STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 3: Pried Out With A Cross
The Pride of Self-Indulgence
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature…” Galatians 5:13
There is not a pain or pleasure in this world that is immune to carnal contamination. There is a fallen part of our nature that either enjoys things that were not meant for our enjoyment, or things that were meant for our enjoyment at a later time, or things that were meant for our enjoyment in moderate quantities. Similarly, that fallen part of our nature either finds the things that God meant for our enjoyment as painful, or takes the painful things and clings to them longer than God meant us to.
Both pain and pleasure have the power to impair our awareness of ultimate realities. Very few things distort our perception of the way things are in the manner that pain and pleasure does. In practice, this means that we must each be more alert than usual when we are having a very bad day or having a very good day. And if it is a season of good days or bad days that we are facing, like the kind that either follows a great loss in our lives or precedes a great celebration in our lives, we must be doubly vigilant.
We must be on our guard around the holidays, especially the ones observed to celebrate some great historical event. In fact, if the historical event being celebrated also happens to be a sacred event, like God’s arrival into the world as a baby born to a virgin, then the spiritual dangers amidst such celebrations multiply considerably, mostly because nothing deceives us more than religious ritual. To escape all such deceptions, you must decide once and for all that you will treat every pain and pleasure as God sees it, not as your sinful nature makes every pain and pleasure appear.
The sinful nature makes pain and pleasure appear as an excuse for doing the thing you feel like, even if it is a violation of the thing God says you were meant for. To the sinful nature, the fact that you are experiencing the pain of isolation, or rejection, or abuse, or unemployment, or hunger, or heartbreak, or poverty, or death, is a perfect excuse for disobeying God. To the sinful nature, the fact that you are experiencing the pleasure of romantic love, or acceptance, or promotion, or food, or wealth, or Christmas, is a perfect excuse for putting yourself on God’s throne until your will be done. Self-indulgence is an act of self-deification.
The reality is that many of the pains and pleasures in this life are gifts from God, some sent to comfort us, some sent to prune us, and some sent to test us, but none sent to define us. They are sent to shape us in God’s image by giving us opportunities to trust, praise, and obey God. Accepting any gift requires humility, but not nearly as much humility as using a gift strictly for the purpose that the giver intended it. Where this Christ-like humility exists, every pain and pleasure leads you upward in praise or outward in service, farther and farther away from self-indulgence. Where that humility does not exist, every pain and pleasure only leads you inward, leaving you to your own devices as you consume more drinks, eat more food, sleep more hours, keep more presents, watch more shows, work more hours, say more words, spend more money, get more decorations, buy more cards, and do more social-networking than Jesus would have ever thought of doing on his own birthday. It is not for nothing that the Spirit of God left no record in Scripture of either Jesus or the church he founded celebrating Christ’s birth at all, much less with acts of revelry.
Keep the Faith