One morning in Sunday School we talked about heaven. We read through several scriptures that tell us a little about what heaven will be like. Although we can't really imagine how beautiful and happy and holy it will be, there's one thing that we can be certain of . Heaven will not be boring. But, this is a cultural thing we've seen over and over. Just sitting on clouds, playing harps, wearing robes. Sure the scenery will be eye-pleasing but on the whole, it's a big yawn-fest. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company."? How sad. What a huge, horrible, ugly lie. And it isn't just limited to what heaven and hell are like. We're surrounded by this sort of thing all the time. There's this great big lie that people fall for all day every day. The idea that the devil is all about pleasure and God is all about self-denial.
It just isn't true.
C.S. Lewis talks about this at length in his book "The Screwtape Letters". I've posted an excerpt here about how God is the one who loves when we find bliss in His creation. Screwtape and Wormwood are sickened by it.
“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’
Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures.
There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least– sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”
He thinks of ways for us to destroy ourselves. He takes great big soul-killing decisions and paints them with the thinnest possible layer of gratification. We would never fall for it otherwise. If he told families to hate and disrespect one another they would close ranks and defend their loved ones. But take a popular sitcom, make the kids smarter than their lame parents, throw in a hefty dose of glamorized bad choices, sprinkle it with some cynical zingers and wrap it all up in laughter and it's an insidious poison. Poison that makes it seem like a good idea to disrespect your family. Poison that tastes like comedy. See the lie? Laughter is God's idea. Laughter is a very good thing. And it is used ALL THE TIME to help us ingest garbage.
The examples go on and on. Everything from gossip to lying to sexual sin, Underneath the destructive act is something that God created for our pleasure and His glory. We do it to feel better about ourselves? Self-worth is a good thing that God wants for us. We do it because we want others to accept us? Fellowship is a good thing that God encourages. But the devil wants us to go about getting these things in a sinful, empty, way. He wants us to choose the parody over the gift.
If the devil could get away with it, he would have us turn our backs on God completely without us getting any enjoyment out of it all. But God is honored when we hear birds sing and our spirits are lifted. When we sigh with contentment to rest after a trying day? God is glorified. There's not much the devil can do about how our awareness of God is impacted by His creation. The devil knows that pleasure belongs to God and I think he uses it against us begrudgingly. But it's a very useful weapon. The devil would not use pleasure if he didn't have to, but if it gets people to worship the created instead of the Creator, he'll do it.