Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Desire

Many today see the main thing in life as the pursuit of pleasure and claim we should follow our desires wherever they lead. It is tempting to react against this and see all desires as evil. There are various approaches to this, but the basic idea is that the ultimate moral principle is self-control. There are those who would want to import this idea into Christianity. But what does the Scripture say?

The Bible speaks very clearly of desiring God and the things of God (Psalms 42:1,2; 73:25; 27:4). Further, God makes a definite appeal to our desires in calling people to come to Him (Revelation 21:4; Psalms 16:11; 1 Peter 1:8). Here I suspect that C. S. Lewis was right in claiming in his article The Weight of Glory that the problem is not that our desires are too strong, but that our desire for the things of God is too weak. He likens us to children making mud-pies in a slum because we do not understand the idea of a holiday at the sea. We are willing to settle for the desires for temporal things, such as money, sex, and fame, when we should be desiring the joy of being in the presence of God forever. The problem is not having other desires, but elevating them above the desire for God (Matthew 6:24; Colossians 3:5: Deuteronomy 6:4,5). Therefore, other things are appropriate when put in their proper place (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:15). Self-control is important, but it is not the ultimate principle, but only part of a full-orbed obedience to God (Galatians 5:22,23, 2 Peter 1:5-7; Acts 24:25).

But the temptation is, when we see a culture that is more and more becoming unrestrained, if we cannot conform (and it is becoming harder and harder for a Christian simply to conform), to overact. And if we do, we can become the kind of people the world thinks we are. Now it is difficult for anyone who wants to pull the brake cord on the way our society is going not to be branded as a kill-joy. But it is one thing to be branded as one and another to be one. God calls us to be those who rejoice in who He is and what He has done even in difficult times (Philippians 4:4; John 16:33; Romans 14:17). And if we desire the chief thing first, the others will fall into place.

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