By The Merry Monk
In 2009, I made a few resolutions and did well. I worked out five to six times a week and became a vegetarian. My resolution was to become a vegan, but cheese kept finding its way into my mouth—via veggie pizzas and goldfish crackers. I also ate an egg. Then there was the mahi-mahi I ate while celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary… and the lunch meat I tasted while making my kids’ lunch. (Hey, it could have gone bad. I was throwing myself in front of the salmonella bus to save the children.) But I digress.
The point is that with all the exercise and my vegetarianism, I lost 50 pounds. I also quit drinking and sneaking pipe tobacco. I became a Nazarite without the hair. I even got a life insurance policy with premiums in the basement, in case I lost it and went on a crazy meat and beer binge, gained all the weight back, and greased up my blood. Wait, that’s not the point either.
The point is I was living as cleanly as I ever have. On top of that, I started seeing a counselor to work through my stuff, and to name “my demons” by kissing them on the mouth in an effort to live in greater degrees of freedom. And on top of that, I began another master’s degree at Reformed Theological Seminary. The way I was going, I thought I might get translated straight into heaven like Enoch, although I was afraid the life insurance policy wouldn’t pay out if they didn’t find a body.
That was a year of personal reformation in just about every area of my life, yet I discovered God wasn’t happy with me because of those efforts. I went to Him and said, “Look, Father, I’m finally behaving like a ‘real’ Christian. How about that?”
He replied, “Good for you.” He wasn’t impressed.
There’s something in us that wants to make God happy, but we can’t. Trying to make God happy is like collecting waves on the beach in a child’s bucket and pouring the water back into the surf to get the ocean wet. God is already happy and nothing we do can add to or subtract from that.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Those words from our Father became the air Jesus breathed. He did only what He saw the Father doing, and God the Father was constantly happy with God the Son. “Because of the cross,” are the Father’s words to us, too. If we listen to that still small voice that’s almost drowned out by self-condemnation and the accusations of our enemy, we’ll hear the words like a cool breeze in the heat of the day, “You’re My beloved child and I’m happy with you.”
Not only is the Father happy with us because we’re part of the body of His beloved Son, the fact is…He’s just plain happy. It comes along with being the eternally blessed source of all goodness.
In Genesis, He says a few words and everything that exists springs into a good and pleasant existence. He didn’t create because of any need on His part. The Trinity was enough. Instead, He shared His image with dust simply to bless us with the overflow of His happiness. And then, almost instantly after we shattered that image and ran from His blessing, He chased us to cover our shame. Romans 11:35 reveals God’s overflowing blessedness saying, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” He doesn’t need anything or owe anyone. He’s the very definition of satisfied.
The Old Testament is filled with commands to rest and celebrate in God’s goodness. We’re so uptight He had to order us to share in His happiness. Those feast days were not solemn occasions. Check out the spirit of the law in Deuteronomy 14:22-26, “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain…and the firstborn of your herds and flocks…in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.” Ever hear those verses preached on tithing?
In the New Testament we see God the Son frequenting so many parties He’s accused of being a drunk. Later He will return for the biggest wedding celebration ever. Everyone’s invited and there’s an open bar, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ …and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
Luke 12:32 shows He delights in sharing His abundance with His children, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” There’s that word again, “pleasure.” God is pleased and it’s His pleasure to share the happiness of His abundance.
Even so, it’s absolutely comical that we try to make God happy. We have the same arrogance that motivated Adam and Eve to cover themselves with leaves instead of going to God for clothes.
That is what’s so dangerous about commitment in general and New Year’s resolutions in particular. Our efforts to be good can blind us to the only real righteousness there is.
Do you want to know what gave me the juice to get my act together in 2009? A life insurance policy with low premiums…and grace. It is true that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still be happy with them anyway.
When I first heard that message, I started smoking, drinking and rebuilding the CD collection I threw out when I first became a Christian, because I really believed in the imputed righteousness of Christ. I was sure God was happy, but here’s the kicker…I was absolutely miserable.
Sometimes we don’t realize God’s already happy and He doesn’t need us to finish the job. Sometimes we don’t get it until we get drunk and miserably stumble home. That is the upside of sinning. If we belong to God, it makes us sick. If we keep it up, we’ll get more and more miserable, and consequently, increasingly more determined to stop. Eventually, we’ll look around at the pigs sharing our dinner and remember the celebrations at the Father’s house. We’ll remember that He’s happy, that He has plenty, and if we go home, we’ll be happy too.
I didn’t get my act together that year to make God happy. I did it to make me happy and that’s why I did so well.
Hear these words from Nehemiah 8:9-10, “…the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.'”
We can remember those words when we find ourselves feeling fat and undisciplined after all the holiday parties. As we haul that last garbage bag of torn up wrapping paper to the curb and start thinking about making some resolutions, we don’t want to forget that God’s joy is our strength.
There’s no use in resolving to be good to make God happy. Instead, if we enjoy His happiness, we just might be surprised by our faithfulness. Even if we don’t get any better, it’s the best chance we have at having a Happy New Year.