Theology

The Immortal Dead; The Continued Consciousness of Those Who Sleep, and God’s Continued Mercy. Part The Second.

the-deluge-by-francis-danby

(The Deluge, by Francis Danby)

In the last segment, I addressed the world’s secular view of death and the afterlife, or lack of view rather, and what that view leads to. Annihilationism leads to the destruction of human morals, religion, and therefore, humanity itself. In this segment and the next however, I shall address the worldview that matters, and the one that makes sense of the death and destruction of this world; that of the resurrection. In order to rightly explain this, it is necessary to go back to the beginning; Genesis.

In the first few chapters, the creation of all things is poetically explained, as well as presented in philosophical detail. Much of what is written there is written not so that we could know the details of how things looked, sounded, felt, or how things happened, but rather so that we could know how to think about God and His intentions for creation in a theological, philosophical way. What gives rise to an unrealistic, humanistic, or nihilistic worldview, is a misinterpretation of these passages of scripture.

The first error, is reading it symbolically, that the things stated here are meant to convey metaphorical, or “spiritual” realities. An example might go thus, “God did not literally make the universe in six days, Genesis says that so that we would have a framework for a weekly Sabbath day of rest after six days of work so that we don’t burn out in ministry” or some such nonsense. God actually did the things it says. He is to be credited with the creation of all things in six 24 hour days of creation. Creation of the planets and stars, of male and female, of angel and demon, of plant and animal, and more to the point, He is the creator both of life and death.

The hackles rise on the necks of many conservative Christian denominations nationwide when that phrase is heard. “God is responsible for death? That is blasphemy! Death is the fault of Satan and the sin of Man, not of God! God gives life! Not death!” This reasoning, while Biblically wrong, has a logic to it. They are trying to uphold the holiness and arbitrary goodness of God, while ignoring the justice of God, and they do not realize that they are creating a paradox. The reason why this is so important to oppose, is that by interpreting the Bible this way, they are unwittingly giving more credit to the power of the Devil, and the Power of Man, and the Power of sin, than to God Himself.

The question I always tend to bring up in the conversation about why God allows so much suffering and death in the world, (I admit with something of a devilish grin) is this; who is responsible for bringing death to the world? I grin at them maniacally until they answer me, and almost always they answer with the good old argument that “It’s Satan’s fault” or “It’s the sin of man’s fault,” sometimes with an impudent “of course,” thrown in there for good measure. That idea, while long held to be true in Sunday schools around the world, is a simple misinterpretation of the Word, a seemingly insignificant error which in fact causes the entire foundation of the grand masterpiece of the Gospel to fall apart with a deafening crash if believed in unconditionally.

So who caused death to come into the world? The answer is simple; God did. It was God, and no one else, who chose to make death a consequence of sin, and He instituted this consequence before ever man sinned, and before Satan ever entered the Garden of God. Not only that, it was He and He alone, who intentionally caused sin to be taken into effect once man sinned. I hear death and sin spoken of as basically interchangeable, or that death is just a symptom of sin, like the ripple that is caused when a stone is thrown in water, “it affects everything it touches.” This is bad theology, but even worse, it is sacrilegious to think of death as the product of sin, because according to the scriptures, sinners would live on forever in sin, unpunished by the consequence of death if God had not decided to make the rule of law that those who sin will also surely die, and then also enforced it by banishing men from the tree of life. That is the only true, and right way to view death, as God’s punishment for sin, as well as the inhibitor for man’s sinful ways.

People die every day because God chose for them, in His perfect will, to die. This is a hard truth to deal with because death is so negative, and we tend to attribute all negativity to Satan, and all positivity to God. It grieves Him to put man to death, but it is the wisest choice when faced with a disobedient, and depraved humanity. That was not His plan in the beginning, and Man did make an avoidable mistake when He ate the fruit of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, but ever since then, God has willfully enforced the punishment on all of creation that “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

Later in Romans 8:20 it states, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope…” It was God who did this of His own accord, and it was just and right for all men to die for the sins of Adam, and it still is. It is God’s own goodness that He subjects man to death, for can you even imagine a sinful human race, who are both hopelessly sinful as well as immortal, continuing to live for themselves while hopelessly flawed? We can see a taste of that in Genesis before the flood, a time when men lived anywhere from 300 to 900 years of age depending upon how well they lived, and it says of that powerfully vigorous generation, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

What did God do then? He did not allow this sort of evil to continue unchecked. So how did he stop them? His answer was death. God’s answer to the blight of sinfulness, is the intervention of unnatural death, for men was meant to live forever, but by the grace of God, the punishment of death was instituted over every immortal human, that men might learn to fear the Lord. Pagans and atheists both argue with perceived authority that because there is suffering in the world, God does not exist. My argument, is that if death did not exist in this sinful world, then I would agree with them that God does not exist, and in this way, death itself is a testimony of the existence, and goodness, of God.

But the type of death that we see in the world, is not the only death that there is. All we experience on the earth in our mortal generation is the death of the body, and the passing of the spirit of those we know and love. The body breaks down, either by disease or killing (yes, those are the only two sorts of death there are, because dying of natural causes only means dying of diseases which we do not have a cure for) and the personality of the person we knew is no longer there. They are, for all intents and purposes, gone, and there is no one else like them in all the earth. This experience of ours understandably gives rise to this simplistic notion that when death comes, the spirit is destroyed, and they no longer exist. As I mentioned in the last blog post, Christians cannot, if properly informed by the Word, believe this however, for Christ’s salvation is not salvation from non-existence, but from that which Christ Himself calls “The wrath of God against sinners.”

Those who believe upon Christ are saved from the wrath of God, as the gospel states. If that is true, then why do Christians still die around us? This is a very apparent phenomenon. The most holy, devoted, and astute Christians still experience death, and their bones are in the ground where they are buried. So what Christ meant when He said “the wrath of God” must mean something other than physical death. So what does He mean by it?

The fact that all men die is one that cannot be argued against, the wicked and the just fall prey to it, and as I mentioned before, death or the destroyer is seen an actual angel who comes to take away the life from our bodies multiple times in the Bible. This is Christian doctrine, although one which is never spoken of much from the pulpits. How the angel of death does this, and whether or not he, she, or it comes to every human in turn is not told to us specifically, but I think it is safe to say that the angel of death/the destroyer would not be named as such if he, she, or it were not in charge of bringing death itself. This is simply an interesting aside, and one which is only meant to show us the power of God over His angels, any one of which can destroy an entire army of humans without our knowledge.

My point is, that the Gospel is not meant to save us from immediate physical death. God may grant us miracles which could delay death for a time, for which we should definitely pray and expect an answer, but God’s salvation, and His Spirit, are not given to us for the purpose of health and wellness. What He saves us from in this age, and what He subjected His own son to, and what His son knowingly put Himself through, is the experience of estrangement from God, and the suffering of the curse which will follow us into the afterlife if we do not repent and cling to Christ as the sacrifice for our personal sins, and our eternal Bridegroom, King, and Judge. There will be a day, when Christ returns with the multitude of His Godly ones to destroy evil and bring the Kingdom to earth, and then there will be no more crying, dying or pain, but that day has been coming for over 2,000 years, and while the time is nearer than before, we will experience this cycle of death and pain all the way up until that day comes. Christ’s sacrifice made a way for the transformation of the heart now, and the transformation of the body then.Until that day, we must struggle with this issue of death, and strive to understand it.

So what is the Gospel meant to save us from? Well, in this interim period between the fall of Adam and the Second Coming of Christ, we have a choice to make as to how we shall live, and what we believe. This choice will determine the way in which God shall judge us when death comes. The choice is obedience, or disobedience, pride, or humility, love or hate, to believe in the Words of Christ implicitly, or disbelieve Him and believe the words of men and our own minds. This life we have is both a test, and a chance. A test as to whether or not we deserve to make it to heaven, and a chance to get there even though we do not deserve to. This is the goal of salvation; intimacy with God, and if God is in heaven, then that is where we will want to be.

So even if we do believe in God we still have to reckon with this painful thing called death, which is both a hindrance to, and an aid to our intimacy with God. This shows us what is most important to God. If what He cared about most was our immediate health and comfort, then we definitely would already have it. (This is the mental framework from which atheists and agnostics begin when positing the opinion that if God were good then suffering would not exist, that God is meant to make us immediately happy.) What He cares about, is that He have a corporate Bride, a group of people who will choose to love Him rather than ourselves, and to accept physical death, and the death of our sinful desire, gracefully, and lovingly, so that we might be shining denizens of love and light who continually shine brighter for all eternity. That is His goal, and that is what He gives to those who follow Him through the trials and pains of life and death.

What follows then, is the explanation of what happens to those who do not follow Him, who do not love, who do not believe, and do not die to themselves gracefully. This necessitates it’s own blog post, and the explanation of both of the Old Testament ideas of Sheol and Gehenna, and their references in the New Testament.

So in the next blog post, I will continue to speak on this topic of death, but this time moving on past burial and the grave, and ascend (or descend) to the afterlife, where men even there, can still find the mercy and goodness of a moral God, who still has it in His heart to speak to those souls with grace and compassion

The Immortal Dead; The Continued Consciousness of Those Who Sleep and God’s Continued Mercy. Part The First.

Bernt_Notke_Danse_MacabreDeath is ubiquitous; it claims us all. It is said that death is the only certainty of life. The reality of death has been characterized, personified, and anthropomorphized the world over, from ancient depictions of gods of death like Anubis, to the depiction of Death as the Grim Reaper. Associated with all of these gods or folk tale characters however, is the character’s duty as the guardian or shepherd of the afterlife. There exists no deification or personification of death in the world who leads a person to utter annihilation after killing them. The two ideas, an angel of death, and annihilationism, are diametrically opposed thoughts. If supernatural beings exist, then the afterlife exists.

To the ancient mind, and even just the traditional mind, the body dies and the soul flies. Annihilationism in the public eye is relatively speaking, a very new philosophical idea in world history, although unique individual cases of annihilationism have definitely existed in the past. It is a philosophy which comes only from intense and convoluted human reasoning, not something to be found in a literal understanding of the Bible. This philosophy of nothingness after death has now been widely accepted and propagated by the scientific collective of first world countries, yet this common sense of eternity and life after death continues to persist in the west, no matter how much philosophizing one engages in. This is because to be dogmatic about annihilationism is to be dogmatic about the unknown, which the open-minded understands to be synonymous with close-mindedness.

To quote Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.” Yet in our western society, life after death is consigned to the musings of poets or the superstitions of religious groups. The scientific community and media try to convince us that “we all know that life after death is just a mistaken dream. We have now been enlightened by higher science. We know there is no such thing.” The economy thrives on the idea that this life is all there is, and the ultimate moral to follow in our culture is to “live life to its fullest.” There is no arguing this point. For the secular evolutionist, each individual must strive for their greatest good, and the greater good of humanity as a species, without consideration of dated morals or ethereal spiritual phenomena. This is because the consensus of the scientific world is that the furtherance of technology, and the continuance of life on earth are the most important goals to achieve.

This has ramifications on all parts of western life, from how we treat each other in relationships, to how companies and nations are governed. There ceases to be a value in the “ethereal” ideas of kindness, of unconditional love, of personal sacrifice, or of  objective moral standards. The true Darwinist does not concern himself with these all too simplistic humanities. If someone were to follow Evolutionism, Nietzscheism,  and Darwinism, (each of which inform our current liberal first world mindset) to it’s logical conclusion, their life would mirror that of the highly intelligent and amorally bestial Wolf Larsen in Jack London’s disturbing masterpiece, The Sea Wolf. It meticulously described the truth of what kind of man the “Enlightenment” would produce; someone who can be both incredibly learned, and yet inhumanly cruel. Someone who will maim and kill anyone regardless of age race and gender for his own ends of success and pleasure, and if he cannot accomplish those ends, then suicide is the only logical answer. Someone who would rather die than be at the mercy of others, because all that matters is survival of the fittest.

This is what comes of a mind conformed by annihilationism in a secular context, but is not without influence upon the Christian mind. Indeed I have met and spoken with a surprisingly high number of people who believe in the annihilationist view of soul sleep, in which God merely puts to sleep the souls of those who are damned, never to rise again or taste of the blessings of eternal life which those who receive salvation experience. They say they read the Bible all the way through, and see in it no trace of a literal Hell, nor of eternal damnation, for how could God be good if He sends people to torment forever? This argument comes from the desire to make God merciful at the expense of God being just, and the added expense of sin being sinful, or worthy of punishment. They say this idea comes from their reading of the gospels, but it comes from an imaginative, metaphorical understanding of scripture, and therefore, not a literal, or real one. It explains away passages which speak of worms that die not, of eternal flames, of torturers, and of lakes of fire, with super-spiritual language and inductive reasoning which twists the straightforward message into something ethereal, and therefore not easily understood. If those concrete terms about perdition’s flames are figurative speech for soul sleep, then my third grade essay about my family vacation to the mountains is really a treatise on the doctrine of predestination.

Those who hold to this idea of soul sleep are lobbying for the mercy of God, but what if I told you that God is only truly merciful not in spite of his sentencing humans to Hell, but because of it? And what if I told you that He is merciful enough to speak to those whose sentence has long been passed? These are the truths that I shall address in part the second of this my blog on The Immortal Dead. As always, this blog is intended to spark the intellect, not to spark fights. I am as faulty as any other thinker out there, and therefore just as easily mistaken, so if you disagree with me, tell me why, and I shall seek to become better informed. God bless!

 

Wanderlust; Secular or Sacred.

(The above painting is by Joses Feid Anastasius Grün entitled Picture of a Mountaineer.)

I admit to giving this entry a rather provocative title, but to be honest, this is the title that most adequately expresses the question in my mind as I ponder the modern phenomena which I have observed in a large number of my friends, known simply as (drum roll) Wanderlust. Before I get into the meat of this little discussion point, I wish to give definition to what I am talking about.

Wanderlust is a simple compound word straight from the German words Wander, which means to wander, and Lust, which means to you know, lust. Obviously. That is a pretty straightforward etymology, especially since English has adopted these words as its own without changing them whatsoever. These words were apparently put together as one, in the 1850s, an age when travel and industry were rapidly increasing, with Steamboating, Railroading, and Keelboating having been perfected for public travel in the decades previous. The word was meant to be used to express the unique feeling which those who have traveled and enjoyed it feel when the urge to travel again comes upon them. There is a certain similarity inherent in the meaning of this word which is akin to the meaning of being stir-crazy, or having cabin fever. These phrases however, both have to do with being confined to the indoors and desiring to go outside, whereas wanderlust has a much more wide ranging scope in its definition, which includes but is not limited to going outside, seeing new places, visiting old ones, and generally going on long trips to far away places. It is a very convenient word for a very specific meaning.

In modernity, and specifically in the community of Evangelical Christians in which I find myself, the term Wanderlust has taken on even more significance than its etymology so obviously suggests. It has come to be the defining trait of an entire community of people who can relate to one another on the grounds that they always want to be somewhere else than here. I say that jokingly, but in sincerity that is how it is with them, and they would agree to that with a chuckle. My question is whether this type of lust should be praised for its unique brand of culture and excitement as I know the secular world sees it, or regarded as a sinful modern malady to be treated.

How on earth would you have come to such a negative conclusion sir, you ask? I will tell you, but first, I must put forth some qualification. I myself, am not a traveler, rather, I am an introvert. I have lived in the same house for twenty years and have little desire to leave. I have never left the United States, and have never felt the sensation of Wanderlust so talked of by my peers. I should also qualify that much of what I will say is based on my own opinions and experiences as an inexperienced hermit. I therefore have something of a bias against vacationing, since I myself find little pleasure in a simple change of location. And to all those who are determined travelers, I bear you no ill will, and mean no offense or disrespect to you or your hobby.

So to begin, there is nothing about travel which, on the face of things, makes it inherently sinful or sacred. It is what it is, getting from one place to another-traveling. Many say traveling is good; it brings new experience, and allows for the culturing, and maturation of the traveler, as well as opening new opportunities for financial gain, creation of friendships and spiritual growth. I agree with them. There is a whole world of wonder and adventure to be explored, created by our God that we might experience it with Him, and so there lies an incredible prerogative for the inhabitants of God’s earth to do so. There is little more impactful to the human mind and life, than to stand on a mountain, looking over the vast and detailed beauty of the landscape beyond, and to know that it was God who shaped it all with His hand. This is definitely worth doing, and would be a practice which I would call sacred.

Practical or spiritual types of travel however, i.e. travel for the betterment of someone who has never been to another country, business traveling, family reunions, or traveling on a spiritual pilgrimage, is not the kind of travel I am talking about. People have been traveling for pleasure and spirituality for centuries, and the royal or wealthy have been doing so since the dawn of human civilization. What I am referring to, is a certain subculture of traveling for the sake of traveling, done by those who have traveled much in the past already, and who will continue to do so as their hobby, their entertainment, and/or their goal for saving up each month. The point of this travel is to culture oneself, to experience other ways of life, to get away from responsibilities and veg out in beautiful, exotic surroundings. The people who do so often, proudly wear the badge of “Worldly and Sophisticated,” often saying how much more mature and experienced they have become for traveling the world; no one around them can argue that point, even if it’s not true, simply because “Well, I haven’t been to Paris, so I guess he’s more interesting than I am…” You also seemingly cannot legitimately call yourself a true artist if you have not had at least one tour of Europe, and you will be ridiculed if you claim to be someone who likes foreign culture if you have never been to one yourself.

This culture has been present in the world ever since 1800s, when the Victorian English of the upper crust would see such travels as the right of passage for the noble and aristocratic who would lord their travel experience and breeding over anyone lower than themselves on the strata. Since then however, it has become easier and easier for the non-aristocratic to travel, til now anyone with a job that brings in any more than minimum wage has the opportunity to go to France and see the sights like the Victorians did. The ability to travel has changed, but the attitude and culture of the Worldly and Sophisticated amongst the people of the west has grown rapidly in the past fifteen to twenty years, and seems to have affected mainly the 20-something, to 30-something age demographic. It is not limited to these ages, but is notably observable in these generations. Indeed it has taken on a different tenor than before, idolizing travel not for the sake of becoming a well bred noble lord, but for the sake of “Becoming a better person,” a moral well exemplified by the book and film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which accurately depicts the type of artsy travel aesthetic I am describing.

This is simple fact, and even this trend, which has it’s own unique aesthetic and demographic, may seem like nothing more than an interesting piece of trivia in current events which glorifies being a cultured world traveler. Indeed, magazines are filled with travel sections encouraging young people to get away from their jobs and busy lives to partake in some frivolous and expensive foreign fun, usually including a centerfold of a hiker in full gear looking down on a green valley from some cliff in the lofty crags of the Alps. It is not an evil, it is simply entertainment for those of us who have a more active or energetic temperament, they say, and works to make a person healthier, happier, and gives you a taste for foreign cultures. In a secular mindset, they would be right. In a secular mindset, being more experienced, more worldly and sophisticated than someone else is a valid pursuit.

This is where Christian religion comes in, and when I say the word religion, I mean a system of beliefs or traditions about deity and spirituality which informs your thoughts and actions. I will always mean to use the term religion in a strictly literal way without any negative connotations. Religion is a good thing; false religion is what Christians are to avoid. Loving Jesus as God and loving your neighbor is indubitably religion. False religion, is pretending to serve God, and using Him in order to garner fame and fortune, or a sense of personal gain. Just wanted to clarify that.

Now then, back to wanderlust. In terms of daily life and traveling, Christianity especially in the Protestant church, has had a pretty well established say on how people are to view foreign travel. If you travel anywhere, it should be for the opportunity for preaching the gospel, even if it’s because you are visiting your German aunt Bertha. The Protestant church is indeed identified by it’s focus on foreign missions ever since the reformation, and this focus increased greatly with the advent of revivalists and traveling missionaries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In modern Protestant thought, one can go so far as to say that there are only two types of Christians, (in fact I have heard several Evangelicals say these very words) there are those who go on missions trips, and then there are those who are disobedient.

Now, I highly value the gospel, as well as the Evangelistic focus to evangelize, but my thoughts on this particular quote are quite contrary. You are either a traveling missionary preacher, or you’re disobedient? The Bible says nothing of this sort, and the Bible is our authority on all things. We are all to be witnesses, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that doing foreign missions as a gospel preacher is a mandatory activity for all Christians. Most of the disciples of Jesus never left their country of origin, and many never even left their cities or towns to preach the gospel. In fact, Paul himself, the foremost evangelist in the Bible second only to Jesus Christ Himself, said that not all are preachers, not all are teachers, not all speak in tongues, and not all prophecy. Each one is to do his duty, whether that means Preaching to the masses on the streets of a foreign country, or speaking in tongues quietly at home to the Lord. Both are valid forms of obedience, but neither are mandatory according to the Scriptures. We can be witnesses to the unsaved by our example, whether we are a preacher, an encourager, or a waiter. In God’s eyes, there is no difference, we all can show Christ’s love.

The Bible does say however, that we are always to do all things unto the glory of God. This leaves nothing at all out of it. It is an all inclusive statement, and if taken with the rest of scripture, means glorifying God in a very specific manner at the same time. You cannot glorify God by any and all means. That is not what the verse is trying to say. What it means is, glorify God by obeying His commandments found in the rest of the canon at all times, thereby, causing all that we do to be glorifying God. It means, staying away from narcissistic tendencies, from doing anything that will glorify yourself rather than God. It means that we keep God in mind at all times, thanking him for the good and praising Him in the bad, taking every opportunity when going out to speak the good news of God’s love to those who might be open to it, doing everything necessary to keep daily quality time with Him, and remembering and talking with Him when doing things that are not outwardly spiritual. It is prioritizing the inner life of worship and prayer to God above all things.

Therefor the question arises; is it sinful to travel around the world just because I want to? The modern day Evangelist uses scripture effectively to convince you that the only Christian “legal” way to travel is with the intent to evangelize or minister. The modern day secularist uses science and numbers effectively to convince you that the best reason to travel is to do it for the fun of it, rest, and relaxation, and is the most healthy thing a young person could do for his or herself. Who is more right?

Is there a solution? What is the answer  to this question? You may answer for yourself. That is between you and God. Indeed, I do have a thought or two on the subject, but the reason I wrote this was mainly to cause thought on the subject more than anything else. I definitely have had to think much on this subject, simply because it gets brought up a lot in modern media and in the circle of friends and family I possess.

I have served in several churches, and a couple of different ministries, and all of them had a focus on missions and evangelism to some extent, which attracted a significant catch of those who would call themselves “citizens of the world,” and would fit into the “wanderlust community.” They are all Christians, and ascribe to living their lives for God, which meant something specific to me, but in all actuality means many things to many people.

All of these youthful adherents to the Word of God had participated in Missions at some time in their lives, but not all continued to do so. I would hear of some of my friends taking trips to Europe or South America once every couple of years, once a year, and sometimes even once a month, with differing focuses on missions and entertainment. Those who were very active missionaries would travel constantly to and from the Middle East, and I could definitely understand their reasons why, and their ardor for preaching the gospel there, while I could not necessarily relate to their insane energy. But when I would hear news of those who traveled once a year over seas or even oftener without so much as a thought to ministering to others, I would be legitimately taken aback. Questions such as “Do they have the money for that?” or “Are they visiting family?” or “Couldn’t they be using their money for someone else?” or “Why are they even doing it?” would run through my mind like a swarm of hornets disturbed from their nests by a well aimed stone throw.

The answers I would get from them when they returned would do little to quell the little flurry of doubts in my mental wasp’s nest. “Why do you go so often if not for missions?” I would ask.
“The people are just so nice over there! Nicer than here.”
“I feel so much more cultured when I go to new places.”
“I just love the art, and architecture.”
“The atmosphere is just so unique and wonderful.”
“The views, wildlife and landscapes are just so beautiful.”
“Rock climbing on those mountain ranges is worth the time and effort it takes to go there.”
“The food and wine is so great, you can’t get it anywhere else.”
“I love the feeling you get when waking up in a different country. It’s so exciting!”
These, among other comments of similar content, were always the types of answers I would receive upon asking the question of why; and if I were to be brutally technical, I would call those secular answers to a theological question. For these types of things, the adventurous and restless of heart spend thousands of dollars multiple times a year in hotel costs, food costs, and plane tickets. Consistent recreational travel can be pricey.

The question I would raise in response to those answers, as a representative of the heart of God, and partially as a representative of the introverted homebodies of the world, would be this. “You spend all that just to have fun and pamper yourself by touring another country, but how much do you spend on God every year?” Now most people, both secular and Christian, would call the person who would ask that sort of question legalistic, a killjoy, or a party pooper. Those who wish to be technical about it would try to justify themselves by saying, “I spend the entire year working, serving, and ministering for God, the least I can have is a few weeks of culture for myself. The proportion I serve God is much greater than that of my own pleasure. Surely a loving God would not begrudge me of that small luxury.” And that is actually correct. God Himself begrudges us no good thing or luxury. In fact he does not even begrudge the secular of their sin. At least, not yet…

When we sin, we do hurt God. But when we pass up the chance to Love God more, it is not only that God is neglected, but we lose out as well. We lose out on spiritual maturity, we lose out on a moment with God which could change us forever, and most importantly, we lose out on a chance for greater intimacy with God which will never come again. Is it wrong to spend a few weeks and a few thousands for our own amusement? No, not at all, but if we do it with the goal being self fulfillment, it is definitely settling for less eternal blessing and present intimacy with God than we could have had otherwise, had we intended that trip for experiencing God and preaching the Gospel.

The bottom line is this; the world seeks health and wellness because it values self gratification over the worth of God. If you’re healthy, you will have more fun when you play. For those of us who know we have been bought with a price, and have given ourselves to the Lover of our souls, even our health and wellness becomes secondary to the calling of Christ. That being said, God Himself values our bodies and our health, and desires that we respect the temple that is our bodies by doing what we can to be in peak physical condition in order that we might fulfill the deeds he has called us to do before the creation of the world. So, if we follow His plans and his heart, we will take good care of ourselves anyway, which may include a restful weekend in the mountains, or a trip to a museum, or even an afternoon at he beach, but if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of extravagant traveling, apart from a goal to win souls and give glory to God, we will become dependent on it, just as one may become addicted to drugs. A drug addict suffers withdrawals. An avid traveler suffers from wanderlust. It may not be as debilitating or openly negative as drug addiction, but it will definitely be as destructive to the inner life, and will cost us even more.

We live in a day and age which idolizes travel, and traveling to an inordinate degree, and if we follow the trends, we are in danger of having the sacred sucked out of our activities, and replaced with secular ambitions of a humanistic nature that leads to the sort of pride which separated the upper class from the peasantry of old. The reason this is so important an issue to me, is because the Lord has clearly stated in the Bible how we as Christians are to live. Scripture clearly states that all men will be judged, yes for their actions, but also for the thoughts of the mind, and the intentions of the heart.

There’s the rub. If you do it for God it’s the good, right, and Christian thing to do, if you do it for yourself it is a secular, Godless and therefor worthless thing to do. You either are sowing to the Spirit, or you are sowing to the flesh, as the Bible states, you are always doing one of the two. I definitely do not think that having a vacation, or taking a tour of Europe from time to time is wrong, I greatly desire to do so one day. However, one should always ask oneself “why am I doing this?” Because as a Christian, everything we do should be either for God or for others, and even doing things for others will be doing it for God. The more of God we see and love, the less we try to please ourselves and our own “Lusts,” whether they be monetary lusts, sexual lusts, or “Wanderlusts.”So, the next time you consider going on a trip to “get away from it all,” just make sure you don’t run away from your responsibility as a bond-servant to God.

Now I know that this post was quite preachy, but God has called us all to a standard of holiness we cannot reach without intentionally following in the footsteps of Christ, whose footsteps I might add, only led him out of his home country once, and that was for the purpose of getting alone with His father, and ministering to a single Canaanite woman. This was recorded for us as an example, let us not neglect it.

Now this admonition of mine applies not only to traveling, but to any form of self indulgence that our modern era has made accessible to us. If we leave God out of anything we love, we are withholding our love from God, and anything, from reading books to video games, can become an idol in His place. Wanderlust may be used in an innocent way, just as the term stir-crazy may be, but I hope and pray that the culture of wandering will not cause a generation to wander from the commandments of the Lord with an innocent and healthy activity. I am reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to Leave the God I love, Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.” Amen.

To all those wanderers out there, I love and support you in your wandering, as long as it leads you further up, and further in. God bless you in all your journeys.