“May the beauty of the Lord our God rest on us (Ps 90:17).”
God created us with an intense desire for pleasure. He filled this world with good things like chocolate, sunsets, and sex. Why is that, and why did He make our desire for pleasure so strong? It is such a powerful craving that it can overwhelm us. We can spend too much money buying nice things. We can get addicted to food and sex. It’s as if that drive can’t be filled. Why is that?
Follow me on this one. The short and correct answer, but not the intuitive one, is Jesus is beautiful. Theologians use the word beauty in a very technical way to mean that God contains every desirable trait there is. Everything you love about this life like laughter, joy, community, etc. existed in the trinity prior to creation. The joy that you feel in sex, is felt thousands of times greater in the union that the members of the trinity have with each other. (This union is not sexual in any way. However, it is as equally false to think of the trinity as sexual as it is to think of them as having less pleasure and intimacy being together than two mere humans having sex).
The reason we love good things, is because God loved them in Himself first, and wanted to share them with us. So he designed our hearts to crave pleasure, and filled the earth with pleasurable things. He wants us to enjoy them but with a very particular purpose: To find Him.
He designed us so that we would give up lesser pleasure for greater ones. Give a child sweet fruit, and he’s happy. Give him the option between fruit and candy, and the child will pick candy every time.
The most pleasurable thing a person can experience is the completely manifested presence of God. When the Bible says that every knee will bow it is not because God is forcing people to the ground, but rather because we will see Him as He is. When you see God completely manifested your heart cannot not worship because that is how you are designed. It’s like a man who hasn’t eaten in a month seeing a banquet. He cannot not salivate because that is how he is designed.
God made the garden of Eden a paradise so that people would try every pleasurable thing, and then would experience Him, and say, “I love the ocean, the free fruit, and sex. But you are better. You are more desirable. Thank You for creating me so that I could experience this.” This is what worship is all about. We are meant to enjoy good things in life so that we can find God is better than them.
Every good thing on this planet is meant to be a signpost to point to Jesus. When we eat cupcakes the proper response is not, “those taste great.” But “If those taste great, Jesus must be better. I wonder what He is really like?” Pleasure is to drive us to wonder and worship.
Most people are not aware that creation is a sign post. That is why they crave beauty, but can never seem to capture it. The source of beauty is not found in stuff, but in Him. When we understand that fundamental fact, we understand our hearts have always longed for Jesus. The greatest mistake is to chase after art, cars, sunsets and women thinking that they can fill a craving for Jesus. Our hearts were designed to hunger for Him, so that we would find Him.
Once you understand that your hunger for pleasure is actually a hunger for God, it frees you from having to seek it in things you cannot or should not have, and directs your focus toward seeking encounters with Him through passionate worship, listening to His voice, and obedience. Once we find our joy in Him, we can amplify that joy by filling our lives with good things he has given us so we can worship Him more passionately. Pleasure and worship are supposed to kiss. We have to get this one right if we are to become everything He dreamed His church would be.
So take a moment and think about the most beautiful or pleasurable thing you ever experience.
Maybe it was a child’s birth or your wedding day.
Maybe it was a kiss.
Pick one, relive it in your mind until you can feel it, and then tell Jesus, “I enjoyed this, but you are better,” and worship Him.