When I was in high school I had an idea to write a book called The Deception of Pleasure. This idea came from the false choice I watched so many people make between God and pleasure.
Essentially they framed the options like this:
1. I can follow God but I have to give up pleasure.
2. I can pursue pleasure but I have to give up following God.
Nearly two decades later I’ve seen how this continues happening every day. This explains the Christians you’ve met who bore you to tears and make you glad you don’t attend their church. It also explains the term “guilty pleasure” and why so many people don’t think they would ever want to follow Jesus, even if they believe God exists.
But what if we were able to follow Jesus and experience greater pleasure in the process? I believe that’s exactly what Jesus intended when he talked about giving us a life to the full in John 10:10. I’m not talking about health-and-wealth prosperity—I’m talking about an upside-down kingdom that challenges all the logic the world has to offer.
It’s time to redeem pleasure.
After growing up “in the church” and then spending more than a decade in full-time ministry, I’ve learned that when we try to experience pleasure on our terms we actually experience less of it. (Tweet This!)
Sex outside of marriage sounds awesome the moment you’re with your date, but ultimately decreases the pleasure you can have with your spouse later. It’s also why porn seems to offer so much pleasure in the moment but kills your ability to have a healthy sex life.
It’s like chewing piece after piece of bubble gum and wondering why we are still hungry. It tastes sweet and gives your mouth something to do that resembles eating, but it doesn’t fill you up. It can’t. Worse yet, it can convince you that you are eating something while you die of starvation. It’s like watching a person go from one piece of gum to the next, complaining about their hunger despite their fatigue from chewing. No amount of new gum will fill the craving they have for food. And imagine the paranoia they’ll experience if they actually swallow the gum and then have to figure out how many years it will take to digest it!
The real “food” of pleasure comes from trusting Jesus with how we live and how we pursue pleasure. And that’s the biggest insight I’ve realized over the years of working on my new book, Redeeming Pleasure: our pursuit of pleasure actually mirrors our pursuit of God. (Tweet This!) We know we’re looking for something, we just don’t always know what that is. It’s like when you open your pantry for a snack and hope something jumps out at you (I see you, Pringles). While we might think God and pleasure are on opposite ends of the spectrum, the reality is that they are connected far more than we tend to realize.
But it requires us to try things God’s way instead of the way that makes sense to us. It’s the same struggle Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden. It might also mean we need to take another look at those Biblical instructions and consider why God calls us to live a different way. This includes topics like alcohol, tobacco, “other” drugs, parenting, entertainment, work, and of course… sex!
Biblically, we see God Himself created pleasure (which may be a little hard to consider, depending on your view of God). But if we can push past our cultural view of God (with all of its baggage) we begin to see just how good He really is! A considerable part of what I do in the book—2 of the 11 chapters—is to reframe our broken views of God. When we have a false or inaccurate view of God, we end up responding in all sorts of weird ways to Him. We make decisions on what is right or logical when in reality it may be neither. Your view of God matters immensely, even if you don’t consider yourself a Christian.
Don’t believe the lie that you have to choose between God and pleasure. They are two sides of the same coin. If you’re hungry for something more, it’s time to stop chewing gum and put something real on your plate.
You can find out more about Redeeming Pleasure and order a copy here: www.redeemingpleasure.com
Jeremy Jernigan serves as an Executive Pastor at Central Christian Church in the Phoenix area. He’s a second-generation preacher with a passion for discovering and communicating truth. Jeremy has been married to Michelle for ten years and they live in Arizona with their four kids. He’s a voracious reader and has a borderline obsession for the Yankees.