Fleeing From Sin, And Fleeing To Joy
In the battle raging for our affections, we are called to flee from sin. However, even fleeing from sin doesn’t change the fact that we were trying to fulfill some sort of need in the first place. If you turn and run away from sinful temptation but find in the end that you are still left with a void, you are not alone. Therefore, we must not only flee from sin, but we must also flee to something else.
In the next several paragraphs, I want to make the case that whether you are a worship leader, church pastor, or soccer mom, each of us was created as needy creatures and Jesus offers us true and lasting satisfaction for every need. Every need. When fleeing from sin, we must also flee to satisfaction in Jesus.
What Satisfaction Is and What It Isn’t
First, we need to establish what satisfaction looks like so we can make sure we are pursuing a true and right satisfaction.
Satisfaction, in the deepest fulfilling way, is found in glorifying God with every aspect of our lives. That is because God has made us in a way that glorifying Him and finding our deepest satisfaction are as one. We don’t have to chose between the two. That is how He has set it up.
Now at this point I realize that this may all seem very theoretical, so let’s move from the abstract into a practical way of living this out.
Take the young man resisting sexual temptation. Before experiencing any freedom, he must rightly understand that there is more joy to be found in resisting temptation than in gratifying the flesh. There is greater joy on the receiving end of the sustaining grace our God promises to give when we hold back from sin.
To be clear, while there is greater joy in abstaining from sin, the resistance is not an end in of itself. It is a means by which we receive the real joy of knowing and trusting Jesus. The sense of accomplishment that comes with self denial in itself, or being pleased with yourself for not doing something, is not actually joy — it’s vanity.
At this point you may say, “What then does joy and satisfaction in Jesus look like?”
We’ll get there in a second, but first let’s lay a foundation for all of this:
- We are needy.
- By nature, we are going to try to fulfill our needs with sinful avenues.
- In our own strength, we cannot resist sinful temptation.
- Our neediness was created by God for a purpose.
The Problem of Sin
If we only view the Bible’s commands not to sin as God testing our obedience, then we miss the heart of God completely. While worldly wisdom may view God’s commands as limiting our pleasure, it is actually God inviting us to drink from a deeper well of satisfaction.
C.S. Lewis demonstrates the empty promise of sin in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” when, no matter how many pounds of Turkish Delight Edmund eats, it is never enough. In the end he is left sick but wanting more of it.
This is sin. For most of us, we have found that it never delivers lasting satisfaction quite like it advertised. We have seen that it is empty, but why then do we go on sinning?
As I challenge myself with this question, I think the answer lies in the fact that I don’t always believe that satisfaction in God is all-satisfying.
Consider the woman at the well in John 4. She has been married five times and the man that she is living with now is not her husband, and she is thirsty.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. ”The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:10-15 ESV)
The woman thinks that jumping from man to man will quench her thirst, but it doesn’t. She believes there is satisfaction for her deepest longings in this world, but there isn’t.
Look at what Jeremiah says about this condition:
For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)
We drink water because we are thirsty. Our souls are so so thirsty. The woman is looking to quench her soul’s thirst, but everywhere she has looked, there is no water. No satisfaction. None of it is lasting and if any of it were, she wouldn’t be jumping from man to man to man.
This is us, constantly buying into the lie that sin will actually be a lasting satisfaction this time. But sin never delivers.
A God-Designed Neediness
We are eternally thirsty, and Jesus offers us living water. Our neediness isn’t just the result of the fall, for even Adam was created to drink deep satisfaction from God. This is still God’s will for each of us today, that we would be dependent and fully satisfied in Him. When we sin, it is often because we forget this and believe that choosing to sin in that moment will be gratifying. And maybe it is for a moment, but that moment does not last long.
Let’s imagine for a minute: what if we really did treasure Jesus as all gratifying? It is possible.
Here is what my prayers have looked like lately:
God, would you make me to be so satisfied in Jesus that my desires for sin and things of this world would become foolish to me because I have tasted TRUE satisfaction in Jesus and can now see the empty promise of satisfaction that sin advertises?
Is the purpose in life to glorify God? Yes. How do we most glorify God? By being completely satisfied in Him, realizing that the neediness we have is designed by our Creator in order to be fulfilled by Jesus. Glorifying God is praying to Him, telling Him what He’s really worth:
Oh God, I am so lonely right now and all I want is to be married like all of my friends are, but Jesus, knowing you is even greater than marriage or anything in this world that I think I lack. Knowing you is knowing true pleasure and joy!
Glorifying God is that moment when the plan begins to formulate in your mind that you’re going to pick up your phone and start fishing for websites, and you remind yourself — before you even touch your phone — that although you think there is satisfaction in the bodies of those people on those websites, it isn’t a real satisfaction. It’s an empty promise.
So what does joy have to do with satisfaction? Joy is united with a trust that Jesus is the reason that we were created. It is seeing Him in all of His attributes and beholding Him as truly glorious. It is not only beholding Him, but enjoying Him. He is the delight of our souls and the fulfillment of our deepest longings. Not only that, but for those who know Him, He has given us an eternity to enjoy Him. Joy is trusting that Jesus is who He says He is.
Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14 ESV)
God is not withholding pleasure from you. He is inviting you into a deeper, more lasting pleasure that is found nowhere else outside of Him.
If I have nothing else, but I have Jesus, then I have everything because in Him is the fullness of joy and satisfaction forevermore!
I pray that we would be worship leaders, pastors, and soccer moms that drink deep satisfaction from Jesus. That we would count everything as loss compared to knowing Him. That we would experience Him as truly satisfying in a way that would cause us not only to flee from sin but then also to flee to immeasurable joy and satisfaction in Him.