Nobody spoils a man’s life like Jesus. Jesus is a killer of all worldly joy. God’s attitude to the world is often lost on many. God hates the world system.
The world hated Jesus and killed him. Therefore, anyone who is a lover of pleasure; anyone who likes this world becomes an enemy of God.
Accordingly, James asks: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). Paul is of the same opinion: “She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6). Thus, Jesus assured his disciples: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33).
God is so implacably opposed to the world; he has doomed it to destruction. Isaiah says: “I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, a destruction determined even upon the whole earth.” (Isaiah 28:22). In the meantime, God plans “to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.” (Isaiah 23:9).
God allows wickedness to prevail on earth, the better to commend to us the superiority of the kingdom of heaven. Job notes that: “The whole earth is in the hands of the wicked” (Job 9:24). This is because God allows it to be so. Thus, God allows the worst kinds of people to be heads of states and governments: “The High God rules human kingdoms.
He arranges kingdom affairs however he wishes, and makes leaders out of losers.” (Daniel 4:17).
Thanks to Jesus, we are brought to the realisation that what we deemed to be life is actually death. Under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, believers are made foreigners and strangers here on decrepit earth; having become citizens of a spiritual heavenly kingdom.
Out of this new reality is then fashioned a completely different psychology. The atonement kills everything before it makes alive. This is what God says about his own peculiar process: “I, even I, am he, and there is no God besides me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Christ makes every pain irrelevant and he diminishes every joy outside of himself. Therefore, be contemptuous of every advantage. Overlook every disadvantage. Jesus is a leveller. The kingdom of God cancels deficits and erases credits. Before the glory of God is revealed: “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low.” (Isaiah 40:4).
God is at pains to make us see that what we call wonderful is “wonder-less.” He tells us the man who is blessed is not he who won the lottery, but he who receives forgiveness of sin: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him.” (Psalm 32:1-2).
Jesus maintains the joy to be cherished is the joy of salvation: “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20).
Man of sorrows
God prefers to make people cry than to make them laugh. Jesus was a man of sorrows; acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3). The bible says of him: “It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.” (Isaiah 53:10).
There is really very little to laugh about here on earth. What is there to laugh about in a world riddled with sin, where souls are perishing every day; and where the thief comes daily to steal, kill and destroy? (John 10:10). What is there to laugh about in a grief-stricken world?
Therefore, Jesus pronounces woe on those given to laughter. He says: “Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). Amos also says: “Woe to those lounging in luxury at Jerusalem and Samaria.” (Amos 6:1). James goes even further to prescribe a strange tonic for the soul: “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” (James 4:9).
But we thought Jesus came to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness? (Isaiah 61:3). Yes indeed! But Jesus’ ministry is only for those who are sorrowful and mournful. Moreover, the consolations of Christ come not through the reform of this world, but by invitation to another kingdom; a kingdom not of this world.
The nature of this ungodly world is such that, according to the wisdom of God, even in laughter the heart should sorrow, since the end of mirth may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13). Solomon says: “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3). By laughter and merriment the heart is made worse, vainer, more carnal and more sensual. It is made more in love with the world and more estranged from God and godliness.
If sorrow is indeed better than laughter, then the man who God makes sad is more blessed than the man who is happy. When a man decides to be good to another man, he tries to make him happy. He ministers to his body. He makes him comfortable. Not so the goodness of God. When God is really good to someone, he is more likely to make him sad. God’s goodness works more on the heart than on the flesh: “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4). Its main objective is to lead us along the path of life and make us heirs of salvation.
Therefore, God is not good in the way that is normally considered to be good. If we don’t understand the peculiarity of God’s goodness, we are likely to be sad when we should be glad, and to be glad when we should be sad.
In the kingdom of God, the way up is down
In order to enter, we must be born again. (John 3:3-5). In order to see, we have to be blind. (John 9:39). In order to be full, we have to hunger. (Luke 6:21). In order to gain, we have to lose. (Matthew. 13:44-46). In order to be rich, we have to be poor. (1 Samuel 2:7). In order to be strong, we have to be weak. (Judges 7:2-7). In order to be masters, we have to be slaves. (Matthew 20:25-28). The elder must serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23).
In order to laugh, we have to weep. (Luke 6:21). In order to enter into glory, we have to endure suffering. (Luke 24:25-26). In order to be healed, we have to be sick. (Luke 5:31). In order to live, we have to die. (John 12:24). In order to save our life, we have to lose it. (Matthew 16:25-26). In order to be first, we have to be last. (Matthew 19:30).