The Religion of Desire
In a new book entitled "Is Europe Christian?" author and political scientist, Oliver Roy, describes the change in European attitudes about religion as the drifting away from its traditional Christian roots into what he describes as the new "Religion of Desire."
The idea here is that the Europe of today has largely abandoned the religion of Christ promoted and managed by Catholic and various Protestant denominational groups, where the goal was to know and to do the will of Christ contained in the Bible and taught by these different groups, that was originally the goal for many centuries.
This historic union and understanding has been undermined and compromised by centuries of philosophical thought and teaching that attempted to explain the origin and purpose of life without reference to God. Along with a continued attack on the inspiration of the Bible which has led to doubt about its authority (and this is the sad part) especially among religious leaders and teachers who were specifically charged with maintaining its integrity. This particular failure will be on them.
Roy's book explains that this gradual abandonment of the Christian faith has led European society to a new type of religion. One that has no association with neither Christianity or any of the established religions in the world such as Hinduism or Islam or Buddhism, for example.
No, this new religion has been born and nourished by our digital age and its god-like ability to answer a prayer with just one "click." And so this new faith Roy calls the "Religion of Desire."
Just as Christ is the center of the Christian faith in that he is the reason and the focus of our worship, motivator for our actions and the giver of our final reward:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
- John 17:3
In other words, the essence of our reward is the ongoing knowledge of the true God without any barriers, without any restrictions. This is the essence of the reward that Jesus is talking about. Well, this is no longer what is being preached in Europe. In this new religion, personal desire is now taking the central place in the nexus where human mind, body, emotion and reality meet.
In other words, our God, the focus that animates the mind and moves the body and stimulates the emotions and promises an altered reality, which is the reward, the center that holds all the parts together has become what we desire. Therefore, the religion of desire as opposed to the religion of Christ.
Now it's one thing when a single individual is captured by his own desires, we call that self-centeredness or egotism or we write it off as personal immaturity. However, when an entire nation or a union of nations which is what Europe is, contracts this spiritual virus, it becomes a religion, and in its religious form, the Religion of Desire, begins to have a general effect on the population. Just as Christianity had an effect on the population in Europe for centuries, now this religion of desire is having an effect on the population.
What usually happens is that in a place where personal desire is now the focal point in a nation's will, the people begin to change laws and moral codes and social boundaries in order to satisfy not Christ, but in order to satisfy their personal desires. Governments and educational bodies, and even religious groups no longer defend or articulate or maintain teachings and laws and codes that reflect what is true, what is best for the nation, and of course, what is according to God's word, no, no, no, no, with the religion of desire, what man wants, this is what drives the social and political agenda.
All the political changes, all the social upheaval, the repudiation of traditional, mostly Christian values are simply the outworking of the religion of desire permeating modern culture in Europe and elsewhere.
Now, it would be a mistake to say that all of this is the result of just radical left-wing politicians and their policies. I mean, they didn't create the religion of desire. Replacing Christ with personal desire is a work of satan and his appeal to an individual with either a weak or misinformed faith, or an individual that has no faith at all.
I mean, that's easy Pickings, that's low hanging fruit for the devil, someone has no religious faith or someone who doesn't have firm religious ideas, I mean, those are easy targets for the evil one. These individuals are susceptible no matter who they are or where they live. Of course, the extreme left politically may not be the ones creating the religion of desire, but they are quite ready to exploit this shift away from Christianity with efforts to politicize and normalize and codify into law and policy the tenets of this new religion of desire.
For example, through the left's efforts, what was once considered unnatural and thus forbidden by Christ has now become normalized and codified into law permitting and defending, for example, gay marriage. And if you don't think this comes from Europe, remember the first gay Bishop of a church was the Church of England. And the first gay Bishop was elected in 1999, and that was in England. In the nation where the media, the schools and the government are in service to the religion of desire, no abomination is beyond consideration for public consumption and normalization. There's only one end for such a nation unless an effort is made to turn it away from certain destruction here in this world, and believe it or not, a terrible judgment in the world to come.
What to do?
So the question is, what are we going to do? Now you may be asking yourself, you're listening to me talk, you're wondering, "When's the sermon coming? "We get enough of politics on TV." You may also be asking yourself, "Why this this focus on Europe? "Who cares what happens in Europe? "We got our own problems here, we got to wear masks "to go buy a quarter of milk. "We got problems here in this country, "we don't care what's going on in Europe."
Well, remember this. Aside from the fact that there are 446 million souls, precious to God, that presently makeup the European union, and we as Christians have been commanded to preach the gospel to all nations, not just the USA. Aside from this important fact, we should pay attention to what takes place in Europe because what happens in Europe eventually finds its way over to the United States. You don't believe me? Does anyone here remember World War I? Where do you think that started? It started in Europe. World War II, that started in Europe. And those wars eventually drew in America and cost America, speaking of Memorial Day weekend, 1.2 million American lives, when the US population was only 140 million people. This is for a war that started in Europe. 1.4 million American lives for a war that started on another continent.
Think about socialism and communism. These spread throughout Europe after World War II, and now we have socialist policies and politics being championed by a recent candidate for the president of the United States, along with a significant number of members of Congress! Atheism and humanism were philosophical ideas espoused by radical 19th and 20th century thinkers, where? In Europe! But today they have virtually overtaken every major university in America to the point where Christian speakers and apologists are no longer welcomed at institutes of higher learning.
What has happened in Europe and what is happening in Europe is a preview of what we will soon be dealing with here. So the question for us to consider is, what should we do to turn back the religion of desire? It's not if these things come, they're already here. What do we do in order to push back on this?
1. We need to boldly reaffirm the connection between reality and truth according to God's word.
The general feeling that people have is, all of this that I've just described is so big. It's like a huge wave that just washes over us. We think many times, "What can I do? "I mean, I get to vote once every four years, "what can I do? "I mean, it's too much, it's too big. "We've already lost." We shouldn't think that way. You know, I leave the big picture to God. God is the one that's able to raise up nations and presidents, not me. The big picture is His, but I do have responsibility for me. I have responsibility for my family. I have responsibility for my church family. I can do something in my surrounding. Not only can I do something in my surroundings, I must do something in my surroundings.
So the things that I'm talking about here are not things that the government ought to do, or the people in Washington ought to do. These are the things that we as individual Christians, that we need to do in order to push back against this religion of desire that's creeping into our country, creeping into our communities, creeping into even our houses and our households.
Europe has gotten into this spiritually dead position because its religious leaders were more interested in reconciling the Bible to the natural world, more interested in doing that, then declaring the Bible's other worldly nature. In other words, they bought into the philosophy of the time and tried to reconcile their theology to the Godless philosophy that was being promoted during their era. So they started eliminating those parts of the Bible that couldn't be explained by science, and removed other sections that didn't mesh well with changes that was taking place in society.
The new reality:
- An educational system is now based on evolution as the primary explanation for the material world.
- A society where men marrying other men and women marrying other women becomes normal, even ideal.
- An attitude that considers human life no greater than any other life form generated by evolution. My life isn't worth any more than a tree's life or a dog's life.
The results of this new reality:
- A generation growing up worshiping the creation rather than the creator. Does that sound familiar to you who have read the Old Testament? Thus explaining the zeal of climate change advocates.
- A society where we choose to live and function according to our sexual inclination, where gender is fluid and changeable and selected. Today, a man dressed as a woman can use a woman's restroom or locker room, or even read bedtime stories and parade this confusion to toddlers at daycare centers, all with the approval of educational elites, everybody applauding, "Oh, how modern, how wonderful, "how enlightened we are." That a man dressed as a woman is reading stories to little children! "Yes, oh, how smart we have become!"
- While the value of individual rights, everybody's got a right to everything, right? Well, the value of individual rights continually rises, the value of actual human life decreases to the point where the pro-abortion lobby demands the right to terminate the life of a baby even after it comes out of its mother's body, and they want this killing paid for by the government! And are upset with people who refuse to do that.
The examples I cite are not just coming, they're already here, and in many places enshrined in law!
Our response is not new nor is it revolutionary. Through teaching and careful selection of who teaches in our churches, who teaches in our schools, who teaches in our colleges, we need to reemphasize the biblical worldview, the biblical worldview for a creation and morality and the value of every life made in the image of God.
Oh, I hear people say, "Oh, such a quaint idea, every life in the image of God. Oh, it's nice old fashioned." There's nothing old fashioned about that, especially when it's your life that's in danger.
I'm not much for protest marches. I'm not one for noisy demonstrations in the street because these things can easily be manipulated and misinterpreted. I trust in God to manage, as I said before, the big picture.
But I realized that I have responsibility and a measure of control over what I and my family see and hear. Brothers and sisters, gone are the days when we could trust that our schools and government would reinforce the biblical worldview that we believed in at home. There was a time when the school was our partner in helping us raise our children.
Our schools echoed the values in general that we had at home. I mean, some of the old timers when they talk about when they used to go to school, "When I went to school, if I got in trouble with the teacher "and I went home, right? "And I complained about the teacher, "it wasn't fair." You know I'm going to say, right? I got it again from my mother. She would smack me. Because the teacher was upholding the values that my mother was trying, and my father were trying to instill in me. You need to respect authority and be polite and do your work, and you know, all that kind of stuff. Not anymore, not anymore.
Today we must make sure that our families are taught and trained in God's view of reality and morality contained in the Bible, and that they are protected against the false notions that have taken over our schools and our government. Each person may have a different way of doing this based on their resources and training. But the key is to realize that this responsibility is on each of us individually, since we can no longer count on public agencies to be our allies.
You know, when our kids were younger and they were at home, they were under our direction. They watched what Lise and I said they could watch. There were programs that, "No, you don't watch that program. that's off base, you can't watch that program, you can't go to that movie, you can't hang out with that kid, you can't go to that person's house and to that party" We decided what was being uploaded into them. We decided the images, we decided this as much as we could.
I understand what it's like, you know, you don't know everything, you can't control everything. But they knew that whatever they were seeing, they had to make sure that we would be okay with that, because they knew we were the filter, we were training them to filter what they were watching, more than ever today that's important, because today there's so much more content being shot at our children. Our grandson, 14 years old, he's just got his first phone, the same phone that I have. He has access to the entire world on his phone. His parents have some serious, challenging experiences ahead of them to help him learn how to be careful as to what he takes in to his heart and into his mind.
We fight the war by each engaging in the individual battle to equip our own families with the knowledge of the truth about reality, and reality according to God's word, not reality according to human ideas based simply on philosophy or science.
What to do in order to stop this drift.
2. Reestablish the gospel as the answer to man's true need — peace of mind.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- Romans 1:16
The key word here is "ashamed." He was not ashamed. The dictionary defines the meaning of this word ashamed, "Reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation." Paul, speaking to citizens of the most powerful and dynamic city in the world at that time Rome, says that he's not afraid or embarrassed of the gospel because it is the way that God demonstrates His power.
Rome had money and armies and philosophers and writers. It was the center and it was the dynamo that ran the world at that time. Paul, on the other hand, had the gospel, the instrument that provided the one thing that thinkers, politicians, merchants, or generals could not produce - peace of mind with God through the forgiveness of man's sins.
The Religion of Desire promises satisfaction, pleasure and gratification, but it cannot provide peace. And why is that? Because only the living God can provide peace of mind and heart, and the gospel is the good news that delivers this gift.
So many churches try to compete with the religion of desire by trying to match its promises. I mean, they've stopped being God's witness for the sure judgment to come, and God's messenger proclaiming the news of salvation for all.
They've stopped being that for the world. And they're ashamed of this message because it's not popular. They want a message that will attract people, not make them feel guilty or upset. They want to meet needs for life affirming, for food, for youth activities, for senior care, for political action, because people desire these things, you see my point? But the body of Christ, brothers and sisters, was not established to be a needs provider. This was not the purpose for the body of Christ. The admonition to love our neighbor and provide for sick and poor people were made to individual Christians as a way to confirm their faith.
It's a feature of the Christian lifestyle, but it's not the mission of the church, I've said that before. The mission of the church is to witness and to proclaim. The mission of the church is first, to bear witness to the world concerning its sin and disbelief and its rejection of Jesus Christ.
7But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
- John 16:7-9
Do you understand what he's saying? The Holy Spirit will help you, the apostles, in your basic task. What is that? To convict the world of sin. Well, how will we do that? By preaching the gospel. Because the first sin to be convicted of is disbelief and rejection of Christ. The Holy Spirit will help you make that witness.
A lot of times, people in evangelical circles, they say, "Give your witness." And their witness is, well, my witness is, "I saw a light" or "I had a warm feeling" or "I was sick and I was made better," or "God blessed me tremendously." And that's okay, I mean, we need to witness what God has done for sure, but that's not the witness. The witness is that judgment is coming, that's the witness "Judgment is coming, the house is on fire, get out, save yourselves." That's the witness. That's why that's not very popular because people are saying, "What do you mean the house is on fire? "I'm doing good, I'm good, I got money in the bank, I got a new car." Blah, blah, blah. "We're fine, we're good. Stop telling us the house is on fire, we don't want to hear that stuff."
That's the witness of the church. And the proclamation is what? Well, the proclamation is the proclamation of the gospel:
19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
- Matthew 28:19-20
That's the proclamation. Your house is on fire, Jesus is going to save you. There it is, those are the twin messages of the church. Every revival in history begins with a return to these fundamental responsibilities. When the church neglects to make these two things, witness, proclamation, when it neglects to make these two things priorities in ministry, something else rushes in to fill the vacuum, and we begin to drift away from our main mission and purpose.
We become needs fulfiller, need, poor people need food, these people need this, you know, whatever. And that, again, that's only secondary and there's no point to that. There's no point to that for the church if we're not proclaiming and witnessing, because the house is on fire, brothers and sisters, the house is on fire. In other words, you're delivering food to a house that's on fire.
And then finally, stopping the drift towards the religion of desire.
3. Return the Bible as the primary focus of the church's attention instead of relevance to today's world.
To many younger people it's more important that the church connects with people than connects with God. This is usually the main argument made in order to change things.
The argument "We needed to change this because I don't think we're connecting with people" is valid if you want to renovate the bathrooms or add a fresh coat of paint to the building. It's also a valid argument when encouraging the church to use today's methods of communication, websites, social media, all that stuff. After all, we're in the communication business, we're proclaimers, we need to connect with people so we need to use the tools of connection. Yeah, sure, that's a great argument for that. But some people unfortunately have taken this need to be relevant and connected too far, and in doing so they've disconnected the church from God in the process, for example, changing biblical worship for popular worship that uses orchestras and performance art, judging worship's effectiveness by its entertainment value instead of its scriptuality.
How good is the worship? The worship is good if it follows the Bible, not if it makes you happier, not if you like the melody in the song, that's neither here nor there, there's no growth spiritually because you like the melody of the song.
Sometimes people think, "Oh, let's reorganize the leadership of the church by including women in pastoral and public teaching roles. After all they're in those roles in public universities. If a woman can be a professor in a university surely she can teach a Bible class."
Well, yes, of course intellectually. We want to change those roles in order to conform to popular culture. But in doing so, we ignore clear New Testament prohibition against such changes, or mimicking the arguments of denominational scholars in an effort to undermine the inspiration of scripture in order to justify unbiblical practices. Brothers and sisters, we need to remember that we may be in the world but we mustn't be of the world, and the main way that we can make and keep that distinction is by knowing and living according to God's word.
Every attempt to change or undermine God's word is also an attempt to weaken our faith and make us subject to sin. In a world drifting towards what is easy religion, what is pleasing, what is convenient in the practice of our faith, these are all buzzwords in the religion of desire.
We have to go against the tide, reconnecting with God is difficult and it requires daily Bible reading and prayer. Daily Bible reading is how you reconnect with God. Daily Bible reading and prayer is not a project. You know, "I'm going to read 100 verses or "I'm going to try to read my Bible four days this week." Yaay (clapping) "I'll read four days this week."
Daily Bible reading is not a project, it's a way of life.
Today I'm going to breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Wow, I'm doing good. Breathe in, come on, breathe in, breathe out. Is that a project? Well, no! You need to breathe in, breathe out, to stay alive! You have to read the God's word every day. You have to communicate to him in prayer all the time. I don't mean like, at 4:00 p.m., I mean all the time, you're talking to him while you're driving, you have a moment you're waiting to see your doctor or whatever, you offer a silent prayer. You're having your lunch, you say, "Thank you." You know, they always say, "Oh, those Muslims man! "They pray five times a day, whoa! "They're punks!" Five times a day, my answer to that is, is that all? That's it, five times a day? That's nothing, that's nothing.
Our prayer life should be I'm praying all day long, and my prayer life is interrupted. I got to make dinner, I got to go to work. My prayer life will be interrupted there 'cause I've got to pay attention to what I'm doing at work. I'm always talking to God, Why? Because when I go to heaven, I will always be talking to God. I want to start that conversation now.
It also requires regular Bible instruction for the entire family, everybody, grandpa down to the grandchild. You know, the hardest thing about being a preacher especially if you're, back in the day when I was preaching every single Sunday, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, teach a class on Sunday morning, I never got to hear somebody else preach. I would go 20, 30 weeks, never hearing anybody else teach a class or preach a sermon because I was doing it. I wasn't receiving instruction. Every once in a while I'd stop and I'd go to a lectureship or I'd go somewhere and they say, "Brother Mike, would you like to preach?" No, I just want to sit here, I want to hear, I want to listen, I want to be fed.
Reconnecting requires regular Bible instruction and it also requires us to follow what is pleasing to God, not just what's popular or relevant to society. Christianity has always been an against the grain type of religion. One of its features is that it meets the needs of every generation, but it's always practiced out of the mainstream. If you don't feel comfortable as a Christian living in the present culture, then welcome to the body of Christ that has felt this way for 2000 years, nothing new, you feeling uncomfortable, you feeling out of sorts as a Christian? Yeah, that's right, that's how you ought to feel
If you think you've found your place in the world, that usually means that the world has found its place in you. I'm never comfortable in this place. I'm rarely comfortable outside of the church setting, outside of the building, outside of being with Christians, outside of discussing the scriptures, outside of being in ministry in some way, all of a sudden I'm taking out of that for whatever reason to somebody, and all of a sudden I'm with non-Christians in a non Christian environment.
Did you ever go somewhere and start a meeting nobody leads a prayer? And you kind of feel awkward to start a meeting and nobody prayed, or make big important decisions at work or something, nobody prayed over it, nobody said, "Thank you" or eating a meal with friends at work and they all just dive right in and just eat, you know? And you're sitting there quietly trying to. Yeah, it's like an out of body experience all the time when you're not with Christians.
And so in every generation, the church battles persecution and excessive evil and war in disbelief and apostasy, nothing new.
Today in the West, we face an apostasy into materialism and worldliness, and can only combat this drifting away if each of us, member, leave the big picture to God. But if each of us devotes ourselves to promoting the Christian worldview, a reaffirmation to the truth of God's word, both intellectually and practically.
Let's promote the Christian worldview whenever and wherever we have the opportunity. Also, we need to promote the gospel as God's universal answer to man's needs. Let's not be afraid to offer Jesus as the final solution to the evil and the suffering in the world. Use your Facebook page for something other than just selfies. You know, the world can do without one less picture of you eating a salad. You know, today somebody who's 20 years old has more pictures of themselves than the previous generation had in a lifetime. Let's be less busy making sure everybody in the world has 50 pictures of us, and maybe, just maybe, they also have us proclaiming Christ to them using our social media. How about doing that? That'll do a lot more good.
That's your way of pushing back against the religion of desire. And then of course, we need to produce more Bible knowledge, make the Bible our guy, let's lower our input and upload of the world and increase our knowledge and sharing of God's word.
Our children will be inundated with facts and film and all kinds of stuff, it never ends. And it's hard, you can't turn off the tap completely of course, but make sure that you equip them with the filters where they're able on their own to be able to filter some of this stuff. "This is garbage, this is not true. "Okay, this is good, I'll take this, that's not bad." Most people who have no Bible training they just open the door and the stuff just comes on in, at least teach them.
We're not just painting and reequipping and buying new furniture 'cause we like to spend money, we're doing that to better equip our teachers to teach your children, our children, I've got grandchildren and they're going to be in part of that as well.
And of course, we produce stuff. You know, Bible talk, okay, let's Choctaw's one of its ministries, the church also has on its website, It also has an archive of lessons and series and things that are taught by different elders, by Marty. We have our Bible school as an international outreach. So we also, we push back with the stuff that we produce. I'm happy to say that Bible talk as many of you know, it's on 20 different platforms, 20 platforms, and YouTube is one of those platforms. And just on YouTube alone, 6.7 million views. That's a lot of views for a little old Bible teaching website. You know, if I set my hair on fire, maybe we could get 10 million views, you know, but, yeah, we're pushing back.
We're pushing back. We're doing something here. This church, well, nobody knows where Choctaw is, Mike Mazzalongo, nobody can pronounce his name, let alone know who he is, but it doesn't matter. There's people from all over the world that use materials that we produce right here, that's our way of pushing back.
And I encourage each and every one of you to find a way to push back.