WE MUST RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS A LITTLE CHILD
Happiness is the most coveted feeling in the history of mankind. Every person has the deep desire to be happy, but too few truly are, and there are even fewer who can keep it. Those who seek happiness without understanding its meaning, believe that they can find it in relationships or entertainment, which actually destroy them and many end up discouraged and confused. But what does the Bible say about happiness? In the book of Deuteronomy, we find the conditions for true happiness. When we do "what is right and good in the sight of the Lord," all may be well with us and we are happy! This phrase has multiple meanings and implications. Let us try to discern the meaning of the Christian life from the biblical perspective of what pleases God.
Deuteronomy 6:18 And you shalldo what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the Lord swore to your fathers,
Deuteronomy 12:25b, 28 ... that it may go well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord... Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.
The general promises that God gave to the children of Israel also apply to the Gentiles, who are adopted into God's people through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3: 6, Romans 11:17). So, no matter our nationality, we all can be happy and enter in the possession of God's promises, if we obey His will. The promise of happiness is repeated in verses 25 and 28, confirming that it applies to future generations, with the same terms. Our heavenly Father wants us to be happy and all that He asks us to do, is for our best. Some may think that God is a harsh Father, who cannot wait for us to fail in obeying His commandments so that He can then punish us. Sadly, this a common teaching in many religious circles, but it is far from the true. The Bible shows us just the opposite. God the Father, sent His Son into the world to live like us, to be mocked, rejected, tortured and crucified, precisely because He loves each and every one of us that has ever been born, to the utmost and wants us to be with Him forever. Jesus died in our place, paying for all the sins of mankind so that we may have eternal life. Moreover, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). Through salvation we can have life in abundance while we live on earth and complete, perfect happiness forever in heaven. After being born again by the Holy Spirit, as long as Jesus is our Lord and we seek to do what pleases God, our lives can be wonderful! King David understood the steps to a blessed life very well:
Psalms 37:3-4 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
If we trust in the Lord and want to do what is right, we spare ourselves of much suffering. Our heavenly Father wants us to find pleasure in our relationship with Him more than in anything else! If we sincerely love the Lord and whenever we must decide something important, we seek His will and do what He tells us to do, He will fulfill our heart's desires. It is that simple! When our desires are pleasing to the Lord, He fulfills them for us, and this is true happiness.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Faith is the key to the relationship with God. Without believing that God is our Creator, the only true God and Jesus Christ is His Son, it is impossible to please Him! God loves all people and gives them the chance of salvation until their last breath, but in order to enjoy the benefits that come from pleasing Him, we must believe in Him and be convinced that He rewards all who seek Him. We all prefer to be around those who love, please and encourage us, so why would we think that God would be any different? God created us to have fellowship with Him, to have an intimate, sincere relationship of total surrender to Him and His plan for our lives. The more we fulfill what the Lord has planned for us, the happier we are. He created and shaped us, to fit His plan perfectly. He has equipped us with everything we need to fulfill His call. If we try to copy the lives of others we will totally fail. Each of us can be perfect for the life that God planned for us, as we see in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." When we sincerely love God and follow His guidance, our works are good and our lives are blessed!
Psalms 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
God does not help us to do what is against His will. All that is not pleasing to God is not for our good either. In order to know the will of the Lord, we must change our worldly thinking with spiritual thinking. Only through the Word of God can we renew our minds and know what the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God" is, as we read in Romans 12:2b. The Christian life is the result of an inner change. We make good deeds and right choices because our hearts have changed when we became born again. In the book of Proverbs, we find many examples of the deeds of the carnal man in opposition to those of the believer.
Proverbs 11:20 Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord but the blameless in their ways are His delight.
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.
God is not impressed by the good deeds of an insincere heart. But whenever we sincerely want to keep our hearts pure and do what is right, God answers our prayers and even touches the hearts of our enemies to become our friends.
Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.
Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
True wisdom is that which we receive from God, and only when we have it, can we know our Creator. All that is good in us and in our lives, we have received from our heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 4:7). We know that we please the Lord when we give Him all the glory and thanks for what He has given us and what He is doing through us. He is the only true Lord, the only one who manifests unconditional mercy for all of us.
Jeremiah 9:24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
How can we know what the Lord likes or not, without seeking His Word? Only through the wisdom we receive through the Holy Spirit, can we understand the spiritual world and be filled with the knowledge of God's will. Because we are created with freedom of choice, only when we are filled with what the Lord wants, can we be the happiest people! Then we will be able to make the best choices and as a result we will empower the Lord to work on our behalf. When we sin, we choose to obey the devil and thus empower him to hurt us. Only if we know and apply what is pleasing to the Lord, can we excel in all areas.
Colossians 1:9b-10 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
As we grow in wisdom and receive more and more revelation of the truth through the Holy Spirit, we can behave more and more like Jesus. Even though it seems impossible for anyone to please the Lord in all things, we know that in His love, God is not as critical of His children as we are. That is why John, the apostle of love, wrote in his first epistle: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God knows everything that goes on at every second, in the spiritual world, and when we sin, He knows how intense the demonic attacks are against us and why we fail to overcome temptation at times. This does not mean that we knowingly choose to sin, nor that we continue to do what we know is sin and upsets God. If we love our Lord, we cannot love sin. Jesus said that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). In other words, we seek to please the one we love and suffer when we upset Him. And because the sin and the will of God are totally opposite, they cannot co-exist, but are mutually exclusive.
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
It is often difficult for us to realize that when we go too far in our efforts to please people, we start to upset God. The problem arises especially when we want to be liked and approved by those around us. The right approach is to seek to please God, and He teaches us how to deal with our fellow men. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to please everyone, because no person is always the same, each one has different needs and emotional states at a given time. Only God is immutable, He never changes, nor does His will. That is why the safest and easiest thing to do, is to seek to please our Lord and He takes care of our relationships that are worth keeping. When we love God, we can also sincerely love people. We cannot be indifferent to someone's suffering, especially if we know details about their problems. When we have close relatives, who have lost a loved one, we are the most able to help them. Even if our efforts are not recognized, we know that we are doing the Lord’s will, and He will reward us. Sometimes things that seem insignificant, or that are not worth much to most, can be of enormous value to someone who desperately needs them. If we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can help people more, even if we do not have unlimited resources. The little given from the heart, at the right time, can mean a lot to the one who accepts to be helped and can bring great rewards to the giver!
1 Timothy 5:4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.
Hebrews 13:16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
How beautiful are the moments when we have a thankful heart! Every day there are smaller or bigger surprises waiting for us; some pleasant, some unpleasant or even devastating, but if we are willing, we can see something good in any situation. Someone said he had a fellow Christian who, every day he had entered in the office, had praised God for the good weather. On a rainy, cold morning, he could not wait for the Christian to come and see what else he had to say. When he entered the door, the child of God began to glorify and give thanks to the Lord that not every day is the same as that day. Because he had chosen to have a thankful heart regardless of the circumstances, he found the good side even when the weather was bad. If we pay attention to what is going through our minds and stop the thoughts of dissatisfaction, frustration, worry, sadness, criticism, fear and anything that can steal our peace and choose to replace them with biblical truth for each situation, we can have a predominantly thankful and positive attitude. No one can rob us of the eternal and unshakable kingdom, in which we have received access through Jesus Christ. As we seek to spend more time in the presence of God, in fellowship and worship, we can even rejoice now, knowing that we will have the best of the best prepared for us to enjoy for all eternity!
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
God asks us to be holy, first for our good and then for His pleasure. He loves us so much that He never asks us to do anything that is bad for us! The definition of the word “holy” is very broad, but in essence it means “1. worthy of complete devotion and trust 2. divine 3. set apart to the service of God or a god: sacred 4. respected as sacred.” Because we are God's children, we seek to be like Him and let the new nature, we have received through the Holy Spirit manifest itself more and more in us. As we grow and mature spiritually, we also grow in holiness and do more of what pleases God. To live apart from the world, in obedience to God, we must desire to do it and act accordingly. Many times, we have to stop the cravings of our natural desires, because they are the opposite of what our Lord loves, and sin comes with a price tag that we would rather not have to pay. The temporary pleasure or satisfaction that sin offers is never worth the long term price.
1 Peter 1:15-16 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
When we consider the history of the people of Israel, we realize that we are no different. Regardless of the standard of living and civilization, human character and behavior are always the same. We are all ready “to obey the Lord” when we need something from Him, than when we feel we can take care of something on our own. Are we surprised that through Joshua, God asked His people again to obey Him?
Joshua 22:5 “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joshua 23:11 “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.”
It may happen that after doing good for someone, we are "rewarded" with evil, sometimes intentionally, other times just because the person does not realize what they are doing. If we choose to do what is good, first and foremost for the Lord, we will be able to overcome if our efforts are not recognized, and even if we are treated wrong in return. God is just and blesses us for the times when we have not been treated properly, if we have chosen to keep our hearts pure, without seeking revenge. God says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Romans 12:19b) and we can be sure that He will handle things properly in His time. When our response to any situation is pleasing to the Lord, we will be rewarded far more than it cost us to make the right choice.
1 Peter 2:20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
Joshua's exhortation is valid for any generation of believers, even if we are no longer under the law, but under grace. We are not saved by keeping the commandments, but we keep the commandments and do what pleases the Lord, because we were born-again after Jesus became the Lord of our lives. The Ten Commandments are the basis of the legal systems of all the governing bodies of the world, including those that do not recognize God, proving how beneficial they are to mankind. When we love God, it is easiest to keep His commandments and for us want to be as close to Him as possible. The closer we get, the more we can receive His love and do His will wholeheartedly. Our feelings are fluctuating. When everything goes as we wish, we can feel a great love and desire to obey the Lord; but when something happens that we do not like, we immediately feel the opposite. We are ready to pray fervently and do whatever we think the Lord wants, when we are in the middle of a big problem, but after it passes, we can easily slip into the old lifestyle, where God returns to second place. If we rely only on our feelings, they can take up and down like a roller-coaster. The Lord wants us to be fully His, to sincerely love Him and we can do it, only if we do our best to feel, think and react properly in all situations. The benefits of living in obedience to the Lord are immeasurable! God sent His Son to pay for the sins of all mankind, but only if we truly love Him and we allow Him to rule our lives, can we benefit from the effects of Jesus' sacrifice.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John 16:27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
God is love and He created us to give and receive love. We work best and are the most productive in loving environments. It is the hardest for us to be in environments with negative emotions, such as hate, malice, fear, stress etc. Also, people who choose to love and think positively are much happier and healthier than those who do the opposite. It is not in vain that the Scripture urges us to love and respond kindly to the wickedness of others. We forgive those who are dear to our hearts much easier than those who we dislike. It is also easier for us to help our loved ones than those we do not like. In conclusion, the more we love others, the less we sin, and the more we please God.
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Once we have received God's love through Jesus, nothing can separate us from it. The Lord loves us and wants us to be with Him forever, but He does not force us to be His. Everything the Lord has for us is wonderful and fits us perfectly; why would we want to be away from Him, even for a moment? No attacks against us can rob us of our heavenly Father's love or our salvation, as long as we want to be His.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No effort is too big when it comes to obeying the will of the One who chose us to be His, who sent the Holy Spirit to convince us that we were sinners that needed a Savior, and we could choose to be His. By faith we have received the grace of the Lord to be saved. But grace is not only undeserved favor, it is also the power to do what we cannot do on our own, no matter how hard we try.
Ephesians 1:4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
Ephesians 2:4-8 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
Knowing that we are seated in heavenly places in Jesus, because we abide in Him and He in us (John 15:4-5), is the most wonderful encouragement! When we have asked Jesus to become the Lord of our lives, we have become alive in the spirit and temples of the Holy Spirit. Since then, Jesus lives in us and in the spirit we are seated at the right hand of the heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ. What an extraordinary honor, which truly shows the "infinite richness of grace" and the goodness of God. Everything we have from Father God, we have through faith in Jesus, and we are urged to ask the Lord to help us understand all the dimensions of His love so that we may be filled with "all His fullness." What a loving Father, who is ready to give us what is best, only the limited by how much can we receive!
Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
No matter how much it seems to cost us to be obedient to the Lord, especially in difficult circumstances, the reward is always infinitely greater. When we make the right choices, we always win in the long run. Maybe in some circumstances it would seems that we can choose a compromised solution, so that we do not suffer, but it is not true. The devil uses every sin we commit to harm us. Therefore, when we happen to sin, we should be quick to sincerely ask God for forgiveness and help us not to repeat it. When we focus on the Lord and what He likes, we have the greatest chance to not sin and live happier lives. Sin brings with it condemnation, and its consequences may not only cost us but also those around us. On the other hand, good decisions and deeds bring satisfaction, peace, and the joy that the Lord finds pleasure in us! Perhaps the verses in Isaiah 40 best sum up the blessings that accompany those who live to please the Lord:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
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