Pleasure, Happiness, Success
Many of our pursuits and passions end up replacing God. Here are three examples...
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Happy birthday to Renovation Church this morning. 2 years ago this weekend, we had our Grand Opening right here at Northpoint Elementary.
One of those things that seems like forever ago, but seems like yesterday at the same time.
My clearest memory from that day, besides God just blowing our minds with ALL the people that came, was that we couldn’t get this basketball hoop up
The custodian misplaced the keys, and they took forever to find the guy who actually had them.
Everyone was like, “David, it’s okay, we’ll just leave the hoop down and set the screen to the side”
And I was like, “It is NOT okay.” We will wait.
I was so nervous though…nervous and angry.
But in pure dramatic fashion, the guy came with the keys 15 minutes before the service, and we must have had 25 guys helping to get the backdrop and screen up.
God came through… and just in time.
He probably thought it was funny. I didn’t.
Amazing day though.
We are starting a brand new series this morning called, “The Replacements”
It’s a series on the things that we “replace God” with
Because all of us have things that we live for and give our lives to instead of God
Things that we give our attention to, our time to, our thoughts to, our heart to…instead of God
And in a sense, we REPLACE Him on the throne, and we WORSHIP something else instead
The bible calls this concept: Idolatry
In the old testament (the first 2/3 of the Bible…the story BEFORE Jesus), idolatry is very prevalent in a more tangible and physical way.
The people often worshipped real, literal stone and wooden idols instead of their God.
In fact, I’m not sure there is a more prevalent topic than idolatry in the Old Testament… it’s at least in the top 3.
The old testament is the story of the people’s endless pursuit of cheating on their god with idols. It’s a story of discipline, faithlessness, and yet forgiveness and love and redemption.
When you read the OT, you see God do incredible things for his people (like free them from slavery in Egypt), and while they’re excited at first, as soon as life gets tough, and God doesn’t answer them immediately like they think He should, they turn to their own idols…
And this is the story of the Old Testament.
It’s the story in Exodus…the story in Joshua, the story in Judges, the story in 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, the story in Jeremiah, and the prophets, and on and on
God’s people keep turning to other things to give them pleasure, happiness, success, comfort, you name it…
And the people worshipped all sorts of things instead of God
They worshipped Sun, moon, stars, images of angels, animals, gods of Egypt, gods of other cultures, golden calf, bronze serpent, pictures, images, and endless different idols.
And they did it in all sorts of crazy and sometimes even disturbing ways:
They would offer burnt offerings to idols, offerings of wine and of blood, meat offerings, burn incense, sing and dance in front of them, make music, cut their flesh, bow before, make human sacrifices, engage in temple prostitution, on and on.
Even though the Lord commanded them not to
It’s the 1st AND 2nd commandments of the 10 commandments
Have no other gods before me
Don’t make an idol
They did it…even though it was often so irrational…and God told them so
(Deuteronomy 4:28) – NIV
There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.
(Jeremiah 10:5) – NIV
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”
It’s like, “WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?!?”
Now, before we throw the stone and let it boomerang back and hit us in the face, let’s think about this rationally.
Let’s turn the tables if you will and examine our own lives
The New Testament makes a helpful distinction of what idolatry really is
When talking about people who’ve begun to ignore God and live for their own lives, it says this:
(Romans 1:25) – NIV
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
They worshipped and served CREATED THINGS rather than the creator
And isn’t that us??
We live our lives…for pleasure, or happiness, or success, or the American dream, or money, or you name it…
We often say, “Oh, I live for God!” But do we? Do we really?
If someone came and audited your life for a month and took notes on you 24 hours a day, who (OR WHAT?!?) would they say you really lived for?
Idolatry is then: “The worship of something that isn’t God” OR “Letting something else take the place of your love and devotion for God”
What is the object of our affections, our efforts, and our attention? Where does the majority of our time go? On what do we spend the greatest amount of our resources?
But, maybe you’re thinking…not me David! I don’t have an idol…
There’s a couple of easy ways to find your idols
# 1 - If you want to know your idols, ask yourself, “What do I think about most?”
My job, money, success, sex, pornography, my relationships, trying to be happy, video games, sports, clothes, your house????
Your idol is often your last thought before you sleep, our 1st thought when we wake up, our thoughts throughout the day are spent on the people and things we value the most. We fix on what we treasure and trust.
# 2 – Our idols are often what we turn to when life falls apart
They’re what we hold on to when the storm comes.
When life gets messy and you’re depressed, what do you turn to in order to make it better or to feel better?
Ice cream, bf/gf, pornography, drugs, alcohol, TV, shopping
Helpful Quote from Brennan Manning (addictions a sign of idolatry)
“We can be addicted to vodka or being nice, to marijuana or being loved; to cocaine or being right; to gambling or relationships; to golf or gossip. Our absorption can be food, fun, television, money, sex, power, performance, popularity, weight or winning--all good things in their own time and place--but when we give our ultimate devotion to anything other than God it--that very thing--has become an idol. All that we love, we worship."
I want to talk about 3 idols in particular this morning. 3 that are linked.
3 areas where we often let REPLACE God in our lives.
We think… “Aha! This will truly satisfy. This will bring life”
And let me be clear, so you don’t let yourself off the hook to early, “We rarely overtly state these things out loud.”
Especially as Christians. It’s rare to find people who actually say out loud, “I’m living my life more for pleasure than God. I’m giving more of my heart and thoughts to success than God”
No, we don’t say that…. We say, “I’m living for Jesus!!”
“But often our actual lives often betray our words”
And the idol of pleasure is often one of our most common betrayers
It’s close to what we talked about last week if you were here…we so often just disconnect our lives from this world…and we let, pleasure, entertainment in all its forms, soothe away our pains and hurts
Or at least temporarily dull them
And in a sense, pleasure becomes our God…
“Yes, pleasure…THAT will make me feel good.”
It’s a….REPLACEMENT. a Replacement of God
But it won’t work.
The best way to figure these things out is if you take them to their logical ending.
What do you call someone who gets drunk every single weekend?
Well, if we’re asking a 16 year old about a fellow 16 year old, they might call them “cool” or “popular”
If we’re asking a 40 year old about a fellow 40 year old, they would probably call them an “alcoholic”
But if pleasure was sooo good…if you could extend it to its logical end…to extend it indefinitely if you will…it should give you more pleasure…more joy…than anything!
But excessively drinking over and over again, will only land you in AA or dead. Or at least with a ruined family.
And the same is true with other pleasures.
But on the other hand… You can’t have too much of God!!!
Question for you: Who are the happiest people on earth???
Celebrities of course!!
We know that’s not true. In fact, they are some of the most miserable people on earth. But yet, they have access to more pleasure than most of us ever will
And yet…carried to its logical end…what does it lead to?
The best example of this I can give you comes from the Bible.
From one of the great Kings. King Solomon.
In just a moment, we’re going to read some of his incredibly wise words, so if you have a Bible, or a smart phone, or want to use the Bible under your chair, turn to Ecclesiastes chapter 2
WHICH IS PAGE 539
King Solomon had virtually everything a human could want. Particularly for a man.
Check this out.
The dude lived in an amazing palace…where practically everything was gold, including the huge throne he sat on.
Everyone came & sought advice from him .
He had power that people feared.
He had 1,400 chariots, 12,000 horses
And as if that wasn’t enough, he had 700 wives, and 300 concubines.
I guarantee you he didn’t even know some of his wives’ names!
He had everything we could ever want!!
“He had everything we THINK we could ever want”
But yet, look at his words. Let his words penetrate your heart. Think about his life!
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-3) - NIV
1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11) - NIV
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
Think about who’s saying that?!?!
The guy had everything. But yet…meaningless.
He finishes the book by saying “Fear God, keep his commandments…this is the duty of all mankind’
In otherwords, knowing you who are in relation to God and living for Him is the only thing you were really built for
And trust Solomon…he’s tried it all. Literally.
(1 John 2:15-17) – NIV
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
All of these pleasures…they will pass away.
And what will they mean when you stand before God at the end of your life? Will it have mattered?
But yet, if we were really honest, many of us really believe in pleasure as the ultimate satisfaction
Deep in our hearts, we believe that an ultimate thrill adventure, or some crazy binge, or some dangerous relationship, or some sexual acting out will give us the deepest joy
And that’s why pleasure is such an idol
We believe, that pleasure, perhaps more than anything else, could give us the most satisfaction in our lives!
But only God can truly satisfy!
For many of us, the idol of pleasure takes a different form. It’s called success.
We believe that if we could eventually get a certain degree, or a certain job, or achieve something in a certain job, or have a certain amount of money, or a certain size house, or certain type of car…or YOU name it
If we could do one or ALL of those things….then…then…LIFE.
We would be living…we would be happy.
And what’s happened is those things have REPLACED God in your life
Again, they’re not bad. God calls people to be wildly successful sometimes.
God wants people to go off and be surgeons, and run companies and you name it, but not at the expense of losing their heart.
It’s all for nothing if it’s not for Him.
And these things…and often the pursuit of these things…they rob us from God.
They steal our time, our affections, our thoughts, our heart.
We spend every ounce of energy on them only to realize they weren’t worth it.
When I was in 9th grade, I got my very first report card back. I got 4 A’s.
I wasn’t trying to get 4 A’s. I just did my work, and that’s what happened.
The very same week, in one of my classes, we had to write down our goals for the next 4 years.
I wrote down: Be valedictorian of my class.
And for the next 4 years, it consumed me. Sometimes it was all I thought about.
I would stay up later than others to study more because I couldn’t get even one A-, I would spend nights lying in bed worrying about grades, I would do extra credit if I had to.
Whatever it took.
It consumed my mind, my heart, my time.
At my high school graduation, I got to stand up, as valedictorian of my class, deliver a speech, everyone clapped, and I as sat back down…and my heart sank.
It was over…and that was it.
People clapped for 3.5 seconds.
2 weeks from now, no one was even going to remember besides my mom.
And for what?
1 week after high school graduation I became a Christian. God had been doing a lot in my heart for the 6 months leading up to that, but to this day, I honestly think, that at least at a subconscious level, this was a factor.
I had given everything to success, and what had it given me?
Henri Nouwen retells a story in one of his books about 4 brothers who each decide to master a special ability:
As time went by, the brothers eventually decided to meet together and reveal what they had learned.
The 1st brother said, “I have mastered a science by which I can take a bone of some creature and create flesh that goes w/ it”
The 2nd brother said, “I know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.”
The 3rd brother said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair”
And the 4th said, “I know how to give life to the creature if its form is complete.
So the 4 brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their abilities. As fate would have it, the found a bone of a lion’s.
One added flesh to the bone, the 2nd grew hide and hair, the 3rd completed it w/ matching limbs, and the 4th gave the lion life.”
Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators.
He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.
And in an eerily similar way, our success often does nothing but ruin us.
Often at the sake of the PURSUIT of success, people will ruin their marriage, their family, their relationship w/ God…and for what??
And usually, it’s just the DRIVE towards an idol that’s so mesmerizing…not the idol itself.
More on that concept in House Groups this week…w/ a creative house group video on it as well
Look again at the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2…who was so successful and accomplished SO much during his reign
(Ecclesiastes 2:4-9) – NIV
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
Which leads into verse 10 and 11 again…where he says, and all of it was: MEANINGLESS.
And we’ve got ask ourselves. What’s it all for? Why do we seek it so much?
What’s the point???
Do something with your life that’s going to matter in 400 years. Do more than just build a nice business and house or whatever…because none of that will matter in 400 years.
It’ll just be ruins on the forgotten pages of history.
Let God transform your heart.
Let Him into your life. He sent his son to die on the cross for you.
Give Him your heart. Encounter Him every day. Be w/ his people. And let him change you to change.
Let him use you to help reach other people.
That’s the kind of stuff that matters 400 years from now.
Your degree, your house, your office, you name it, will all just be in a landfill 400 years from now. A landfill.
What are you living for?
You know, today’s topic is called, “Pleasure, Happiness, and Success?”
And maybe you were thinking, “What the heck is wrong w/ ‘happiness?!?’”
Doesn’t God want us to be happy??
Sure. Most of the time. J
But here’s where it gets tricky. And this is why happiness is so dangerous because it is perhaps the sneakiest of all idols.
And really the goal of other idols.
Why do people want pleasure? To be happy.
Why do people want success? It brings them happiness.
For many of us, we LIVE for happiness, and when we’re not happy, we’re depressed. Something must be wrong!! There’s no “middle”
We’ve been groomed to run after happiness like a dog chases its tail
And so it consumes us. It’s what we seek.
Not only that, but so many of our decisions based on solely what will make us happy.
If I date this person…I will be happy
If I spend the rest of my weekend doing this…I will be happy
If I move here…I will be happy
If I can only achieve this…I will be happy
But that’s how it becomes an idol…because we ask questions in that way…
Rather than:….Does God want me to be w/ this person? Does God want me to spend my weekend doing this? Does God want me to move here?
But….will I be Happy???
It’s A REPLACEMENT
And it actually ends up being what we LIVE for.
We LIVE for the “PURSUIT of HAPPINESS”
Happiness is a fine and dandy thing.
But happiness works best when it comes out of the joy that God gives you.
And true happiness is a result of contentment in Jesus.
Knowing that He loves you so deeply that no matter what happens….NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS…he loves you. You’re forgiven. You’re spending eternity with him.
If all you do is keep running after happiness, you’re gonna end up really tired.
If all you do is keep running after Jesus, you’re probably gonna find happiness.
And not just “happiness.” But joy. A deep joy.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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