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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
Pleasure has been polluted, and distorted, and made to be the opposite of godliness. It’s very subtle. And this is how Satan works. In fact, C. S. Lewis made this other great quote. He says, “The problem with Christians is not that they enjoy too much pleasure. The problem with Christians is, they enjoy too little pleasure.”
See, what we’ve done is, we’ve said, pleasure is over here, and it’s evil and bad, and godliness is over here. That’s not what the Bible teaches. I can’t develop it fully, but let me give you a taste of both Old and New Testament, in terms of what I think is an accurate theology of pleasure. In the Old Testament, there are feasts. We make these biblical words. You do know what a feast is? At a feast, people do what? They eat. When you eat really good food, and, usually, a lot of it, with a lot of other people, it usually has something to do with fun. Just put that in the back of your mind.
There were private feasts, you’ll notice. There were communal feasts. And I just pulled this – anyone can do this. Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary says, about private feasts, “The social life of ancient Israel provided many joyous occasions that were celebrated with feasts: weddings, the celebrations of which often lasted seven days.”
Can you imagine having someone getting married, and everyone going, “Let’s take off a week and party for a week”? We go three hours – I go to the wedding. I don’t have time to go to the reception.
The weaning of a child: “Hey, the kid’s weaned. Let’s have a party!” The birthday of a king, the arrival of an approaching dignitary, the departure of an approaching dignitary. Is this great? “Hey, someone important came; let’s have a party.” “He’s leaving. Let’s have another party.” Sheep shearing was also a joyous season where they sheared the wool, and then they went to the sanctuary, and they had a party. Solomon dedicated the Temple with a feast.
Ancient Hebrews were not ascetics. “Often, feasts demanded no specific occasion other than gladness.” And it quotes Job. Translation, “Hey, I feel happy today. How about you?” “I feel pretty happy.” “Let’s have a party.” These were private feasts.
Now I wish I had time to develop all this, but you’ll notice, there are communal feasts. There was a feast every Sabbath. Every Sabbath was a joyous occasion. There were monthly feasts – there was a new moon. There were annual feasts. And the word for festival, here, is the Hebrew word that means “to dance” or “to turn around.” God put that in the Bible. Have you ever seen tiny kids?
You don’t have to teach little kids to enjoy life. Do you? You’ve got to teach old people, like us. God says, “You know what? I don’t want you to forget this. So, I’ve got these feasts, these big ones: the Passover, Pentecost, the Booths, the Day of Atonement.”
Now, here’s what you need to get. Instead of taking pleasure and pushing it over here, which we end up making amusement – which means “not to think” – or entertainment – “I need a break today” – and getting movies so that I can recover from things that I don’t want to face. Sorry if that was a little too convicting. I’ll get back to the text.
God says, I’m going to take worship, and I’m going to have you stop. And I’m going to combine worship, and seeing Me, and honoring Me, and the reading of My Word, and Sabbath – or rest – and then, as that progresses, and you see who I am, there’s going to be required food.
And we always think of it, Oh, and they had to kill for the blood. And the goat came. And the priest did this. They did. And they gave the first portion to the Lord, right? And then, the priest got some. What do you think they did with the rest of that food? They had a party! And the widows would come, and the sojourners would come, and people passing through would come, and the Greeks would come. And, by the time of Jesus – thousands of people.
The Passover was not, like, “Okay. Okay, the big Passover’s coming.” Was it sober and holy on the front end, and what they remembered? Yeah. And then, it was like, “Wow! We’re delivered! We’re delivered! Woo! Woo! Let’s go! Let’s have fun!” And they had these weeklong parties.
Three or four different times, they would take a week off, to stop, to sing, to dance, to worship.
In the New Testament, you have Jesus’ words and works. Remember the Beatitudes? “Blessed are” – the word is makarios. Blessed – do you know what the word blessed means? “Happy are…” It’s deeper than superficial. But, “Happy are those who” – what? Who understand who they are before God, and deal rightly with their sin, and respond in certain ways. But there’s this thing of, God wants us to enjoy.
Where did the first miracle occur? Anybody remember? I’ll be, isn’t that – it was at a wedding. And what was the miracle? Did He heal someone, or do something really spiritual? The people had been partying for a long time. What’s He do? He goes over to these six jugs, and those jugs, they’re not like this. They stood about this tall, and were about this big around. I’ll tell you what, there must have been a lot of people there. That makes a keg look small. So, He fills six kegs with wine – or more.
See, it violates some of our traditions. Even this feels – some of your faces are going, “Sounds a little too wild to me, Ethel.” “Uncle Ned would never go for this kind of –” It’s just the Bible!
In the Early Church, love is what transformed the world. But do you know what their business card was? Joy. The business card of the Early Church was joy. When you met a New Testament believer, you saw someone who, despite all the circumstances, and the fallenness of life, who richly drank in the good things of God, and deeply enjoyed, and laughed. And they actually greeted one another with a holy kiss, and they embraced, and they loved one another. And they had fun.
And you know what? They did take great risks. And they did make great sacrifices. And they did pray great prayers. And they dreamed great dreams, for the glory of God. But in a fallen world, you need to stop, and enjoy great moments. And the reason we don’t is, we have a distorted view of God, number one.
And second is, we have a warped theology of pleasure. 1 Timothy 6:17, it says, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches.” And we usually quote that part of it.
In fact, have you ever noticed how, in some verses, we memorize them, but we only memorize parts of them, and we sort of leave parts off? Pastors love this one, by the way. “Instruct those who are rich in this present world” – by the way, that’s all of us. “Rich,” in the New Testament, was, you already had food for tomorrow, and you had a change of clothes.
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on riches” – why? Because they’re uncertain. Why would you stick your hope on something that can’t come through for you? “But fix your hope on God.” We get that part. That last line is, “Who richly supplies us with” – are you ready for this? – “all things to enjoy.” “You mean, God wants me to enjoy?” Yeah. He wants me to enjoy life.
The third reason that we fail to deeply enjoy life, and enjoy great moments, is our unwillingness to face our misbeliefs and/or unhealthy behavior. And I’m not going to walk through these, because we struggle with all of them.
And as you start looking – I always watch people. They read these, and, Oh, gosh. I hope he doesn’t go into these. I know I’m a workaholic! I’m a perfectionist. People have told me that. In fact, I’ve been into counseling for that one. I’m an approval seeker. Oh, what I am going to do? Relax.
Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to understand, just like I need to understand, is that these are misbeliefs that have been, over time, locked into the back of your mind, and mine. And what you need to do, as I read through these, is just say, Which one of these is the most dominant in my thinking? And just put a little check mark by it. Because if you don’t face your misbelief, then you’ll just keep going down a path to do something that is unhealthy, to deliver, in an attempt to find that joy, and that happiness.
Five quick misbeliefs: The workaholic – work defines your life, so your best energy is spent there. By the way, it’s not working hard. It’s not even working lot. It’s working, thinking your identity is your work. That is what kills you. It is a performance mentality.
The perfectionist spends the long hours required to make every task flawless. Why? Because, People only like me – I’m only significant if I do everything right.
The approval seeker: Work piles up because of your fear of saying “no” to others. I have to say yes. I have to say yes. I have to say yes. So, everyone has a life, and everyone likes you, except you don’t have a life.
And you don’t have a life, not because you’re so wonderful, not because you’re so godly, not because you’re such a servant – although, I’m sure you are. But it’s because the strokes of people, and your unwillingness to set some boundaries and say, “You know something? I don’t need this external, artificial pat on the back to make me a ‘someone.’ I’m a ‘someone’ in Christ. And what I need to do is figure out His purposes for my life.” And you can’t please everybody, anyway. So, no matter what you do, some people are not going to like you. Just accept that and say, God, what do You want me to do?
The fourth is the escapist: Work provides an escape from painful relationships or problems. Boy, I’ve been there, and done that. You feel a little conflict – go downstairs and work. You feel a little conflict – go back to the office. You feel a little conflict – vacuum. Wash those dishes. They don’t need it, but do it one more time. And we escape to places. We escape in these ways.
Or the materialist has an insatiable desire for possessions that drives you to increase your workload. I’ve got to have more because the lie is that people that are happy, on the commercials, they look like this, and they have this kind of jewelry, and they have this kind of purse, with this kind of design on it, that drive this kind of car, and have these kinds of areas, and these kinds communities, with these kinds of beach houses.
And they have to have this kind of money, and these kinds of clothes, and these kinds of hair designs, and this kind of stuff.
And if you ever wonder where any of this stuff is really with you, just walk in your garage. Just walk in your garage.
Here’s the problem: If, unconsciously, it gets so inbred in you that you can’t have fun until all your work is done – that is good for a third grader. But when you’re forty-two years old, you can’t have any fun until your work is done, and the work is never done. Guess what we have? You never have any fun! And you feel guilty when you do have fun.
The truth is, in reality, these renewing activities are the key to healing, and effectiveness in leadership, and lifelong impact, and health. Therefore, it means I must say “no” to pressing demands in the eyes of significant others. In fact, life’s value is not measured simply by the extent of one’s accomplishments, or impact, but by the quality of living in the process. Enjoying God’s rich commands are commanded.
Did you ever think that you are disobeying God when you’re not enjoying life? For some of you that are guilt motivated, that’ll help you. Start feeling guilty about not having fun! Enjoy great moments. It’s the serious business of heaven.
Let me give you a little to-go package on the solution side. How can you start enjoying great moments? Some of you are going to walk out of here liberated, and just go, Whoa, I’m going to try some of these!
First of all, slow down. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Slow down. Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Speed kills joy. We are multitaskers. And we just feel good when we get seven things done at the same time.
I remember Dallas Willard, in one of his books “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Spiritual development and intimacy with God are impossible in a hurried life.” And it was like – whoo!
And for a solid two years, unless circumstances were completely unavoidable, I started driving in the right-hand lane on the freeway. When I went to the grocery store, I got in the longest line. When I went to the bank, I got into the longest line. I started arriving at meetings ten minutes early. And I decided I would slow.
And I realized that underneath this, I’ve got to get in the shortest line to get here, get here, get here, get here, and when people cut me off – behind it all was this thought, Where I’m going is way more important than where they’re going. That’s why I need to be at the front of the line. I need to get through the quick line. Because they just probably don’t understand how important I am, with all my demands, and how much I have to get done – as though all those people in all those cars, and all those other lines, are second-rate citizens.
At the core of hurry is arrogance. And God is against the proud. So, slow down. And it will take discipline and a plan.
Second – don’t take this as a weight-loss plan, but slim down. Slim down. Do less, so you can enjoy it more.
Simplify your schedule. Simplify your meals. Simplify your calendar. Simplify your clothes. Simplify your commitments. Quit getting overextended. Look at some of the stuff you’re doing in your life, and just say, Do I really need to do it?
Third, sit down. Stop living for tomorrow, or because of yesterday. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to 18 says, “Rejoice always” – present tense – “pray without ceasing” – present tense – “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.” Take stock. Thank God. Drink it in.
Focus on what you do have. And just realize, so much of our activities – I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do this – Why? Because if I don’t, then this will happen in the future. Or, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do this. Why? Because someone, thirty-two years ago, said, “You’ll never amount to anything.” And I’m going to prove them wrong. My lands, you’re fifty-some years old. You’ve already proved them wrong!
Stop doing things because of the past, or for the future, and take some time to sit down and live in the “now.” And I could be wrong, but “right now” may be all you have. Three minutes from now, Jesus could come. This afternoon, I might get hit by a truck. So, what if I spent all my time living for something, or because of…? The only thing I miss is life.
Fourth, look around. What blessing from God could you celebrate today? And I mean everything. I mean little things. Recently, I leave in the morning, when it dark. And there was this huge star, and I don’t know anything about stars, but it was so bright. It was probably a planet. It was probably Venus. But it was awesome. I lived next to the ocean, for about twelve and a half years. I went for almost nine months once, and I realized, I’m a mile and a half from the ocean, and I’ve not seen the ocean. You know what that’s called? Being an idiot.
The final thing is not on your notes. Write in the word plan in. Schedule great moments into your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual calendar. It’s the only way I’ve been able to break out of this. Plan it in.
I plan in a date with my wife. I plan in – it sounds crazy. I plan in, I pick up a cup of coffee in the morning. I like coffee, okay? I hope it’s not bad for me. For those of you who are concerned, I go half-caf, so relax. I get a good cup of coffee every morning. I put on some music that really refreshes my soul. I drive the long way to work. I sing along with the song. Sometimes, I do a little worship. Sometimes, I pull into the parking lot, and I sit in the parking lot for ten minutes before I go in. And I just lean back, and think of all the good things I have, and just start counting them, and say, You know what? Thank You, God.
Do you realize what a change that is? Instead of grabbing the cup on the way out, got to get there. The coffee here, the burger here, the land of traffic – Oh, the red light. Well, everyone else runs them. I’ll run them, too. Blood pressure goes up. You arrive, frenzied, stressed, angry, upset. That joyful, loving, winsome Christian, who’s going to give that great testimony. Right? Plan it in.
Plan in fun. Plan in activities. Get with people you love. Plan in times away. Daily, one-minute vacations. A chat down the hall with someone you like. Vacation with a family. A great clean movie. A walk a couple times a week. Go out, and just look at the stars.
Can I just tell you something, from God? You have permission. Enjoy great moments. You’ll be glad you did.