And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (Rev 12:10-11).
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given (Matt 19:10-11).
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut 8:2-3).
Probably the greatest deception I see today in church culture is the idea that God’s goal is for you to be happy.
You glorify those who make great sacrifices for Christ. But when push comes to shove, you aren’t willing to sacrifice what is dear to you, what makes you happy.
For many of you, your hearts burn when you hear Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wonderful summation: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” You know you have been bought with a price. And you believe that, if someone were to come up to you and demand we renounce Christ or die, you’d gladly lay down your life.
But our enemy knows that you’d resist if he put it in such a blatant way. So instead of threatening your life, he threatens your—or even someone else’s—happiness. And instead of renouncing Christ, all you have to do is say that you or that other person should be happy.
After all, doesn’t God want what’s best for us? Yes, but what’s best for you doesn’t always make you feel happy, now does it?
My best friend’s daughter threw a fit when her parents wouldn’t let her touch the hot stove. She wasn’t happy about that at all! But it was a lot better for her than losing all the skin on her hand.
Does it make you feel happy to not eat ice cream with your friends? Probably not, but if you’ve already had enough to eat today, then you shouldn’t do it.
Does it make you happy to go to the gym and work out? For most of you, the answer is probably no. But it’s better for you than sitting around all day, so you do it.
If you’re dating, it probably doesn’t make you terribly happy to not have sex with your boy- or girlfriend. But you know that it’s best for you both to keep sex in its proper place: in the marriage bed.
And yet it is increasingly in these things that you want most—particularly around sex—that the enemy sows many lies. After all, if God is love, how can he be opposed to your love? Never mind that you can love someone without having sex with them. Sex would make you happier, therefore it must be God’s will.
And so you set up altars in your life to your own happiness. You’ve been told not to cross the line, so instead you shift the line. God wants you to be fulfilled, after all, so if porn makes you feel happy, then why wouldn’t you watch it? It’s not real, so it’s not really lust. You move the line.
God wants you to be fulfilled, and having sex with that person would just make you feel so fulfilled. So he must not have meant that you shouldn’t have sex with them. You move the line again.
It’s the same reasoning behind a lot of divorce. I talked last week about how people get married because they think “This person makes me happy, and that’s the point of marriage, so we’ll get married.” Then the person stops making them feel happy and fulfilled. And since that, to them, was the point of marriage, then suddenly their unhappy marriage is pointless. So they get divorced—not because of infidelity, but because they just aren’t happy with it anymore. They didn’t feel fulfilled. So they moved the line.
God wants you to be fulfilled. But God wants you to be fulfilled in Him, not in your own desires.
Your own desires will never fulfill you. Anything less than being fulfilled in God is idolatry.
The truth is, following Christ—being owned by Christ—requires all of you.
If you can’t give up your desires, you can’t say that you don’t love your life even to the point of death. You can’t do it even to the point of unhappiness!
But loving God more than your own life—more than your own desires, more than what makes you feel happy and fulfilled—is what enables you to overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the power of your testimony.
If you don’t love God more than your desires, then you can’t overcome Satan. You will fall into temptation again and again.
What is an idol in your life? What do you fall into again and again?
You live in an environment soaked in sexuality. Most college students have some sexual sin—premarital sex, porn, or even just plain lust. That is by far what I see most often.
But more than that. Are you putting your hope for happiness and fulfillment in a relationship? In marriage? In a family? In a job or career? In a salary?
What do you keep coming back to? What is most dear to you? Can you give it up?
God has already given you victory over it. You were freed from idolatry in the resurrection of Christ. Are you going to choose him? Or are you going to choose your desire?