Monday, June 3, 2019

Party!

Everyone likes to have a good time. Add food and/or music to an informal gathering of people, maybe some friendly competition, and you've set the stage for a memorable event.

When I was in college I got to know a guy who had been known in high school as someone who could easily gather people together for a good time. He told us his friends back home used to say, “If you want to throw a party, just buy Pepsi, order pizza, and invite Micah.” It helped to have a large apartment off campus to accommodate those gatherings.

There are lots of parties in the Bible, too. When God originally created man, he placed him in the Garden of Pleasure. Much of the Old Testament Law was for the purpose of describing how to celebrate the accomplishments of God among his people. The New Testament describes these celebrations as shadows of things still to come. God is a good God, and He gives us much to celebrate and ways in which to celebrate His love for us.

For some people, they forget God and partying becomes an end in itself. It becomes a lifestyle, even a goal. This can go too far. Not everything in life is a celebration. We don't live in the Garden of Pleasure anymore. Sin drove us out, and the earth has been groaning under a curse ever since.

One day there will be “the revealing of the sons of God” in “the glorious liberty of the children of God,” but in the meantime there is the ugliness of sin and death which we must confront. Sin takes the things God created and gave us for our enjoyment and corrupts them to our destruction. This corruption produces death in us. Death is nothing to celebrate.

This kind of corruption often starts with rebellion, even in seemingly small things. This rebellion can quickly make its way into more consequential areas of life like sex. In writing about Freud in an early version of the book Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave, my great-uncle Dave Breese wrote about how sex has been corrupted in our culture:
Sex has moved from the place it once held—sacred and holy and divine, a part of the salt and pepper of life—and now it has become life itself. The result is that we now have haggard, disease-ridden young people who at the age of 13 or 14 years old are burned out. They quickly go beyond sex into drugs and the occult.
I've seen this happen in the lives of young people myself. It is not uncommon in our day, time, and place for young people to begin exploring sexuality in middle school, and I've heard high school students openly and lightheartedly discuss using tools of the occult. Breese's assessment of what can happen in the life of a young person remains accurate today. He concluded:
We used to say, "Sow your wild oats, and you'll be an old man by the time you're 40." We have a lot of kids walking around today that will be old men before they are young men, and by the age of 17 they will have lost their capacity to enjoy anything whatsoever in life. Our society is now dying of that big non-emotion, boredom.
That is the ultimate unacceptable condition today: boredom. That is exactly what's driving the partying desire to excess. To the extent that pleasures are ends in themselves with no greater purpose in the Source Who gave them, they will always leave someone unfulfilled and looking for more and greater excitement even if that means exploring evil.

The opposite of partying is suffering. In Hebrews we read of Moses who “when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24-25). One can find pleasure in sin for a time, but that time is limited. When one chooses to stand with God and His people, there can be affliction for a time, but that time, too, is limited.

Jesus told a story contrasting riches and poverty in life and in death:
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”

But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”

Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.”

Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”

But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
Of Moses, the writer of Hebrews explained Moses was “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (11:26-27). Egypt was the world superpower of its day. It had all that money could buy and riches beyond measure. Those riches are no match to the riches of God and heaven.

The point in all of this is to follow the way of wisdom and take the long view, the eternal view. In this life there is pleasure, good things to be enjoyed and for which we do well to thank God and recognize his loving blessings, especially when enjoyed His way as He designed them, including sex. Pleasure is also not the goal, and we should avoid it if it stands in conflict with God's greater purposes for us.

If one really wants to party and enjoy pure pleasure, waiting in hope for what God has in store for those who love Him is by far the best way to have fun and have something to celebrate. “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The age to come with God after sin and death are conquered starts with a wedding celebration. Think about how fun those can be!

Choosing to deal with our sin and make peace with God and await his coming conquering celebration is the ultimate party move. In fact, that very thing sets off joy in heaven and in the presence of the angels: when a sinner changes his mind about his sin and believes in Jesus.

The flip side of this is God created us for His pleasure! We should know, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Put your faith in Jesus today—now!

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