Too easily, we lose sight of satisfaction in our pursuit of God. The Christian life has been stereotyped as boring, restricting, and even hopeless. While several may label God's intentions for this life to be worthless, the Gospel presents a much different case.
Misconceptions of Sin and Grace
In my nineteen years of living, I've heard several teenagers and adults overuse the excuse of wanting to "live it up" before getting serious in their lives. For some of them, the serious aspect that they are delaying is spiritual, like deciding to come to the faith. For others, it is relational, like putting off a commitment such as getting married. Regardless, the approach is still the same.
The greatest struggle for these kinds of people is that they choose to sit in sin, but do nothing about it. The irony here is that we are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
If I could share one verse with every human in an attempt to best summarize the gospel of Jesus Christ, it would be this...
Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
There are four words or phrases that should be outlined to grasp the message of this verse.
First, we must observe the word "wage." A wage is a payment for something we earn, like a check for our work. According to the apostle Paul, the wages (payment) for our sin (our work) is death. When Paul writes about death, he is talking about more than just a physical death. In fact, the author of the book of Hebrews calls physical death inevitable (Heb. 9:27-28). He does so in a way that even makes physical death sound pretty boring, to be frank.
Nevertheless, we know that Paul is talking about a spiritual death. This is an area where God continues to awe me. Reflecting back to the Old Testament, I crave the expressive words of the Psalmist when he then described our sinfulness and God's faithfulness, from the point of conception:
"Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place."
King David wrote that we are surely sinful at birth, all the way back to the point of conception. Yet, God's intentions for life are quite different than what we have made them out to be. As innovative as science and technology can be, David wrote that the womb is a secret place, where God teaches us wisdom due to his loving desire for faithfulness from us, even at the point of conception. This blows my mind! How could a God, as perfect and powerful as he, desire a sinner, as filthy and far-out as me, to be united with him before I could even walk, talk, or think?
We all are destined to die once, but the desire of God is that the dead would come to life. That is why Psalm 51:5 precedes Psalm 51:6. That is also why Romans 6:23 begins with the wages of our actions being death, but concludes with God's reaction to our sinfulness.
Now, God's response to our sinfulness is the game-changer. It is in the response of God that we see how his grace is greater than our sin. No matter how consequential we decide our sin to be, God's grace will always be greater, stronger, and more powerful than our sinfulness, along with our perceived goodness.
That is why the apostle Paul wrote that the free gift of God is eternal life. We know that Paul is talking about more than a physical death because the Christian and the non-Christian will both eventually die a physical death. However, the one who chooses to receive the free gift of God will, then, experience eternal life.
Why Fun Isn't Enough for Us
I believe that the reason fun just isn't enough for humans has much to do with how God intricately designed this world and the humans inhabiting it as one to be destined for something greater than fun. If this weren't true, then why do we say that people are gifted rather than "knowledgable on how to have fun?"
Where we fall short is understanding that what God gives us is free, in spite of our costly sin. The fact of the matter is that we become such marginally-minded people in the category of fun. We aim for the best offers of fun that this world has to offer while God offers us the greatest deal we could ever imagine. Essentially, God is saying, "If you follow me today, you will be with me forever." When we turn to what this world has to offer as "fun", we are actually saying, "Thanks God, but what you are offering just isn't good enough for me." We can sit around and lie to ourselves saying that we will go back and accept God's offer later, but our God is not one of compromise. That is why, in terms of this life, we are only promised the time we have already spent and are currently spending, rather than the time we can expect to spend.
How pitiful is it for those whose expectations are let down because they believed the lie that they could follow God later by controlling the duration of the clock over their own life!
The issue with wanting to go and have a little fun is that God has already offered a way for us to have a whole lot of fun. My favorite author of all-time best described this misconception in his book titled "The Weight of Glory" by writing:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis
This quote affirms my belief that fun is simply too small a word for the kingdom of God. While we mess around with things like alcohol, sex, and ambition, God's desire is for us to take joy and pleasure in him by enjoying this life and the life to come. It is the free gift of God, that is grace, which turns this idea into a reality. The redeeming grace of God is powerful enough to save anyone, no matter how lost we may think they may be. Nevertheless, I believe that the love of God pursues us, even in our deepest and darkest valleys.
To those who believe that God is a clockmaker who desires to suck the fun out of our lives, listen closely:
This world offers us a plethora of temptations that are deemed to be good and worthy of our pursuit by society. Alcohol, sex, ambition, fortune, fame, popularity, happiness, you name it. These things make for a fantastic, spectacular pool to swim in. However, God has offered you a sweeter deal. While this world can make you happy, God can make you joyful. While this world can show you fun, God can show you lasting pleasure. While this world may offer you "goodness", God has already offered you greatness with him.
God has offered you a bottomless ocean of joy and pleasure, two foreign concepts to this world that are far better and last longer and can only be received through accepting the grace of God delivered through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.
If you fail to take my word for it, listen to Brad Pitt, an outspoken atheist, who told the Rolling Stone magazine about what he described as a constant sadness,
“Man, I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us - the car, the condo, our version of success - but if that's the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness? If you ask me, I say toss all this - we gotta find something else. Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being. And I don't want that.”
At the crux of it all, when we choose to put Jesus aside, for whatever reason, we are not only denying the free gift of grace, but we also are choosing temporary happiness, fame, fortune, or some other filler that soon will fade away. Don't be fooled. Study sin and grace for yourself. I pray that God would reveal your eyes to the filthiness of our sin and the goodness of his grace that you may come to know and believe with all lasting hope in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
As for me, I may not be capable to add up the details of it, but the thought of choosing to love and serve God, in spite of myself, is completely worth it.
The Christian life is joyful (John 16:22), free (Romans 6:23), and full of hope (Romans 15:13). Not only is it a worthy call, but it is one that can be enjoyed, and that we can trust to enjoy on far greater levels when the time we spend here has passed, and we see God face to face for who he is, in all of his glory and splendor.