Sunday, February 13, 2005

Holy and Happy

In Your presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Here is holiness and happiness together. The presence of the LORD is holy — always has been, always will be. When Moses stood apart to behold the burning bush, the Lord called out his name told him to take off his shoes. He was on holy ground — God was present in purpose and power.

God is holy and His presence is holy. That does not at all preclude joy, but is, in truth, the very foundation of joy. To enter into the holiness of God is to enter into pure happiness.

Many Christians fail to understand the relationship between being holy and being happy. Some are willing to do unholy things because, “God wants me to be happy.” Others believe you cannot truly be holy unless you are actually unhappy. Both ways are huge distortions and lead only to destruction.

God is holy, but He is not a crank. To be holy means to be set apart. God is holy because He is set apart from everything else — there is none greater than Him. He is Lord over all. He is totally unique — holy.

God’s people are holy because they have been set apart for God’s special purposes. Holiness is not what we do, it is what we are. It is about identity and relationship, relationship with God. Performing certain acts does not make us holy. But if we enter into relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and begin to understand our identity in Him, we will begin to live in ways which are harmonious with God’s holiness.

The first question of the Westminster Catechism, an instructional guide produced for the Church in the 1600s, asks: “What is the chief end of man?” That is, what is the purpose for which we have been made?

Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” John Piper, Baptist pastor and theologian, thinks we should amend that to read: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. If we are not enjoying God well, be we are probably not glorifying Him very well either.

The Bible says that God is love, and that He is a consuming fire. Both are expressions of His holiness. As we get closer to God, His love will burn out everything that does not come from Him, everything that keeps us from fulfilling the destiny and purpose for which we were created, everything that keeps us from experiencing true joy.

Now, joy is not a quiet thing, but a very exuberant thing. Many times the Old Testament exhorts us to “shout for joy.” This is often found even behind the word “rejoice.” In the New Testament, one of the words for “rejoice,” agalliao, literally means to “jump for joy.”

Shouting and jumping—that’s God’s idea of joy!
The LORD your God in your midst,
    The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
    He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17)
When are now in the time of which this passage speaks, the days of Jesus the Messiah. God is with us by His Spirit. He has come as a powerful warrior, mighty to save, and He rejoices over us.

The first “rejoice” used here refers to expressions of mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure. God not only rejoices over us, but He rejoices with gladness (simcha). The KJV says He “rejoices over you with joy.” It is joy multiplied by joy. But the extent of His pleasure is even greater than that, as God pours out His love over us.

The second rejoice (gul) means to spin with powerful emotion. God whirls and twirls over us with great passion and love. Pure joy!

Holiness and happiness belong together. Be holy, and happiness will follow. If you are holy, but not happy, you’ve gotten the holiness part wrong. Look to Jesus, and give yourself completely to Him. Holiness is not about you and what you have or have not done. As in all things in the Christian life, holiness is about Jesus, and happiness follows.

God invites you to enter into the holiness of His presence, that you may dance with Him in great joy and experience His deep happiness with Him. And that is the most holy thing in all the world.