Ron Schwartz Articles > RETURN HOME         
                                                                             g      

Domesticating Christians: Part 3. Addicted to Pleasure 8.06.07

 

Domesticating Christians


Part 3. Addicted to Pleasure



August 6, 2007
Ron and Karen Schwartz

In this series we have examined what happens when mankind perverts the natural and spiritual order of God.

God made man to “till the ground (Genesis 2:5).” Mankind was created both with the capacity and desire to work and create. The human body degenerates when it does not get the exercise it needs. The mind functions clearer and the body is healthier when it is given to work. It is the natural order that God established, and it is also the spiritual order…

Ezekiel 22:25-30 KJV
25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls…
26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things…
27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
28 And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.
29 The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.
30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.


The word “stand” is translated from “amad” and means “to take one's stand.” It describes what a soldier’s behavior while on watch (2 Samuel 18:30). There is a lot that could be said about this word, but in the context of this passage, God is looking for an upright individual, constant and unmoving in righteousness, who would provide a reason for God to NOT destroy the land. But God finds none. Unlike Sodom, when God was looking for ten righteous men, here God was looking for a single man.

Most Christian leaders completely misunderstand this passage. They interpret this passage to mean that God is looking for leaders to “fill the gap,” but that is not what it says. God said, “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge.” By referring to the (same) man as someone who could “make up the hedge,” it is clear that God was looking for a man who could prevent Him from destroying the land (i.e., “that I should not destroy it”).

Today, as back then, our nations are sick. The prophets are “like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls,” the people of God have violated His covenant, pastors like “princes… are like wolves ravening the prey, …and to destroy souls,” and our nations are corrupt. There is a chasm between God and mankind that continues to widen. God needs righteous people who will stand as a hedge against the tide of sin and prevent His anger from destroying our lands.


Filling Or Standing

As we mentioned earlier, the word “stand” is translated from “amad” and means "to take one's stand.” It denotes a person, whether soldier or priest, who is responsible, immovable, and determined to stand his ground. God is not looking for someone to fix the problem but simply to stand with righteous resolve. What we see today are Christian leaders who are determined, not to stand, but to fix something that they have no power to fix. There is only one who can salvage the nations of this world: God.

Far too often, we find God’s people responding to the gap they sense between their societies and God by acting like the people of this world. They create political action groups like the Moral Majority to try and create good laws, which they believe will somehow make society good. They become strong Christian leaders in an attempt to force their followers to comply with their understanding of God’s law. They sense the gap and believe that it is their duty to fill it. As a result, more and more Christian leaders spring up every day, with more churches, more sermons, and more books, television and radio programs, which they pour vainly into a gap that they can never fill. What we really need are plain, ordinary people who will “stand” righteously against the sin that comes against them. They don’t need to be preachers or great prophets. They don’t need to preach a single sermon. All they need to do is stand, stand in the gap where they live.

What we really need is for the plethora of Christian leaders to get out of the gap and shut up. Allow God’s people do what they intuitively know to do: “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:12).” If left alone, God’s people will respond. They will stand tall and be seen of God. It will be them, not the army of preachers who are busy fighting amongst themselves, who will eventually prevent God’s wrath.

The current perversion found with many Christian leaders is the mindset that they are supposed to fill the gap between God and mankind.

They believe that this is their high calling. Not only is this an indication of their vanity, but it also demonstrates their twisted perspective of themselves. Most Christian leaders see themselves as being in a class above the world and the church. This exalted class to which they belong makes them the obvious candidates to fill the gap. They have therefore come to believe that this world needs them, that they have the answers. They believe that with more preachers, more pastors, more prophets, more apostles, the gap will be eliminated. If there were more sermons and books, or more exposure on radio and television, if they could just hold more overseas crusades and somehow get a larger audience, then they could eliminate the gap. But as the layers of preachers, pastors, prophets, and apostles mount with their ever-increasing books, audio series, sermons, and prophecies, the gap just gets wider. Because of their arrogance, it remains impossible for these contemporary Christian leaders to see that they are not the answer.

Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6).” The Spirit of God alone has the power to make people spiritual. Sermons do not make us spiritual. Only an encounter with the Holy Spirit can change our hearts. People find it hard to remember a sermon once they walk out of the door of a church, but everyone remembers with vivid detail their encounters with the Spirit of God. So as long as there exists the superfluity of Christian leaders milling about in the gap, the Spirit of God will not be able to act.

Christian leaders are not alone in their desire to fill the gap between God and mankind. The enemy is also busy filling this gap and preventing enough room for the Holy Spirit to operate. The enemy has filled it with pleasure.


Addicted To Pleasure

2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.


Paul makes an interesting contrast. Men who are supposed to be “lovers of God” will become “lovers of pleasures” instead. The word “lovers” here has been translated into the same English word, but they are two very different Greek words. The first Greek word, which was translated as “lovers of pleasures,” is philedonos, which means to be “fond of pleasure, voluptuous, or addicted to sensual indulgence (the root word ‘hedone’ actually means ‘a sensual delight, desire and lust for pleasure’).” The second Greek word, which was translated as “lovers of God,” is philotheos. The word does mean “a lover of God.” But the type of love is not agapao love, or God’s love. It is phileo love, which is a tender and compassionate love that denotes friendship. Consequently, “in the last days” people will be more concerned with self-indulgence then their relationship with God.

Paul writes here that in the end, people will be all wrapped up in what brings them pleasure rather than caring about what God wants. They will be more interested in pursuing their own needs rather than a friendship with God.

No other scripture better captures the state of our culture or modern Christianity. Modern Christianity is less a reflection of God than it is the modern culture in which it exists. Unlike the first century believers who “went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following (Mark 16:20),” contemporary Christians go everywhere look for better Christian service. Churches, concerts, Christian bookstores and broadcast, and the Internet are getting bigger and bigger Christian audiences by catering to pleasure. It only stands to reason that contemporary Christian music would reflect the premise of pleasure. A popular contemporary Christian song titled, "When I Get Where I am Going," has the following lyrics:

“When I get where I'm goin' on the far side of the sky.
The first thing that I'm gonna do Is spread my wings and fly.
I'm gonna land beside a lion, and run my fingers through his mane,
Or I might find out what it's like to ride a drop 'a rain.”

Reflected in the words of this song is the idea that heaven will be a place where all our dreams and pleasures will come true. Any sensual delight, anything that could gratify our fleshly pleasures, or stimulate our corporeal happiness will be the substance of heaven. This particular song is far the being the only one of it’s kind. The general consensus among western Christians is that in this live we endure hardship and that heaven will be somewhat of a retirement community. But their view of hardship is doing without pleasure or the means to buy it.

Why shouldn’t contemporary Christians believe that heaven will be a magical place that realizes our most self indulging fantasies? They are encouraged to pursue self-gratification in this life. Why shouldn’t heaven be more of the same? Heaven isn’t about pleasure. It is being in the presence of God where we will serve Him without the constraints of this flesh (that, as the song says, desires to pet lions and ride rain drops).


Christians think of heaven as a place of fleshly pleasure rather than serving God in His presence because that is how they view Christianity in this life.

Contemporary Christians do not view their spiritual lives as serving, but as being served. This is evident in the way contemporary churches attract larger and larger audiences by offering pleasure and stimuli. Christians demand pleasure from their churches or they will find another that provides it. They want a fast-paced meeting that keeps them from becoming bored. They want an interesting and entertaining message that doesn’t go too long so as to interrupt the rest of their plans for the day. They want a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing building. They want to be “fed.” They want, and want, and want. And pastors are more than willing to feed these wants because, like their congregations, they are also “addicted to pleasure.”

You see pastors really enjoy preaching. They enjoy having people come to hear them pontificate. They enjoy the pleasure of being treated like celebrities and set on pedestals. They are like coin collectors who are addicted to collecting. Their appetite for more and more people cannot be fulfilled, so they continue to look for more. And like the coin collector, they measures their success by the number of people they own.

There is virtually nothing about the institutional church that is a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit. It exists because of the indulgences of the people who go there. It exists because Christians are “addicted to pleasure.”

 

An addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

Contemporary Christians have developed a dependency upon the institutional church. They are not growing spiritually, but they are nevertheless addicted to it. They cannot give it up. They need their weekly “fix.” They don’t go anywhere spiritually, except perhaps backward. They live from week-to-week, Sunday-to-Sunday, fix-to-fix.

In addition, an addict always thinks he is okay. An addict believes he can change whenever he wants. This perfectly describes the condition of the institutional church. They know they are not what God wants them to be, but they still think they are okay. They are very aware of the apathetic, compromising, and lukewarm nature of their churches. They are aware that they give the very minimum of their lives to God. And like an addict, they believe that if it were really necessary, they could change and get right with God.

Christians in institutional churches are “hooked” on their pleasure, and institutional churches are designed to feed this addiction. They require only 3 to 10% of their income. They require minimum attendance. They require nothing during the meeting but that they stay awake.

Paul writes, “Be not drunk with wine [addicted to pleasure], wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).” Here we find another contrast. Paul contrasts “drunk with wine” to being “filled with the Spirit.”

Most contemporary Christians sense the need for the Spirit in their lives. What gets in the way of this pursuit of the Spirit is their nature of loving pleasure. Seeking the filling of the Spirit is not easy. The disciples prayed and sang for ten days prior to the day of Pentecost. It required self-sacrifice, self-denial, and determination - two elements that are noticeably missing from most contemporary Christians. But Christians have discovered what they believe is another way to satisfy the need for the Spirit in their lives. It is a way that promotes pleasure rather then sacrifice. Christians have discovered that by going to church and listening to sermons, by researching information through books, reference material, and the Internet, and by taking mission trip vacations, they can satisfy their need for the Spirit. (These mission trip vacations are probably the biggest waste of time and finances by contemporary Christians. It would be much better if Christians took this money and simply gave it to the Christian natives of the area. The money would go farther and be better spent. However, wealthy Western Christians will not be denied their need to satisfy their pleasure to have their mission trip vacation). Like an addict looking for his next fix, Christians seek men to teach them more and more information that will give them their weekly fix but never change them. They are always on the lookout for newer and newer translations of the scripture. They seek Christian music, bands, and concerts. They seek after special events and seminars. And this is because, as Paul wrote, instead of seeking to “be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18),” they seek pleasure through knowledge and teaching.

What pastors and institutional churches have to offer is a replacement for God, and that is why Christians are never really changed. Going to church is more like attending a Broadway production or going to see a movie. It is designed to feed their pleasure.

Pastors, churches, and Christian materials cannot change a heart. Only the Spirit can. Christians spend far too much time reading, studying, and listening to other people, and far too little time in the presence of God. And let’s be clear about this: going to church is NOT spending time in God’s presence. People who spend time in God’s presence are changed. They might not know more intellectually, but they are changed.

Also, simply going to a home church will NOT correct the problem. Many people see problems with institutional-style churches and leave them thinking that once they are in a home church all the problems will be corrected.

But that is where they are wrong. The vast majority of Christians who leave institutional churches simply take their problems with them. They are still “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” They still seek to fulfill their spiritual needs through their intellect rather than through seeking God. I know of many home churches that fail because the people who attend are still addicts to the pleasures of the institutional church. When they attend a home church, they expect to be entertained and fed the way they were used to at their institutional church. If that does not happen, they get bored, leave, and begin to bounce around.

When home churches fail, it is because Christians from institutional churches have not truly left their institutional churches in their hearts. So when they are placed in a setting where they are expected to contribute, they often do not know what to do, nor do they want to know. As a result, quite often nothing happens because they have nothing to give. They are used to not needing to prepare themselves for meeting, so they don’t. They come into home fellowships still requiring the feeding of their sensual appetites (their addictions), and when others do not provide it, they often leave and many times end up back in their institutional churches. The problem is not with the home church but with the inability to live a spiritual life. The people are lovers of pleasure. They do not want to put for the effort to be “filled with the Spirit.”

If you are part of a home church and the meeting is dead, then it is your own fault for wanting someone else to step up and provide for your spiritual needs rather than spending time with God and getting it yourself.

Christians who are “filled with the Spirit” have, as Jesus described, “rivers of living water (John 7:38)” flowing out from them. People who are around them are changed, not intellectually but spiritually. You cannot come in contact with someone who is “filled with the Spirit” and not be changed.


The greatest waste of potential in this universe is when God’s people come together, listen to a sermon, and then leave never having experienced the “fill[ing] of the Spirit.”

Yet this very thing happens every week throughout the Western churches. People come so close to actually having an encounter with God. They come, the Spirit is present, but some pastor, thinking only of keeping attendance up, closes the meeting instead of allowing God the time to fill His people.


Conclusion

Jesus demonstrated spiritual leadership when He prayed: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21, NIV).” Jesus’ prayed that His disciples would have the same relationship with God that He enjoyed. Jesus sought not to fill the gap between God and man (which would forever prevent mankind from direct access to God) with His teachings and sermons, and His relationship with God, but to bridge it – to provide a way that mankind could have the same direct access to and friendship with God as He (i.e. “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you”). Contrast this with the general attitude among Christian leaders of today. Their mindset is that they are called to a ministry class that is over their “flock,” and to a inimitable relationship with God, which their “flock” will never experience. Instead of bridging the gap they fill it with their “ministries.” They view their congregations as unqualified to minister, and therefore incapable of hearing from God. Their congregation needs them to hear from God and then to speak to them the words of the Lord. As a result, Christian leaders believe that they are in a unique position to second guess and approve anything their congregation believes they have heard from God.

Today’s Christian leaders are propagating a perversion. Rather than stand in the gap, they fight to see who can own the biggest share of it. They have no motivation to want the gap removed since it is that gap that gives them purpose, makes them relevant. As they see it, God has called them to “fill the gap,” not remove it. If there were no gap, what would they do? As long as there exist apathetic compromising Christians, then there is work for them to do.

In addition, they need the gap to get wider in order to have room for a new generation of Christian leaders. A wider gap means a need for more and more ministers. It’s like trying to shove a size 38 waist into size 32 pants. The gap needs to expand so that there is room for all.

The gap is treated like prime real estate, with every institutional minister attempting to get the biggest share. They fill it with more and more pleasures, slowly building mountains in it for their empire. As a result, the gap between God and His people gets wider as more and more Christians are turned into addicts. Christian leaders are not closing the gap; rather, they are responsible for creating and widening it. Every time Christian are given alternatives to seeking God themselves and seeking the infilling of His Spirit, there is a new “spiritual gap” created. Every sermon, book, crusade, and video teaching that does not cause Christians to abandon their pursuit of intellectual pleasure and spend time (however long that may be) seeking God until they are filled with His Spirit and become a river of living water is nothing more than a spiritual gap. They do more harm than good.

The worst possible thing that could happen to the institutional church and its leaders is for “revival” to take place and the gap between God and His people to disappear. What would all the Christian leaders do then? They cannot allow that to happen, so they protect the gap by filling it with their ministries, churches, and sermons, and in doing so, they feed the addiction of God’s people, cleverly keeping them away from God. God’s people today are slaves to their addictions. They are addicted to their pleasures, and the pushers of these addictions are their Christian leaders who feed it to them.

Recently a brother wrote me and asked, “How do we get back to the model of the church that the scriptures speak of? I have also struggled in how to be an affective Godly leader because we have no real role models here in the Americanized church. I have[n’t] any desire to control and manipulate people. What does Godly leadership look like in the church era we live in?”

We receive many similar notes. First of all, pastors are victims, too. In general, today’s lazy, apathetic, pleasuring-seeking Christians do not want “godly leaders.” As with most economies, the products being offered are less a result of need and more a result of consumer demand. If “need” defined the offerings in our local supermarkets, then the shelves would be full of organic, low sodium, fat free, nutritious foods instead of the high salt, high sugar, high fat foods that excite our tastes and cause addiction. What is offered to consumers is what they want, not what they need. Therefore, both the products offered in supermarkets as well as the products offered in churches are a direct result of consumer demand.

So “how do we get back?” Even if there were a road map, who would follow? Most Christians do not want to get back to the selfless, sacrificial Christianity that once defined the church. If I were to tell you that true Christian leaders lead others into a life of prayer and righteousness, would that be enough? Yet that is exactly what God was looking for when He said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Neither Christian leaders nor the God’s people want to hear the simplicity of what God requires. They want to hear messages that stimulate their imaginations. They want to be entertained. The simplicity of the gospel escapes them.

You want to be a godly Christian leader? Then measure your success by how well you eliminate the peoples’ need for you. When they no longer need you, then you have been successful.

Christian leadership is less of a career and more of an art. People are unique individuals. Christians grow, not through the sermons offered to the masses, but through the intimate relations they have with other Christians (“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:16).”) A joint is where two bones meet! Jesus understood this, and that is why He never formed an institutional church. Instead, He focused His efforts on mentoring twelve men. Christian leadership is the art of diminishing. It’s a vanishing act! Like parents releasing an adult child, you know that you are successful when they no longer need you.

You want to be a godly Christian leader? Then stop looking for God to bring you a people to lead. Successful Christianity is NOT about God raising up another Moses. It is about all of God’s people becoming Moses!

Moses understood this and said, “[I] would God that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them (Numbers 11:29)!”

You want to be a godly Christian leader? Then stop visualizing a ministry in which you are the attention of thousands of people and simply “stand in the gap!”

Live a righteous and godly life in a world that seeks to impale your soul with lust, greed, and the pursuit of pleasure, and teach your children and friends the same. Christian leadership is all about prayer and the presence of God. You cannot lead people there. They must be willing to go there themselves.


Amen.

kmsrjs@triton.net


Articles by Ron Schwartz       OTHER ARTICLES

 RETURN HOME

               © 2006 FAMILY ROOM MEDIA