Leads to our happiness
This is not the gospel. This is the problem.
It is the problem for three reasons:
We will never get that excited about living it, and it will never be that important that our class grows and our church grows until we believe it is good news, good news and more good news. His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5.3). God is a rewarder (Hebrews 11.6)
John Piper talks about this in a message called, "Let your passion be single." He talks about the inner struggle of growing up in a home where he knew that a passion for the glory of God must be central. This was the only right way to think, biblically. But, he had another passion. He wanted to be happy. The pivotal day was when he realized these two joys come together. The greatest pleasure is found in God, and there is no way to please God except to delight in Him. He quotes Pascal:
"All men seek happiness," says Blaise Pascal. "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." We believe Pascal is right. And, with Pascal, we believe God purposefully designed us to pursue happiness.
Piper was the one who set my thinking straight on this matter, so allow me to excerpt an additional quotes from him, found at www.desiringgod.org
Christian Hedonism teaches that the desire to be happy is God-given and should not be denied or resisted but directed to God for satisfaction. Christian Hedonism does not say that whatever you enjoy is good. It says that God has shown you what is good and doing it ought to bring you joy (Micah 6:8). And since doing the will of God ought to bring you joy, the pursuit of joy is an essential part of all moral effort. If you abandon the pursuit of joy (and thus refuse to be a Hedonist, as I use the term), you cannot fulfill the will of God. Christian Hedonism affirms that the godliest saints of every age have discovered no contradiction in saying, on the one hand, "We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered" (Romans 8:36), and on the other hand, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). Christian Hedonism does not join the culture of self-gratification that makes you a slave of your sinful impulses. Christian Hedonism commands that we not be conformed to this age but that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) so we can delight to do the will of our Father in heaven. According to Christian Hedonism joy in God is not optional icing on the cake of Christianity. When you think it through, joy in God is an essential part of saving faith.
So then, Christian living is not a choice between what is good for me and what is good for God. It is a choice between what is bad for me and God and what is good for me and God. God's ways are always good for me in the long run. God is a rewarder. We must believe that He is a rewarder or we will never come near to Him. We must come to love the Christian life, or we will never come to live the Christian life. You cannot be holy and grumpy. Our holy, boss, Lord God commanded us to delight in Him. He commanded us to rejoice in Him. There is no obedience to God except there is obedience to the command of God to rejoice.
Hebrews 11.6 spells this out. "And without faith it is impossible to please God." The question is, faith in what? Faith that God exists? No. The demons do that, and tremble. What is it that the demons don't believe about God? They don't believe He is a rewarder. Here is the rest of the verse, "because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6 [NIV]
The disciples were corrected by Jesus at the point.
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42 [NIV]
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. Mark 10:29-30 [NIV]
Some would argue that the reward is incidental and that if we were really spiritual we would not do things for the reward. I agree with Piper, (again), that this not a the Christian position:
Christian hedonism aims to replace a Kantian morality with a biblical one. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who died in 1804, was the most powerful exponent of the notion that the moral value of an act decreases as we aim to derive any benefit from it. Acts are good if the doer is "disinterested." We should do the good because it is good. Any motivation to seek joy or reward corrupts the act. Cynically, perhaps, but not without warrant, the novelist Ayn Rand captured the spirit of Kant's ethic:
An action is moral, said Kant, only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action. (Thus if one has no desire to be evil, one cannot be good; if one has, one can.)
Against this Kantian morality (which has passed as Christian for too long!), we must herald the unabashedly hedonistic biblical morality. Jonathan Edwards, who died when Kant was 34, expressed it like this in one of his early resolutions: "Resolved, To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of."
C. S. Lewis put it like this in a letter to Sheldon Vanauken: "It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can."
Well, I could go on an on, but this article is getting a bit long. Here is the summary: it is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. Following God is always good for me in the long run. I pray because it is good for me. I serve because it is good for me. I forgive because it is good for me. I seek to dedicate myself completely to God because it is good for me. Yes, it is good for God as well. Let your passion be single. It is one single passion to please God and create a life that is good for me.
With good news like that, it drives me batty that churches can be indifferent about spreading that message. A properly understood gospel compels us to spread it. Paul said, "I am compelled to preach." 1 Cor 9.16. Good news compels us to tell. When you feel like, "This is such great news! It is good news, good news and more good news. It is the best way to live and the only way to die!" you want the message to spread and spread rapidly.
I close with one more quote from Piper:
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.
By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.
All John Piper quotes from www.desiringgod.org I suggest you click on the link that says "essential Piper." Start with the sermon on "Let your passion be single." Enjoy. Really. Enjoy.
By the way, this is a central part of the message of the Disciplemaking Teachers Conference. I'd love to come to your church and present it.