If there is anything that characterizes the spirit of this age, it would be the pursuit of pleasure.
I think I would not be too far off course when I suggest the philosophies and mind-sets which govern our modern world are simply extensions of this pursuit. Unlike the great philosophical pursuits of the past, our modern philosophical positions are more pragmatic than they are intellectual- more formed by our morals (or lack thereof) rather than the lofty thoughts that framed our moral stances. Modern doctrine is formed by what we happen to like doing.
One modern philosopher observed that there is not a "perversion anywhere in the universe that is not too deviant that there is not an academic somewhere arguing support for it."
While the pursuit of pleasure on the surface might seem like a valid and perhaps even a good goal, the reality is such a pursuit leaves the pursuer bankrupt.
One of the most poignant observations on this comes from Dr. Ravi Zacharias who said, "One of the loneliest times in life is when you achieve some coveted end, only to find out it leaves you empty...Pleasure without boundaries produces life without purpose. That is real pain. No death, no tragedy, no atrocity - nothing really matters. Life is sheer hollowness, with no purpose" (Zacharias: "The End of Reason," p. 41).
It saddens me that those whose only goal is to "live for the moment" (existentialism) spend a great deal of their time casting stones at religion in general and Christianity in particular as the main aggregates that hinder our pleasure. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is an interesting verse in Psalm 128. The first verse of that Psalm reads, "Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him" (NCV).
Now that runs counter to modern dogma. Our modern dogma declares that if we want happiness, we need to be free to pursue it any way we like. Furthermore, we are told everyone has the right to their own pursuits. Now, we really don't believe that because, frankly, such a philosophy is the breeding grounds for the worst atrocities.
If the pursuit of pleasure is really paramount and my pleasure requires another's removal from this life, well, you get the point.
You may argue that my truth is valid, but you can't live consistently with that view. You know, you must know, that there are actions that are right and there are actions that are wrong-- and argue as you might, when the dust settles, the only basis for moral decisions is an absolute lawgiver.
All of us want our own way. That desire comes disguised in varying costumes, but the very essence of our sinful nature is to want our own way.
That was the problem of Adam and Eve. With the tree of the Knowledge of God and Evil, I do not believe that the "tree" contained a magical potion that helped them gain insight into what might be right or wrong. Nor do I believe that it gave them an experiential knowledge of right or wrong (though that certainly did happen).
Rather, I believe the test (and thus the name of the tree) was to see if they would trust God for their needs or if they would insist on determining for themselves what they thought was right or wrong for them. (A problem that persists in our day and has been magnified by post-modern thought).
We really only have two choices. The first choice is we can have it our way and suffer, or the second choice is we can have it God's way and be blessed.
Psalm 128:1 in the New International Version reads, "Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways." The way to personal happiness and spiritual blessing is to follow the Lord faithfully, not to declare independence from him and ruin our lives in the pursuit of elusive pleasures.
One writer observed, "The chains of sin are so light you cannot feel them until they become so strong you cannot break them."
There is a way to personal peace, lasting purpose and ultimate pleasure. That way runs through the cross. You can suffer your way or you can find the satisfaction you've been craving God's way. The choice is up to you. God will not force you to bend to his will in defiance of yours.
Indeed, C.S. Lewis observed that hell is populated by "successful rebels to the end. All of their life they insisted on being left alone, and alas, I'm afraid that is what God has done."
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at email@example.com. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org