Seek pleasure

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

Here, in these 3 verses, we see the central place of pleasure in spiritually healthy living.

Verse 1 – Rid yourself of cravings (longings for pleasure) that are destructive. These craving are the longings of the human heart, that are seeking pleasure in the wrong place and by the wrong means. We could call this misaligned pleasure seeking.

Verse 2 – However, don’t read verse 1 as a call to live craving-less lives (bland, boring or beige), rather fill up your life with a strong and robust craving for spiritual milk (a metaphor describing the gospel).

Verse 3 – In verse 3, we are shown what will give you and I the power to exchange verse 1 type cravings for new (verse 2) cravings? The answer is very simple, when you’ve already tasted the pleasure of God, you know that he outstrips any temporary / earthly pleasure!

 

The danger of scraping away supernaturalism from the gospel

In The (unadjusted) Gospel, R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes about the danger of anti-supernaturalism to the gospel. He writes:

 

“Rudolf Bultmann wrote, “It is impossible to use electric lights and the wireless, and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.” This is a quintessential statement of the modern mind as it evaluates the supernatural and, in particular, the New Testament. Rudolf Bultmann serves as our paradigmatic figure, our great illustration of the modern trajectory, as he says, in effect, “I am a modern man; I think like a modern man. I use electricity, and no man who uses electricity believes that Jesus walked on water. You walk into a room, flick on lights, and there is light. You listen to the radio. You go to the emergency room. Therefore, you do not really believe in a virgin birth, do you?”

Bultmann famously suggested that for the church to survive, Christianity must undertake the project he called the “demythologization” of scripture. He said that the New Testament is full of myth. Primitive people in their primitive time and culture used their primitive language in creating their primitive myths–all in an attempt to produce an explanation of reality. Bultmann argued that modern humanity knows better now, so we must demytheologize these myths. Once we scrape away all of the supernaturalism and get to the real human dynamic of the scripture, we will find a connection between the existential concerns of primitive and modern persons.”

 

What starts out in the ‘ivory towers’ of academic institutions and philosophy books eventually ‘trickles down’ into everyday thought and culture. I think the above description quite clearly describes the culture that we in the UK swim around in– a strident anti-supernatural and thus anti-biblical worldview!

 

Hospitality that I will never forget

I want to tell you about one of the most remarkable moments in my life. It was a day where shame met mercy and mercy triumphed. It was a day where total failure met extravagant grace and I learnt that grace eats failure for breakfast!  Do you want to hear about this wonderful moment of divine encounter?

 

I’m guessing it would help you if I set the scene, because I suspect some of you are imagining this world-changing moment took place in the throng of some gigantic auditorium with a world-renowned speaker on stage. You know, one of those conferences with lots of hype. However, if that’s what you are picturing, then you couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

My grace encounter took place on a beach, sadly not Gorleston beach, but a beach nonetheless. You see, just a few days earlier, I had blown it big time. In fact, I had blown it so badly, that I was attempting to drown my shame and cover over my failure and blot out the pain with work. And not just any work – work that was familiar. Something I could do without thinking but something that would also enable me to not think about the ‘pigs’ ear’ I had made of my life. Like a mother to a small weaned child, the familiarity of the work calmed, to a degree, my broken and crushed heart.

 

Some of you may not be aware, but before doing what I do now, I was a fisherman. My earliest memories are of mending nets (or at least attempting to) with my dad, my uncle and in fact, practically everyone in the village! I also remember the addictive thrill of being out in the boat when the nets were pulled up and the mass of wriggling fish were gathered into the boat. Fishermen have a saying “a bad day fishing is better than a good day in the office.” Only true fishermen get that!

 

Anyhow, whilst my world was all at sea, and I had been trying to find some solid ground back in my old fishing boat, the very man I had abandoned, disowned and failed showed up on the beach! Like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep he came to me.  However, he did much more than that, he prepared a beach barbeque breakfast and he invited me! Someone once said, that “few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal” … and I was being invited to eat with the man I had left for dead. Was I really his companion? Was I really his friend?

 

Let me be clear, it wasn’t just me who was invited, but it felt that way to me! In fact, it felt like the rest of the world had faded to grey and the only thing left in colour was him, his food, his kindness and me.

 

The one I so desperately failed, welcomed me. The one I disowned showed me honour, dignity and companionship. As he passed me some cooked fish, it felt like I was eating down healing and restoration. To be honest, it was one of the most wonderful and terrifying moments of my life. Then he spoke, “do you love me more than these”, In that moment of both challenge and grace, Jesus was showing me, Peter, that the only true solid ground to be found is him. That was hospitality I will never forget!

(Based upon the account of Jesus Restoring Peter found in John 21)

The Mirror & the Cross (Psalm 26)

“Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” verses 1-2
The Psalms have an amazing ability to strip away any form of pretence or religious ‘make up’ that we try to cake ourselves in. Here at the start of Psalm 26, it feels to me, like I’m stood in front of a full length mirror and the sight is not very pretty! What do I mean by that? Well for starters, I certainly can’t pray with confidence for God to Vindicate me… [because] I have led a blameless life”. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve even led a blaneless day, let alone life! The mirror just keeps on exposing the naked reality of my life, for it says “I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered”… err… nope I’ve faltered and if I’m honest I continue to falter in my trust. Like a cruel group of school kids, peering and jeering as they look over my shoulder at my exposed relality, the Psalm continues; “I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” Oh how I wish that was true! However, there are just so many moments I can look back on when I did anything and everything but remember the unfailing love of God and as a response lean back into his faithfulness.
So what do I do with this Psalm? Try and avoid it? Whisper the words very quietly hoping that no one, especially God, will hear me? No! This mirror-like work of this Psalm is a good thing! It leads me to some sobering and soaring realities. Firstly, I’m a man desperately in need of a saviour. When I look back at my life, fragility and failing are the constant drumbeat. However, gloriously this Psalm also throws me into the arms of one who has lived a blameless life, who never faltered in his trust of his Heavenly Father, and one who enjoyed and lived in the unfailing love of his father in heaven and who was able to face everything, even the cross, because he relied upon his father’s faithfulness. Yes one who is even greater than King David. His name, if you’d not already guessed, is Jesus.
As these truth settle afresh in my heart, it centers my life back on Jesus. It reminds me that everything that I see in the full length mirror was totally dealt with by him at the cross. My sin-smeared life exchanged for his blameless life. My faithless wonderings replaced by his trust-filled obedience. My spiritual blindness to the love of God replaced by a big neon sign saying loved and chosen before the foundation of the world.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Diagnosing Unbelief

“It is this failure that accounts ultimately for all our troubles. We will persist in thinking of God as one of ourselves, as but a man, and we look at his actions as if they were the actions of a human being. We always start with ourselves, with our measures, with our judgements and assessments; and our most fatal error is that even when we come face to face with God, we bring all these measurements with us. Then, because God does not fit into our categories, we say we cannot believe and we reject the message of the gospel.”

– Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones