One of the most annoying things about me is that I tell stories…. like, nonstop. I tell a lot of stories and I have a lot of stories – these stories make up what is my life in many ways, and I like to share my life with others. I like to share because I am fulfilled in my life and I have substance to what I do; I want everyone to have that with me.
In children’s church the other week, I began my lesson asking the kids if they’ve ever heard someone say “Krispy Kreme is life!” or maybe “Starbucks is life!” or maybe even “Bae is life!” or possibly “Hanging with the squad is life!” The kids all laughed and gave plenty of extra examples even – one kid offered up the idea that “Metal Gear Solid is life!”
They even recognized the saying, “Living for the weekend”. I tried to see if they may have heard the song “Working for the Weekend“, but to no avail (I was merely informed that I’m old now, by the other teacher in class no less).
But these kids were familiar with this type of talk, and so are we – why?
Because we live in a hedonistic culture – we live for pleasures and happiness, it’s the American way. But are we fulfilled in this pursuit?
I proceeded to ask the kids questions about really cool stuff that they’ve done; I asked about everyday stuff they do that they don’t think about; I even asked them about their favourite weekly activities. Some of what was listed included: playing videogames, playing outside, going zip lining over gators, hiking on the beach, going to school, sleeping, pooping, reading, and even going to church. ALL OF THESE THINGS are what make up our lives – your life includes everything that you do.
So, why is it when all we do is live for Krispy Kreme or for the weekend or sex / drugs/ alcohol, or whatever it is we may be living for, we still feel empty a lot of times?
It is because, in that mind-set, our lives only count as being lived when we are doing those things which we live for.
As I showed the kids, (read for yourselves!) Romans 5 clearly states and illustrates that we either are alive in the old man (Adam) or we live in the new man (Christ). To live in Adam means that we live in sin – this is not that we do sin; this literally means that everything we do, we do in sin – even sleeping. But if we live in Christ, then everything we do, we do in Him!
Upon being given this revelation, one kid immediately asked if he poops for Jesus. The answer, if you are saved / fulfilled by Christ and His love, is YES – we poop for Jesus!
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun (Ecclesiastes 8:15 ESV).
Yes, I commend living in joy; but, I condemn living for happiness!
Joy will go with you in your toil, but happiness only exists in those moments where you are doing whatever that activity is that makes you “happy”. Happiness is a feeling that is fleeting and fades away; joy is a fulfilment found in a source of happiness.
But what is this source that fulfils?
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV).”
(Eat, drink, and live in joy – now, THAT’S a message that I can get behind!)
This seems like a good place for a call back to last week, when Zach taught us about addictions!
If we live for something that makes us feel “better” or “other than” what we feel now, then addictions are on the horizon. Living for happiness or pleasures that we can experience – in alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, worship Sunday mornings, whatever – this creates addictions that will rule your life.
WAIT, did I just include worship service in that list!??
Yes, yes I did.
Because for many people it is only a moment of pleasure that they experience, and they do not take it with them afterwards. Worship is meant to be a lifestyle, not a momentary time at church to express extreme emotion like what we tend to do in modern Church culture.
I had a friend (a non-Christian friend) that I brought to my church (a Pentecostal church) once, who after service and worship looked at me and asked (in all seriousness) if what he just witnessed was “emotional ejaculation” – sorry, for the vulgarity but it is a direct quote.
My friend was onto something larger than he knew. Many of us “Church folk” only live in Christ during those services – twice a week. This is just an emotionally-charged religion for those people. If your Christianity only exists in those moments when you read your Bible or when you go to Church or pray…. Then you have a hedonistic form of Christianity, which is nothing more than a lie that you’re living out.
As a wanna-be-nutritionist, I feel I must offer a healthful example of what I am talking about, to help prep you for a defining moment between choosing happiness and pleasure or a life of joy.
I see many people who eat utter garbage and complain about how they feel ALL THE TIME – they never seem to make the connection for some reason.
Eating doughnuts, mac & cheese, ice cream, and dinner rolls may be pleasant – I love these foods! But, if my lifestyle is one where I eat these things regularly, then I will be unhealthy. This creates a negative feedback loop, where I eat this stuff to feel good for a moment, but then I feel bad the rest of my day – “I’m tired a lot“, “I don’t like how I look”, or maybe “I just have no energy to get things done”. But when I eat fruits, veggies, meats, nuts, and the like (real foods), then I feel better all day long – this is a joy that will go with me in my toil. I have learned this from experience, so please trust me, here!
I can either live to eat, or I can eat to live. This is what determines if my food is a fleeting temporary pleasure, or if my food is a joy to me.
I am not condemning pleasures or happiness (the occasional ice cream & cake, or glass of wine is fine), but I do condemn living for these things.
One of the fruits of the spirit is joy – but we do not always “feel” joyful in the typical meaning of the word. The same book, the same author that earlier told us to eat and drink and have joy, also says this in conclusion of his book:
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The “WHOLE DUTY OF MAN” meaning that if we want purpose, fulfilment, joy then this is what we must do – obey God.
Of course, we know that in Christ all commandments and prophecies have been fulfilled already (Matthew 5:17). The commandments that we are left with, in the New Covenant, are simply to love God WITH EVERYTHING, and love other people JUST AS WE WOULD LOVE OUR OWN SELVES (Matthew 22:36 – 40)!
So fulfilment comes in this alone!
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14 ESV).”
This is joy – love God, love people, and you will have a fulfilled life.
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21 ESV).
To live is Christ.
Not to act like Christ; but to live in Him. Who I am becomes part of Love, Himself. I do not simply live for the moments where my actions show that I am giving to others, or to show that I can sing at church – it is not about simply “emotionally ejaculating,” but it is instead so much more!
All of the things that were listed earlier – playing videogames, playing outside, going zip lining over gators, hiking on the beach, going to school (or work for us slightly older folk), sleeping, pooping, reading, even going to church – this is all part of my life, thus I now do it ALL in Christ.
I do not play videogames for myself and a fleeting moment of pleasure. The moment of pleasure is nice and I thank God for it, but it is only a part of my life and I do it with purpose and intent. I play video games because I need a break to be my best self in serving God and serving others. I do it with others to share my fulfilled life with them.
I do not hike on the beach for myself. It is either for a break to be my best, or it is with others and becomes a discipling opportunity.
I do not go on road trips to New Orleans for myself, but I go to build relationships and get rest in the Lord.
I do not read my Bible so that I can be a good Christian, but instead I read because I love God and want to be closer to Him. I read so I can better equip those whom I am pouring into.
I do not poop for myself because I have to. I poop because God made me this way and I understand my own humanity in it. I probably am also reading my Bible in this time if it’s about to be a doozy.
I LIVE IN CHRIST!
I recently read a book, Operation Screwtape (by Andrew Farley). This book is a manual to tell demons how to win spiritual warfare. One of the goals for the enemies of our souls is outlined as such:
To “keep them looking to the nature of the activity itself rather than the One motivating them to determine an activity’s importance or worth. As they adopt this perspective, they will not give serious consideration to the radical notion that every aspect of their lives can be a divine expression of the Ghost.”
YES! Even the Enemy knows that every aspect of what we do can and should be in Christ!
So, you can live for the weekend, for Starbucks, for Krispy Kreme, videogames, alcohol, sex, pornography, whatever flavour of pleasure you prefer; OR, you can live in joy, in love, in Christ. God made all pleasure; pleasure is there for us to enjoy (Galatians 5:1). But, God did not make us to live for those things. Our very bodies tell us this, in how we eat.
The pursuit of mere happiness is an empty one and a vain one; but joy will go with you in your toil.
Our choice is to live and die in Adam (the first man) or live eternally in Love. You can die with having had much pleasures – maybe even get buried with your stuff like the pharaohs of old, if you like – or you can live fulfilled with the joys of Love, Himself.
If you want to know if you are living for happiness, or living in joy, then journal your next week of eating habits, actions, etc and ask yourself why you do what you do – if it is not in Love, then you live for happiness. That’s my challenge, because many of us are trapped in hedonism and don’t even know it. Put your attention back on the One motivating and see how your life matches up!
I pray that you, the readers, all choose to live in Joy and not waste your life “living for the weekend”!
Reading / Reference List:
- Operation Screwtape, by Andrew Farley, is a great read for insight into how the enemies of our souls try to keep us from living the life that Christ died for us all to have.
- Surprised by Joy is an excellent book written by C.S. Lewis about his experience finding joy. This is the story of how he lost his belief in Christ, then found it again.
- Brain Grain & Brain Maker are books by David Perlmutter (M.D.) who explains how eating bread, rice, starch, pastas, and sugars all can cause mental illnesses, as well as cause one to feel worst throughout their day, in the long run.
- The book of Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible that goes into great detail on the differences of living an empty and vain life v living a life fulfilled in joy.