Passion. Pleasure. Desire. These themes seem to drive our society today. The banner of our culture’s moral therapeutic deism avidly screams, “Do what thou wilt!” This has become our great commandment. If it pleases you, do it! Unfortunately, because of our society’s crazy, almost overpowering lust for pleasure the church has too often been pushed into an unhealthy dichotomy. Simply put, the church has been characterized as those who are against pleasure. For some of us this condemnation is just. We have put up our “no fun” signs at the front of the church doors and have determined to live a boring, tasteless, passionless life until Christ calls us home.
But what if we were meant for more?
What if the biblical writers understood something about passion that at best we’ve forgotten, or at worst that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel?
When it comes to the problem of seeking pleasure, I’m inclined to agree with the venerable C.S. Lewis.
Lewis wrote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
If this is true, and I believe it to be, then the question that would naturally be set before us would be, “How do we redirect our passions in order to experience what Lewis called, infinite joy?”
David, another man of righteous passion, gives us a clue in Psalm 16.
If we are to live a life of true joy we must first understand the beauty of the Lord’s redeeming love for us. David writes, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalm 16:5-6)”
One thing I desire for myself, my wife, and my church is to see more clearly the infinite beauty of God on a daily basis. Christianity is not stale; Christianity is not boring. It can never be without pleasure. In fact, our inheritance with God is aesthetically superior than anything our feeble human minds can imagine. It is beautiful. The love of God for helpless, hostile sinners and his work of grace to make these rebels into sons is not only a display of God’s infinite greatness, but it is also art! Imagine, the Creator has chosen to recreate! God has woven a beautiful tapestry of grace that even the angels long to look into! God, being the very fountain of beauty, has given us a pearl of great price. To fail to recognize the beauty of it would be an insult to our Creator.
It is in this beauty that we find our true source of joy. David again writes, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)”
Did you catch that? In the presence of God, there is fullness of joy. Nothing in this world can bring us fullness of joy. This is not found in wealth; it is not found in influence. It cannot be found in our perverted pursuit of desire. It can only be found in the shadow of the Almighty. Our world has fallen to the great deception of Satan that suggest we can find this fullness in our finite, trivial pursuits. This is not possible. Nothing gold can stay. Only the gifts of the Infinite One can last forevermore.
We must seek this true and holy pleasure. We must not cede authentic pleasure to the world. It is ours, the Lord has given it to us. We must not be content until we truly know what it means to bask in the glory of God. This relationship that God has given to us should make the depths of our being rejoice! O, how I long to see this great beauty with untainted eyes! I long to sing of it with an untainted tongue. I long to feel it in perfection, completely separated from the corruption of sinful flesh.
This, my friends, is full redemption.