CHRISTIAN HEDONIST

CHRISTIAN HEDONIST

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
PSALM 16:11

What is a christian hedonist? A hedonist is a person who believes the doctrine that happiness or pleasure is the highest good. A christian hedonist is one who believes that the pursuit of happiness or pleasure in God is the highest good. John Piper has popularized this terminology in the past few years, but this truth is eternal. This is how Piper says it.
“God’s pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are in perfect harmony. For God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. ”
All of us are in the pursuit of happiness from the day we were born. Our first pleasure is at our mother’s breast, from there we advance to toys, games, friends, sports, accomplishments, boyfriends and girlfriends, schools, careers, possessions, vacations; the list is endless. Inevitably our pursuits deteriorate and we find ourselves looking for pleasure in the arena of sensual, carnal delight. We were created for pleasure, but our twisted, fallen nature, searches for fulfillment in all of the wrong places.
When we discover the satisfaction that is only available in Christ, the pursuit is not over, the focus only changes. When you come into the presence of the Lord, the place of fullness of joy, you witness the creation of a christian hedonist. From that time on addiction has set in, you have now joined the ranks of thousands who have gone before you. No longer content with the foolish, inferior joys of this world, you are now in pursuit of the highest of all pleasures. the kind only found in Christ.
Now John Piper’s words begin to be proved true in your life. “God is most glorified when I am most satisfed in Him”. Go ahead and admit it, after all its true about all of us. All our lives have been about pleasure, all we have ever wanted was to be happy. Funny how it all works out, I never thought that Jesus would be the source of my joy and satisfaction in life. When I first found myself entranced in His joy, I finally realized, this is what I had searched for all of my life.

THE FATHER’S COAT

THE FATHER’S COAT

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
GEN 37:3

Jacob loved his son more than all his children, what a very strange statement. Actually, this is a powerful picture of the Heavenly Father’s love for His children. How much does He love us? He loves us with an infinite love. His love has no bounds. His love for us is like a bottomless ocean with no shores! This is an unlimited, eternal love the Father pours out on His children.
Just as Jacob expressed His love for Joseph with the coat of many colors, the Father expresses His love for us today with His special coat of incredible diversity. What is this coat? Why of course, this is the “mantle” of His anointing. Just as Joseph wore His father’s coat out of respect for his father, we wear this coat of anointing out of respect for our Heavenly Father.
In the life of Joseph, we can see the effect of the anointing the Lord had placed on Joseph’s life. First we see him supernaturally sustained during times of extreme difficulty. He was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown in prison, and separated from his family for years. In all of these conflicts, the Lord was with Joseph, sustaining and satisfying Him with His goodness. In the same way, we are faced with all sorts of difficulties in our Christian journey. How can we be sustained like Joseph? Of course by wearing our Father’s coat of love. This mantle of His Presence is His love poured out daily upon our lives to keep and sustain us in the midst of the conflicts of life.
Not only did the Lord sustain Joseph, He also used those circumstances in his life to bring about His perfect plan. He was positioned perfectly to bring deliverance and provision for his family. What an incredible God, He was directing Joseph’s steps, even in the worst of circumstances to bring about His plans. The Lord is actually doing the same thing in you. The trials in your life will ultimately prove to be in place for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
What should I do in light of this? Simply put on the Father’s coat. He will do all the rest. Trust Him, wear the coat of His Presence proudly. Even if your
“brothers” hate you because of the coat, it doesn’t matter, His plans are sure
and His grace is sufficient.

THE HAND OF GOD

THE HAND OF GOD

… as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God.

EZEK 8:1-3

The Hand of the Lord came upon Ezekiel. What was that like? Have you ever felt the hand of the Lord upon you? In Acts 11 the Bible says that the “hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number were added to the church”. This was describing the move of the Spirit in Antiock. The phrase, “hand of the Lord” is a beautiful description of the intimate touch of the Spirit upon our lives.
In Ezekiel’s case, when the hand of the Lord would come upon him, he would be caught up into the prophetic visions of God. One of these visions speaks of the River of the Holy Spirit in graphic detail. Ezekiel describes a progressive influence of the Spirit in Ezekiel 47. He talks about wading out into the water, ankle deep, knee deep, up to his waist, and finally, waters over his head, so deep, he needed to swim. What a graphic picture of the effect of the Spirit upon our lives today!
Are you familiar with the working of the Spirit? Have you experienced the effect of the Spirit upon your life? In Ezekiel’s vision, he went on to explain the effect of the river as we begin to wade out into it’s depths. He said that everwhere the river goes, there is healing. This healing comes to every part of our lives. Maybe you are experiencing emotional pain from trials and disappointments in your life. Step out into the River, there is healing for your soul. Maybe you are suffering from physical ailments, step into the River. Move out a little deeper than before, the waters of His Spirit are filled with healing and life for your body. Like Ezekiel, you can wade deeper and deeper into the Presence of the Lord. As you do, you will have a greater sense of the Lord in your life, and He will have a greater impact upon you and your circumstances. Before you know it, you will be saying with Ezekiel, “as I sat in my house, the Hand of the Lord came upon me”.

THE MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART

THE MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

1 Sam 16:13

“Are there any more sons?” Samuel asked. “There is David, he is out watching the sheep”.
“Go get him”, Samuel demanded. As soon as David returned to the house, Samuel knew that this was him, this was the next king of Israel. He took out his oil and began to poor it on David’s head, as he did, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David. This was the beginning of a new life for David, he began to experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit in every part of hs life. David’s life could never be the same, from this day he became the man after God’s own heart.
As he cared for the sheep, he found supernatural strength fending off the lion and the bear, and when he faced Goliath, the giant was no match for the Lord’s anointed. When he was exiled, being chased by Saul, he was hidden away by the Lord, living in caves and in the wilderness for years, sustained and satisfied by God. He found himself lost in his music, writing supernatural songs that we still sing today. When it came time to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, he was dancing before the Lord with all his might. David found an intense hunger for God’s presence expressed in his song,

Psalm 63

1 O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

David had become a man consumed with a passion for God. Where did this hunger begin? It began when Samuel anointed David and the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him. How about you? Today, the Holy Spirit can fall on you. Maybe you are facing unusual challenges in your life. Whether it is financial, family related, health or emotional challenges, the Spirit of the Lord equips you for every challenge. He is being poured out in these last days upon all mankind. As you spend time with the Lord today, ask him to fill you with a heart like David. Don’t be surprised when you begin to dance and sing with joy in the presence of the Lord.

THE ANOINTED ONE

THE ANOINTED ONE

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Lk 3:21

There was an excitement in the air. It was like nothing people in Israel had ever experienced in their lifetime. There was a real prophet in the land. People from all over Israel were coming to hear, and coming to see this unusual man. They were calling him “John the Baptist”. He was dressed like one of the prophets of old, and the hand of God was upon him.
“REPENT!”, his voice was like thunder in the wilderness. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” No one was quite sure what he meant, but everyone knew that a change was in the wind, you could feel it in his words. A new day had come.
And then it happened. Jesus of Nazareth came to be baptized. Some said that it thundered when Jesus came up out of the water, others felt a wind they described as the “breath of God”. But somehow the people knew, John’s purpose had been fulfilled. He was the voice crying in the wilderness, but now, the ANOINTED ONE had come.
From that day, the anointing was upon Jesus. Everywhere He went, signs and wonders followed Him. It was an amazing three years of ministry, but it was over as soon as it started. But at the end, He promised, ” I will not leave you as orphans, the Holy Spirit will come upon you. The things that I have done, will you do also”.
Shortly after His death and resurrection, the same anointing came upon His followers. They walked in the same power that He had. As a matter of fact, that same anointing is falling from heaven today. Everyone who is thirsty, can be filled with His powerful anointing today, and can begin to experience the supernatural power of God. Are you tired of just hearing about things the Lord has done in the past? Do you want to live in the anointing yourself? Jesus said it was simple to receive this powerful life. He said, ” if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of LIVING WATER.” Today, the ANOINTED ONE, is seated at the right hand of God, everyone who comes to Him steps into this powerful new kind of life.

SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER

SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
JOHN 4:13,14

Will never thirst, how could that possibly be? What is Jesus speaking of? He is describing a thirst for spiritual things that replaces our thirst for the things of this world. He said that if we drink the water He has to give, this water will become a perpetual fountain bubbling up inside of us. The results is not only a spiritual awakening, but a passion for the things of God. Jesus is describing an incredible spiritual revolution that flows from God Himself. Jonathan Edwards spoke of this fountain in his “Treatise on Grace”. He said, ” the sum of all good which the saints have in this world, is that spring of living water within them which we read of in John 4:10 and those rivers of living waters flowing from within them which we read of in John 7:37,38 which we are there told is the Holy Spirit. And the sum of all happiness in the other world, is that river of living water which flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, which is the river of God’s pleasures, and is the Holy Spirit, which is often compared in sacred Scripture to water, to the rain and dew, and rivers and floods of waters”.
I love the phrase Edwards used, “the sum of all good”. He was saying all that we have of true value in life comes from the Lord. How is it that most of us value other things more than the things of God? If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to have stronger feelings for life’s plesures and expierences than for God Himself. How can our “value system” be changed. Look again at what Jesus said, “whoever drinks of this water that I have to give shall never thirst.” Did you get it? There is something in the living water itself that effects us, it actually changes our thirst, or our value system, so that we begin to agree with Edwards that this living water is ” the sum of all good which have in this world”.
We can start this new life today, all it takes is a little drink. There is so much life in this living water that just one taste can begin this new thirsting for God. As you spend time in His word or in prayer today, drink in, receive the love that He has for you. Before you know it, you will know what it means to never thirst again.

THE GREATEST OF ALL JOYS

THE ENJOYMENT OF GOD

4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.

Psalm 43:4

God and joy don’t come in the same thought for most people. Spiritual matters are serious matters. We find our joy somewhere else. It may be in buying nice things, going on vacation, or just the weekly football game. All of us are on the hunt, looking for pleasure in created things. This was not the case for Jonathan Edwards. He said that God was his good and that the only joy that can satisfy a man’s heart is spiritual joy. Many years ago I read his biography, and in it I found this statement that has effected me more than any words outside of the scripture.
“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean.”
Those words rocked my world. Suddenly, I saw it. My life wasn’t about His gifts, it was about Him. He was the source of all happiness, the enjoyment of God Himself was the purpose that I was born to fulfill. It wasn’t about money, houses, numbers, success, or even about family. It was all about Him. He wanted to reveal His greatness to me and through me for my pleasure and His Glory. The horrible yoke of human achievement was broken from off of my neck, I was free for the pursuit of real pleasure, pleasure found only in Him. No more chasing shadows, no more worries about accomplishments, no longer needing to please man. Today, this freedom can be yours. Where can you find it? You find it by leaving behind the pursuit of “shadows” and start enjoying the substance. All of those good things in life are from Him, they are not the source of our pleasure, all they are, are signs pointing us toward God, our exceeding joy.

Content

CONTENT

for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
PHIL. 4:11-13

These words were written by the Apostle Paul from prison. He said he had learned the secret of happiness and was content regardless of his outward circumstances. He had discovered that our life does not consist in our possessions, titles, accomplishments, or our station in life. Paul had learned that life itself was found in Christ and he could be satisfied despite adverse circumstances. Paul had found contentment in Christ alone.
Jonathan Edwards often spoke of the happiness that is only available from the Lord. In his sermon “God Amongst His People” he says, “When so great a holy God dwells among a people, he not only is able to supply them with all good, God is theirs, and therefore they are happy, if they have nothing else. If all other things fail, the enjoyment of God is sufficient to make them completely happy”.
This is one of the greatest, and yet, hardest lessons to learn in our Christian walk. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s our ministry went through some very painful experiences. Our local economy was suffering and it was effecting the church members as well as the church itself. The in suing problems caused anxiety and fear to set into my life. To me, it seemed as if all of the years of work were in vain, and there was a real possibility of losing everything. I had to take a real look at the possibility that ,that could take place. That was not a fun time. During this season, the Lord visited me and our church with an unusual outpouring of His Presence. What a contrast, in the physical world, nothing but trouble. In the spiritual world incredible, unspeakable joy. Then the Lord posed the question, “If you lose everything, am I enough for you?” What a question! I grappled with that thought for weeks, but came to the inevitable conclusion. “Lord, You are more than enough.” That was it. I was dealing with the greatest of all questions, “Could I be satisfied with Christ alone?”
This is the question we answer everyday, “Is Jesus enough?” Maybe you have not yet discovered the secret of total contentment, if that is the case, your greatest discovery and greatest joy in life is just ahead.

THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCK

THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCK

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your face is lovely.”

SONG OF SOLOMON 2:14

One of the famous hymns of all time was written in the 1700’s by Augustus Toplady called Rock of Ages. In this song, Toplady describes protection from life’s storms, hidden away in the cleft of the rock. He had obviously found the protection and safety found only in this place of intimacy with God. Listen to these famous, timeless words, as they ring through the centuries.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

This world we live in is an extremely dangerous place. There is trouble, sometimes hidden trouble, facing us on a regular basis. We are threatened with disease, troubled by financial woes, endangered by violent attacks, increasingly worried about terrorists, not to mention the unusual natural calamities that seem to be happening on a much more frequent basis. We need a place of refuge that we can run to in this increasingly, hostile world.

In his song, Rev. Toplady tells us of this place,”Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee”. He had discovered the intimacy, that brings shelter, in the clefts of the Rock. Who is that Rock? Of course, it is our precious Savior. What are the clefts? They are the wounds that Jesus suffered in our place. Jesus suffered and died, to bring us intimacy with Himself. This place of intimacy is the source of all life. Flowing from the wounds of Christ is life itself, all we need for security and satisfaction in this crazy world. As we begin our day today, let’s go in to the place of safety, this is where we will see His face, this is where we will hear His voice, for His voice is sweet and His face is lovely. Just as Toplady discovered in the 1700’s, Christ is our hiding place. We can find a place of refuge, rest, and refreshing in the clefts of the Rock.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

THE FRAGRANCE OF THE BRIDE

THE FRAGRANCE OF THE BRIDE

SONG OF SOLOMON 4:9,10

9 You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace.
10 How fair is your love,
My sister, my spouse!
How much better than wine is your love,
And the scent of your perfumes
Than all spices!

Paul said that we are a fragrance of Christ unto God the Father. When we are born again, we are clothed with His wedding garments, the righteousness of God that comes by grace through faith. The Father sees , and smells, Christ when He thinks of us. At the same time there is a smell about Christians that is attractive, or honestly, quite repulsive to the people we are around every day. To those who are being saved, an irresistible fragrance of life, to those who are lost, we have the smell of death upon us.
Practically speaking, how can I have more of this fragrance on me? Have you noticed the aroma of Christ is stronger on some Christians than others? Why is this? The fragrance comes from spending time with Him. The more contact we have with the Lord, the more His aroma becomes part of our lives.
In the scripture verse for today, Solomon is describing the attraction the bride has for the bridegroom. Can you imagine that Jesus is enamored with you, He is effected by the fragrance that comes from you. What a strange thing, the fragrance that attracts Him is actually His own. Our only attraction is the imparted life of Christ Himself. As I feast on Him, drinking in HIs Spirit and feeding on His word, His life becomes intwined in mine. His aroma begins to emanate from our lives. The fragrance not only ascends to the Lord as a sweet smelling sacrifice, it is diffused everywhere we go bringing people into contact with Christ Himself in His bride.
As we go about our daily routine, we are spreading an aroma. We carry the fragrance of the very atmosphere we live in from day to day. As we surrender to His love on a consistent basis, the life of Christ begins to settle in upon us. When that happens, we begin to fulfill the words of the Apostle,
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”.