more you fall in love with God, the less the things of this world will pull you and draw you.
        
Our happiness is based on the goodness of God.



When God Doesn’t Want Us Happy


Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.


1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)13  So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.14  So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.15  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”


1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)15  Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.16  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.17  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.  
        
To be holy means to be set apart for a noble use. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “holy,” hagios [HAG-ee-os], is used not so much in reference to objects as it is in reference to people.1
   
God Wants Us to Be More than Happy


Psalm 112:1 (BBE)1  Let the Lord be praised. Happy is the man who gives honour to the Lord, and has great delight in his laws.
           
Psalm 119:2 (BBE)2  Happy are they who keep his unchanging word, searching after him with all their heart.  
           
Matthew 5:8 (BBE)8  Happy are the clean in heart: for they will see God.


Romans 4:8 (BBE)8  Happy is the man against whom no sin is recorded by the Lord.
.
Everyone wants to be happy, to be blessed. Too many people are willfully refusing to pay attention to the one who wills our happiness and ignorantly supposing that the Christian way is a harder way to get what they want than doing it on their own. But they are wrong. God’s ways and God’s presence are where we experience the happiness that lasts. Do it the easy way.
           
 EUGENE H. PETERSON A Long Obedience in the Same Direction


God wants so much more for you than mere happiness. Are you able to believe it, deep-down-in-your-gut believe it? He wants to bless you and give you joy — a deep joy the Bible says will fill you up to overflowing, put your feet to dancing, and make you want to shout and sing. That’s a lot of joy! Why settle for second-class trinkets when God offers you a first-class ticket to so much more — boundless love, joy to the brim, peace beyond understanding, and eternity with him.


When You Believe in God but Trust More in Money



When it comes to money, it might be easy to trust God when the stakes are low. But when the stakes get high, it’s tempting to trust in money.


The two stories


  1. Deep down, I felt like God was nudging me to give her all the money I had on me. I told you earlier about my worry problem. Not having enough money has been a lifelong worry for me, and it was highlighted again in this moment. Being somewhat selfish, I thought to myself, Is that my spiritual enemy tempting me to be generous? No, it must be God. When I pried open my wallet, all I had was a five-dollar bill. My logical mind jumped in, That’s not enough money to make a difference in her life. It’s only five dollars.  When I gave her the small token of money, she knew five dollars would provide enough gas for her to get home and then some. God had miraculously provided for her. I walked away in awe at God’s goodness. Then I thought to myself, But now what am I going to do for lunch? When church was over, a friend invited me to lunch and said he was buying. Instead Of my normal fifty-nine-cent tacos, my friend got me an eight-dollar hamburger. God Is so good!
  2. This time it was for an older man I saw standing alone by his broken-down, junker vehicle. When I opened my wallet, instead of a five-dollar bill, I had only a hundred-dollar bill. I thought, It must  be the devil tempting me to be generous again. I immediately entered serious negotiations with the voice I thought was God’s.
            
    Last time, with the single mom, I obeyed. This time, I didn’t. That’s right. Keeping The money, I ignored the voice and drove on by.  When it comes to money, it might be easy to trust God when the stakes are low. But When the stakes get high, it’s tempting to trust in money.


In Money We Trust


Printed across the back of an American dollar bill are the words, “In God We Trust.” Yet for most of us, that motto is simply not true. We might say that we trust in God, but our actions show what’s really going on. We Christian Atheists often give lip service to God, but in our everyday lives, we’re tempted to trust, serve, and worship the very money on which that slogan is printed.
        
Luke 12:22-34 (NLT)  22  Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.23  For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.24  Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!25  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?26  And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?27  “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.28  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?29  “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things.30  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.31  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.32  “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.33  “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.34  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.


Trusting in money generally sneaks up on us. Most of us believe (maybe secretly) that money can bring us happiness.


Another way money slips in is that when we have “enough,” we feel secure.  The problem is that we reach that level where we feel secure, we want to feel even more secure which means we need more money.  We want to be secure then we want our children to be secure even after we are gone, then our grandchildren so we need to keep accumulating because we want everybody secure.


What we need to be aware of when we do reach that stage where we become secure and feel that we have enough we have to watch out still pursue more just to have more for us.  At some point enough has to be enough.


Enough Is Enough


When Christian Atheists let go of those false promises of worldly pleasures, it’s possible to be content with what we have.


Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)12  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.13  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.          
        
When possessions no longer held us hostage, we saw what we had as being tools to use to help people and glorify God.  21 percent of consistent American church members don't give anything to their church—not a single cent. Seventy-one percent of Christians give less than 2 percent of their income.
        
The End of Our World?
When we put our faith in money rather than God when something happens and the money goes we then think that our world is collapsing on us.    I know people who lost most of their 401K retirement savings during the last recession.  They were heartbroken and didn’t know where to turn.  Then some of them lost their jobs because of downsizing.  It happened to me.  


Even lifelong Christians,  who should have been looking to God for their provision, found themselves panicking. The curtain was pulled back, and our false god of money was clearly revealed.
        
The reason money is such a struggle for so many of us is that it’s clearly the number-one competitor for our hearts.



1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NLT)9  But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.10  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.


Many people misquote this verse by saying “Money Is the root of all evil.” But money is not evil. Money is amoral. Money can be used for good or for evil. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. Love of money leads to other abuses,  whether of power, of sex, or other sins.


There are many dangers for those who want to be rich. When they want to gain wealth, their desires tempt them to do wrong things. Once they start doing those things, it is like falling into a trap. It is as if the devil has caught that person. And he will not let go. This trap consists of strong desires that seem to force that person to do more evil.


Those who want to be rich and make that their purpose in life will never be content.  The desire to be rich will ruin and destroy them.


The love of money is the strong desire to get wealth. It is greater than the desire to love and serve God. It becomes the main purpose in life. That love is like a root. It is like the root from which plants grow. From that source, there come all kinds of evil.


Luke 16:13 (NLT)13  “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”


It is not possible to serve both God and money. One or other of them must be the more important. Those who reach out to grasp money will lose their grip on the *Lord.
        
Some Christian Atheists even live as though they believe that God exists to help us acquire more money and things.


I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago, Faith and Prosperity - What Does The Bible Say?


A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say, Word of Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you.


“Word of Faith” teaches that your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (as though man could require anything of God!). Thus, God's ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. James 4:13-16 clearly contradicts this teaching: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.


In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”


Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. - Got Questions.org


There are many dangers for those who want to be rich. When they want to gain wealth, their desires tempt them to do wrong things. Once they start doing those things, it is like falling into a trap. It is as if the devil has caught that person. And he will not let go. This trap consists of strong desires that seem to force that person to do more evil.  Those who want to be rich and make that their purpose in life will never be content.  The desire to be rich will ruin and destroy them.


The love of money is the strong desire to get wealth. It is greater than the desire to love and serve God. It becomes the main purpose in life. That love is like a root. It is like the root from which plants grow. From that source, there come all kinds of evil.


The wealthy are responsible to God for how they use their wealth. The more they have the greater their duty to use it to do what is good.  Rich persons have more than enough for their own needs. There is no benefit to them in owning an excess of wealth. They should be generous. And they should share what they have. They should use their wealth for the benefit of those who are in need of their help.


Two Encounters


The first one is an intelligent, well-educated, rich young man.


Matthew 19:16-24 (NLT)16  Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”17  “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”18  “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely.19  Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”20  “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”21  Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22  But when the young man heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.23  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.24  I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”


The response of the other rich man was the opposite.


Luke 19:1-8 (NLT)1  Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town.2  There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich.3  He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.4  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.5  When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”6  Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.7  But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.8  Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”


Zacchaeus’ actions stated clearly how his heart had suddenly changed: “I was all about money—what it could buy and the security it provided. But when I truly saw and met Jesus, money no longer mattered to me at all.”


Paul explained to Timothy,


1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)17  Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.18  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.19  By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.


When we learn to trust in God alone, he is the one who provides us with what matters and lasts. Suddenly the earthly possessions that once gripped us.  don’t hold us like they used to. Instead of seeing what we have as belonging to us, we see it as available to God for his use and his glory.


Giving until It Hurts


The Bible is clear that Christians are called to give generously, lest they start trusting money until it.  becomes their god. The Old Testament teaches that we should return 10 percent to God.


Malachi 3:10 (NLT)10  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!  


Some people argue against the tithe, claiming that it’s only an Old Testament command. But looking to the New Testament, we find that Jesus affirmed the tithe.


Matthew 23:23-24 (NLT)23  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.24  Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!


Some Pharisees were bragging about their tithe, and Jesus explained that they should not only tithe but also not neglect other important matters.


You might think this is a new phenomenon. It’s not. Some people in the Old Testament did the same thing. God told them to bring their best lambs to sacrifice. They did the same thing many of us would do today. They looked at their best, most prized lamb and thought, This one’s too valuable. It’s gonna get sacrificed anyway. I’ll just give a shabby one to God. He won’t mind. But he does care.


Malachi 1:7-8 (NLT)7  “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.8  When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
           
So many people today want to give without sacrificing anything.


2 Samuel 24:18-24 (NLT)18  That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”19  So David went up to do what the LORD had commanded him.20  When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.21  “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the LORD there, so that he will stop the plague.”22  “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar.23  I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the LORD your God accept your sacrifice.”24  But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.


How about a lottery win?


The Joy of Sacrificial Giving


Here is something that Rick Warren said:


Giving and Faith Go Together


Have you ever had to decide between paying a bill and tithing? This is a test of your priorities. It’s a test of your love. But most importantly, it’s a test of your faith. Do you really trust God to provide for you if you put him first in your life?


God couldn’t care less about the amount you give. What he cares about is the attitude with which you give it. If you’re not giving in faith, don’t give, because you don’t get any credit for it. The Bible also says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).God doesn’t need your money. What he wants is your heart.

There are two ways to give: You can give by reason, or you can give by revelation. To give by reason is to figure out reasonably what you think you can give, and that doesn’t require any faith at all. Even an atheist can do it.

When you give by revelation, you let God reveal to you what he wants you to give in faith. It means you pray and ask, “God, how much do you want me to trust you for this time?” Then you do whatever he tells you to do.


This is giving by faith, and it helps you grow, mature, and become more like Christ


Craig ends chapter 10 with something that happened on a trip to Honduras:


Recently I traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with our church to help build homes for people in need. Our translator took our leaders into the home of a single mom. To call it a home is really a gross overstatement; it was barely a shack, built mostly from cardboard. Five people lived in a space about the size of our master bedroom closet. It had dirt floors, no running water, and a hole in the backyard to take care of business. It was so dirty that it made me nervous when the sweet lady served us lunch.
        
With a warm smile and more hugs than I’m used to, she placed some form of meat in front of me. Not wanting to insult her, I ate the meat like substance, praying with each bite for God’s protection. When we finished our sparse meal, my translator asked if I noticed that no one else had meat.
        
Once he mentioned it, the truth hit me—every other plate had been covered with beans and tortillas. He explained that she had been told how much I like meat. Tears started to roll down my cheeks as he explained that she never enjoyed meat herself, and that he had saved her money for months to bless me with meat.


We Christian Atheists are slaves. This Honduran woman is truly free.
        
Why is it that those who have so little often seem to have so much? And why do those with so much seem to have so little that really matters? This woman who had nothing sacrificed to give a gift to a guy who had everything. Although she had none of the things we chase after every day, she had everything that we lack—peace, contentment, and true joy in the Lord.
        
I’d give all my money to be more like her.


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