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A Call to a Deeper Christian Life, Part II: Don't Let Your Appetite Be Your Master

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A simple examination of our culture today will tell you that our appetites are being seduced and courted.  Apples are waxed and glossed before they hit the shelf.  Cheddar often is a very bright and an appealing orange (due to dye).  Clothing lines hire the most beautiful people to display their products (even Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO was recently accused if having an "anti-fat" agenda with his customers, the largest size offer for women being a size 10 [1]).  What appeals to our senses can win our hearts.  

This is clearly seen with how much money the most popular movie raked in during 2013.  Let's compare that with the revenue of the film that won Oscar for Best Picture.  In an astonishing gap, "12 Years a Slave," the winner of the prestigious oscar for Best Picture for 2013, earned a mere 56 million domestically [2),  while Iron Man 3 brought in an astonishing 408 million dollars [3].  Visually stunning and exciting, Iron Man 3 pleases the senses with it's high budget CGI and exciting action, much more than the difficult story and plot of 12 Years a Slave, a story about a free black man who was decieved and sold into slavery in the mid 1800's, only to be freed 12 years later (based on Solomon Northup's famous memior, 12 Years a Slave).

What does this tell us?  We would much rather watch a easy, exciting action movie than a hard to digest story that may cause you to think and re-examine our priviledged lives.  And this is a cheap and terrible aspect of our culture - if they win our senses, they win our hearts  If they win our hearts, they win our money.  In our capitalisitc-based culture, money wins above thinking.  As the famous quote of Walt Disney goes, "I never called my work an 'art'. It's part of show business, the business of building entertainment."

We are trained to have our senses pleased. Work is boring, so at 5pm Friday, the excitement begins. We're always looking forward to a day off, or a vacation. Anything that is not pleasing or exciting we want to avoid. The mundane becomes a terrible reality.  Marriages end because that "excitement" is no longer felt.  Careers are short because a desk job is miserable.  People move from one city to the next in search or something better.  Our senses often times rule us.  

So what happens with the church, in the Christian's pursuit of Jesus?  We often pursue Jesus and expect the same results we get after watching a great exciting film - we want our senses pleased.  But soon we see that Jesus often fails our senses.  It is true that at times he brings genuine joy and pleasure to our hearts.  But like any marriage, it's not always warm and fuzzies that you feel.

St. John of the Cross, a spanish mystic who lived in the 1500's spoke with an almost prophetic voice about this very topic.  In what he calls "spiritual gluttony," he states:

"[Those in spiritual gluttony]...strive with every nerve to obtain some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure, instead of humbly doing reverence and giving praise within themselves to God.  And in such wise do they devote themselves to this that, when they have received no pleasure or sweetness in the senses, they think that they have accomplished nothing at all... they have not realized that the least of the benefits [of the Christian life] is that which concerns the senses... God oftentimes witholds from them these other consolations and sweetness of sense.  And thus they desire to feel and taste God as though he were comprehensible by them [only in this manner]."

He ends the section, calling such an approach to God as "impurity in faith" [4]

In this manner, sin can creep in and take over.  Indulgent sins are much more pleasurable than piety and a holy life.  When you wake up in the mornings, instead of cracking your bible, you browse facebook or just roll back over to sleep.  Some days it is exciting to spend time with Jesus.  But those mornings when it feels more like a chore, it's easier to do other things that may bring the rest we're looking for.  

Jesus never said he came to excite our senses.  He said he came that our "joy may be full" [5).  Then there is the discussion of "what is true joy, happiness and pleasure?"  That is a topic for another day.

I do believe we should follow the advice of AW Tozer.  In The Crucified Life, he states a few ways in which to have a personal revivial in our love for Jesus.  The first, he says, is to "set your face like flint."  He states,

"...if you want a personal revival, you have to have a hard-nose because of all the schemes and tricks of the world.  You must set your face like flint and say, "I go by the grace of God.  I want all that the New Testament has for me."

He follows by saying that we then must "Set [our] hearts on Jesus Christ."  He says,

"Wherever he takes you, go with him.  Whatever he takes you away from, listen to him and follow what he says.  Whomever you must ignore, move away from.  If you want to be all that God wants you to be, set your face like flint and go straight to Jesus" [6].

That kind of life will have it's joyous times, and also immesne times of difficulty.  But it's what leads to the Crucified Life.  It's what leads to a deeper Christian life.  

May we not be seduced by culture.  May we not allow our senses to be our master.  Jesus calls us to forsake all and follow him.  I know I have not arrived at this, and I'm so aware that I have a very long ways to do. 

The journey to the deeper Christian life can begin today.

 

[1] - http://politic365.com/2013/05/13/abercrombie-fitchs-anti-fat-agenda-mean-man-ceo-bias-dollars/
[2] - http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Twelve-Years-a-Slave#tab=summary
[3] - http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Iron-Man-3#tab=summary
[4] - Cross, John Of the, E. Allison Peers, and Silverio. Dark Night of the Soul. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003. 14-15. Print.
[5] John 15:11
[6] Tozer, A.W.  The Crucified Life, Ventura, CA: Regal Publishing, 2011. 171.  Print

 

Disclaimer:  I am not against fun.  Jesus had much fun while on earth.  The Bible is against anything but Jesus being our master (Matthew 23:8).  So we must not let anything but him rule our lives, or be our guiding force in life.  

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