One of the most damaging ideas the church has promoted is the notion that the desire for happiness and pleasure is evil. The belief that holiness and happiness are at odds with each other is a serious twisting of Christian truth. We are told to either crucify our desires for happiness and pleasure or pretend that these desires don’t exist within our hearts. No wonder so many Christians are both bored and overwhelmed with condemnation. On the one hand, our hearts long to be fascinated by something; on the other hand, we feel guilty because we still have the desire for pleasure and fulfillment.
The truth is that there is no contradiction between holiness and happiness.
In fact, holiness can best be attained by finding our ultimate happiness and pleasure in God.
Why do people sin? They sin because they enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Hebrews 11:25 speaks of the temporary pleasures of sin. No one sins out of duty. People sin because they believe the pleasure it brings is more satisfying than the pleasure obedience brings. Or as someone once said, “Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.”
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In this article I’m looking at the subject of holiness and purity from a somewhat unique perspective. The traditional approach to discouraging people from sinning is negative. The church has often tried to use threats and warnings as deterrents to sinful living. Christian leaders have attempted to scare sincere – but immature – believers into maturity.
However, this simply doesn’t work. I’m not suggesting there’s no place for warnings, but if a man’s heart is not being warmed by the passions of God’s personality, his heart will be captivated by the red-hot flames of temptation. It doesn’t matter how much he’s challenged or threatened. If a man who is susceptible to the lure of pornography is sitting in a hotel room and has the opportunity to rent an X-rated movie, warnings alone will often do no good. His heart has to be captured by something more satisfying.
Years ago the First Lady of the United States challenged the youth of America to “Just Say No” to drugs as she warned them of the dangers of drug use. When I first heard the expression, I thought, “Does she really believe that this is all it’s going to take to solve our drug problem?” However, in thinking about it further, I realized that this is the same kind of strategy the church has used for years to try to keep people from sinning. We’ve told them to “Just Say No” to illicit sex, or getting stoned, or some other vice. But just saying no alone doesn’t work. There must be something more appealing to which a person can say yes. A person must experience something that will offer him a greater pleasure than the allurements of sin.
People buy into the false premise that sin will make them happier than God can. Even though this is a lie, how many individuals honestly believe that obedience will bring a greater pleasure in their lives than sin ever could? If they really believed it, they wouldn’t want to sin. Getting stoned or high on drugs are just counterfeits for what people could experience in God’s presence.
Yet people settle for far too little pleasure. They go after other lovers and lesser joys that can only give them momentary satisfaction. The things that quickly thrill them just as quickly disappoint them. They discover all too late that they’ve become entangled in a web of destructive behavior.
Ultimately the only thing that will liberate the human heart from the slavery of sin is the supreme satisfaction found in God. I believe many Christians have made the mistake of attempting to discourage people from sinning by only exposing the ugliness of the world and its ways.
Even the message of holiness is often relegated to nothing more than a list of forbidden activities. Because of my denominational background, if you had mentioned the word holiness to me years ago, it would have dialed up a number of negative reactions and emotions. I would have had visions of women with no makeup, men with no wedding bands or jewelry of any kind, and young women playing softball in dresses because they weren’t allowed to wear slacks.
Yet holiness will never be attained by following man-made rules and regulations.
Rules and regulations don’t have the ability to thrill the human heart. They are bland and lifeless. I have known people who appeared to do everything “right” externally, but later fell apart spiritually because their motivation for obedience to God wasn’t based on an intimate love relationship with the One they were outwardly serving.
Most people can be motivated only so long by willpower, determination, hype, or fear. Eventually the trials and temptations of life will either cause them to go deeper in their intimacy with the Father or reveal that they are only serving Him superficially. The motivation for their service is not based on a close relationship with Him.
Holiness and purity can only be truly experienced as we embrace God’s promise of supreme happiness and pleasure. This is the heart of the message of holiness. “The pure in heart will see God.” (Matthew 5:8). The pure in heart will get to experience and enjoy Him.
This blog is taken from S. J.’s book, ENJOYING GOD, Experiencing the Love of Your Heavenly Father, published by Passio, Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group.
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