The Paradox of Pursuing Joy.

Would you describe yourself as a “super Christian”?

“Holier than thou”?

“Godly”?

We’re in the middle of studying a passage from 2 Peter 1, in which Peter tells us how to supplement our faith. He writes,

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV)

Last week, we discussed what it means to be “steadfast.” This week, we’re talking about godliness.

It’s not popular to say you're trying to be “godly.” In fact, since the church has been so opposed to earning one’s salvation – as it should be - we’ve swung the pendulum from this legalism to an apathetic, passive, and dead faith. Call it license, or “anti-legalism,” it doesn’t matter. It is a sad excuse for the robust faith to which God calls us in the New Testament. Would anyone say the men and women of the New Testament church didn’t take their faith seriously? No, even after one read of the NT, it’s clear that the members of the early church took their spiritual lives seriously even to the point of death. This wasn’t simply about accepting that Jesus died for their sins and then resurrected from the dead, but that he was the Lord of their lives and that his teachings about how they ought to live were, in fact, truthful.

So, why do we run so far away from living “godly” lives? There are several reasons, a few of which we’ll cover here.

The first reason we run away from godly lives is biblical illiteracy. Most Christians spend very little time reading their bibles, and even in that time, far too little is spent actually trying to understand it. This, perhaps, is why so many self-professed Christians care little for how God calls them to behave and find themselves living ungodly lives. They’re living a “care-free” Christian lifestyle in which the decisions they make don’t ultimately matter because God has already forgiven them and he’s not really interested in their sins, he’s simply interested in them because of how awesome they are.

When we neglect the reading of God’s word, we allow our hearts to determine the paths in which we should take. Yes, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living in us, and aside from special circumstances, it’s often hard to distinguish between what the Holy Spirit might be saying and what we want him to say. This is one of the reasons we have God’s word. It is meant not only to reveal his nature and plan but also what he wants for us. When we don’t read and study the word of God, we neglect his instructions for how to find joy in this life. The first step in leading a godly life is to know what it means to lead a godly life, which he describes to us in his word.

So, the first reason we run away from living “godly lives” is biblical illiteracy. The second is unchecked sin. We can’t simply know what we should and should not do as Christians; we must have people in our lives to whom we can confess the ungodly parts of ourselves. When we are convicted by God through his word and Holy Spirit, we are supposed to bring it to our close friends so they can pray for us. James 5:16 reads, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” God designed us for the human element. Of course, we could go to God for healing from our sins – and he has provided ultimate healing through Jesus – but he also designed us for (and commanded us to) confession to our friends as well. When we have people in our lives whom we trust with our ungodly acts, we can move into deeper joy, not only because those people will hold us accountable and help us break free from our sin (healing) but also because by confessing our sins we release the heavy burdens we carry around due to our sin.

If you want to know how to do this (confession) read a previous post by clicking here.

We know that we don’t live godly lives because of biblical illiteracy, and unchecked sin, but there’s one other reason: we don’t know what we’re missing out on.

It’s simple to say we don’t read God’s word enough or we don’t have enough accountability. These are things that most Christians probably already know but need a constant reminder. However, to address our psyche is quite a bit different. That’s what the third reason does. We intuitively know that when we reject sin, we will – in the end – feel better. For some reason, however, we choose the sin and try not to think about how it will make us feel in the next minute, hour, day, week, etc.

You probably know how accomplished you feel when you reject temptation. There is a joy knowing you’ve not only resisted temptation but also that you’ve pleased God and your conscience – on this matter – is clear. We humans are joy creatures. We are in pursuit of it at all times. Unfortunately, we forget the source from which all joy comes: God. When we choose him over the false joys of addiction, anger, bitterness, gossip, etc., we feel the victory promised to us in Scripture. We, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:18, “[have] been set free from sin, [and] have become slaves of righteousness.”


The joy set before us, the thing we are all pursuing. The thing for which we long, thirst, and hunger, is joy. We might seek it in all the wrong places, but it is what we’re seeking. It’s what the Psalmist was talking about when he wrote Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Delight yourself in the Lord – do what he calls you to do – and he will give you the desires of your heart: joy!

Joy is the deepest desire of our hearts. We want joy and we will pursue it at all costs. But, when we pursue it in the things that don’t have it, we will be extremely disappointed. We are God’s creatures. He designed us a certain way, with a certain purpose, and that’s where our joy is found: in living the way he designed us, in living for him.

So, how do we do that?

Yes, we should read and study our Bibles more. And, yes, we should confess more. But, ultimately, our answer to this question is found a few verses before today’s verse.

In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter writes,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”

 

What we’ve discussed so far – godliness – is something that we can achieve. It is, based on the first three letters in the word, directly given by God. God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to godliness. He is the only place we will find godliness. It is only though trust in him that we can be godly. We learn more about who God is through reading his word, and through experiencing the forgiveness and love of those to whom we confess, and through these things, we can learn more about what it means to be godly, but ultimately, our pursuit of godliness isn’t about doing anything; it is about encountering the living God and receiving from him the godliness he promises through his power.

So, what can we do? We can pray and ask God for godliness. We can ask him what areas of our lives need more attention, and how we can improve in those areas to find more of the inexhaustible joy he promises us.

Here’s your challenge for this week:

For day 1, pray and ask God to reveal to you the area om which you ought to focus.

For days 2-4, pray to God and ask him to heal you in that area.

For days 5-7, spend 5 minutes a day (at least) praying to God and asking him to tell you what you can do to experience more joy in that area.