Appetites


I expect we have all heard the old illustration of how the child who fills up on candy won’t want his dinner. The point is simple; when you regularly consume fluff, you won’t desire meat. The temptation with all such well-known, oft-repeated sayings, is to unconsciously turn off our brains when we hear them coming. “Yeah, I  know, I got that point years ago…” But how often we need to be reminded of these ‘simple’ truths.

For those of us who have been blessed to be raised in Christian homes, and have had a set of Biblical values and standards instilled into us from an early age by wise and loving parents, it is often not the ‘big’ issues that we struggle with. After all, we’re good kids, right? You won’t catch us down the local pub, or roaming the streets at night, or watching filthy movies. No, siree. We’re nice, clean folks. That’s right. Reg’lar little churchgoers. We say our prayers, read our Bibles, and put our pennies in the collection box on Sunday. So we can feel pretty good, huh?

But measuring our outward actions is often deceitful. What about our inward thoughts, our appetites? Where are our hearts, truly? Are our affections ‘set on things above’ or do we value the things of this world more highly than the things of God?

In the back of Dr. Peter Master’s book, Steps for Guidance, (which is to be thoroughly recommended), there is a wonderful article by  the Puritan, Richard Baxter, entitled ‘Tests for Amusements and Recreations’. This contains outlines for choosing which recreations Christians may lawfully and profitably pursue. Bear in mind 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Often activities that are innocent and harmless in and of themselves can become a snare as surely as the ‘wicked’ pursuits that we - hopefully - steer so clear of. Baxter states; “All recreations are unlawful which are for their own sakes preferred before our callings.” He continues, “Does not your conscience tell you when your delight is more in your amusements than it is in God?  Such recreations (those we love more than the things of God) in no way increase our delight in God, but take it away. Do you not feel what a plague certain pleasures are to your affections - how they bewitch, befool you, and take you out of love with holiness, and make you unfit for anything that is good?”

This lesson has been brought home to me in several ways over the past few weeks. How many little things, harmless enough in themselves, are we allowing to rule our affections? To give a couple of examples; I have always loved to sing, and have a particular love for the deep, rich old hymns. Lately, however, I obtained a CD of some innocent, folksy-type songs, and have begun to sing them a lot. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Or is there? After a while I began to notice myself skipping past the hymns on a disc, and going straight for those other, ‘lighter’ songs. Gradually a niggling thought was working it’s way into my brain…I don’t sing hymns anymore. In fact…I don’t even want to. The ‘harmless’ lighter songs had numbed my appreciation of the solid, truth filled hymns of praise.

Okay, so I pushed that one aside for a while. But then my attention was drawn to something else. I normally sit up quite late in the evening working, and would often play a DVD in the background. It used to be sermon DVD’s, but was now generally films. Again, simple, harmless material but I suddenly realised something. I no longer wanted to listen to sermons…they just seemed too much brain work. I broke the cycle and put a sermon CD on one night, and the reality hit me. What on earth was I doing? How could I consistently be replacing this gold with tinsel? And thereby losing my appreciation for the gold!

It is the same story with many amusements. Novels spoil your liking for works of doctrine. Too much play spoils your liking for work. Now of course I am not trying to say that the serious Christian must never have times of rest and recreation. I am certainly not advocating that we all turn into a bunch of joy-less, long-faced gloom-spreaders. Scripture has much to say about joy. “All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Prov. 15:15) “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Prov. 17:22) But I am saying that we need to keep a close guard that our recreation does not become our downfall. Anything that seeks to take Christ’s place in our hearts and lives is SIN. Satan knows us all too well, and one of his favourite tricks is to stuff us so full of candyfloss that we never stop to wonder what happened to our spiritual zeal.

Of course we need rest, both physical and mental. But we are ultimately not here on earth for fun. Our time here is “but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17). Eternity is what counts. We need to be serving God in any way we can, whenever we can. We are not our own. (1 Cor. 6:20) We are in a war that is going to get hotter and hotter, and standing on the sidelines watching the butterflies pass isn’t going to help us fight with valour. We need to be straining every nerve to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) Nothing, nothing, must ever be allowed to take His place in our hearts.

“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Guest Post submitted by Jasmine Hill

2 comments:

  1. Great article

    Too true. Thank you for the simple, yet ignored truth. So often we slip into a lifestyle that is seemingly harmless, yet looking at it... it is wrong and displeasing God.

    I do the family ironing normally at night and I always seem to watch films. Why do I not watch sermons of say, Paul Washer. Why do I just listen to music? I should really be spending the time profitably.

    Your right, none of these things are wrong in themselves but it's when they take over the good things,they become sin.

    Thanks for the post
    Jonah

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  2. Jonah,

    Thank you for your comments!

    Yes, it is so easy to just slip into wasting time without even realising that we are doing so. Perhaps a lot of our reluctance to focus on spiritual things is due to plain old mental and spiritual LAZINESS! Why think about something deep? It's just easier not to think at all...

    This is one of the main problems with our generation. We are being systematically trained not to think; by the schools, by the media, and by the floods of brain-numbing technical toys churned out for us. Play Stations, i-pods, Game-boys... games, games, games. Let's take a stand against mindlessness and think!

    Jasmine

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