So I have become aware that I am an excitement addict. I need things to be exciting. In fact, I come from a generation of excitement addicts. We basically have continuous entertainment opportunities all the time. We are raised from the beginning on this excitement diet. Whether it be video games, sex, food, or even things in the church the bottom line is that we want it to be exciting. This is because we were raised to chase a high.
This concept has recently been ported over into the Christian world as “Christian Hedonism” most notably promoted by John Piper and to a lesser extent Mike Bickle and Sam Storms. It’s a great revelation that the joy of knowing God surpasses the pleasures of the world. On the other hand, the pleasure of the world and the pleasures of God work in fundamentally different ways. The pleasure of the world feeds the self and reinforces the self. The pleasure of the world comes with an intense kick right up front. That’s designed to get you hooked. The other thing though is that the pleasure of the world always comes with a “hangover.” It comes with the negative consequences of what you did. These may be in your heart, in your body, in your relationships, in your finances or all of the above.
Look at physical intimacy. Sinful physical intimacy may come with a huge rush right up front, but in the end you have total destruction. There may be an abortion, an STD, and a broken heart coming just to name a few possibilities. If you are married, it may include divorce, devastated children, and child support payments. These are life long “consequences.” Physical intimacy in marriage may not always have the same “rush” but it is part of building a lifelong relationship and has the potential to develop dimensions that sinful intimacy can never have because it is part of reinforcing a lifelong trust relationship.
God’s pleasures come with time. A lot like vegetables. You get no “high” from eating vegetables, but if you eat a lot of them, and cut out the sugar and caffeine, you’ll have a lot more energy. Now God is certainly a lot better than vegetables. But it’s a similar flow. When we pack into a service looking for the spiritual “high” we’re treating God like our worldly idols. When we come to him looking for a “high” we’re treating him like a worldly idol.
How do we exit the cycle of looking for the next “high” of some kind. Well of course there is dying to self, but dying to self is not denying yourself something you really really want. It is learning to stop wanting what will kill you and start wanting what will save you. It is learning to stop eating of the forbidden fruit and to start eating of the tree of life.
Look, this even applies to learning. For me it is easier to feed my mind than to feed my spirit. But feeding my mind makes me just smart, it doesn’t make me effective. If you fathom all mysteries but have not love…. But when you get in God’s presence and stay there you actually become something different. You don’t just know something different. Eating of the tree of life of the presence of Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving, a lot like a good vegetable diet. It can even be very exciting, but if excitement is your goal you’re going to burn out.
What I am starting to learn (very slowly) is the “simple pleasure” of the unexciting things in life. Working hard during the work day, going to bed on time, eat right, etc, are all the “less exciting options” but they pay off major dividends over time. As your life gets in order, there is more room for God. The devil works hard to keep your life out of order so you can’t stay in the flow with God. The bait he uses is excitement. That first rush of the forbidden fruit masks its deadly nature. But every time you walk in what is right, you sow a harvest of good things to come. And there is a joy of the good harvest that is much richer than the guilty and temporal pleasure of the exciting whirlwind. I never heard anyone say “man I wish had eaten more fatty foods yesterday.” That’s because later on you are in harvest time. Do you get a harvest of corruption after a short high, or do you get a harvest of joy after “eating your vegetables?”