Happiness Begins with Knowing That You are a Great Sinner

The 2nd question in the  Heidelberg Catechism is this:

Q: 2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that you, enjoying this comfort, may live and die happily?

What a great question! What do I need to know that I might live and die happily?  Isn’t this what everyone wants? What man, woman, or child does not want to live a happy life? Who doesn’t want to die happy? But what is the answer? How much do I need to know that my life might be a happy one? Do I need to know how to get rich? Do I need to know how to be a good person? Do I need to know how to get married? Do I need to know the joys of freedom from law? What do I need to know to live and die happily? Here is the answer given by the Heidelberg:
A: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are;  the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;  the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance. 

Not what you expected? We don’t usually put the fact that our sins are great at the top of things that will help us live and die happily. In fact, sin is usually considered the beginning of all our problems. But here is where happiness begins. Your best life now begins with the fact that your sins are so great that if they were drops of water the oceans would be too small to hold them all. The life of joy and happiness begins with your heart being black and your hands being covered in blood. 

Why does happiness begin at such an odd place?

First, the fact that we are great sinners is reality. Human beings, even Christians, often think we are not really that bad. We justify our sins. We minimize our sins. We pretend we don’t sin. We blame our sins on other people. We cover up our sins. We do anything we can to make sure our sins don’t look great.  But reality is never defined by us. It is always defined by God’s Word. Psalm 130:3 states that our sins are great. Romans says the same thing. In fact, it is assumed from Genesis 3 on that our sins are so great that we cannot save ourselves. Understanding that we are great sinners helps us see the world (and ourselves) the way it is and not the way we want it to be.  
Second, only when we understand that our sins are great will we understand Jesus and His substitutionary work on the cross for us. When we minimize sin we minimize the cross and Jesus. When we minimize Jesus happiness, joy, comfort, delight, and peace are all lost.  Without sin there is no need for Christ. Without Christ all good things disappear. Until our sins are seen for what they are we cannot see Jesus rightly. And only by seeing Jesus rightly can we have pleasures forevermore. 
As odd as it sounds, happiness begins with seeing yourself as a great sinner.  
Are you a happy person? Do you enjoy life? Do you enjoy the comfort of the great salvation given to us in Jesus Christ? Would your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your neighbors describe you as a joyful person? If you died tomorrow would you “die happily?” If the answer is no, then perhaps you think too much of yourself. Perhaps you do not realize how great your sins are. Perhaps you spend a lot of time hiding your sins, pretending they are “mistakes” or “flaws.” Perhaps you are more concerned about how you look to others than about the reality of who you are. Step into the light. Your sins are great. That is a fact. But Jesus is greater. And only in a great Jesus can true happiness be found.