The next time you hear anyone describing God by that longstanding caricature of someone who, upon finding people having fun, tells them to stop, remind them that mankind started with a naked man and a naked woman with an entire world to romp and play in and that that was God’s idea. And when you do have that opportunity for such a rebuttal, I hope that it is on a crowded airplane or a long checkout line at the grocery store.
We are Ungrateful
Now, you may have to concede right then and there that such a critique can be weighed against the church because, indeed, bad doctrinal teaching has given God the reputation for being a stick-in-the-mud. He is often thought of as only angry and sometimes He is, but when He is, it is because we have acted ungrateful for all the pleasures of life that have been given to us: “You did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore. . . .”
“Therefore,” well, we know where that leads to, don’t we? We find ourselves looking back at the locked and guarded Garden gate. Guilty of our sins that basically can be dissected as:
- We didn’t continue to enjoy all that God had given us;
- We decided to enjoy life on our own terms.
Discipline & Delight
Here, our benevolent Creator, our heavenly Father acts in discipline toward His children and in wrath against all others because:
Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful….
“Being understood by the things that are made.” The way God made everything is a delight to the senses. The universe was created and then man was made with the sensory capacity to take in and enjoy everything from the warmth of sunshine to the taste of peach cobbler to the immensity of the ocean to the security of another person’s embrace.
Wired for Pleasure
We are wired for pleasure and every pleasant and delightful experience we have is due to God’s design. The Trinity is into happiness, fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, leisure, intimacy, laughter, and pleasure.
The human race constantly has to face the fact that they live in a world of overwhelming enjoyment that they didn’t create and that they often corrupt. People constantly sin against their stewardship of land, liberty, love, and life, for these good things do not belong to them, nor do they to themselves, but to God.
The Lord has constantly restored paradise for man. Adam was given the world. Noah too. Then Abraham was given the promised land. Israel was given David the king. And finally the Son of God entered the capital city. God has a history of desiring to over-bless mankind and we have a history of misusing, abusing, and refusing, the blessing.
So the fault of being sticks-in-the-mud resides with us, not with God. And that is an important part of the story that we tell. God has been over-good and we have been really, really bad. We continue to be bad and God continues to be good—leading us to repentance.
Enjoyment of the Senses
The great expectation that we have and are promised is that there is coming a day when we will only do good. One day we will completely enjoy God’s gifts without sinning.
Until then, because of Jesus, we still have the capacity to enjoy the way we are made. Touch, taste, scent, sight, and sound are all ours as we live and move and have our being in Him.
Being new creations in Christ Jesus takes us back to frolic and delight before the face of God. Only Christians can operate to full godly capacity in the enjoyment of food, humor, companionship, sight-seeing, leisure, work, sex, reading, conversation, cooking, decorating, dancing, and music, for we recognize and are grateful to the One who has made this all possible. I hope that you agree with me in all of this and if you do, let’s start making it show.
But you might find it hard. Let me share with you some of my past.
Back in my Bible college days I met some guys that had come from Ohio. This was my first encounter with Northerners and they brought with their accents mannerisms and also music that was foreign to me. Being a new believer, I had never heard “Christian” music other than my recent experience of singing hymns in church. As I rode with my new friends to football practice or to get pizza one of them would invariably jam an 8-track of some guy by the name of Sammy Hall. Blasting out of the car speakers would come the lyrics, “If you’re happy notify your face. Take that frown off and put a smile in its place. If you love Jesus, show it to the human race! If you’re happy, notify your face.”
Catchy, I know, and so very true. But my newfound joy as a new believer would soon change into a suspicion of anything and everything. Attempting to avoid all appearance of evil caused me to see at least a little evil in everything. And since being a Christian is serious business, I took that the wrong way and became militant and mean-spirited. Others around me became frustrated and/or sad . . . some rebelled.
Glorify God & Enjoy Him Forever
The problem was never grace; it was a combination of the erroneous preaching and teaching, my private misunderstanding, the dullness of the congregation, and resulting baggage of my fellow students. We had never heard—we did not know—that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Now I know. But I also haven’t forgotten that there are many Christians who still think that duty and rules are the ends and not the means to the Christian life.
We are endeavoring to straighten out this cart before the horse dilemma. For some, they may not even be aware that there is such a cart.
Knowing that our beginning started with a small garden wedding and will end with an unending cosmic celebration, our time here, in between the two, should be an exhibition of our anticipation and a full awareness of the goodness of our God now resulting in a continual experience of the abundant life given to us by Jesus Christ our Lord.
This post was first published in Every Thought Captive magazine where we talk about the joys and the difficulties of living the good life. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!