A Theology of Satisfaction

Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.” (Proverbs 30:15-16 ESV)

Human beings are insatiable creatures. We were created this way. We were created with the infinite capacity to experience pleasure. The more pleasure we experience, the greater our capacity for pleasure grows. Our souls burn like a fire that never says, “Enough!” This is clearly evident in our physical appetites. Today, I will grow hungry and thirsty. I will eat and drink water. Yet, my hunger and thirst will return. There is not one food or drink that will forever satisfy my hunger or thirst. The same can be seen in other physical desires. A man will desire the body of his wife. They make love, but the desire will return. No newly married man looks at his wife on the second night and says, “I’m still good from the previous night.” Instead, his desire for her has only grown. The body grows tired each evening, inducing sleep. Yet, the next day’s activities again end in sleep. There is no amount of sleep that can satisfy our need. Desires always return. And we were curiously created this way.

Too often, desire is shunned within the Church. We can accurately pinpoint the source of our cultural rot. Pornography. Murder. Rape. Abuse. Theft. Corruption. The Church has rightly observed that these all stem from desire. As each of these vices is preached against from the pulpits across America, what is subtly (and most likely unintentionally) communicated is that ALL desire is bad and should be avoided. A passionless moralism, a Christianized version of Stoicism, is often what flows from our pulpits. We fight against and attempt to kill what God intended for our good, for our pleasure. Yet, if desire is good, if desire was given to us by Creator God, why does pursuing these desires led to such destruction? Our problem is not our pursuit of desire, but rather in the means we seek to lay hold of it.

When cancer grows in the body, the tumor that masses is due to an over-production of cells. Normally, as cells are unneeded, they simply die. When cancer forms, those cells have forgotten how to die. They have become inordinate. They feed on the body’s resources, growing and growing until death results. The moment a man seeks to fulfill his infinite capacity for pleasure with finite things, those desires become inordinate. The moment that gifts of finite pleasure replace the God, who is infinite pleasure, those desires become malignant.

What we need is a theology of satisfaction. We need to understand our desires in light of the Story that God is telling and not the small stories that we are trying to tell. We need God to define the good. For if we try to define what is good, what is true, we will fall into putting on our old self, along with it’s deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:17-24). I love how Paul calls our desires deceitful. Because without God defining our desires, they are deceitful. If there is no God, then the logical thing to do is live for my desires. Without God, reality is only as big my own longings. But God has not left us to grope in the darkness. He has defined our desires. He has defined where we are to seek satisfaction for that infinite capacity for pleasure. It is the cross that defines our desires. It is Christ alone that has the infinite resources to satisfy our infinite capacity.

Towards the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul helps us see exactly this. In probably the most famous and most misunderstood verse in all of Philippians, Paul states emphatically, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). I am quite sure that at this moment, you can find this verse stamped on coffee mugs and plaques that line the shelves of Christian bookstores across the country. Yet, this is no cute, throw-away verse that brings morning motivation. What Paul is communicating here is that he has found the secret to living a content life. The secret is that in Christ Jesus, Paul has limitless resources and pleasure. Since Paul views his finite desires through the lens of Christ’s resources, they do not become inordinate. The desires remain in check, under control. Paul knows how to face being in need. He knows how to face having plenty. Paul is not controlled by his finite desires. He is controlled by his one infinite desire and that is to know Christ (Phil. 3:8-11).

You see, this is the end of our infinite capacity for pleasure. It is to be met by one who has infinite resources with which to satisfy the ever growing joy. Heaven will be one day after another of increasing joy in the presence God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why were created to experience infinite joy. We were created for Heaven. We were created for God.

~sdg

The God Who Is

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor the fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19

The Lord give and the Lord takes away. Our confidence is not in the stuff we receive but in God himself. He is the ultimate source of our good. He is the ultimate means of our eternal satisfaction. God is. Everything else exists at God’s good pleasure. There is why his gifts make such poor gods. They were intended to be pointers to a greater reality. That God Himself is the ultimate gift. Money, sex, alcohol, drugs, luxury, comfort…the list is endless. The very sun that warms our planet will one day be replaced by the light shining forth from the glory of God! I sometimes wonder what heaven will be like. These verses make me think that the common answers people give miss the point of the pleasure we enjoy in this life. People think that heaven will be this cacophony of pleasure; a hedonist’s dream come true. The great (or sad) axiom of the sixties will become reality (minus any consequences): If it feels good, do it! From that, visions of everything from golf, to beaches to rivers of Chick-fil-a sweet tea have been offered up to explain what heaven is like. Very rarely do you hear anyone say, “God will be there,” or “Jesus will be there and we can worship him forever!” The modern church feels necessary to invent heavenly pleasures to interest people in perhaps choosing Jesus. Choose Jesus and play free golf for eternity (I can almost hear the jingle for “The Villages” playing). Choose Jesus and see your long dead relatives who also choose Jesus. Choose Jesus and sit on the pristine beaches of heaven sipping frozen fruity drinks (non-alcoholic of course…remember, there is no booze in heaven). It is quite ludicrous when you think about it. We are peddling heaven like a retirement community in south Florida. A place where all your worries are gone and the sun never stops shining. The church is afraid to tell people that the worship of God is continuous in heaven (that line doesn’t typically bring in the masses). Too many “christians” (and I use that term lightly) abhor the thought of an eternal worship service. Perhaps those people don’t truly understand their own sinfulness. In fact, I know they don’t. When one comes to understand even a small bit of how deep their sinfulness goes…the saving work of Christ becomes that much sweeter to the saved soul. It becomes even sweeter when the one understands that salvation is not a choosing of man, but the choosing of God.  When that light has shined forth into the heart of the elect, the idea of an eternal worship service sounds like heaven.

It is scary to think about those who chase heaven for reasons other than Jesus. Sadly, they will be among those who Jesus does not know. They will be cast aside into the eternal flames of destruction because they treasured something other than Jesus. Their god was heavenly pleasure and their reward will be hellish torment.

These verses spoken by the Holy Spirit through the prophet Habakkuk will be read at my wedding. I want to remind myself, my wife and my guests that in this moment of great joy and pleasure, that God is the true pleasure and the true joy. All these earthly things are but shadows of the joys to come. I want people to cast down their selfish, pleasure-hungry visions of heaven and embrace a God-centered vision of heaven; one in which we enjoy not his things, but God alone in all his magnificent and all-encompassing glory.

-sdg