The Blessed Life: The Secret of Happiness #2
Before we go verse by verse through the Sermon on the Mount, let me give you a little bit of background to this message Jesus preached.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him–from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.” (Matthew 4:23-25).
Before Jesus sat down on the mountain to deliver this message, we see Jesus the Messiah, arriving on the scene: healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, and transforming lives. Because He went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed of the devil and changing lives, crowds followed Him. There was something about Jesus that attracted people to Him. If we are called to follow the example of Jesus, shouldn’t we be attracting people as well? It’s because we haven’t allowed the light of Jesus that’s in us to shine forth that we haven’t seen more people come to Jesus.
Jesus came to reveal the goodness of God to people. He revealed the love of God the Father, telling people the Good News that God loves you, and God is love. In James 1:17, the Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” If you have one good thing in your life, it is a gift from your Heavenly Father. We have the wrong concept of God if we think He’s just all about the rules. Christianity is about a loving relationship with God as a Father in Heaven who longs to give you good gifts. Jesus said, “If you then (as human parents), being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11).
As a father I love to bless my children. I love to take them out for ice cream. I love to bless them with lots of presents at Christmas time. I’m not spoiling my kids rotten – I’m teaching them something about the generous Father heart of God. Bless your children! We’re created in the image of God, and one of the reasons why parents love to bless their children is because God the Father wants to bless His children. If you were to ask any human parent what they want for their children, you might hear different dreams: “I want them to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher!” We all have different dreams for our children, but I guarantee you that every parent has one universal dream for their children: that they would be happy. Why would we not attribute that same character quality to God, our perfect and loving Heavenly Father? He wants His children to be happy as well. The foundation of our belief in a blessed life is a belief in the goodness of God.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first two human beings, He put them in the Garden of Eden. Eden is a word that means paradise or delights. That’s the nature of God. Heaven is called Paradise– a place of everlasting joy. If you don’t like joy, and you don’t like the idea of happiness and the blessed life, don’t go to Heaven. Heaven is called “The Joy of the Lord” (see Matthew 25:21). God is into joy and happiness, and we need to believe that about His nature.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? I prefer to call it the story of the prodigal Father. “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:11-20, msg).
The very next thing the Father did was to call for a party. He said, “Bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry!” (Luke 15:23-24). The sad part of this story is that the older brother got angry at the Father’s prodigal nature so he wouldn’t even go into the party. (Prodigal is defined as: wastefully or recklessly extravagant; lavishly abundant. Really, it’s the story of the prodigal Father, not the prodigal son). “Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” (v. 28-30).
The older brother was focused on serving: “These many years I have been serving you.” He said, “I was being faithful, working and obeying your commands the way I was supposed to, but you never killed a calf for me!” The Father responded so tenderly to this son. He said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” There are two important truths here that he hadn’t realized. One was his inheritance. The Father said, “All that I have is yours!” Surely this was one of those jaw-dropping, eye-popping moments for this son. He could have had a fatted calf anytime he wanted to! Then the Father said, “I am with you always.” This spoke of the blessing of the Father’s abiding presence. The son was so focused on serving, with his “work, work, work” mentality, “I’m just serving Jesus, but I’m not having any fun.” He missed the joy of the presence of the Father, and he didn’t know the wonderful inheritance that he had. That’s sad. I hope that you aren’t bound by a servant mentality. Yes it’s true that we are called to serve in the church: to be great in the Kingdom of God means that we serve others through love. We don’t do this because we have to, rather because we know our Father loves us, and we want to serve Him – in response to His love.