Our lives are a pursuit of pleasure. How are your deepest desires met?

“For many people, Christianity is a tedious and ultimately unsatisfying aversion to temptations they would much prefer to indulge. Nothing depresses me more than to think of expending my one life on earth merely suppressing my deepest desires, always acting contrary to what my soul continues to crave. But there is little hope of it being otherwise so long as I seek satisfaction in something other than God.”
—Sam Storms, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, 127.

Thankfully, that is not what Christianity is all about, because God is not a killjoy. He offers far better pleasures than any alternative available to us. His promises are not empty, which when when you think about it, that cannot be said of much else. We spend our lives in the pursuit of pleasure. What kinds of pleasures are we pursuing?

Consider these lyrics:

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

Because God is good, we do not have to look for a satisfying life anywhere else.

Sam Storms describes in his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion For the Beauty of God, a significant story from Greek mythology. Perhaps you already know the story of Jason and Ulysses, as they encountered the Sirens. In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures with the head of a female and the body of a bird. They lived on an island (Sirenum Scopuli; three small rocky islands) and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island.

The Sirens sang when they approached, their words even more enticing than the melody. They would give knowledge to every man who came to them, they said, ripe wisdom and a quickening of the spirit. Countless unwitting sailors had been lured to their death by their outward beauty and the irresistible song of the sirens. They would unwittingly follow the song, crash their ships on the rocks surrounding the island where the sirens would devour them. Any crew passing by needed a fool-proof plan to steer clear of disaster.

Ulysses and the Sirens

Ulysses had been repeatedly warned about the song of the sirens so he had his crew put wax in their ears to block out the seductive song. He commanded his men neither to look to the left nor to the right, but to row for their lives. But Ulysses had other plans for himself. He commanded that he be strapped to the mast of the ship, leaving his ears unplugged. He wanted to hear the song and he instructed the men that he was not to be removed until a safe distance way.

Were it not for the ropes that held him, Ulysses would have succumbed. Though his body was tied, his soul said yes to the temptation. He made it through safely, but the fact that he didn’t give in was only due to the external shackles. Sadly, this is just the way many of us try to resist the appeal of sin, with our hearts chasing the passing pleasures of sin while we shackle ourselves to legalism changing only the outward behavior.

Contrast the approach of Ulysses to Jason, who had also been warned of the seductive siren song. Jason brought with him a man named Orpheus, a musician of incomparable talent. When his music filled the air it had an enchanting effect on everyone who heard it. There was not a lovelier or more beautiful sound in all the world.

When the time came, Jason declined the ear plugs, nor did he ask to be tied. He had no illusion about the strength of his will, instead, he ordered Orpheus to play his most beautiful and alluring song. The Sirens didn’t stand a chance! Jason overcame temptation with something better.

(Which is where the quote from the top comes in.) Storms, and the story of Ulysses and Jason, shows us we do not need a “tedious and ultimately unsatisfying aversion.” We need to find more joy in God, more satisfaction in His promises, than we feel in the alluring — and empty — promises of this fading world. His music needs to be louder than all others, for it’s far more beautiful. He offers us pleasure beyond our wildest dreams.

Plenty.

Our family fridge, July 15, 2010 {the last day of our grocery month}

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 
—Philippians 4:10-13, NLT

Conquering Anxiety.

God will give us what we want. If we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will get righteousness. But if we want someone else, He will let us pursue it, find it, and become fully consumed with it. That thing will leave us empty in the end. It will leave us anxious.

“Anxiety … is fear and worry about what the future holds … it is being stricken by the unavoidable and the uncontrollable.”

“… Being the captain of your own ship and the master of your destiny means you are going to sail you ship through the waters of anxiety.”

“If you want to be conformed to the image of Christ, you will be. And if you don’t, you won’t.”

—Pastor Jon Furman, “Joy That Overcomes” (series: True Joy, part 10, on Philippians 4:2-9)

The Scripture:

2 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

—Philippians 4:2-9, NLT

Straining by Grace.

“Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort.”

—Pastor Joel Dombrow quoting Dallas Willard and J.P. Moreland

“What if being a Christian actually meant a more difficult, more costly, less comfortable life?”

—Pastor Joel

From Joy Motivates on Philippians 3:12-4:1:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Counting others.

Every time I tell our four-year-old son “I’m proud of you, son,” he is quick to remind me, “No, Daddy. Pride is bad.” True, son. So if I’m thinking about it I instead said, “Son, I’m really happy with you. You please me.” It seems our kids need to know we are happy to be called their parents. God the Father was happy to say the same of His Son (Matthew 3:17).

Our son is learning about humility. He’s getting the concepts down, and like all of us, learning in real-time the pitfalls of our self-centered pride. Brings to mind some of the things preached this Sunday in our church worship gatherings:

“You don’t need to try to be humble. Just be honest with who you are in light of who God is. Stop pretending, and trying to cover up who you are before others… Be honest before God.”
—Joel Dombrow, preaching on Philippians 2:1-11, Joy From Humility (Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011)

If we do that, we will then consider God as awesome, certainly more than ourselves. I was moved as I sat there asking God to do this in me.

Joel continued: “The humble person is someone who considers others as better than their self.” Not that we have to think that others are better than us, but that we place their needs before our own. We treat them as if they are better and more deserving than us. We must think about them more than us. It is putting others first.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Paul writes, Philippians 2:3-4)

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