Lies About God 3: “We Must Choose Between A Life We Enjoy and A Life Serving God”

Many people think that the key to the Christian life is to deny yourself of all pleasure, and live a life of boredom.  For them, all pleasure is sin, and desires are to be denied.

But the truth is that desires are God-given and good; where we go wrong is in trying to fulfill them in ways outside of God’s plan.  The problem is not that we have desires, but how we try to satisfy them.

God Himself takes pleasure in His Son (Matthew 17:5; Isaiah 42:1; Colossians 1:19), in His creation, and in His people as we glorify Him.  He promises us “abundant life” (John 10:10), and that if we will find our delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4).  Yet, in spite of these great promises, we still choose to seek joy and pleasure elsewhere.

This very simply is because of unbelief, and unbelief is the very root of sin.  Adam and Eve did not believe that they would really die if they ate the fruit, and so they did.  They thought that what they would gain by eating would bring them more pleasure and joy than if they did not eat.  They lived in a perfect world, in intimate fellowship with God, but chose something far below that, which resulted in separation from God and physical death.  And we do the same thing.

Not to say that there is no pleasure in sin – of course there is.  If there were not, it would be no problem.  But what sin brings cannot really even be rightly called “pleasure” when compared with what God offers to us.  Yet we often settle for it, and then wonder why we’re left with regret, guilt and emptiness.  A well-know quote from C.S. Lewis puts it well:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak.  We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

So the Christian life is not about denying ourselves pleasure, but choosing what will bring us the most pleasure – and that is always going to be obedience to God.  It’s really a “no-brainer”; it’s choosing the holiday at the sea over making mud pies.  And, in choosing to live life serving God faithfully, we are actually choosing the most satisfying life possible.

Lies About God 2: “God is obligated to save people from other religions”

What about people who never hear the name of Jesus, and never read a Bible?  Is it fair for God to send them to hell when they never had a chance to accept Christ?

“The heavens declare the glory of God”, according to Psalm 19.  Nature itself is a testimony to God (Rom. 1:18-21), and because of that, those who ignore it and reject him are “without excuse” (v. 20).  Furthermore, the moral law of right and wrong is “written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15), though no one lives up to it.  So we see that nature can not give us what we need.

One may say, “But what if someone sincerely seeks God, in their own way?”  This may sound good, but it neglects to deal with mankind’s problem.  The requirement to stand before God and escape judgment is not sincerity – it’s righteousness.  We can not achieve that through our own works, no matter how sincere we are.  There is only One who can give us that, and His name is Jesus.

“Is God fair?” is really a loaded question that depends on the standard of fairness, and He gets the privilege of deciding that.  He is not obligated to save anyone; however, He must be just in all He does.  Are we being arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way?  No, because it’s not our plan.  Considering these things makes clear just how urgent a task it is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Most who are worried about those in other religions are not concerned enough about themselves.

Lies About God 1: “God is more tolerant of sin now than in the past”

Is God more tolerant of sin now than He used to be?  It may seem plausible, since in the Old Testament the penalties for sin were pretty severe, enforced quickly, and sometimes even deadly.  Some say the Old Testament shows a God of wrath, while the New Testament shows a God of love (just try convincing Ananias and Sapphira of that).  Or has man, as he has become more “enlightened” over the ages, merely progressed in his view of God, accounting for the shift from the primitive, angry deity of the Old Testament to the loving, fatherly figure in the New Testament?

The truth is, God has not changed; He is still holy, just and righteous, as well as merciful, patient and compassionate.  So, if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, what did change, when did it change, and why?

In Exodus 19 & 20, we read of when Moses and the children of Israel, newly freed from slavery in Egypt, came to Mt. Sinai.  The people, and even their animals were not to even set foot on the mountain, under penalty of death.  God descends on the mountain in a dark cloud with thunder, lightning, and an earthquake, and calls Moses to come up to meet with Him.  Terrified, the people back away and beg Moses for God to not speak directly to them, lest they die (Ex. 20:19).

In Hebrews 12:18-24, we read of another mountain, Mt. Zion, contrasted with Mt. Sinai:

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The contrast could not be more dramatic: from clouds and darkness, fear, judgment and death, to light, faith, forgiveness and life.  At Mt. Sinai the command was “Stand back!”.  Here, it is “Come near!”.  What accounts for this difference?

One simple word: Calvary.

The cross, where the penalty for sin and God’s wrath were fully satisfied, makes possible this dramatic shift.  However, it is only for those who are “enrolled in heaven”, who have accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death as payment for their sin, and repented to follow Him.  For others, Hebrews 12 concludes:

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made – in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Do not mistake God’s patience for tolerance; our God IS a consuming fire.  All sin must be punished, for He is not only love, but He is “Holy, holy, holy”, and righteous, and just.  There is no sin, over the course of all the ages, that will be forgotten or left unpunished.  Those who reject Christ will pay that penalty themselves, eternally in hell.  Those who accept Christ will never face the wrath of God, because it has already been poured out on His Son, on the cross.

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”