The pleasures we pursue are high on that list!
You make choices. Every day. Many of your decisions are automatic and you hardly know you’re making them. Others take longer for you to make up your mind. Some decisions are pretty small in the scheme of things (what restaurant will we dine at tonight?). Others are vast and enduring in their power (who will I marry and what work will I pursue?).
Many of our personal choices have to do with PLEASURES.
Pleasures are those enjoyable experiences that are highly physical in nature. These pleasures involve sensations. To be a human being is to be a human body. You are a physical being with five senses, nerve endings, and chemicals and hormones pouring through your system. That is how God designed us. It is part of the delightful meaning of being human and being alive.
The very strong pleasures that are a part of life are (1) food and drink, (2) sex, and (3) sensory experiences of art, music, and beauty. I will also add one more: (4) stimulants of a wide variety, like alcohol (a drink) and drugs, whether natural or artificial, that affect brain functioning and have physiological results.
If I were to write a longer essay on this, I would go into great detail to explain the following points, which I will only make briefly:
* God created us with a body, with nerve endings, with sensory receptors, with chemistry, etc. and therefore as people who experience sensations.
* God gave us beautiful gifts of food, drink, sexuality, and artistic and aesthetic experiences so we would enjoy them.
* God provided a proper context for each of these gifts. Use the gift in the right context and it is a blessing. Take the gift out of the context and it becomes destructive.
* Use each gift in the right amount and the right way and it is a blessing. Use each gift too much, too often, and in the wrong way, and once again the gift becomes destructive.
* Happiness comes from enjoying the good gifts of God in the right context, right amount, and right way.
* Unhappiness will be the inevitable result of partaking of these gifts out of context, in the wrong amount, and in wrong ways.
* It is the nature of sin to do exactly that – to tempt us to yank the gifts out of context, partake of them in wrong amounts, and go about them in wrong ways. Through all of human history and in all human cultures we see what happens to food, sex, alcohol, and experience when sin takes hold of them.
In our 21st century North American culture (and plenty of other cultures as well) we have now decisively yanked all these gifts out of context, relentlessly pursued them as the way to happiness, ignored healthy boundaries for their enjoyment … and we have been disappointed and often hurt.
And then we go back and do it again.
When I talk to people and ask, “What’s on your bucket list?” it is pretty interesting how full our buckets are with pleasures. It is as if we have loaded all the burden for happiness on these pleasures, and new and exciting encounters and experiences of those pleasures.
It’s NOT WORKING!
It is not making us happy. Nor is it making us good.
This is not a diatribe against pleasures. It is a plea to put them back in their proper place, use them in their proper way, and enjoy their benefits and delights appropriately.
It is very interesting to me that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives several points of wisdom on these matters. He needed to, for the Corinthians were a pleasure-oriented people and doing it in all the wrong ways.
If you want to read and think about some of his wise, biblical guidance, work through 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 10:23-31. These ideas are very countercultural, but it is time to face the music. Our culture has become disastrously wrong on what will make us happy. God has always been lovingly right on what will make us happy.
Choose life. Choose God. Enjoy the pleasures he gives. But there is much more that will lead to a flourishing, joyful life. There is more that needs to be on your bucket list. That is what I will talk about tomorrow.
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