How to Be Happy and Successful
MARCH 17, 2021
What’s the best way to live? What’s the purpose of God’s law? If you’re simply tired of constantly trying to make it on your own, I’ve got some really good news for you from God himself.
Many Christians define sin by how much they enjoyed it. If you didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t a sin. If you did enjoy it, it was a sin. Those are the same people who see God’s law as his way of making us miserable.
The truth is just the opposite. The law is a wonderful gift from God so that we might be fulfilled, not that we might be miserable.
The law is a gift from God.
“What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2).
Jews consider the greatest gift they ever received to be Torah, the law of God. It made them different. It caused persecution, but it allowed them to understand God, the universe and their part in it.
We can deal with almost anything except meaninglessness. And meaning comes only from understanding God, the way the universe was created, and your part in it.
God’s law contains the rules of the universe. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t play the game…and you certainly can’t win the game. A Christian knows the rules of the game and that makes all the difference in the world. If you want to be happy, live by the law. If you want to be successful, live by the law. Jesus came to give you the power to live by the law…and when you can’t or don’t live by it, his forgiveness. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law in the life of the believer.
The law is the revelation of God.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).
The real question is not, is there a God? (That’s a stupid question.) The real question is, what is God like? The psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
What is God like? The law helps answer that question. From the law, we learn some very important things about God…
God is righteous and plays by the rules. God calls us to love our enemies and he can’t do any less because he is a righteous God defined by his own laws of righteousness.
I once had a swimming coach who made me swim 80 laps and pull 20 laps with my arms every morning…but my (lazy) coach never did what he told me to do. It really irritated me. He gave me laws I had to follow but never followed them himself. God isn’t like that. He plays by the rules he’s established.
God is immutable. I don’t know about you but I hate change. I’m old and over all these years, I’ve learned two things—to not hold on to things too tightly (I’m going to lose them anyway) and that God never changes. My life may change, but God never does. He is immutable.
When you kneel down and pray to God today, he will be the same God you kneel down and pray to tomorrow. God is not surprised by your sin. He won’t change his mind or his ways. He loves you and always will.
God is holy. I love to read Greek mythology. It’s always surprised me that the Greeks could worship a god or gods whose sins and foibles were just like their sins and foibles…only bigger. Our God, the God, is different. He is holy.
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is whistling a Jewish tune and polishing the candlesticks when the real God shows up. Isaiah does the only thing he can do. He falls before the throne. Isaiah hears this description of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). God is holy to the third degree. The fact is our little gods are too little. That is why they don’t make any difference in our lives. But God is different. He is big and holy.
The law gives superior knowledge.
Take a look at Romans 3:2 and 3:19 again.
Life is a minefield. And the law of God tells us where all the mines are. God says, “If you want to be as happy as you can be in a fallen world, then this is the way to do it. Obey my law.”
Things are bad. We have said in so many ways: “There isn’t any God and, if there isn’t any God, then there can’t be any rules. And if there aren’t any rules, then I’m going to look out for me and me alone.”
We have forgotten about God’s law. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand that God’s law is God’s law and that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. Contrary to popular opinion, we can’t just meet together as a group to vote on the matter.
There is a God of nature who reveals what is right and what is wrong. His law tells us where the mines are. Yet we keep stepping on the mines and, as a result, we will destroy ourselves in the process.
The law gives us superior knowledge. It is not that God wants to keep us from having fun. It is because this is the way the world works, this is how things are put together, and this is what you’re supposed to do. You can’t break the law…you can only break yourself against it.
The law shows us ourselves as we really are.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).
God’s law is light. I have a friend who doesn’t like bright lights as he shaves simply because the bright light exposes his blemishes. So my friend keeps the light down low, looks into the bathroom mirror and thinks, You’re really something else…so good looking and no wrinkles. But the truth is quite different.
The law is the light and when God turns on the light, it is a very good thing. When I go before God, I want to know what the rules are. If I want to ask God to forgive me, I need to know what I should ask him to forgive. If I don’t know those places where I’ve messed up then I’m not going to ask for forgiveness and I won’t be forgiven. Instead I will continue in my guilt and be lost forever. The law drives us to the throne of God’s grace. When I go to God in repentance, I know exactly what I’ve done wrong so I can talk to him about it. In his law, God tells us about our failure.
The law is sometimes misinterpreted.
“But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?…And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:5-6,8).
Do you see the problem? After looking at the law, people say, “I’m bad. I’m really bad…so I will be worse. God made me that way.”
God gave us his law as a demonstration of who we are so that we might live the best way and, when we don’t, go to him asking for forgiveness and power to do better the next time. The law isn’t given so you can give up. The law is given so you can give it up to him and grow in grace.
The law can never be the object whereby we are saved.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law [by being good] no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
Leprosy is a horrible disease not because it’s painful, but because it isn’t. When we put our hand on a hot stove, we immediately pull it back because of the pain. The leper never feels the heat or the pain. Likewise, the law shows us where the pain is and why it hurts.
The law instructs. It reveals my pain so I then go to the right place. The thinking that if you can just be good enough, pure enough and obedient enough, God will notice and love you…is an outright lie. We can never be good enough, pure enough and obedient enough. It just doesn’t work. It is simply impossible. But by the law, I recognize where my need is and go to the proper Physician, the God of the universe who is a God of grace.
Let me tell you what the law really does.
We once had a dog, Annie the Orphan. She was ugly, had an under-bite and looked like a little gremlin.
When Annie first showed up, she was abandoned, dirty and matted, and with a horrible self-image. My wife tried to find the dog’s owner and eventually took her to the vet. The vet said to Anna, “Anybody who treats a dog like this has no right to have a dog.”
So Annie became a beloved part of our family.
When I got home at night, Annie came running up to me, wagging her whole body. Annie was just so pleased that somebody loved and cared for her because she was so dirty, so lonely and so lost before. Annie was once an orphan.
I was just like Annie. I was dirty. I was an orphan. I was a nobody. God’s law revealed that to me. As a result, I ran to Jesus. God adopted me and accepted me. I’m no longer an orphan. I’m beloved.