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
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
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
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
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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.