This morning, I listened to someone speak to a group of students ranging from kindergarten through high school about the hope of heaven for those who believe in Christ. In his short devotional, he brought up one of the themes from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. He explained how one of his favorite points in the movie is where the young men are taught that, “art, poetry, and drama are what make life worth living or enjoyable, so be prepared to die for them.” He then attempted to connect this to Psalm 19:1, which says,
“ The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Admittedly offering his own “personal” interpretation of this verse, he said that he doesn’t believe what “most scholars” say, that the verse indicates that the universe was ultimately created to continually declare God’s majesty and grandeur/glory (i.e., general revelation), but rather was created for human beings to simply enjoy.
After telling the students the areas of life/creation they could enjoy (i.e., literally, cruises to the Bahamas, the Grand Canyon, etc.), he went on to exhort the students to “Continue to live good Christian lives, but also take time to enjoy life.” My heart sank as he uttered these words, and continued to repeat them throughout the rest of his devotional. Ultimately he concluded by telling the students that while we wait for the hope of heaven, we should again, “Continue to live good Christian lives, but also take time to enjoy life.”
The implications of his exhortation, whether initially perceived by the students or not, were what caused my heart to sink. He was essentially saying that the Christian life is, in itself, unable to provide substantial pleasure and enjoyment. And that one must take time, in addition to living a good Christian life, to simply enjoy life. That is, there is a separation between the Christian life and joy.
This variation on a Christian worldview is absolutely unbiblical.
Passages of Scripture flooded my thinking as he spoke his exhortation:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11, ESV
“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”
-Psalm 27:4, ESV
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
-Psalm 34:8, ESV
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
-Psalm 84:10, ESV
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
-Isaiah 55:1-2, ESV
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
-John 10:10b, ESV
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
-1 John 5:3, ESV
The Scriptures teach that ultimate pleasure, satisfaction, joy, and beauty are found in the presence of Christ. Fellowship with the Father, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit is true satisfaction. All of the beauty of this creation able to be enjoyed points to its Creator, crying out that He is the source of this beauty!
My concern exists in the subtleties of statements like, “Continue to live good Christian lives, but also take time to enjoy life;” specifically in the potential results. The results being, people who will ultimately turn away from the “good Christian lives” they were forced to live by their parents, to seeking pleasure and enjoyment where it cannot be found. Their parents being those who legalistically regulated morality upon their children, lacking trust in the Spirit of God to form in their children an authentic desire for a satisfying relationship with Christ.
Ultimately, statements like “Continue to live good Christian lives, but also take time to enjoy life,” result in a life lived based on the moral performance gospel. (The “moral performance gospel” is simply trying to live in such a way that one will find acceptance through their good works, and be externally viewed as a “good Christian” by the “rule-givers,” whomever they may be.) And when one lives embracing the “moral performance gospel” then, yes, pleasure will need to be sought elsewhere.
However, when one lives in the freedom from false gospels, such as the moral performance gospel, they are able to find glorious pleasure, satisfaction, beauty, and joy in the light of the true gospel: God’s grace extravagantly showered upon those who humbly trust in Christ as their sole righteousness, and only hope before our holy God. The wonderful opportunity of living life, becoming more like Christ as we worship Him, through the power of the Spirit, awaiting the day when we will revel in the pleasure of beholding Him face to face.
My heart in all of this is that we would comprehend today, with the Psalmist, the opportunity to live life, enjoying the beauty and glory of God, and the abundant life of joy found in fellowship with Him.