I know a lot of godless but sorta-kinda-spiritual people who are very happy with their lives. Many of them, especially those in my neck of the woods (the South), even consider themselves “blessed and highly favored.” These people do not seek God, cherish Christ, or walk in the faith and obedience of the gospel. Their present manner of living looks nothing like the new life that the Spirit gives. But regardless of their lack of interest in the true God, and despite how cheerfully they indulge in the evils he despises, they sincerely believe their happiness of heart is indicative of his loving pleasure toward them.
The Bible diagnoses things a bit differently. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul explained that happy contentment in sin is not an indicator of God’s pleasure or favor, but of his wrath.
Many people think of God’s wrath only in hellfire and brimstone terms. One day, this terrifying manifestation of God’s indignation will be the unending experiential reality of all whose names are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15). But on this side of the Judgment, the way God most often demonstrates his wrath is by giving people over to all their sinful, soul-destroying delights.
Notice the progression of Paul’s argument in Romans 1:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth . . . although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened . . .
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves . . .
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions . . .
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” – Romans 1: 18, 21, 24, 26, 28
Is your conscience unbothered while you revel in activities that the Bible declares impure? If so, it’s because God, in his wrath, has given you over to impurity. Do you, without a twinge of conviction, delight in pursuing and satisfying unnatural desires? If you do, it’s because God, in his wrath, has given you over to dishonorable passions. Is your life filled with things the Scriptures say ought not to be done? Are you untroubled by this? If so, it’s because God, in his wrath, has given you over to a debased mind.
Hear me, though—this does not have to be the end of your story! Though God’s wrath rests upon you while you remain in unbelief and rebellion (John 3:18), he also extends a merciful hand of salvation toward you. Anyone who will turn from the treacherous happiness they find in their sin and take shelter in the grace of Jesus Christ, God will freely pardon and give a new heart—a heart that desires to pursue the holy happiness in God for which we were all made!
If today you find yourself feeling happy or even “blessed” in an unrepentant way of life, my prayer for you is that God would: 1) graciously trouble your sin-treasuring heart and 2) draw you to his sinner-saving Son. The joy Jesus gives is so much better than the cheap, fleeting, and deceptive happiness sin gives. Only when you know him will you really understand what it means to be blessed.
Matt Moore is a Christian writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he moved in 2012 to help plant NOLA Baptist Church. Matt spends his days drinking way too much coffee and writing about a wide variety of topics at www.moorematt.org. You can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.