Christian Living

Spiritual Life

God Wants You to be Happy

Excerpt from God Wants You to be Happy

Human Nature

"Strange indeed is human nature."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear

Cartoonist Walt Kelly wrote, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." He had it partially right. His application of the idea was wrong, but our human nature can be our own worst enemy and our biggest inhibitor to happiness. We are all born into sin, so we are corrupt from birth. Thus the need to be born again.

In the early twentieth century, American theologian Cyrus Scofield popularized a theological position called the trichotomy of man. It is somewhat debatable, but it has helped me understand our ongoing struggle against our own sinful nature even after experiencing salvation. Here is a simplistic explanation of the position:

Just as God is a three-part being (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), man is made up of three parts (body, mind, and spirit). Some use the term soul in place of the mind, but both terms generally include one's thoughts, will, and emotions.

Another way of viewing the trichotomy of man is with three concentric circles. Martin Luther drew a comparison between this idea and the Old Testament temple, connecting the outer court to the flesh, the holy place to the mind/soul, and the holy of holies to the spirit.

In his popular study Bible, Scofield wrote, "Because man is 'spirit' he is capable of God-consciousness, and of communication with God (    Job 32:8; Psalm 18:28; Proverbs 20:27); because he is 'soul' he has self-consciousness (Psalm 13:2; 42:5,6,11); because he is 'body' he has, through his senses, world-consciousness."

Additional parallels are drawn to suggest that Jesus Christ redeems our spirits at the point of salvation, a singular event that becomes a part of our past. The Holy Spirit works sanctification in our mind/soul in the present, and the Father will receive our bodies in glorification in the future.

I don't wish to defend a particular theological position, but I do find the concept useful to understand the daily battle that Christians fight. Clearly, our spirits need to be saved. The part of us that is dead in sin must be made alive in Christ. This is salvation and, once experienced, resides in our core being.

The part that relates to our happiness is the sanctification process. The apostle Paul referred to this when he wrote, "Work out your salvation" (Philippians 2:12). This process stems from our spirit—the joy of salvation. The more we align our minds with our spirits, the happier we are. The more we align our thoughts, will, and emotions with our flesh, the less joy we experience.

Paul also addressed this struggle by saying, "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want" (Romans 7:19). The good that he wanted to do flowed from the redeemed spirit within. The evil that he practiced was prompted by the flesh—something we all have until we physically die. The battleground, then, is in the mind.

I believe this is what Jesus referenced when He admonished His disciples in Gethsemane, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

When we are redeemed in Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Yet our flesh also lives, and it presses against this reborn spirit. We must renew our minds daily in order to align our thoughts, will, and emotions with the Holy Spirit. We experience happiness as "a mind free from trouble" when our minds are aligned with our spirits, not our flesh.

All of us know from personal experience that even after we are saved, we are still capable of horrendous sin. This is why Paul admonished us to avoid allowing grace to become an excuse to sin. "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh" (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh is especially miserable for believers because it produces an inner conflict that nonbelievers do not experience. The unredeemed spirit lives in harmony with the flesh, but the saved spirit wars with the flesh. If the spirit is dead in sin, a deceived, deviant, and distorted mind is not only logical, it's unavoidable. Christians must take up the cross daily and die to self. We must kill our old nature.

Helen Keller wrote that "true happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." Of course, a blind and deaf woman knows nothing of the self-gratification that comes through two of the most predominant senses. But she was right nonetheless. And we are happiest when that "worthy purpose" is the kingdom of God.

Once we recognize that our sinful nature is a barrier to happiness, we understand that death to self is not really painful sacrifice, but liberation from a life of misery. It is not loss, it is gain. Finding the happiness at the other end of that process opens our eyes to the truth that Jesus proclaimed. Fighting what the apostle Paul called the "good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) allows our spirits to thrive, tempering the destruction of the flesh and unleashing the blessed fruit of the Spirit, including joy. Exhibiting all of the fruit, including peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, love, and faithfulness, conveys happiness to others in our lives, perpetuating the circle of joy.


You don't have to teach children to lie; they will do it on their own. Lying is natural. And it's an enemy of joy. "Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good [towb]? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit" (Psalm 34:12-13).

Honesty comes only through a born-again spirit and continuously renewed mind. The Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott wrote, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"

Deceit is joy's snare, causing all manner of grief. Believers who engage in deceit, including self-deception, give in to the worst of fleshly desires. A deadly array of corruption blossoms when we concede to this temptation. We must consciously avoid the mirage of comfort in lies and build on a solid foundation of truth.

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