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Sermon illustrations

Pleasure

A Desire No Experience This World Can Satisfy

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. . . .

If I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Macmillan.

Equivocating on Promises: Pierre from Tolstoy’s War & Peace

In this excellent little character study, Tolstoy describes the inner monologue of the character Pierre from War & Peace, who is able to justify and convince himself that a promise made to avoid the hedonistic charms of gambling and partying was in fact, rendered useless by an earlier promise. The excerpt is an excellent example of the kind of reasoning we often use to justify sinful behavior.

“On the way Pierre remembered that Anatole Kurágin was expecting the usual set for cards that evening, after which there was generally a drinking bout, finishing with visits of a kind Pierre was very fond of. “I should like to go to Kurágin’s,” thought he. But he immediately recalled his promise to Prince Andrew not to go there. Then, as happens to people of weak character, he desired so passionately once more to enjoy that dissipation he was so accustomed to that he decided to go.

The thought immediately occurred to him that his promise to Prince Andrew was of no account, because before he gave it he had already promised Prince Anatole to come to his gathering; “besides,” thought he, “all such ‘words of honor’ are conventional things with no definite meaning, especially if one considers that by tomorrow one may be dead, or something so extraordinary may happen to one that honor and dishonor will be all the same!” Pierre often indulged in reflections of this sort, nullifying all his decisions and intentions. He went to Kurágin’s.”

Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace, HarperPerennial Classics.

Every Life Led By Its Tastes

[The] Puritans made good use of the Latin phrase omnis vita gustu ducitur-every life is led along by its tastes. They knew that each creature is piloted by an inner yearning for its favorite food. Every palate is directed by an intuitive, native relish.

Our natures must be completely changed and renewed by grace if we are to have a taste for Christ…the sweetness of sin must be spoiled by a new savor. The pleasure of Christ kills the old pleasures that led us, but only after we get a new, instinctive taste within us.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, pp.138-139. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

God, The Hedonist

In this short excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the fictional demon Screwtape complains to his advisor Wormwood about all the pleasures God has created that point back to a loving creator:

He’s [God] a hedonist at heart. … 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.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942) in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, HarperOne, 2007, p.249.

The Perversion of Pleasure

In his classic fictional work on spiritual warfare, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis imagined a senior demon (Screwtape) corresponding with one of his protégés (his nephew Wormwood) as the latter seeks to tempt and afflict his Christian subject. The book is brilliant for its insights into satanic wiles and applications for the Christian’s alertness against them.

In one of the letters, Uncle Screwtape coaches his pupil on the perversion of pleasure, reminding him that the sin they hold out is tantalizing in part because it corresponds to something their Enemy (God) has actually made for good:

I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.

All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

Jared C. Wilson, The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like the Truth, Nelson Books, 2020.

What is Life for?

Take the great American writer Ernest Hemingway for example. Born in 1899, he was the epitome of the twentieth-century man. At age 25 he sipped champagne in Paris, and later had well-publicized game hunts in Africa and hunted grizzly bears in America’s northwest. At the age of sixty-one, after having it all – wine, women, song, a distinguished literary career, Sunday afternoon bullfights in Spain – Hemingway chose to end his life, leaving a note saying, “Life is one [expletive] thing after another”

Gary D. Preston, “Our Endless Pursuit of Pleasure,”  Discipleship Journal, Nov/Dec 1983.

Where Sin Comes From

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions 1972, p.34.

Why Did God Make This World?

To ask our (not so) simple question in another way: Why did God make this world? Why did he make a world for his own glory in Christ and then fill it to the brim with pleasures—physical pleasures, sensible pleasures, emotional pleasures, and relational pleasures? Why did God make a world full of good friends, sizzling bacon, the laughter of children, West Texas sunsets, Dr. Pepper, college football, marital love, and the warmth of wool socks?

Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth, Crossway.

See also Illustrations on DesireHappiness 

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Pleasure. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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