I grew up thinking Jesus wanted to ruin my good time. No seriously. Everything I wanted to do, it seemed like Jesus was always telling me I couldn't. My friends would get drunk and party; I wasn't allowed. All the other kids were sleeping around. Jesus said I had to flee sexual immorality. When people wronged me it felt so good to be bitter and lord it over them, but there He was saying, "Forgive seventy times seven."
So when I went to college and started hanging out with kids who actually enjoyed Jesus, it pretty much blew my mind. I mean, my friends growing up "loved" Jesus, but certainly didn't like hanging out with Him. We knew the right answers and we knew we were supposed to do what God said to do, but these kids at my college were different.
They wanted to obey God. They liked obeying Him. No one was making them. No one told them they couldn't get freaky at clubs or drink til they threw up. They just preferred being with God. They'd get together and worship Him for the fun of it. The fun of it? I thought "fun" and "Jesus" were contradictory terms.
To be honest, I had a lot to learn. I still do. But my world changed forever my freshman year of college when Christianity changed from something I had to do, to something I wanted to do. How? I experienced Psalm 16:11 first hand.
It says, "In your presence is the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
The fullness of joy? Pleasure forever? Have you ever even considered that God is for your pleasure? Now, this seems quite counter intuitive doesn't it? I mean, isn't Jesus all about self denial and what not? Isn't Christianity just putting your head in the sand, grinding it out, and keeping your nose clean?
Friends, nothing could be further from the truth. You see, when Jesus says to deny yourself, He never asks you to do that as an end in itself. He says to deny yourself so that you can follow Him! And everything that's promised us when we get to Him is an appeal to our pleasure.
But the tough part is realizing that in order to get the fullest joy, and the greatest pleasure, you have to do things His way. You have to wait. Often times you have to go without. But you go without so that you can get something better. It's like McDonalds versus a fancy steakhouse. The steakhouse may take quite a bit longer, but in the end, it's far more rewarding than a quick fling with Ronald and his super sizing ways.
So then, we flee sexual immorality so that we can know the trust, rest, and joy of a sexual encounter protected by the strong walls of covenant. It takes denial, sure, but as a means to a lifetime of more reward. It can seem like Jesus is against our pleasure because we've believed the lie that the things He's created are what will give us what we want. But whether it's sex, ambition, rock n roll, isn't it actually God we're after?
This one thought changed everything. That every beautiful thing I get enamored by, is just a reflection of the one who made it. Any beauty I'm dazzled by or promise I'm lured by, it's always Him my soul is hungry for. And when I can see that, all other temptations lose their power. To understand all that I love is merely a mirror pointing me upward, frees me to let those things go. I don't have to have them. I have to have the One who made them. And the pleasure and reward his presence offers far surpasses any drug or buzz I could get. Crazy huh?
Friend, don't sell yourself short. Jesus wants to give us life. It is Satan who's out to steal, kill, and destroy. Sadly, we too often believe it's the other way around. Don't fall for the lie. His commands to us are the pathways to pleasure. They are the way to joy.
All this world could offer you is but a mere shadow of the glory of the One who is behind it all. Don't grasp the shadow. Follow it to the source. He is the source.