Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Happiness Paradox - John Ortberg

The Gospel and the Happiness Paradox |
It struck me that the traditional expression of the gospel I heard growing up fell into a similar trap. There was not much serious thought about the true nature of heaven. (If you've been avoiding God all your life, would you want to be in heaven? It appears that God will be very hard to avoid there.)

Maybe the "if you were to die tonight" version of the gospel falls victim to the happiness paradox. If "heaven" is understood as "ultimate happiness," then I can seek to obtain it while remaining trapped in my self-centeredness. If "heaven" is understood as the eternal pleasure factory, then obtaining it has no intrinsic relationship to transformation, therefore no intrinsic relationship to discipleship.

But if the gospel really is the announcement of the availability, through Jesus, of the "with-God life," then things begin to fall into place. Grace is not just the forgiveness of sin, it is the power to live the with-God life from one moment to the next. Heaven is not a pleasure factory that an angry God chooses to shut some people out of because they don't pass a theology test; it is a community of servanthood that can only be enjoyed by a certain kind of character.

I think Ortberg is really on to something.

The classic exposition of the message has missed the point. It's not about the destination - it's about the journey with Jesus and becoming more like him. If you are not on the way with Jesus, you would not enjoy heaven at all. This life is used by a loving God to prepare us for better. But not better in a self-centered sense. Better in that we are becoming more like Jesus.

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