Last week we talked about the gods at war for the throne of our heart. The goal was to shed light on the fact that we can turn most things into something we worship/serve and when we do that we set aside the one true God. So, over the next few weeks, we are looking at "temples" and talking about the different gods in each of those temples. This week, we find ourselves at the Temple of Pleasure.
Within the walls of the Temple of Pleasure, we find 3 gods who promise satisfaction but only deliver emptiness, dissatisfaction, and the craving for more. The god of food, the god of sex, and the god of entertainment all reside here and long for you to embrace them.
Inherently, none of these are meant to be a god and all of them are good gifts from God. But when we allow our desire for these things to outweigh our desire for God then we have emptied the throne for them.
The god of food offers momentary comfort. In our saddest moments, we turn to food to help us feel better. You encounter hardship and decide that a carton of deertrax ice cream will solve the issue. Except when you realize the carton is gone you feel "fat and out of control". In response, we eat more out of shame or attempt to starve ourselves to show food who is boss. Yet, when hunger strikes again, we will cave. The god of food wins by offering comfort, refuge, and pleasure in flavor. We decide that food can be all those things for us, instead of God. This isn't an uncommon issue.
In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5000 with only a few pieces of bread and fish. The people are amazed by all the food provided. That day we see faith, not in God but in the comfort food provides. The next day Jesus had left the crowd and when the crowd realized this they followed after Him. Jesus sees that food is what has driven them, not faith. So, He calls them out and points them to a source of sustenance that will never leave them. In John 6:35 says, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" Then the crowd and Jesus go back and forth on who He is and what the bread of life is. The people are displeased with Jesus' answers and in verse 66 we see the result, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." The people were following the god of food, not Jesus.
As the god of food, the god of sex offers something it cannot deliver. The god of sex offers pleasure at its peak. At the core, the issue is that sex is good. Sex is a gift from God when done the way He intended. He could have made it something that felt mechanic or required for procreating. Yet, as a gift, He made is something that brings pleasure to those who participate properly. God created sex as something to bring a spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife. But when we turn sex into a god, it's about personal pleasure.
Lust is what drives this god. Lustful thoughts, pornography, and sex outside of marriage (hooking up, dating, or affair) are all examples of how we worship and serve this god. To break free from the god of sex is much more difficult than the other gods in the Temple of Pleasure. The difficulty lies in what happens in our brains during any of these experiences. We get hits of dopamine that give us momentary happiness/pleasure. Dopamine will fade, but when sex is done within the confines of marriage there is more to it than just sex that allows for the dopamine to transition to serotonin. This can help sustain the "high" and make it less about flying high and then crashing. The crash is why people go back again and again. They crave the high, without the investment, but the investment is how we are meant to enjoy the pleasure of sex. To escape this god we need to create boundaries with our bodies, blocks from porn, and pray as lustful thoughts enter our minds. Otherwise, we will be held captive.
The god of entertainment falls into the same logic as the last two, offer X only provide Y. Like the other pleasures, entertainment is good and a gift from God. But our sinful nature and desire try to turn it into something else. We devote countless hours to books, movies, shows, sports, video games, etc. We create household shrines to display our collections and prized possessions relating to what we find entertaining. Our conversations are filled with "did you catch the game?", "Lebron just wasn't at his best yesterday.", "did you catch the latest episode of ___", and many, many more. Finding something entertaining isn't a sin, using that as our safe place, the thing that brings rest, or as an escape is when we have to ask, is this a god? Think about it, we devote time to these in ways that we should devote to God. We say, "after work/school I'm going to watch 3 episodes of The Office." But do we say, "after work/school I'm going to read my Bible and pray for 2 hours." No, and if someone did say that I think we'd have a hard time believing them. So, how do we defeat a god that can devour so much time? We replace. You can set time aside for entertainment, but it should be in light of our time with God. If something needs to get cut, don't let it be devotional time, but instead football or whatever entertains you.
God has created life to be something we enjoy. We are created with a desire for pleasure and when God is at the center then we can truly experience pleasure. The issue arises when we think that the same thing can offer pleasure without God. King Solomon tried exactly that, devoting his life to wisdom and trying to find what he could serve other than the one true God. His quest brought him to different lands, different experiences, etc. Nothing could satisfy him as God did. In Ecclesiastes 1:2 Solomon writes,
"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
He tried to find pleasure without God and the result, all is vanity. The NIV uses the word "meaningless". There was nothing that could satisfy him without God. So, we may feel pleasure at the moment, but it will never last unless God is the one seated on the throne of our hearts.
You can watch the video for this teaching here: