Giving is Funner than Receiving

giving is funner

If you could give or receive $100,000, which would you do?

Your answer to that question reveals which one – giving or receiving – you believe is more satisfying.

This is not an issue of “choosing the right answer.” If your honest answer is that you would rather receive it, that’s not something to feel guilty about. That’s fine. But it does show where you think you derive more happiness from.

It came as a refreshing surprise when I first read and understood what Jesus meant when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). (Blessed means happy, by the way. It doesn’t mean God will bless you more.)

I started to pay more attention to my giving and receiving in my daily life to see which I get more joy from.

Jesus was right. Duh.

This changed my perspective and led to me becoming a more giving person, not because I was making a moral effort to try and be more like Jesus, but simply because of the joy to be found in giving. (Jesus must have been one happy dude after all that giving he did on earth. See Hebrews 1:9)

But this realization was only the beginning.

One day a friend pointed out to me that this applies to God as well. God also enjoys giving more than receiving. It’s his nature, because his love is utterly other focused.

When he shared this with me, I literally fell to the floor at the realization of how much better God is than I thought he was.

All God wants to do is give. Honestly, he’s not interested in our efforts to try and do stuff for him, as if he has needs. Even things like prayer, worship, and even sharing the gospel are not “for God” but for us, for humanity. The Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath. Same with everything else. In fact, God was so addicted to giving that he couldn’t help himself and went ahead and gave us everything! He filled us with the fullness of himself. He blessed us with every spiritual blessing. All things belong to us.

If you’re in doubt and think that you need something more than Jesus, you will be disappointed. Time to quit looking for more and time to start enjoying what’s yours.

Now, switching to a related topic…

Have you ever offered to pay for someone or do something for them, and then be rejected? How did you feel?

I’m pretty sure most people don’t think, “Phew! Didn’t want to have to pay for that one,” or, “Glad I don’t have to do that for them. That was a close call!” Unless someone is offering out of a sense of religious or cultural duty (which I think is rare), people are offering because they desire to give. Whether or not they’ve put it into words like I have here, people realize to one degree or another that they like to give. And so they offer to.

But people also reject offers. Why is this?

(Note: receiving is a good thing. Remember, it is better to give than to receive, implying that receiving is good too.)

Sometimes, it’s cultural. I know this is a huge part of Japan’s culture. Sometimes, people feel shame, thinking that it makes them look bad. Sometimes, people feel guilt, thinking that they aren’t worthy. But all these reasons are complete bogus. In the end, refusing to accept what someone offers to give robs them of their opportunity for joy through giving. 

Here’s a similar scenario – someone accepts your offer for you to pay for them, but then they say something like “I’ll pay for you next time.” This mutes the point of paying for them. It’s like trying to get even with them. “You did something for me, and I’ll do something for you. Then we’ll be even. Yay.” All it really does, though, is take away the joy of the giving because, in the end, no one’s giving anything. It’s like me paying you a dollar and then you paying me a dollar. Pointless.

Let giving flow from your heart. Give out of desire, not compulsion or duty or guilt. God likes a cheerful giver, and you will like yourself much more if you decide to only give cheerfully as well.

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The Harmony of Enjoying and Glorifying God

Another story of Jesus revealing his goodness to me.

When I was a Sophomore in college, I encountered and struggled with this question: “Am I doing everything for God’s glory? Am I living this life purely out of a motivation to serve him with none of myself in the equation?”

The more I thought about this question the more I realized that the answer was no. There was some kind of motivation to please myself behind everything that I did “for God,” whether that was getting personal satisfaction or a promised future reward.

I can’t tell you how guilty this made me feel. I saw myself as selfish and inclined to evil, desiring what was contrary to God’s heart. I tried to suppress and ignore my thoughts and emotions and focused on obeying God simply because that was the right thing to do. I wanted to live out of a devotion unadulterated by my own desires, but it seemed impossible. How could I get rid of motivation rooted in myself?

Unfortunately, I never stopped to ask some simple questions.

What brings God glory? What pleases him? 

One day I was browsing through my college’s library when I stumbled upon a book called “Desiring God” by John Piper. Piper recounted how he had gone through the same struggle I myself was going through at that time – and it was during college for him too! I read with wide-eyed excitement as I sought his answer to our dilemma.

Piper writes, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever…God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Oh my God! Oh my God!…Oh my God! I had no other words. This was simply too good to be true.

desirelessAt that moment I realized that God designed me to be a pleasure seeker and that God himself was the ultimate satisfaction of my desires. It was okay for me to want God for the joy to be found in him.

God wasn’t looking for me to clean up my motives or work hard at self-denial. He was looking to be glorified precisely by my enjoying him.

I was mind blown. I was heart melted. I was utterly blissed.

The happy message of the Gospel is that the glory of God and the joy of mankind are not in opposition but rather are in harmony. 

I had tried to suppress my God-given nature as a pleasure seeker but failed. “To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people,” writes Piper.

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. … The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. – Blaise Pascal

What I really needed was to make sure I was drinking from the most pleasurable source: Christ. Only he satisfies. And he indeed does satisfy, completely. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14).

This is why it’s important to happily repent (i.e. change our minds). It’s not about striving to quit seeking pleasure; it’s about reconsidering what is and isn’t pleasurable, ultimately realizing that God himself is the greatest delight.

crowder

“The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful,” writes Piper. “We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.”

God wants a people addicted to His pleasure – a people who serve him for no other reason than the delight they take in Him. This is the very heart of true worship. It is not self-centered. It is putting God at the very center of self, so that self cannot possibly be satisfied without Him. – John Crowder

“Eden” literally means “pleasure.” God gave Adam the job of tending the garden of pleasure. This is what we were created for.

God is that good.

*****

(If you want to see a fuller scriptural basis for this idea, check out The Ecstasy of Loving God  by John Crowder.)

Effortless Christianity

A story of extravagant grace in my life.

How Jesus saved me from do-it-myself religion.

How God jacked me up with joy, and still does every day.

How Holy Spirit showed me the good he put in me that I was unaware of.

During my Junior year of college I was doing a bunch of good things. I set time aside to explore the bible and talk with Jesus daily, led a Christian fellowship, did outreach in my neighborhood, helped at a homeless shelter, etc. I don’t remember all that I was doing, but I do remember that I was doing a lot of stuff. Good stuff.

I wasn’t burned out, nor was my mindset to do works to earn salvation. My thinking was, “I’m going to try to do my best to do good works because I’m so thankful to Jesus. I’m going to do things for God even when I don’t feel like it. I’m going to deny myself and finish this race strong.” Sounds good yeah? Like a good little Christian boy.

But hidden in that mindset I had was distrust in Christ’s saving and transforming work.

One day God told me to quit everything I was trying to do. I was like, “No way! If I do that, I’ll end up not doing any good works. Why would I quit trying as if that’s bad? The only reason I do good works is precisely because I try!” He responded, “Tyler. You don’t trust our union. You don’t see how deep it goes. I’ve placed my desires in you so that even the good works that you do don’t have to be born out of effort but purely out of desire. Give yourself time to recognize your true desires.”

I was scared. How could I believe that I would actually start to do good things purely out of desire? I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it. Surely I am not that good. If I didn’t try to do stuff, I wouldn’t do anything! So I thought.

It took me a while to decide to fully give up everything I was trying to do, but I eventually gave in. After I threw in the towel, I just hung out with Jesus all the time. Just as I suspected would happen, I wasn’t doing any good works. But Jesus kept reassuring me, telling me to rest in the works that he had accomplished and not my own, and to simply learn to enjoy him all the time.

It’s kind of nice to have your Daddy tell you over and over that you don’t need to do anything. After some time I learned to relax and simply enjoy being with Jesus. Any worries I had about “not doing enough” faded. And as I continually set my eyes on Jesus and his works, something amazing started happening.

Jesus was right!

I began to do good works.

At first I didn’t even realize it. I was doing them only because I wanted to, so it was entirely effortless. I was not “intentional” at all. It was more like “if I don’t do this good thing I’m gonna explode!” I saw the fun and joy in whatever it was, and because of that I was exponentially more fruitful than I previously was when I was caught up in my own hamster wheel of effort.

That’s when I first experientially realized that sweet reality Paul spoke of, that I no longer live but Christ lives in me.

My old self always tried so hard to do good by its own willpower and missed out on the party Jesus had prepared. It just took me a while to realize that that old man always was and always will be completely dead! He doesn’t even exist anymore.

I knew my death with Christ had brought freedom from sin, and I was avoiding sin effortlessly. I had lost all interest in sin. But that was merely avoiding the bad. I had not experienced the pleasurable compulsion to live righteously and to do good.

I already was who I was all along. I was born again. I was a new creation. The old had passed away and the new had come. My identity wasn’t dependent on anything I did but only what Jesus did. I just didn’t see the full extent to which I had been transformed.

So I continued to act like I needed to try to do good, not knowing the righteous desires God had planted in me.

But Jesus helped me see what was already true of myself, what I am really like, and what he had transformed me into.

And this is why Christianity is easy, effortless in fact. Because it’s all about giving up and being guided by the desires of Jesus, which are infinitely gratifying.

Glorifying God and enjoying him are one and the same thing.

The effort is all his. My job is to trust, give up, and enjoy.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

Happy Repentance

I absolutely love repentance. It’ so much fun. No really. It’s great.

This is a recent development for me, however. I only started liking repentance within the past few years.

I hated repentance for the first 20 years of my life, and with good reason. My understanding of it was how it is often taught and expressed. Specifically, repentance always had connotations of sadness, self-pity, depression, remorse, shame, guilt, and I’m-gonna-try-harder-next-time attached to it. For example, that thing you’re supposed to do before you eat your cracker drink your shot glass of grape juice as the melancholy music plays in the background – think about all the sins I’ve committed and how much I suck, feel really bad for it all, and use that as my motivation to avoid sin next time I’m tempted. Repentance…puke.

Of course, people don’t explain repentance like this. If I asked anyone if they think that the above is what repentance is they would say no. But what they would affirm in word they would deny in practice, because that’s how most people feel about repentance as a result of what they teach and how they do church.

I know where this all started. It first began among Catholics with penance, the idea that you need to confess a sin to a priest in order to have it forgiven. Some people even thought that you could clean yourself up by putting yourself through physical suffering.

Forgiven1Thankfully, Martin Luther came along and noticed that that practice is wholly unbiblical. Unfortunately, John Calvin came along soon after and interpreted 1 Corinthians 11:28 out of context to mean that we should have a feel-sorry session before we have communion. That tradition of man is still with us today in many churches.

By now you’re probably wondering how I could write that I absolutely love repentance. I hope you are, because I have good news for you.

The Greek word translated “repentance” in the bible is metanoia and means “to change one’s mind.” Pretty simple, huh?

Let’s take a look at an example passage that uses this word (a derivative form of the word, to be exact).

Here’s the message Jesus went around preaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). “Gospel” (euangelion) means good news and “repent” means to change your mind. In essence Jesus is saying, “Change your mind and realize that life with me is the most happy joy-filled life out there! Now you can come and begin life as a citizen of my Kingdom. Sin just sucks, but I’m here to give you life to the full.”

I can tell people to repent with a smile because I am sharing good news with them – Jesus-did-it salvation, not do-it-yourself religion.

There’s a story in Nehemiah 8:9-12 that foreshadows this glorious way of repentance Jesus brought about. The Israelites had just been set free from captivity, and the Law was being read to them. As they heard the rules and regulations that they had not been keeping, they wept aloud because they realized their sinfulness. But the leaders instructed the people to not weep or mourn.

Nehemiah told them, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks…Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).

Nehemiah new that grieving about their own mistakes wouldn’t bring about any good, but that rejoicing in who God was and what he had done for them would.

Same for us.

Repentance is simply coming to our senses and realizing that God’s will is always good, fun, and perfect (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

And that’s the only lasting way that can motivate us to act like the righteousness of God that we are. 

Not shame. Not guilt. Not sorrow.

Yes, we look with disgust on our past sins when we realize them. But that quickly fades away as we realize the greater truth that they have already been forgiven (1 John 2:12) and we change our mind concerning the pleasurability of our misbehavior, deciding to believe that God’s way is infinitely more gratifying.

So repent happily. The Truth is always better than we think it is.

Also see:

New Covenant Repentance

http://escapetoreality.org/2012/02/20/new_covenant_repentance/

True Definition of “Repent”

http://pathux.wordpress.com/notes/

Why Repentance is Like Football

http://escapetoreality.org/2011/11/20/why-repentance-is-like-football/