The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness: Did The Constitution Have it Right, or Does The Bible Say Its Wrong?

We take things for granted sometimes. The friends we have, our family, our home, we all recognize, or at least I hope we do, that these are gifts from God. Gracious gifts- we wouldn’t have them unless He had provided them for us. I do wonder though- is this just lip service? When we thank God for providing the food when we eat a meal, do we really know what we are talking about? In what way did He provide it for us? It wasn’t His hands that that got the vegetables from the fields, the fruit from the trees, and the meat from the animal. Sure, He provided the field, the tree, and the animal. Yes, He let the crops grow, He allowed the 
 trees to bring forth fruit, and the animals are available to be killed for eating.

But really, if God is loving and all-powerful, if He controls all things, does He really need to be praised for this? Perhaps, is the better question, “Why wouldn’t God cause a bountiful harvest, fresh springs bubbling forth pure water, and livestock aplenty for meat?” If God is good, if God loves us, and if He controls all things, isn’t providing food for us His reasonable service to us? True, we wouldn’t have food and shelter and water and health if God didn’t give them to us, or at least give us the means to attain them, but what kind of good, loving, and all powerful God doesn’t give at least the basic necessities to all of His creation? The answer is: our God.

Millions of people are starving to death, all because God didn’t bring them food. Yes, don’t try to get God off the hook; if you believe God is all-powerful, totally sovereign, that the wind and the rain and the animals and the trees, if all things obey Him and live and move and have their being in Him, then God isn’t feeding everyone. Further, He is allowing disease. People are dying, God could stop it, yet He doesn’t.

Why? I thought God was good and all-powerful and loving? A God like that, surely a God like that doesn’t let His people starve to death. Maybe we should be questioning God for not giving everyone food to eat, and not giving us more food to eat.

So, on the surface, we have a great dilemma. We are so fond as Christians of speaking of God’s love, of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, yet we ignore the fact that God could end all this suffering if He wanted to at any moment that He wanted to. In fact, since God is sovereign and controls all things according to His will and predestined plan, it is absolutely true that God has willed that people starve, get sick, and die.
 Now, given all that, what do you think about the Constitution where Thomas Jefferson says, 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How happy do you think a starving child in Africa is? What do you say to families that are ravaged by disease, famine, widespread pestilence? Do you cry out, “God has given you a right, yes a right, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” I hope not. If you do, you had better have a good reason for why God has refused, in His sovereign and predestined plan, to give these people their rights.

So what do you say then? Surely you recognize that not every person that is starving, sick, unhappy, and dying is due to some oppression by other men? Surely you recognize that homeless people are quite often homeless simply because of the way things played out, also known as the way God allowed things to turn out?  Sick people get sick, not always because of some sexual sin, but because God causes them to get sick. And liberty, well, how do you define liberty? Free to do what you want, when you want? Does anyone besides a tyrant really have that?

Let’s just all point out the obvious right now: If God is good and all-powerful, and He has given us a right to live, to be happy, and to have liberty, then we should be healthily alive, totally free, and abound in limitless liberty. The reality is, none of us has that. Conclusion: Either God is not good, or God is not all-powerful, or we don’t have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Out of those three choices, which are you going to pick?

If we say God is not good, or not sovereign over all things, then we are saying God’s Word, the Bible, lies, and therefore God is a liar, or else the Bible is not God’s Word. If the Bible is not God’s Word, then we have no Christianity, we have faith in nothing.

If we say we have no rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we say that the Thomas Jefferson, our Constitution, at its very basis, is in error. That it’s not only in error but also contrary to the very Word of God. So which is right, the Constitution, or the Bible?

Granted, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t trying to go against the Word of God. But, then again, Thomas Jefferson is the Deist who ripped out all the miracles from the Bible too. Jefferson was not a Christian; he was a deist, meaning he basically believed God created the world, wound up the clock, then let it all run on its own. Of course, in order to declare freedom from England, and to establish the United States, they had to come up with something. And where else do you appeal for human rights except God? So, Thomas Jefferson and the rest came up with the Declaration of Independence.

If I haven’t made my position clear yet, let me go ahead and do so. I think the Bible, the Word of God, is infallible, inerrant, and inspired. The Declaration of Independence was written by an unbeliever who cannot discern spiritual things because of his deadness in sins and this unbeliever, Thomas Jefferson, got it wrong. We do not have, in any sense of the word, a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this would mean that the Bible actually teaches that we do not have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, if God is good and all-powerful and loves us, wouldn’t He give us that right? I mean, to not have those rights sounds pretty evil and unloving, like an evil dictator or tyrant. So what’s God’s excuse for refusing us those rights?

Sin, of  course. The truth is, before mankind fell into sin, we did have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This life was abundant, there was no pain, suffering, sadness, sickness, we were totally free, free to serve God and live for Him, and even walk and talk and fellowship with Him. There was just one command, one rule, that God gave us- found in Genesis 2:16-17
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And we all know what happened right? Our first parents ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed God, even though He had given them everything, and listened to the devil in the form of the serpent instead. It says in Genesis 1:26-27 that God made man and woman in the image of God, after His likeness. We were created by God, for God, in His image, to reflect His image, and we were created to be fully alive, fully happy, and fully free in our image bearing of God. Yet, unthinkably, our human race still chose to sin. We decided God was not enough, that this knowledge of good and evil business, that was where it was really at. We bought the devil’s lie. And don’t say you are any different, you sin all the time, I sin all the time, we are living proof that we hate God and love sin, that He does not satisfy us, that we think sin will satisfy us.

Now, what was the penalty for disobeying God, what was the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit? It was death. God said the day you eat of it, you will die.

Now, here is what is fascinating. Either one, God lied, because they didn’t die right away, or two, God immediately extended grace to them. And quickly we learn, right after God has discovered the sin of Adam and Eve, that immediately He puts them in a state of grace. I’ll get to that in a second, but we also need to look at something else. It also says, in Genesis 3:16, that women will suffer pain in childbirth. Now we see were pain and suffering came from. In the next verse, verse 17, God says to Adam that the ground will be cursed, and it will be hard work, sweating, backbreaking labor to produce food to eat. Even thorns and thistles will come forth. Now we see where exhaustion, more pain and suffering, and famine and starvation come from. It is all a result of sin, of the fall of man into sin.

 Yet already, as I alluded to a moment ago, we see in Genesis 3:15 that God has a plan to save man:
      “And I will put enmity
      Between you and the woman,
      And between your seed and her Seed;
      He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

What is this talking about? It’s talking about Jesus Christ. It’s the first reference to Jesus. God is saying, “Jesus will come, Jesus will crush you Satan, although you will bruise Him. Christ will die for His people; He will restore their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in Me, God Almighty.”

Most of us are pretty familiar with Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  But I think the broader context of Romans 6 really helps show the power and true meaning behind the last verse of Romans 6, which is verse 23. Romans 6, if you read it, says that, apart from Christ, we are dead, dead in trespasses and sins. We are slaves to sin. So we are dead, spiritually speaking.

And because of sin, we are also dying physically. Our body is decaying, wearing out, we suffer sickness, famine, pestilence, sorrow, sadness, all kinds of lamentable things, and then we die. That is the wages of sin. Death, and pain, and suffering, is the wages of sin. We don’t have liberty anymore, we have to work all day long just to maintain life for a few years, and then we are going to die anyways because, after all, as soon as we are born we are physically dying.

We have sinned. Therefore, we have no right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, we live. We all live physically. And those whom God has chosen and covered with the blood of Christ, those who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus, they will have life everlasting. Spiritual life forever. Even though they die physically, it is no longer death, for death has no dominion over them anymore. Why? Because their Savior, Jesus Christ, died for them. He paid for their sins, bearing God’s wrath against their sin on the cross. He, in effect, paid hell for them, all of hell, and God raised Him from the dead. Death and sin did not hold Him, the grave did not hold Him. He defeated sin and death, He rose from the dead. And Romans 6 says that if we died with Him, we also live with Him after death. In other words, since by the blood of Christ true believers are united to Christ, we are also risen from our deadness in sins, and we are free from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:5-11)!

True believers, Christians, have new life. They have life in Christ. Now, we look forward to physical death, because it means spiritual life in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now knowing all this, Romans 6:22-23 brings to light some more important stuff:

2 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here is what is important for this blog. If we have eternal life, if we have the gift of God of salvation which is in Christ Jesus and through His blood, then we are free from sin (Romans 6:7). If we are free from sin, we are free from the wages of sin, which is death. But, because none of us are born saved, we are still in our sins, and God’s wrath still remains on us. This is essentially what John 3:36 says:

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

All of us, before we believed, were under God’s wrath. And we were under God’s wrath because we were still under the slavery of sin; we were still in our sins, we were still God hating and enemies of God. We were not yet covered with the blood of Christ, which paid for our sins. The blood had not yet been applied, for we had not yet received the atonement through faith in Christ. What this teaches us is, outside of Christ, in other words, in the case for all unbelievers, they are under God’s wrath, and God’s wrath, as we saw from Genesis, is expressed through famine, pestilence, sickness, disease, sorrow, sadness, and ultimately, death.

The truth is, when we go without food, when we go without health, when we go without liberty, we are getting what we deserve. Whenever we have food, whenever we have health, whenever we have joy and freedom to do as we please, as we by and large do here in America, we are in a state of God’s exceeding grace. When we go without want, when we have food and shelter and clothing and good health, we are getting what we do not deserve, we are getting grace and mercy.

So when we praise God at the dinner table for giving us food to eat, we need to have all of this in mind. We need to recognize our unworthiness of the roof above our heads and the food that is on the plate before us. God has provided it out of His grace and mercy, NOT because we somehow deserve it, Not because we have a right to it.

Many may object and say that Thomas Jefferson was referring mainly to the king and government taking away freedom from other men. While this is true, Jefferson’s reasoning for why it was wrong for them to do so I believe was totally wrong, and I think I have demonstrated that. Yes, it is wrong to murder, yes, slavery is wrong, and yes, to take away someone’s happiness, that is wrong as well. But it is NOT wrong because human beings deserve these things. It is wrong because God alone has the right to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Man has no authority to take another man’s life, or his freedom, or his happiness, for the sin of mankind was not against other men, but against God. To take the life of a human being through murder is to kill what God has created in His own image, and therefore, is a most grievous sin. Even though we have no right to live, we do. Even though the only right we have is to burn in hell, we aren’t. This is God’s grace, His mercy, which was provided by His Son Jesus Christ paying for God’s wrath against sin.

So no, we do not have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, by God’s grace, by Him giving us what we do not deserve, all men have life, and even some unbelievers and even non-elect have health and freedom and happiness as well. Knowing this, we can think Him even for the air we breathe, for each breath we take is by His grace, not a right, and if God so chose He would be perfectly just to take away oxygen from us and have us suffocate to death.

We do not have much to praise Him for, we have everything to praise Him for, for its all by grace, not by rights, and all made possible by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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