Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bohemian Christianity

In chapter 9 of The Slumber of Christianity author Ted Dekker moves from explaining how our imaginations can be used to produce a desire of heaven in our hearts to discussing how we can use pleasure.
“We have explored that wonderful, expansive gift God has given us to awaken to the pleasures of the next life, namely the imagination.

“But there is another gift God has given us to awaken our passion for the next life: pleasure in this life.” (p. 163)

Pleasure is a tricky topic. On the one hand we see how pleasure is misused and abused by the world. On the other hand we realize that God has given us these pleasures, and if God has given them they are for our enjoyment. The church has seemed to over emphasis the first hand and down played the second as we have urged people away from anything that feels good.
“The response of many teachers who see a church enamored by the pleasures of this world has been to drive their flock away from the pleasures of the world rather than toward the pleasures of heaven, which results in only a deeper slumber stripped of not only the pleasures of heaven but those of earth as well.” (p. 166)

We need to remember that pleasure is a gift from God and when experienced within the context that He has decreed add joy to our lives.
“So let’s dismiss every misguided notion that any of God’s gifts are less than perfectly excellent. Let’s not mock the Giver by picking holes in his offerings to us.

“Having said that, however, if you want to enjoy the pleasures granted us by our Creator, you first must understand how they were intended to be enjoyed and what their true purpose is. It’s true that pleasure can be and often is corrupted. But it’s also true that all good pleasures come from God.” (p. 167)

One of the problems we have with pleasure is that we are bored with it. “Been there, done that,” could be the slogan of our lives. Things that brought us pleasure five years ago are now old hat and boring.
“But we aren’t like children. We’ve experienced all of these pleasures, and they no longer meet our expectations for fresh engagement. We grow bored with movies. Bored with our spouses. Bored with life. Bored with God. Bored with the familiar, anemic visions we have of heaven.

“They say that familiarity breeds contempt. You see it at the movies; you begin to feel it with every pleasure that once awed you.” (p. 169)

Of course we can’t get rid of our experiences and approach pleasure like it was the first time, but we can change our perspective on pleasure.
“We can adjust our understanding of those pleasures. We can accurately see all temporal pleasures as limited foreshadows of something coming later. For now, with pleasure as well as with knowledge, we see through only a glass dimly, but then we will see face-to-face. Now God’s gifts to us are fading, but then they will be brilliant.” (p. 170)

Our cravings and desires weren’t meant to be satisfied here, but are meant to point us to heaven. If we make be satisfied our goal the pleasures of this life will disappoint us, no matter how much or how we indulge.
“What does this have to do with heaven? We should not look for any great satisfaction on earth, but in heaven alone. When you finally come to the understanding that nothing in this world can truly satisfy the thirst God has placed in you to see him face-to-face, your disappointments with this world’s failure to deliver satisfaction will start to fade and you’ll begin to enjoy the pleasures on this earth for what they are. Foretastes of heaven.” (p. 171)

Remember we can’t just indulge in pleasure any way we would like. There are proper ways and improper ways on how we should use pleasure.
“Having said that, wallowing in the sin of spoiled pleasures in no fun and only detracts from the joy of hoping for heaven, so let’s agree with Paul and toss spoiled pleasure aside.

“There isn’t a single pleasure that can’t be corrupted. We think of sexual sin and drunkenness and drug addiction, but we also know that the pleasures of religion and worship and self-righteousness themselves can be offensive to God. “ (p. 175)

We have to be careful not to let the pleasures of this world blind us to the hope of eternity. If we let our lives be consumed by the things of this world we will miss out on the pleasures God has waiting for His children.
“But those who see clearly the hope of eternity, and who passionately long for the day of their redemption, and who embrace all that God has given them, acknowledging God as the Giver of all good gifts—these he will embrace as his children.” (p. 176)

When properly embraced the pleasures of this world point us to heaven.
“Again, I say embrace the pleasures God has given you as a foretaste of his great inheritance that awaits you in heaven. Celebrate them. Never abuse them or allow the enemy to fool you into thinking they are more or less than what they are.” (p. 179)

Find the other chapters:
Chapter 1: The Death of our Dreams
Chapter 2: The Search for Pleasure
Chapter 3: Foundations
Chapter 4: Give Me Pleasure or Give Me Death
Chapter 5: The Slippery Slope to Slumber
Chapter 6: In Living We Die; In Dying We Live
Chapter 7: Created to Obsess
Chapter 8: The Eyes of the Heart part 1
Chapter 8: The Eyes of the Heart part 2

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