This past week my son taught on Solomon's pursuit of pleasure and his conclusions (both Solomon's and Calvin's) were pretty earth shattering: Pleasure is fun. Pleasure is enjoyable. But pleasure, just like work, is not satisfying in the long run. Only Jesus satisfies for an eternity.
Now obviously the abuse of pleasure can be sinful, but Calvin made a strong argument for the fact that the church has swung the pendulum the opposite direction with legalism when it comes to pleasure, just to insure we are not like the world. It's one of the reasons the world is not attracted to Christianity - it seems we live by rules and take the pleasure out of life to make a point.
I have often said that I would have made a great Pharisee because I am a rule keeper. The Lord is working hard on me in that area and I still have a ways to go. Hearing my son reprimand me personally, or at least it felt like that, was pretty awkward for me, though I don't think anyone in the room realized it.
So I started digging through my Bible and found myself back in I Corinthians 10, a passage that the Lord has used in the past to change me. In verses 23 through chapter 11:1, Paul gives some practical instruction on how to make decisions in life, being sensitive to weaker brothers and managing your own conscience versus your brother's conscience.
Here are five questions that we can use in making decisions when it comes to amoral or non-illegal pleasures. I am labeling it this way so that you understand I am not including illegal drug use, illicit sexual experiences or things that are blatantly sinful. I am talking about basic decisions in personal choice issues, where we have replaced common sense with legalism:
- Is it profitable? v. 23 says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable." It's a good question to ask yourself - is this activity profitable in anyway?
- Does it edify? v. 23 goes on to say, "All things are lawful, but not all things edify." Edify means to build up - does this build anyone up, encourage anyone?
- Does it glorify God? v. 31 says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Need I say more?
- Does it give offense? v. 24-30 basically lay out the argument that sometimes we have to sacrificially give up a freedom we have because of a weaker brother. Not all the time, but showing a sensitivity to the need of a friend. For example, I'm not going to meet a girlfriend who is struggling with her weight at my bakery for coffee. There's nothing wrong with the bakery but why put the temptation in front of her?
- Does it imitate Christ? In chapter 11:1, Paul tells his readers to imitate him, just as he is imitating Jesus. It's really that simple - I know some cringe when we say, WWJD, but sometimes it's really that simple. Jesus wasn't a door mat - He was bold and harsh when necessary, He found enjoyment in the craziness of children at His feet, He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, and He laid His rights aside, dying for my sin. He's a pretty good example...