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The Barna group has reported that a majority of people and most major Christian groups have come to believe that happiness is the sole purpose for life. Many also agree that there are no absolute moral truths that apply to everyone, all of the time.
The gospel of John tells of an occasion when Jesus told some religious leaders, "If you abide in my word, you are My disciples. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:31-32). Christ was teaching that in order to follow Him we have to live by God’s word found in the Bible. To thrive and grow spiritually as a Christian in a non-Christian society, we must know who the real Jesus is and live by the truth He taught.
For example, let’s look at just one of His basic teachings. For hundreds of years the definition of marriage and family in the Western world was traditionally based on biblical principles, but those definitions are now being radically redefined and are promoted in schools, the media and other institutions. Jesus taught, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they're no longer two, but one” (Matthew 19:4-6). God created marriage when He first created human beings, but the definition of marriage and family is being re-defined in an attempt to eradicate what Jesus taught.
The earliest followers of Jesus also lived in a non-Christian society and found themselves marginalized and sometimes violently persecuted. They could have avoided persecution by simply fitting in with everyone else. The Roman world accepted almost any form of religion, and there were many festivals and sacrifices to implore the gods and goddesses to promote the public good. People also had household gods, and in some cases worshiped their ancestors. Christians were ostracized because they didn't accept all religions as equal. They claimed only the true God and Jesus Christ should be worshiped. As believers in the one true God Christians were seen as antisocial and prejudiced against other religions.
The New Testament is filled with stories about how the followers of Jesus survived in this hostile society. There's one instance when God sent an angel to free the Apostle Peter when he was imprisoned. Then, instead of fleeing the city, Peter went to a house where other disciples were gathered in prayer (Acts 12:3-12). Christians, even in difficult times of that era, did not give up being a community. Not only should we build strong marriages and families, but in order to thrive in a non-Christian society, we should participate in a biblically-based community or congregation where we can share our faith and support each other.
We must all decide that spiritual truth cannot be compromised even if it involves losing friends or a job. Peter and John were arrested and dragged before the Jewish court and commanded not to publicly preach about Jesus Christ. Peter's response was, ”We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27-29).
What did Jesus teach about happiness? Part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 is called the Beatitudes. In this passage Jesus gives eight spiritual keys to happiness and they are totally different from what the average person would expect. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Most people think happiness is getting what you want, but Jesus said that humility and being ‘poor in spirit’, starting with our humility before God, is the way to happiness.
Part of being “poor in spirit” is realizing our spiritual poverty without God. In verse six, Jesus teaches, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” God gives happiness to those who seek, first of all, to be right with Him, which is more important than any physical thing we can have or experience.
Jesus goes on to say, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (verse 10). Jesus Christ is going to return to save humanity but, until then, being a Christian with biblically-based values means we will be strangers and pilgrims in a world drifting further and further from what Christ actually taught. That’s the price to be paid for not compromising with spiritual truth.
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