Faithlife Sermons

What Happened to Your Happiness?

True Freedom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The goal is to get away from spiritual rules and regulations that bind us to misery and return to the joy we once found in Jesus.

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It is said that Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one which is indispensible to a believer’s life, but the prescribing length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage, and strangle prayer rather than assist it.”
While rules and regulations are important for society, rules and regulations can severely dampen the life of a Christian. The rules and regulations become the standard by which we are supposed to live live in order to “prove” we are truly saved because we don’t was to be seen by others as being a hypocrite when in fact if we set down rules and regulations, we will never be able to maintain that particular standard of living for very long. The reality is, we are broken people that live in a broken world, and trying to maintain a set of moral standards that shouldn't have existed to begin with tends to zap the life out of us. They serve as a remind of just how fallible we as humans are, and it becomes discouraging.
Maybe you have been a Christian most all of your life, and you don’t remember life before salvation. Maybe you have not been a Christian all of your life, and you can remember life before coming to know Christ. Perhaps, you are at a point in life that nothing seems to go right and every day is a struggle, and the joy of life is gone. There are many reasons why we become less happy and more jaded along this path we call life.
In our text this morning, Paul makes a transition from being adamant to the Galatians about defending the Gospel’s purity to a tone of concern. It would appear there was an attitudinal shift with the Galatians. This was probably because they had been corrupted with a false teaching of maintaining their salvation according to the code of law. Paul had already stated that if they didn't keep any one particular point of the law then they would become guilty of violating the entire law, then he goes into explaining what the true purpose of the law was for and that was to serve as a reminder of God’s standard of living and that apart from faith alone in Jesus Christ that not a one person would be able to keep the law. Now, he enters in a section that he is going to encourage and exhort the Galatians to return to grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ in order to return to the joy they once had.
Galatians 4:12–20 ESV
Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
While there is no theology in this passage, there are some valuable lessons we can learn from the text in regard to true happiness, and when we feel like we have lost that happiness, we can be assured that if we truly have Christ dwelling inside of us, we can be happy knowing we have the truth through any trials of life.

Remember the happiness you first had when you met Jesus.

Paul opens the passage with some very strong emotional terms. This tells us, he is appealing to the readers on a very personal and intimate level. He says, “Brothers, I entreat you...” He has now gone from calling them “foolish” earlier in the letter to now calling them brothers, but we must also look at the next term: “entreat.” This is a very emotional term. Paul is begging with the Galatians now. What is he begging them to do? He says in verse 12, “become as I am.” This is an imperative sentence, and gives us the idea of being a command. He says, “become as I am, for I also became as you are.” What does that even mean? The word for “become” is “ginomai” and denotes a complete identity change. What did Paul become? He became free from the bondage of the law through his encounter with the risen Christ, so I believe Paul is encouraging the Galatians to return to what truly makes a person happy and that is being free from living up to a certain set of standards that are never going to be attained.
Paul reminds the reader of the circumstances that brought him ta Galatia in the first place. Something happened to him that was probably a physical ailment that caused him to stop in Galatia which was not originally on his missionary itinerary. Whatever it was, many commentators presume that it was something that when a person looked at him that would cause them to be taken back by his appearance, and the Galatians welcomed him warmly, and as Paul writes, “as an angel of God, and Christ Jesus.”
Bridge the gap:
Life happens. It can get in the way of plans. It can become frustrating. I am not telling any of you anything new, but it’s how we react to those trials is what defines us.Think back for a moment to the time you first became a Christian. For some of you that may have been since early childhood, and for others that may be in the not too distant past. For those that have been a believing Christian since childhood, think back to when the gospel really took hold of your soul and you realized that life change deep inside you. Do you remember the joy you felt? Do you remember the zeal you had for Jesus and the desire to share that life changing message with others?
Trials of life tend to wear us down, and those trials never stop. As we grow in Christ, the trials and tribulations can get pretty bad at times. Sometimes, we must think pretty hard about how happy we were at the beginning of our Christian walk.

Recall what caused you to become unhappy/disillusioned

Paul then poses an introspective question to the Galatians. He asks, “what then has become of your blessedness?” The word used for blessed here means happy. It is the same word that Jesus uses in the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5, and this root is used at least 48 times in the New Testament, so Paul is basically asking, “what happened to your happiness? Where did it go?” Like most new Christians, Paul points to the fact that they would have sacrificed anything for Paul, including their eyes, and now they are no longer characterized by that sacrificial spirit of giving.
Bridge the gap:
What characterizes your life right now at this moment? Are you satisfied in the Lord, or is your life of faith characterized by cynicism? Are you as happy and joyful today as you were when you were first saved? Was there a turning point that caused that change? What has you disillusioned with your faith?
Life is full of trial and tribulations, Jesus was very clear that the life of a Christian was not going to be easy:
John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus promised that through Him we can overcome anything through our faith.
What has caused you to lose that spirit of sacrifice to others?
Matthew 16:24–26 ESV
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Is your life characterized by sacrifice to others? What are you willing to give up so that others may see the joy of Christ in you? When we take up our cross and we make sacrifices for others, we are not only making them out of love, but as an act of worship toward God.
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Too many times we get caught up in the “thou shall nots” of religion that we fail to stay focused on what truly matters and that is living for God’s glory through the power of the Holy Spirit. Living by man’s set of expectations causes us to burn out on the Christian life, and that becomes a burden for us that weighs us down. When we experience trials and tribulations, when we go through rough spots in our lives, we must always remember that it’s not always because we have sin in our lives. We will always have that hanging about us, there are sometimes, that its just simply because we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

Return to the truth of God’s Word

Paul then asks the Galatians, “have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Paul is a defender of the gospel, and to the Galatians, he was adamant about the purity of the gospel. He did not want to see it corrupted by a set of false teachings and legalism.
The Judaizers would woo their converts by giving them compliments and making a big deal about their “progress” in relation to the guidelines of the law. Basically what it became was a bunch of ego stroking and making each other feel good so they could take credit for the supposed progress of those Christians under their care. They did all that in an effort to alienate the Galatians from Paul and the others that were teaching the true gospel.
Paul then affirms that it’s ok to be made a big deal of if it is for a good purpose and not for purposes other that ultimately glorying God. Paul then ends that sentence with, “and not only when I am present with you.” This shows the character of what true Christianity is. How do we behave when other Christians aren’t around?
Bridge the gap:
Paul had already addressed an issue with Peter’s behavior when the Judaizers started showing up. He had already been seen eating and fellowshipping with the Galatians until they started showing up, and he started to withdraw from them and separating himself from the gentile believers for fear of being scorned by his buddies.
Do our lives reflect the truth of God’s word all day every day? When you come to Church and shout “amen” do you go home and shout the same things, or do you go home and never crack open your bible to draw closer to God or bow your knees in prayer to talk to God?
Is there a double life going on somewhere? That will sap the joy out of life quickly. Being two people will never last. When we are around other Christians do we put on our “Sunday face” so they don't see how we truly are? Do we talk a big game about how we are obedient in all aspects of our lives so that others will look at us with admiration?
Do you go around looking for the faults in other Christians and call it “holding them accountable?” How do you really handle seriously errant Christians? We must not be hesitant to handle errant behavior and beliefs, but we must take great care to not be condemning of other for things they may or may not be doing.
What about non-Christians? Do you tell them what they should or should not be doing, or do you SHOW them how life is to be lived? Paul said to “become as I am” in verse 12, and that can mean quite a lot for a Christian. People watch Christians like a hawk. They look for reason to call us hypocritical and reasons not to accept Christ into their lives.
When we let issues slide without addressing them, and there are ways to help a person correct errant behavior without being combative, or when we are not being a living example of the power of the gospel in our lives, we have already compromised our message to the world, and that is tough to recover from. That is something only God can then fix. If we let errant behavior slide, or we hesitate to share the gospel with someone for fear of upsetting them, we then become a people-pleaser, and Paul has already spoken to that issue stating that if we are trying to please others we cannot be servants of Christ.
We must not hesitate to return to the truth of God’s Word and let it permeate our lives. That is when we can truly live out the power of the gospel and be that example for others.

Reclaim the joy of Christ

Paul equates the discipleship of the Galatian Christians to giving birth or labor pains. Paul knew that discipleship was messy. He uses a very endearing term here by calling them children. This gives us some deep insight into the type of relationship that he had with the Galatians. He referred to them as spiritual children and walking them through the salvation experience and initial stages of discipleship was tough work. So tough that he equated it to giving birth to a child literally.
Paul is agonizing over the Galatian churches. This shows the heart of the a pastor. He had to be stern at first in order to get them back on track, and now he softens his tone to show just how much he cares about their spiritual well-being. Paul was taking their backsliding very personally as any pastor would. He says at the end of verse 19, “until Christ is formed in you.” Paul is referring to their personal transformations. This is the transformation of becoming more Christlike daily for the believer. This is the renewing of a persons mind that he spoke of in where he says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind...”
These believers had reverted to a system of bondage to the law that sucked the happiness and joy out of their lives because they could no longer serve God properly because their focus had changed from God to a set of rules.
Bridge the gap:
Discipleship is a messy process. Especially for a new believer, but it can be for a long-time believer as well. When we are a new Christian, we have a zeal and joy for God like no other. As time goes on and life happens, and people are instructed on the do’s and don’ts of life, it gets wearisome, and sucks the life out of the Christian walk. We must take care to find the balance of living an upright life and focusing on God without all the rules and regulations that man has put on how Christians are supposed to act in their lives. The joy we miss can only be found in returning to our first love, and that is the love of God through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Carrot, egg, and coffee story...
When we put on our best “Sunday face” and get up and go to church, we set a false example for others around us. When we show up and act like our lives are perfect, others look at us and wonder why they are struggling with difficulties in their lives, they burn out and many time will walk away from the church completely because they “can’t do it.” If we are boastful because we have never done anything morally questionable, we set false expectations for others, especially when we are closed off about our personal struggles, we end up being made much of for “no good purpose.” We always talk about people being great Christians because they never did any wrong, the question new Christians always ask, and I still ask the same question of myself, “what am I doing wrong that my life is so difficult.”
It’s easy to stay away from temptations when we become hermits, but then we become ineffective because we stop reaching out to the lost of the world and sharing the Gospel with them. All because we don’t want to be tempted. That is selfishness on our part. Life can be tough.
Perhaps, you live by a set of expectations in order to be a shining example of what a model Christian should be. Has that sucked the life out of how you live? Do you spend most of your time focusing on what you should and shouldn’t be doing instead of what you have been truly called to do? It’s time to reclaim the joy you once had in Jesus. Return to Him and let Him do the work in you and don’t rely on any effort of you own to make it through life.
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