Article VII, part 2

Truth or Dare (Article 7)

In our last post we read through a synopsis of the 1971 screen play, which was released as a movie by Paramount Pictures, entitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka 1

As we wrapped up the abridged version of the film, we began to see how mankind has become so preoccupied with selfish wants and desires that we end up treating God like some great, big, cosmic “candy man.” We all desire His sweet blessings, but most of us are not willing to join in on the selfless, bitter sufferings that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, calls us to endure.

In this article we will begin to look at the problem humanity has with being so very self serving, and we will reveal God’s remedy for overcoming this deadly disease. So as we begin, let’s consider one of the areas where symptoms of our selfish nature are most evident — the realm of advertising.

Most of us have seen, or heard, an advertisement that told us just how “special” and “important” we are. Flattery certainly can increase a business’ bottom line, especially when they seem to value our self worth. See if you recognize any of these famous slogans:

“Be All You Can Be” — U.S. Army, “Have It Your Way” — Burger King, “You Deserve A Break Today” — McDonald’s, “You Can” — Cannon, “Everything We Do Is Driven By You” — Ford Motor Company, “The Power To Be Your Best” — Apple Computers

Then there are the advertisements that appeal to our sense of entitlement:

“Be The First To Know” — CNN, “Two For Me, None For You!” — Twix (Mars, Inc.), “Nobody Better Lay A Finger On My Butterfinger” — Nestle’s Butterfinger, “Obey Your Thirst” — Sprite (Coca-Cola Co.), “This Bud’s For You” — Budweiser, “Think What We Can Do For You” — Bank of America, “Where Do You Want To Go Today?” — Microsoft, “Yours Is Here” — Dell Computers, “I Am What I Am” — Reebok, “I Love What You Do For Me” — Toyota, “It’s Everywhere You Want To Be” — Visa, “Because I’m Worth It” — L’Oreal

Selfishness 1 Selfishness is certainly a human trait, and placing Christ or others first unquestionably isn’t. And it’s not that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves — No — it’s when we over indulge in it that self servitude becomes deadly.

Our obsession with being selfish doesn’t just appear in commercial enticements, either, it appears in all areas of our lives. Above all other human traits, selfishness is mankind’s dominant characteristic. Think back over the previous six subjects discussed in this series. At the root of all of these topics is humanity’s selfishness.

What was the reason, from Article One, for people craving after money? Monetary wealth helps to ensure that our three most natural, and essential, needs are met on a regular basis — clothing, food, and shelter. When these “creature comforts” are not met regularly, then our happiness flees. Stress enters our lives and we lose our contentment. As we cease to thrive, our minds and bodies react in a variety of ways. Sometimes such struggles cause illness and disease to enter into our bodies. This natural desire for self-preservation, can open the door to selfishness.

In Article Two, it was our desire to be in control — to have power over our lives and our destinies — that also revealed another form of selfishness. Then there is our seeking to satisfy our appetite for personal pleasure, the topic of Article Three; also another form of selfishness. Even the subjects from Articles Four (religion), Five (philosophy), and Six (knowledge) reveal some form of humanity’s selfish nature.

When religion is practiced for the purpose of regulating and manipulating humanity, then the abuse of power being displayed becomes the act of sinful selfishness. God doesn’t long for our faith to be about legalistic rituals and traditions. God desires to experience a real and loving relationship with mankind. I’ll repeat this again, from Article Four, Jesus didn’t create you to be religious. Christ didn’t suffer and die for a pious philosophy. God’s son created you, lived as you, died for you, and conquered death — for you. True Christianity is not about religion; not at all. It’s about knowing and being known by the Creator of heaven and earth, Yahweh — the Lord, and savior, Jesus Christ.

The philosophies of the world are also steeped in selfish ideologies. Focusing on any thought process that pushes humanity to embrace who they are, just as they are, and working towards self improvement only if the individual deems it necessary. The whole idea of needing divine intervention, or giving God praise for human accomplishments, or acknowledging that there is a providential Creator in charge of the whole of creation, is rejected in lieu of mankind’s supposed ability to correct and right his/her own wrongs. This way of thinking leads into our topic from Article Six — knowledge.

Knowledge 3 Knowledge about the physical, or the mental, or even the spiritual, can be selfish in nature when it exists without understanding (Proverbs 18:1). God promises to grant all of humanity wisdom, if we will seek it and ask God for it (James 1:5). When God’s wisdom is given, the person who receives it enjoys real knowledge that is coupled with genuine understanding (Proverbs 2:6, 9:10; Isaiah 11:12; Colossians 1:9). If you possess knowledge that prevents God from ruling over your life, then you are holding knowledge that lacks understanding, and that is dangerous. It’s dangerous because knowledge that exists outside of God’s wisdom is self serving (Proverbs 18:1). And when we are self serving, then we become destructive to ourselves and all of creation (James 3:14-16).

Life is not about any one individual. It’s not about God and any one individual. Life is meant to be a community. A community made up of people fulfilling God’s divine purpose, will, and plan. A populous where humanity serves God, as He has commanded, and each other before we serve ourselves. Life is not about selfishness. No, life is about sacrificing ourselves in the service of God for others (Psalm 1:1-6, 119:36; Matthew 20:25-28; Philippians 2:3-4).

While leading mass at the Capital Mall, in Washington D.C. back in October of 1979, Pope John Paul II made this statement:

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

Godly wisdom from a godly man, but I’d like to take his statement one step further and say that the great danger for humanity, as a whole, is in when people close their hearts to God’s purpose, will, and plan, and become self serving.

In our series on worship, known as The Joshua Project, Article Four discussed how serving God, and others, before we serve ourselves can bring about true joy in our lives. The following is an excerpt from that post:

Joy 2 “Joy is not a temporal emotion, but an actual attribution of God’s character — a part of His being; a ‘fruit’ of His Spirit, according to Galatians chapter five, verse twenty-two . . . to understand fully what joy means, and to correctly apply it to our everyday life and worship, we will have to dissect the word . . . find what lies at its core. To do this we will literally take the word ‘joy’ and examine it letter by letter. When we are done, the acrostic we end up with will be a simple and applicable tool with which you can allow God to bring real joy to you daily.

The first meaning we can find at the core of real joy is in the letter ‘J.’ And that is true faith in the Lord, God Jehovah via a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ . . . we must recognize that sin has removed us from God’s glory (this is our current ‘fallen state’) and then realize that we need to be restored to the center and purpose of Jehovah (Isaiah 59:1-20) . . . We can’t experience true worship if we can’t exist in God’s presence.

We must also realize that we do not deserve Jehovah’s grace, but deserve death. ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23a). Everything in life costs us something; nothing is free . . . Life costs us, male and female alike, something of each other in order to conceive a new life (child). The creation of the human race cost God, as well. Life cost Him, in the beginning, a piece of Himself — the breath of life and His image or spirit (Genesis 1:26-27). Life also cost Him the loss of our companionship when we sinned in the garden, as sin ushered in death, and death costs us our own lives as payment and prevents us from living with God eternally (again, see Romans 6:23a). But it’s because the Lord God, Jehovah, loved life — human life — so very much, it ultimately cost Him the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

God longs to see mankind return to Himself and He knew humanity would never be able to do so on its own. Thus the reason God chose to pay our debt to sin (the wages of sin is death) by allowing His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die (John 3:16). Christ’s blood paid our debt (Hebrews 9:22b), and His sacrifice became God’s free gift of eternal life to all of mankind (Romans 6:23b) . . . To fully trust in Christ we must know that just as life is costly so, too, are our relationships. A relationship with Jesus Christ costs us submission. I know the word submission in today’s equal rights world is yet another negative term, but if we will understand it and accept submission for what it really is, a willful act (choice) of servile flattery (serving/acting out of love and respect) then we will experience the eternal joy that God intended us to have in our lives.

Service 1 Let’s ponder the definition of submission once more from the above paragraph: ‘a willful act (choice) of servile flattery (serving/acting out of love and respect).’ If you are married, try applying this idea to your relationship. If you do, your relationships will improve beyond your wildest dreams; your life will bloom and grow beyond what you ever imagined possible, and your relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will fill you with a joy that can only come from being centered on Him.

The second meaning we can find at the core of real joy comes from the letter “O” and is in two parts: be obedient in unity and serve others. The first, being obedient in unity (meaning that we should make every effort to be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ), is the key to understanding the second, which is to serve others . . . Realize, it’s Jesus Christ’s sacrifice (that we just talked about in discussing true faith) which allows for real unity (or peace) with other people. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two [Jew and gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’ (Ephesians 2:13-18)

We are called to do all we can to live unified, as one (at peace) with each other (Romans 12:18). We cannot be restored to the center of God’s will and purpose if we are not restored to each other, which brings us to the second part of this second meaning of joy.

Serving others is a crucial part to our receiving true joy from God and to our corporate worship. Obeying Jesus Christ’s call to serve mankind over self is a core truth we must grasp if we want to become the true worshipers that God intended us to be. Christ Himself came to serve us, so why should we not also serve as He commands (Mark 10:45; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)? Remember our (the bride’s) submission to the Bridegroom of heaven means we both serve Him as well as mimic, or imitate, Him. We can do this when we allow Christ to make His Spirit dominant within us (John 3:30; Ephesians 6:7) and when we follow His model of self sacrifice, which was to lay aside His heavenly throne to become human, live a human life, and die a sinner’s death so that we could be restored to God as holy and righteous (2 Corinthians 13:4; Philippians 2:6-8). Faith in Jehovah and submission to Jesus comes first, then obeying Christ by being united as one body (the church) and serving each other (the members of that body) comes second. So, what’s third? You!

The letter ‘Y’ represents being at peace within yourself, and is the last meaning we find at the core of true joy . . . This type of peace can be ours daily. Real peace comes to us, via the Holy Spirit, from the Lord God, Jehovah, and is a gift that awaits all who are faithful in submitting their whole life to His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 3:21-24).

praying hands 1 Our internal peace is also a by-product of righteousness (Psalm 85:10, 119:165; Isaiah 26:3, 32:17, 48:18). Righteousness and inner peace are ours through our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we do not allow God’s righteousness to grow and dwell in our daily lives, then we will not only live a life of stress and unrest, but we will put the Son’s reputation at risk . . . And returning once more to our first meaning of real joy (true faith via submitting to Jesus Christ’s headship over the body) by acknowledging the Son’s headship and submitting to serving Him, we gain peace within our own spirit (Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 12:11). Then by following (submitting to; serving and mimicking) Christ’s example to serve others, we remain at peace with our brothers and sisters resulting in our own spirit being at peace with God and ourselves (Ephesians 4:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 12:14).

This is joy! And joy’s core meaning: to allow God’s real joy into our daily lives and daily worship. Did you catch the acrostic from earlier? Here it is once more:

– J – True faith in the Lord, God Jehovah and submission to His Son, Jesus Christ.
– O – Obedient to be unified as one body (the church) and to serve others (the members of the body).
– Y – Be at peace within yourself by being faithful to submit to Christ and serve others.”

J.O.Y.Jesus, Others, and You — this is how we can avoid the dangerous lifestyle of selfishness.

I’ll say it again, the great danger for humanity, as a whole, is in when people close their hearts to God’s purpose, will, and plan, and become self serving. Henry Van Dyke, American author, educator, and clergyman, made this statement, “Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul.” (from his poem entitled The Prison and The Angel) Escape the prison, that is selfishness. Embrace life to the fullest by living with real joy in yours. Don’t let your self become, as Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “A house of many windows.” This famous Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer went on to complete his thought when he stated, “there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.”

God made us to desire love and affection from each other, and from God, Himself, but if we settle to receive “love” and “affection” by performing for artificial affection — if we settle to receive “acknowledgement” and human “connection” by entering into superficial relationships — if we utilize selfish tirades to hold on to endless cycles of cosmetic and fake companionships, then expect to be very unfulfilled. Expect to feel lost and alone. But if you seek genuine fulfillment, real love, and true affection, then find rest in knowing that God genuinely loves us more than any sincere human being ever could or would (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1). Enjoy the peace that comes from knowing that God provides our every need emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually (Philippians 4:19). We must all surrender our lives to the only One, who can bring us real, everlasting joy (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 4:7, 5:11, 16:11, 19:8, 28:7, 30:11). All it takes is our willingness to sacrifice our selves in the service of God for others.

I’ll close with this verse from Galatians, chapter five: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory Copyright © 1971 Paramount Pictures. Renewed Copyright © 1999 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved. TM ® & Copyright © 2001 by Warner Home Video, an AOL Time Warner Company 4000 Warner Blvd. Burbank, CA 91522. All rights reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

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Article VII, part 1

Truth or Dare (Article 7)

Childhood, for many, is full of wonderful tales of extraordinary adventures. Some are a bit odd, like Where the Wild Things Are, while others are more serious, like The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Kids Books 1 Most of the stories that were read to me as a child, or that I can recall reading myself, were chock-full of morals. Lessons about right-and-wrong that the author wanted his or her readers to learn about, and hopefully apply to their own lives.

The Poky Little Puppy, taught us to obey our Mothers, while the more complex — and thanks to political correctness, now controversial — stories of “Uncle Remus” taught us about the many character flaws of Br’er (Brother) Rabbit. Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, taught us that crime doesn’t pay at any age, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory showed us all what can happen to children who are spoiled by their parents, are left undisciplined, and are allowed to misbehave.

In 1971 this book was rewritten as a screen play and released, by Paramount Pictures, under the title Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The movie was directed by Mel Stuart, and stared Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket, Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, and Gene Wilder as the infamous “candy man,” Willy Wonka.

The plot is set up early on, by the revealing of a special contest that is being hosted by Mr. Wonka. The contest involved five golden tickets that were hidden inside five chocolate Wonka Bars. This chocolate candy five-some was randomly packed, along side the normal chocolate bars, and shipped to the many candy retailers around the globe. The lucky children who find the five golden tickets, along with the escort of their choice, would win a private tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory. A factory so exclusive that no one is ever seen going in, nor is any one ever seen coming out.

Willy Wonka 3 While the media feverishly tracks down each winner, we find that the five golden tickets made their way all over the western hemisphere. In Germany, Augustus Gloop (played by Michael Bollner), a preteen boy with an insatiable appetite, becomes the first to find a golden ticket. Veruca Salt (played by Julie Dawn Cole), an overindulged English girl, became the second to find one. Then the third child to find a golden ticket was a gum-chewing American girl, named Violet Beauregarde (played by Denise Nickerson), and the fourth child to find a valuable voucher was Mike Teevee (played by Paris Themmen. This little guy was a television junky from the U.S., and the final child to find a golden ticket was economically deprived Charlie Bucket, who lived in the small, unnamed, European town where Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory existed.

As the names of the five children became known to the public, a man claiming to be Arthur Slugworth (Willy Wonka’s arch rival in the candy business; played by Günter Meisner) begins approaching each child to offer them a large sum of money. This cash prize would go to the child that manages to get a hold of Mr. Wonka’s latest candy creation, known as the Everlasting Gobstopper, and pass it on to him.

On the day of the grand tour, the winning quintet stood anxiously outside the huge metal gates of the mysterious chocolate factory, awaiting the arrival of their secretive host. As Willy Wonka makes his appearance, the children leap with excitement as they are now about to journey into the ever elusive candy factory of the world’s greatest candy maker. But before their trek would begin, they each had to sign a contract dictating to them that they could not touch, taste, eat, or take anything from the factory without permission from Mr. Wonka. If this contract is obeyed to the letter, then each obedient child would receive a lifetime supply of candy. It’s not long into the tour, though, that we see each child — one-by-one — fall into temptations grasp. Breaking their contract with the “candy man,” and finding themselves in one dangerous predicament after another.

The first to go, was the first to find a golden ticket — Augustus Gloop. While in the “Chocolate Room,” which was basically an indoor eatable park, the children were enjoying some wonderfully sweet treats — with Mr. Wonka’s permission, of course — when Augustus’ gluttony got the better of him. He was sampling the one thing they were told not to touch — the chocolate river. He had leaned in too far, while enjoying the sweet stream, and fell in. He was quickly pulled under by the current that constantly churned the chocolate river and ended up being pumped right into the “fudge room,” and out of the factory.

The second to go was little miss Violet Beauregarde, who fell victim to her obsession with chewing gum, while in the “Inventing Room.” She grabbed a piece of experimental gum, that was to have held all the flavors of a three-course meal, and quickly popped it into her mouth. As she described each flavor with intensity and enjoyment, she began to transform into a ripe, round blueberry. Mr. Wonka signals to his dwarf-like workers, known as Oompa-Loompas, to come and roll her down to be squeezed in a juicer and removed from the factory.

Willy Wonka 2 As the three remaining children work their way through the factory tour, they find themselves in a room of giant geese. The geese, as they soon find out, are the infamous geese that lay golden eggs. Veruca Salt, being the spoiled little girl that she was, quickly begins to demand that she be allowed to have one of the geese. Willy Wonka refuses her request which sends Miss Salt into a tirade of pre-pubes-ant furor. Her father begins offering Mr. Wonka large sums of money for one of the geese, so that his daughter’s tantrum can be quieted, but this was to no avail. Veruca becomes all the more enraged and ends up falling into an unlit furnace, meant to consume all the bad eggs laid by the geese, and thus becomes the third child to be escorted from the factory.

The fourth child to fall victim to his own voracious appetite for self-pleasure is our petite, American television addict — Mike Teevee. As Mr. Wonka begins to explain his invention for shrinking Wonka Bars, known as Wonkavision, Mike begins to exclaim that it works just like a TV transmission. He quickly pushes his way toward the machine and, upon starting it, places himself onto the platform that is meant to hold the giant Wonka Bars. To his Mother’s shock, her son is shrunk to the size of her thumb. Mr. Wonka summons the Oompa-Loompas to take the extra small Mr. Teevee to the “Stretching Room,” and then escort him off of the premises. Five children began the journey, but now only Charlie Bucket remained.

As Charlie and his grandfather follow Willy Wonka towards the end of the tour, they are surprised by the cold benediction and quick exit of Mr. Wonka into his office. Puzzled why they were not led out properly, nor given the life time supply of candy, both Grandpa Joe and Charlie quietly enter into the office of the “candy man.”

Inside the office, Grandpa Joe confronts Mr. Wonka about the grand prize. Willy Wonka is quite perturbed at their intrusion, and quickly responds by reminding them of the rules. You see, while on the tour, both Grandpa Joe and Charlie had snuck a taste of a strange gaseous concoction called Fizzy-Lifting Drinks. This breach of contract voided Charlie’s right to the award. Grandpa Joe, now infuriated, storms toward the exit and demands that Charlie follow along. Charlie, who had been watching the altercation between Mr. Wonka and his Grandfather, bows his head in shame. He knew he had done wrong, and he knew Willy Wonka had every right to be upset.

An Everlasting Gobstopper had been given to each of the children that had visited the “Inventing Room,” and Charlie’s Grandpa had every intention of selling it to Mr. Arthur Slugworth just as soon as he could contact him. But Charlie had other intentions, as he quietly places his sample of the newest of the Wonka candies on Mr. Wonka’s desk. With deep repentance in his voice, Charlie apologizes and walks towards the exit.

Willy Wonka 4 Slowly Willy Wonka reaches over to touch the hard candy laid upon his desk. “Show signs of good deed in a weary world,” we hear Mr. Wonka whisper. And with a quick turn in his chair, shouts:

“Charlie, you won! You did it; you did it!”

You see, the “candy man” wasn’t looking for perfection in his visitors. He was simply looking for honesty, and selflessness in their character. The other four children were selfish brats looking to be gratified to their hearts content, but Charlie — who understood the importance of doing for others — sacrificed his wants for the good of Mr. Wonka and his chocolate factory. So, not only did Charlie win the lifetime supply of candy, he also won the entire Wonka candy factory. This is what God is waiting for us to realize. God desires to give us so much more than just “candy.”

In the final minutes of the film, as Willy Wonka reveals to Charlie that he is giving him the entire chocolate factory, Mr. Wonka makes this statement, “Who can I trust to run the factory when I leave, and take care of the Oompa-Loompas for me? Not a grown-up. A grown-up would want to do everything his own way — not mine. That’s why I decided a long time ago that I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child. To whom I can tell all my most precious candy making secrets.” God longs to reveal His secrets of joy, life, and love to us, but we must cast off our “grown-up” ideologies, and self-centered desires. Jesus said, in Matthew, chapter eighteen, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

God truly desires to bless us abundantly, but humanity has become so preoccupied with selfish wants and desires (especially those of us living in the western hemisphere) that we end up treating God like some great, big, cosmic “candy man.” We all desire His sweet “chocolaty” blessings, but how many of us are willing to join in on the selfless, bitter sufferings that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, calls us to endure. If we will choose to suffer for Christ now, in this life, God will open up the treasures of Heaven to us.

I’ll leave you with these words that Jesus spoke in the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to Luke:

“Then He [Christ] said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)

In part two, of this article on selfishness, we will look more deeply into what it means to be self-centered versus Christ-centered. We will attempt to cover all of the various ways in which selfishness can make an appearance in our lives, and reveal the way Christ would have us be.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory Copyright © 1971 Paramount Pictures. Renewed Copyright © 1999 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved. TM ® & Copyright © 2001 by Warner Home Video, an AOL Time Warner Company 4000 Warner Blvd. Burbank, CA 91522. All rights reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article III, part 2

Truth or Dare (Article 3)

In part one, of Article III, we began looking at what can happen to us when we allow wanton, hedonistic pleasure to rule our lives. We learned, just as the fabled character Pinocchio did, that there are consequences to satisfying our ungodly pleasures. God, however, has provided a way for us to be free from such wrongful desires. All we need do is believe in the LORD, Jesus Christ, and live according to His plan. Pleasure 5 In this article, we will look into the various types of pleasure.

There are pleasures of the mind, which consist of:

Solving the unknown (appeasing ones curiosity)
Using a unique skill to its full potential
Nurturing someone or something, or being nurtured by someone or something
Being apart of a community (a.k.a.: sociality; finding companionship, etc.)

There are pleasures of the body, which include any stimulation of the five senses:

Sight
Smell
Sound
Taste
Touch

And, there are the pleasures of the soul, which incorporate the nine “fruit of the spirit,” found in Galatians chapter five, verses twenty-two and twenty-three:

Faithfulness
Gentleness
Goodness
Joy
Kindness
Love
Patience
Peace
Self-control

Our pleasures can be to our advantage, and promote a healthy lifestyle. It can also bring about disastrous consequences, when acted upon without discretion or outside of God’s boundaries.

One example of a healthy pleasure is proper sleep. A lack of sleep has been found to cause anxiety, depression, and weight gain. You see, our bodies use sleep to perform important routine maintenance at a cellular, and metabolic, level. Proper sleep boosts our body’s immune system, and our brain’s means to store, and recall, details from our memories. Approximately seven to nine hours of sleep, each night, is necessary. Too little or too much sleep and our health begins to decline.

A second example of a healthy pleasure is consuming foods that you enjoy, and that also have healthy benefits to them. Something like chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Did you know that chocolate contains powerful antioxidants? It seems that cacao, which is taken from the cocoa bean during the manufacturing process, has been shown to improve the flexibility of blood vessels. This flexing of the blood vessels help us reduce our risk of heart disease, and heart attack, but note: not all chocolate is going to be beneficial. You must choose only dark chocolate, and make certain that it contains a minimum of seventy-five percent cacao, and you must limit yourself to one or two squares a day.

A third example of a healthy pleasure, and one in which I will focus the remainder of this article on, is sex. Healthy, monogamous sex is probably the most incredible experience that humanity will encounter in a life time. When men and women, by way of the marriage relationship, participate in regular, monogamous sexual relations, they experience an amazing form of pleasure that appeals to their entire beings. Rarely can a pleasure, other than sexual pleasure, appeal to a person’s body, mind, and soul. Though human sexual relations primarily function as a means of procreation, God also carefully and concisely designed it to be a deeply satisfying form of pleasure.

Healthy, monogamous sex, between a married man and woman, is also a special kind of physical work out; a beautiful act of tandem exercise that can burn as much as eighty-five calories per coupling. Pleasure 4 This physical exercise is unlike any other, as it results in the intermingling (or combining) of two bodies into one, and it results in the release of “feel-good” endorphins through out the human brain. When these endorphins release, the couple becomes less likely to experience depression, individually, and they are less likely to experience dissatisfaction with their marriage relationship, due to their deeply intimate connection with their spouse. A healthy, monogamous sexual relationship, within the confines of marriage, will not solve all the problems that a couple will face in their lifelong alliance, but it does bind them in such a way as to help strengthen their resolve to work through these issues.

Another benefit for married couples who participate in healthy, monogamous sexual relations, at a minimum of once or twice a week, is that their immune responses are improved. According to the Oxford Journals, and other medical magazines, our sex hormones positively affect our immune response toward such illnesses as the common cold, flu, and other more serious infections. It’s a pretty interesting arrangement, isn’t it?

Our bodies actually produce higher levels of an antibody (a.k.a.: immunoglobulin, or IGA) that can thwart colds, and flus, where those very germs most often enter the body. Ironically, our bodies can use the very act that can transmit germs and disease (sexual intercourse) to help prevent such illnesses from manifesting. This ultimately allows men and women, who are married, the freedom to enjoy more intimacy. God wants us to enjoy our spouses, passionately. He designed us that way; it’s only when we abandon God’s design for human sexuality that sexual intercourse becomes painful, and dangerous.

Did you know that the number one way to get a sexually transmitted disease (a.k.a: STD) is by having sex with multiple partners? Sounds odd to have to say, but societies all around the globe live as though this were some type of myth, or fairy tale. In fact, ninety-five percent of U.S. citizens under the age of thirty are sexually active. Thirty-three percent of the men polled, and nine percent of the women, stated that they had more than ten sexual partners in their lifetime. It is also believed that one out of every four non-married, sexually active Americans, by the age of twenty-four, will have contracted an STD. Furthermore, about sixty-five million people in the U.S. are now living with an incurable STD — sixty-five million! Bottom line, STDs such as Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhea, Human Papillomavirus, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, as well as other life-threatening conditions (ex.: prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and oral cancer), are more common among people who have sexual intercourse with more than one person in a lifetime.

Sexual relationships affect more that just our physical bodies, though. As stated earlier, they also affect our minds and souls. Many psychologists, and religious counselors, have found that having multiple sexual encounters with a variety of partners places men and women at a higher threat of making risky choices on a regular basis. This cycle of making dangerous choices can lead to a life filled with unhealthy and risky sexual experiences (a.k.a.: homosexuality, pornography, prostitution, and other perverse sex acts), multiple unsuccessful relationships, which can nurture a lower self-esteem, and even lead to manic depression. Again, when we abandon God’s design for human sexuality, sexual intercourse becomes painful, and dangerous.

King Solomon, known as the wisest ruler in the history of the world, wrote this concerning uncontrolled, physical pleasure:

I [King Solomon] thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly — my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-11)

To gain worldly pleasures, of any kind, will never bring about real contentment, or gratification. No amount of excessive laughter, drinking of alcohol, or reckless abandon will ever fully appease us. Completing some great project, for yourself, won’t satisfy; owning a successful business, or some huge ranch, or farm, won’t fulfill. Access to the world’s richest treasures can’t gratify, nor can the world’s greatest library of music. Not even multiple sexual encounters with the world’s most beautiful people can quench what you long for — No. True fulfillment only comes through experiencing pleasures, not as the world defines them, but as God has defined them.

Worldly pleasures look similar to many of the pleasures God provides us. They appeal to our minds and bodies, but what the world can’t gratify is our souls. Only God can supply that kind of gratification. Note Proverbs chapter ten, verse twenty-three:

A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.

You see, when we seek to please ourselves, and ignore God’s plan for us to be rightly satisfied, we become nothing more than ignorant jerks. Dumb as a wooden stump with no true happiness to be found. This is what King Solomon was trying to say. Though he sought after foolishness, God allowed Solomon to remain wise enough to know it was indeed foolishness. Though he looked to gratify his own selfish desires, God allowed Solomon to remain wise enough to know that self-gratification always comes with a consequence and those consequences can never be avoided. Sexual pleasure, that is intended to please one’s self, will never really satisfy. Sexual intimacy requires two people, one male and one female, for a reason. That reason is for the man to gratify the woman, under the blessing of marriage, and for the woman to please the man. This is as our Creator intended.

I’m reminded of an interview from 1975. In this interview, Phyllis George, from the old CBS NFL Today show, asked Roger Staubach — then the starting quarterback for the American football team Dallas Cowboys — to reveal what he felt about his image as an “All American, straight guy” (he was very well known as a “clean-cut,” family man). Roger’s image was in stark contrast to another very popular American football quarterback, named Joe Namath. Joe, who also had been recently interviewed by Phyllis George, had become just as famous for his playboy lifestyle as he had become for his ability to quarterback the New York Jets. Roger Staubach responded by saying:

Roger Staubach You interviewed Joe Namath — everyone in the world compares me to Joe Namath. You know, as — you know, the idea that off the field he’s single, bachelor, “swinging.” I’m married, and family, and — you know, he’s having all the fun, [a smile crosses Roger’s face] and — I enjoy sex as much as Joe Namath [Phyllis begins to laugh], only I do it with one girl. You know, I mean it’s still fun.

A monogamous relationship is not a life sentenced to lamentation and sorrow; not at all. Sexual intimacy, as God intended, is free of disease, despair, danger, and worry; it’s both exciting and healthy.

True pleasure — the kind that really brings joy to a person’s whole being — can only exists when we experience it God’s way. And if we will, then we can also bring pleasure to our Creator, and others. You see, genuine pleasure is not about self-gratification at all, but about gratifying God and the other people in our lives. Let’s all strive to drink from the cup of Christ, and let’s all live merrier lives.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article I

Contemporary Christian music (a.k.a. CCM), which stems from the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s, has introduced many talented performers/singers over its 40+ year history. And like any of the other industry genres, there are only a few artists whose music has stood the test of time. Carman is one of those artists. Though he’s now primarily seen and heard on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (a.k.a. TBN), Carman’s music is still known for its varied styles and strong Gospel message.

When he was touring, Carman (full name: Carman Domenic Licciardello) was a charismatic sight to behold. His concerts were incredible experiences; more like a rock-n-roll, Billy Graham Crusade than a church event. After each concert, hundreds of people would work their way down to the counseling area to accept Christ; often as many as 5,000 in an evening. Amazingly, admission to a Carman concert was usually free and an offering generally was taken.

Carman could fill the largest of stadiums, too, and did. In fact, Carman holds the record for the largest Christian music concert ever. It took place in Dallas, Texas, at the famed Texas Stadium (former home of the Dallas Cowboys). But more than that, if you take the mega stadium acts that played the famed landmark (Pink Floyd, U2, Madonna, The Jackson Five, Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Metallica, et al.) you’ll see that, as the newspapers noted, the one act that drew the highest attendance in Texas Stadium’s history was Carman, with 71,132 in attendance.

Carman’s ability to cover any style of music, from Gospel/R&B to Rock-a-Billy, from ballads to Hip-Hop, made him appealing to all walks-of-life. The name “Carman” assured listeners that his albums would take its listeners on a journey that wasn’t just an all-American cultural trip through popular musical styles, but was also a deep walk into all things theological. Take the song Yahweh, as an example. It’s from Carman’s 1983 album Sunday’s On The Way:

Verse 1:
Call thy walls salvation,
Call thy gates praised.
There’ll be no moon to light the nights,
No sun to light the days.
For God shall be thy glory,
An everlasting light.
The Lord shall reign forever,
In power and in might.

Chorus:
His name is Yahweh.
The Lord is one. (repeat)
Alpha and Omega,
Beginning and The End.
The Word, Who reigns forever.
Yahweh. Redeemer. Friend.

Verse 2:
His people shall be righteous,
They shall possess this land.
The branches of His plantings,
And the works of His hands.
For from a small beginning,
A mighty nation grows.
And in the fullness of His time,
The whole wide world will know (repeat chorus).

There, in simple melody, is a lyric so full of the truth of who our Creator is — Yahweh! Hear this song and you’ll have these words embedded in your mind. Meditate on them and you’ll grow in this lyric’s basic truth; Yahweh, is everything humanity needs and so much more. Let’s look deeper into the meaning of the name “Yahweh,” one of the three primary names of God (Elohim/Deity).

First, before we can understand the names of God, we must understand the nature of Hebrew names. Hebrew names are not meant to be just formal titles used to identify one person from another, as they are in our western culture. No, they are actually sentences within themselves. It’s very similar, in fact, to how Native-Americans named their children. You know, names like “Crazy Horse,” “Sitting Bull,” “Black Hawk,” etc. which weren’t exactly complete sentences, like the Hebrew names were, but descriptions of the individual’s perceived character traits. Our Creator’s name, Yahweh, is a full sentence and it’s the shortest sentence in any language. So, what is this short sentence? What does the name “Yahweh” mean, in English? The answer is, stated simply — “I AM.”

Let’s look back into the Old Testament book of Exodus when the Almighty first declared His name to be Yahweh — I AM. In Exodus chapter 3, Moses is seen on the mountain of God talking to the angel of the Lord, who is speaking from a bush that appears to be burning, but it’s not being consumed. It’s here that God tells Moses that He has chosen him to return to Egypt and command Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free. To which Moses immediately begins his argument with God that he can’t go for various reasons, one of which is Moses doesn’t know God’s name. We pick up in verse 13-14:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His Name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM Who I AM [Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh]. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM [Yahweh] has sent me to you.’”

Many scholars believe that Yahweh, actually spelled YHWH in the Hebrew language, is the third person singular form of the ancient Hebrew verb “haya,” which means in English “to be.” The basic driving force of this verb describes a state of existence. As the third person form of haya, the name “Yahweh” literally means “He [God] is,” or “He [Elohim] exists.” It’s a description of who God Almighty, is. He is “The Self-Existing One.” Ponder that thought for a moment (selah/pause). He is “The Self-Existing One.” How’s that for a name!? God is “The Self-Existing One.” It blows the mind a bit, doesn’t it? God reveals to us in His name, the name “Yahweh,” that He always has been and always will be. God (Elohim/Deity) was not created or birthed, but exists. Allow me to reiterate this truth — God (Elohim) has always existed, and will always exist. Truly awesome!

Every name of God revealed to the Hebrews, as you will see throughout this study, was to reveal some portion of Himself and His nature to mankind. And in doing so, our Lord, Yahweh, calls us to be in awe of Him, of Who He is — to worship Him.

If you will recall from our study on worship, known as The Joshua Project, we learned that God has laid out a formula for calling His own into worshiping Him. The formula is simply this: if we will come to know the attributes of God, and also acknowledge those attributes in our lives, then God will produce the actions in us that equal true worship.

(Knowing the attributes of God + acknowledging and applying the attributes of God in us = true worship)

The same becomes true of knowing and understanding the meaning of God’s various other names. God (Elohim) is the Lord, Yahweh — “I AM.” The Self-Existing One. This name of God describes who He is, and discovering who the Almighty is will call us — even move us — to worship Him!

(Knowing God’s names + learning and understanding the meanings of God’s names = true worship)

When God revealed His name to mankind, it was not merely so we could know what to call Him (i.e. give Him a formal title), but it was to reveal to us all something about Himself, His nature, and His attributes and thus call His creation to worship Him, The Self-Existing One.

Once more, everybody — selah!

His Name Is . . . by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Yahweh lyrics by Gloria Gaither and music written by Carman. Copyright © 1983 CBS Inc.

If you want to use these lyrics, please contact the authors, artists or labs.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.