I met up with one of my best buds yesterday at his alma mater Wheaton College to play some basketball and share a meal. He is taking a grad level systematic theology class and is an all around bright guy, so the conversation naturally got deep relatively quickly. We sat in a crowded and clanging college cafeteria.
“Why do you think God created colors?” he said. “Well, I guess because he likes variety” I replied, knowing that my answer left something to be desired.
“You know why I think He did it?”, he said. “I think God created colors because He likes them. He delights in the vibrant. And He wants us to share in that. And, here’s where my mind really explodes”, he said, leaning back in his chair, “maybe, just maybe, if God delights in something so simple as colors, He actually delights in us. Like, maybe He doesn’t just put up with me, and have pity on me, but He really takes joy in me. Can’t get enough. Maybe we are the ultimate variety and vibrancy”
I stared back blankly, trying to seem deep in thought as I processed.
“We know so little about the ultimate character of the infinite God at the end of the day” he said. We know He is love, we know He is justice, and we have all of the “omnis”. That’s really about it. But I think we can infer, based on creation, that He is also a God who is full of pleasures.”
I drove home processing the conversation and chose to ignore common sense and basic traffic laws by checking my twitter on I-355. The first thing I read was a tweet from a pastor I deeply respect. It read;
“Love for God and love for the things of this world cannot coexist. Period. (1 John 2:15)
I noticed that the tweet had created a bit of a stir in christian cyber space. People responding, asking pointed questions like; “What about my wife?” “What about my family, am I not supposed to love them?”, and “so, should I feel guilty about enjoying the things of this world?”
1 John 2:15 reads: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Woah. My guilty conscience started running. “The love of the Father is not in him??? That’s the last thing I want! And I know I love some things in the world a ton. I love food. I love my friends. I love to play sports, and to spend time resting at home when I’m done. I love my wife. I love good art!”
I’d had enough of this heavy stuff. I got home and turned on the TV.
But I woke up this morning still processing the conversation I’d had over lunch and the passage in 1John. I made myself a cup of coffee and pulled up a chair at the kitchen table where I now sit typing. I have been working my way through 1 Timothy and this morning I fell on this verse:
1 Timothy 4:4-5: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made Holy by the word of God and prayer”
One of the things I have learned over time is that Scripture always interprets Scripture. Basically it means that the Bible never contradicts itself, so you always use the Scripture to come to an understanding of how seemingly contradictory passages are actually quite harmonious.
“Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…It is made holy…” hmmmm.
“Do not love the world…the love of the father is not in him…hmmmm.”
“He loves colors…hmmm?”
My pen started moving in my journal, my mind scrambling for some resolve as to what the Scriptures are really saying here. Here’s what came out:
“By enjoying Ice cream, tv, sports, a cold beer, a home, my family, I should be drawn deeper and deeper into worship. Drawn to God, who is good and kind and generous. By enjoying these things, I should be neither enraptured nor enthralled by their goodness, but by His. I should be tasting and seeing His heart, that He loves color, vibrancy, flavor, and all good things and that this is why He created them, to showcase and share His pleasures. My worship and love for Him should grow deeper, not more shallow. At dinner, I should not exclaim, “I love steak!!”, but rather “God is good!!”.
Sadly our sinful hearts are prone to lesser, easier loves. When I drink a beer, I am prone to fall in love with a feeling, a taste, an experience, and in turn to look away from God and enter into sin. Still, beer, sex, food, and leisure, are not the problem. They are holy and good, made holy by the word of God and prayer. But I am depraved. I defile them when I shift my worship off of God the Creator and retreat into my own consumeristic pleasure in the objects themselves. They subtly drift from being life giving gifts and reflections of God’s kindness and joy, and become deadly slave masters and thieves of the true joy that can only be found in the worship of God the Creator.”
Even as I wrote I could hear the skeptics voice in my head. “What about drugs then? I can worship by smoking weed?” Then it hit me. There is no absolute line. Grey does exist. On a certain level, this is largely subjective, an issue of conscience. For some, alcohol will and should be taboo. Reason: it puts them in a frame of mind that can’t possibly draw them into worship, but rather pulls them away. It leads them not into thankfulness and worship, but to forgetfulness and indulgence. And without question, there are certain substances that rest firmly in the black in that they alter the human mind and body in such a way that you could never have the wherewithal of reverence, thankfulness, and worship while partaking, not to mention they are illegal and lead to an unbiblical dependance on something other than God to feel “ok”.
Perhaps I digress here, but I felt it was important to say.
The point is this. God’s word clearly instructs us to enjoy and delight in His creation. After all, God Himself was the first to call it all “good”. And though broken at the fall, common grace has preserved a remnant of the original God injected goodness of the garden.
But the end goal of the enjoyment of creation is much deeper than it may seem: it is the glory of the Great I AM; The soul stirring, taste bud stimulating, eyelid peeling, ear drum slamming, thankfulness saturated, absolutely sensational heart soul and mind level worship of a vividly experienced and ultimately treasured Creator, who is to be equally experienced in the unseen places and quiet whispers of our souls, and in the deafening roars of a waterfall and the restful enjoyment of a meal in peace filled home.
So, do not love the world and the things in it. If you do, you are missing an unspeakably bigger opportunity to delight in the very heart of delight. And by putting creation over Creator you make yourself an idolater. But by all means, enjoy the gifts the Lord delights to give you. With thankfulness in your heart, rejoice that you have a God who delights in everything He has created and is glorified when you enjoy His goodness in them.
And this is not to be taken lightly. If our immediate response to all of this is “Well not me, I don’t struggle with loving creation…”, beware, for “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
Oh that we would see God for all that He is and love Him unspeakably. Oh that we might find true joy that is unshakable and firm in Christ Jesus, the rock that is higher than high. Oh that we might come to see that He delights in us, and in turn, delight in Him alone.
“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters
Ps 16: 4,5,11
The sorrows of those who run after another God shall multiply.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.
You make known to me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy.
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.