God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness. This goes against the grain of common culture. Common culture tells us to pursue happiness. Pursue your dreams. Aim high. Shoot for the stars. Do what makes you happy. Only pursue a career that will leave you fulfilled. “Do what you want,” is the mantra of the twenty-first century.  

The problem with this sort of thinking is that our desires are dangerously deceptive. Often times when we do what we like, we don’t like what we do. The things that we crave often times destroy us. When we do what we want we are left feeling empty, guilty, and ashamed. At the very least, we are left wanting more. We think we know what we want and what would be fulfilling, but we’re simply wrong.

Jesus didn’t come to simply forgive us and change our behavior. Jesus came to change our desires. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, He matures our desires. He replaces our self-destructive carnal desires with godly desires that are both indescribably satisfying and eternally sustaining. Ultimately, as theHoly Spirit changes our desires, the golden rule is simply this: “Love God and do what you want.” It’s only when we live in such a way that gives glory to God that we’re truly happy and fulfilled. Being aware of sin and receiving the gift of cleansing of sin brings comfort and joy.

As the song reminds us, so much of Christmas is about comfort and joy. Comfort and joy come with the release from the shame and guilt of sin. Furthermore, there is a comforting rest that comes with no longer wrestling with the old sinful nature. As the Holy Spirit empowers believers to overcome sin, they are released from the constant back-and-forth life of Christian mediocrity.

Because of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, we no longer have to live a life of frustration over a weak and wavering life in Jesus. The Holy Spirit strengthens and firms up our faith. He fortifies us to be wholly committed to Jesus. He brings us to the place where the sinful pining of the flesh continually diminishes in the blazing fire of our fully devoted heart.

The divided heart is exhausting and frustrating. The guilt that comes with having a divided heart plants a seed of angst in us that is a constant draw on our spiritual strength. The Holy Spirit can take us to the place where we have the courage and fortitude to say, “NO!” to sin and the divided heart. He deposits in us the courage and faith of Jesus himself to be fully committed to the will and work of the Father. Comfort comes with the resolve of being utterly abandoned to Jesus.

This means that God’s desire for your holiness is synonymous with your happiness. But it’s adifferent kind of happiness. It’s a sustained happiness. It’s an unspeakable, fulfilling, uncontainable joy. Jesus says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37–38).

While sanctification requires great effort and discipline, it is aimed at the goal of the greatest comfort of the human experience: glorifying God.


Matt Ayars

President of Wesley Biblical Seminary

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