A Better Way To View Your Life In Christ
With notes from Pastor Jon Piper’s interview comparing Drug Use
being truly involved with Christian Study
John Piper is the Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
From his Audio Transcript
Well, isn’t a drug user and a Godward joy seeker just two different kinds of junkies both seeking after a new high, a new spike in an experience they cannot sustain beyond a fleeting moment? Well, there’s an interesting question, and it comes to us from a listener named Bryan.
A man writes to Pastor Jon, “Hello, Pastor John! I live in Greenville, not far from where you grew up. My question is one I’ve wrestled with for a long time. How is there any difference between: (1) returning to substances like drugs, alcohol, and sex, once the fulfillment of those things has withered away, and (2) returning to Jesus again once his joy has withered away in us? It appears as if both things, substances and communion with Christ, offer effects that then wear off over time. Neither permanently fulfill — both call us back for another dose or hit. How would you respond to this apparent parallel? Is it right or wrong?”
Rise and Fall
It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s wrong in all the ways that ultimately matter. Now of course, Brian, there is a surface parallel that you’re pointing out. It’s true that the intensity of our pleasure in physical experiences and the intensity of our pleasure in spiritual experience of fellowship with Jesus both rise and fall. There’s a parallel. Both rise and fall; pleasures go up, pleasures go down — in drugs and in relation to Jesus.
“There is an infinite difference between encountering the person Jesus, and the impersonal effect of drugs.”
In this life, while we are still in this body and while indwelling sin remains a reality, there will be till we die a conflict between flesh and Spirit, Satan and God, the old man that needs to be reckoned dead and the new man in Christ.
So there is a superficial parallel between the experience of Christ and our experience of physical pleasure. They both rise and fall. But in spite of that superficial parallel, there are at least five profound differences between our communion with Christ and all of his pleasures and our physical high from substances.
- Encountering a Person
Jesus Christ is a living, eternal, supernatural, divine, morally beautiful person. We love him. He’s not a thing. He’s not a substance.
There is an infinite difference between encountering a person, and the physical, material, impersonal effect of drugs. There’s an infinite difference between encountering a merely human person and a divine person, the Son of God. When Jesus calls us, he calls us to himself, not to a generic experience that can be duplicated with substances. He calls us not into a physical reaction to substance, but into a personal relationship with himself.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). He is the bread. He is the water. We’re not comparing substance and substance. We are comparing a created substance with the person who created it. That’s the first difference. It’s a massive and infinite difference.
- New Creations
The second difference in the parallel is that the experience itself is qualitatively different between the physical and psychological effects of a drug, on the one hand, and the spiritual effects of communion with Christ, on the other.
“When Jesus calls us, he calls us to himself, not to a generic experience that can be duplicated with substances.”
Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you use drugs, you’re not a new creation. You’re not born again by using drugs. You do not have a new nature by using drugs.
When you are united to Christ by faith, you become a new kind of being forever and ever and ever. Your experiences are qualitatively different. You’re not yet perfect, but you are being renewed. Paul says you are being renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23). Your mind is now spiritually and qualitatively doing a different thing.
So to be happy, LET THE OLD PASS AWAY! As I’ll discuss later, learn God’s Ways and that requires making an effort to read and learn what the ancient wise ones have taught us.
- Wooed Back
The third difference between the experience of a drug and the experience of communion with Christ is that the reason we keep returning to Christ is because he himself, as a person who loves us, has chosen to make sure that we return. We’re not being sucked back by addiction; we are being drawn back by a Savior.
He has laid hold of us and made us his own forever. He does not bring us back mechanically, but personally. Listen to this, one of my favorite verses — Philippians 3:12.
Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own.” You could paraphrase that, “I press into Jesus again and again. I press back in again and again.” “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” He has personally owned me, bought me, owns me. When he sees me drifting away, becoming lukewarm, he draws me back because he’s made me his own.
- Living Water
The more we are brought to him by his personally compelling beauty, the more we become like what he created us to be. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next by coming back to Jesus and seeing him again and again and again, until our fellowship is totally unbroken when he comes or when we go (2 Corinthians 3:18).
“We’re not being sucked back by addiction; we are being drawn back by a Savior.”
The more we return to him, the more we fully become whole and rational and free and joyful. But the more we return to substances, the more we become broken, irrational, enslaved, and miserable.
In other words, coming to Jesus makes us more alive, more real, more able to put ourselves resourcefully at the disposal of others for their everlasting good. Jesus says, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Either you will have a spring of water with eternal life or junk. Jesus also says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38).
In other words, drinking from Jesus doesn’t draw us into ourselves and make our own private substance experience. It fills us with overflowing, spring-like, fountain-like love for others. It give us new capacities to love others.
Looked at another way, going to God, Going to Jesus, Going to church should not be an “entertainment” or a social event. It should draw you closer to God’s true wisdom and righteous ways and when you finally understand that you’ll discover a peace and happiness 98% of America has never known!
- Way to Healing
The fact that there is a superficial parallel between the ups and downs of experiencing Jesus and the ups and downs of experiencing drugs may mean something very different than that the experiences are leading to the same outcome. They aren’t.
Suppose you suddenly experienced a spiking fever which fades slightly and then spikes again, and then fades slightly and spikes again. You suddenly realize, because of the epidemic in the town, that you’ve got a fatal disease. You are going to die.
“That’s what happens to everybody,” you think. “Spike, fade, spike, fade, spike, fade — die.” This spiking is a sure sign you’re a goner. Then the medical team arrives, sent by some merciful Red Cross, and they’ve got an antibiotic. And it works. It always works.
They give it to you, and they tell you, “Now you’re going to notice tomorrow that the fever will rise and then it will fall, and then rise again, a little less high, and then it will fall. It’ll rise, and it will fall, and then it will go away. You’ll become better when it falls. You’ll become better even though the return of the fever tomorrow several times will make you think you’re in the same position you were before. But you’re not. That’s a superficial parallel. It’s not where you’re going. That’s the way antibiotics work. You’re going to be well.”
The same similarity exists with the spiking and falling of pleasure in drugs and the spiking and falling of pleasure in Christ. The ups and downs have a totally different meaning. You’re on your way to healing in Christ. It is the ups and downs of our experience in Christ that mean we are on the way to an everlasting, uninterrupted joy.
Newdell: Now that we have heard/read Pastor Jon’s discussion I want to render my own viewpoint.
The modern world is brainwashed with “unreal expectations.” Many people expect the most important priority in their lives is a nebulous view called “being happy.” My own sister when she was in college came home on break and told me “what’s important is that you’re happy.” Spoken like a completely wisdomless person!
Happiness is defined differently by differing theories. The person who is chronically antagonist might rise to boredom and think this is happiness. Meantime the person who is far above that chronic emotional tone level and is somewhere between Conservativism and Cheerfulness is always content and true happiness, while fleeting, is a greater, brighter experience by far than the man who rose to boredom and thinks he is happy.
Happiness may be defined as a continual journey toward reaching new goals. When you have finally built your own new home you’re not happy very long because now you think you’ll be happy when it’s all organized and furnished. When that is done you’ll say, “I’ll be happy when the mortgage is paid off.” And when that ends, “I’ll be happy when I’ve paid off every debt and gotten the kids through college and out on their own making their own lives.” It’s a never ending march toward personal improvement and progress.
Finally these same people will get deathly ill and say, “Life was so unfair. My marriage broke up. I was never happy with my husband. My kids are gone and don’t know me. All I did was work and pay the bank for loans and now in my last years I’m sick and dying!
She had everything but it wasn’t enough to count herself happy! So this man writing to Pastor Jon admits he knows some people who seek happiness in drugs or sex or some kind of “pep rally” or “motivational speech” in church. They go for entertainment because they’re constantly seeking a way to “be happy.” They say they have no life outside of their smart phone. If they had no smart phone they’d have no life! How about this? Shut the blame thing off and go visit friends and shut theirs off and do something for fun together. Take a walk. Visit more friends, play a basket ball game, cook together, play cards and talk, do something social that does not involve a social network online and does not involve any sort of computer!
People marry and think this is a license to have sex. Wrong again. Even the best sex can’t go on like a continual celebration forever. There must be something more to life than rubbing bodies together. Marriage only for lust (and mistaking it for love) is not going to make anyone happy.
A great many people are demonically influenced by the music videos and other trash they watch and games they play. I am reminded of this photo. Brittney Spears “Dance Until The World Ends” and that’s just what so many people think they’ll do because (they think) happiness is only lust and the here and now and they were only evolved and there is no God and so they’ll lust and dance until they die. These people are “the lost souls” wandering around like the living dead in a grade B vampire movie!
In this scene all the dancers were writhing on the floor obviously play acting an orgy. If that isn’t demonic influence, you’d better explain to me what it is. And you’ll note the fire in the photo on each side as nuclear blasts go off over their heads while they’re in an underground sewer housing for protection where they intend to dance and lust until the world ends. My point is, this is a huge lie, a gigantic deception. This modern world seeking after a continually “happy” experience is unreal and your expectation for continual “happiness” is ridiculous!
The true gospel that most people know nothing about tells us the Kingdom of God is coming soon and the most important part of it for your personal life is that you will be raised by God as one of his children and one day you will mature and be like Him!!! If that doesn’t stagger the imagination you must not realize what we mean when we speak of God as infinite and with infinite capabilities. I can promise you, being raised by God will bring you greater happiness than any experience you have ever had and you will experience joy that is beyond your imagination.
Before approximately the year 1935, most of the world struggled to survive. No one expected constant thrills, entertainment and “happiness.” Many American women bore 10-children.
She raised them as well as she could manage and buried them before they matured. If she finished her life with 3 live children and a few grand-children she counted herself “mighty lucky” and thanked God, and for this she was “happy.” It is said there is no trauma in life worse than burying your own child. How happy could any family be remembering they bore 10-kids and lost 7 of them?
If that happened in your life I’m pained with you. I can add that you’re not alone in your suffering so don’t continue to ask “Why me?” because this sort of pain has been a constant since the beginning of humankind. At least you can be happy you knew this person for a short while. As the Jews traditionally say, “May his memory be a blessing.” At least we’re blessed by the memory of this person and the richer experience s/he added to our lives.
Most people in those years did not look out upon an expansive green lawn, two cars in the driveway, flip a switch and have electric lights and a machine to wash clothing and another to wash dishes. We have it all but we think we need MORE to be happy! I blame the Madison Avenue advertising agencies. Their job is to convince us we can’t live without whatever they sell and if we don’t buy it we will never “be happy.”
Compare this to some of the greatest master preachers of the 1800’s. My favorites whom I often republish are Oswald Chambers and Charles Spurgeon. Both men worked extremely hard, were possessed of brilliant minds, lived with pains, sickness, difficulties, and called all of it part of their training to be refined to the best spiritual perfection they could reach before being taken after bodily death to Jesus the Christ.
Charles Spurgeon’s life was a continual effort of writing sermons. He took over an old nearly defunct church building in London and twice they moved to larger buildings to accommodate all those who wanted to hear him speak every Sunday. He had body illness problems and depression and through it all he continued to work until he was too sick to work another day. For him this was his life and he was satisfied in it.
Oswald Chambers finished what today we call high school and entered theology study at Oxford University. He became the first missionary to Africa and received very little support for doing so. He had tropical diseases, parasites, terror about being killed and eaten, sickness nearly unto death several times. When he finally returned to England after many years someone spoke about his great sacrifice.
He answered that is was NOT a sacrifice. It was a magnificently joyous privilege and a fabulous opportunity to know Jesus the Christ and walk with God so closely!
Another missionary couple wrote a piece I read. The woman said something like this: We were sitting on the rubble of our home after a Muslim crowd ran riot and beat us severely and then destroyed our home. We were looking at one another bloody, swollen, painful, and suddenly for both of us at the same moment Heaven opened and we saw Jesus! That moment changed us both forever.
This couple with nothing left by their lives and the clothing they wore had suddenly discovered a happiness beyond our imagination. They lost everything but counted it as gain because they had gained a greater understanding of Jesus the Christ and had gained also an assurance that they would receive some recognition or merit for their hard effort in the Heavenly Kingdom.
In the United States even until this year 2018 huge segments of the population are fed, clothed, housed, given health care, telephone services, transportation, electricity, nearly anything one could want by which they think they can be happy. They are NOT happy! They claim to be the oppressed minorities. They and their parents before them and sometimes to 3 and 4 generations were supported entirely by the public largess and lived far better than the ancient Pharoahs of Egypt. Still they are unhappy. Nothing on this earth given to them will make them happy. They really have no definition of happiness. If anything “they’re only happy when they’re complaining.”
Lately I watched an interview involving a discussion of opioid drug abuse. Thousands of young people are not happy to the point they’re committing suicide. Millions of people are using legal and illicit drugs. One major Federal Government spokesman said we’re in danger of losing an entire generation as they become drug addicts or finally kill themselves!
- Painkillers – 3.3 million users
- Tranquilizers – 2 million users
- Stimulants – 1.7 million users
- Sedatives – 0.5 million users1
More people report using controlled prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined. That puts prescription drugs second behind marijuana when it comes to illicit drug use.4
If you really want to dig into the statistic prepare to be shocked. Here: https://talbottcampus.com/prescription-drug-abuse-statistics/
The issue, I think, is unreal expectations. Here’s a dirty word. Strap yourself to your chair. “STUDY” (oh my gosh. Newdell actually said that!?)
Study the Bible. Learn God’s Righteous ways. Discover how to be content in all situations. Teach yourself to be thankful for what you have and willing to make gainful employment for yourself to rise to something better. I often say, “Don’t complain that you have to clean your house. Be thankful you have a house to clean!”
I have known a week of homelessness. It changed me. I am thankful every time I step into my little kitchen and cook a meal or wash up when I’m done cooking and eating. Thank God I have a kitchen to tend, food in the fridge and clean water and soap. Thanks to God’s Grace I have a kitchen to clean! How did I get out of homelessness. I worked really hard and prayed constantly and one day after a week or 10-days of this a friend called and yelled in his rich Spanish accent, “Where do you sleep?” and he invited me to share a home with him.
I did a lot of work around that place and found ways to contribute to help him and his family and finally I worked my way up to a better situation. I’m close to age 68 and here I am still working. Thank God! I’m healthy and able to work. I have the best employer in the Universe! What’s not to like???
If you want advice about how to look at this viewpoint meet an immigrant who grew up on a miserable little farm in some place like Colombia or Brazil or Cuba or Venezuela and get their opinion about opportunity, work, and why they’re happy to have work and an opportunity to make a better life for themselves.
A lot of these people have some serious education but now they’re earning a living running a janitorial service or cutting grass. But by Heaven, they’re thankful for what they have and “happy” to have a home and a life that does not involve sisters being kidnapped by slavers and bullets whizzing past their windows!
It’s all about your viewpoint. If you cannot be happy, your problems have perhaps something to do with demonic influence. Turn off the rock and roll music 100% — turn it off. Give up the video games 100%. No more of that filth. Go fine or make your own work. Do something by which you can earn some money and meet more people until someone says, “I have a job opportunity for you.” Look into it carefully and if you think it will lift you to a better situation, take it and work for that as if you were working for God!
Call on Jesus the Christ most sincerely and seriously. Seek his help! Read his words. Read all the articles and lessons you can and learn the righteous ways of God. Through it all you will brighten up and discover better physical health, a better state of emotional and mental health, a better way to forgive those “crazy people” around you, and you’ll realize you can be content and thankful and for this you can be “happy.”
Dr. Stephen Newdell is God’s Servant In Training and the operator of this website.