If we look to anything or anyone in this world for comfort, we’re looking in the wrong place. We can find comfort in the things of the world, but it’s short-lived. This world doesn’t please for long. The pleasure we enjoy here never lasts.
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another post. And today it’s one more post about The Confessions of Saint Augustine by Augustine of Hippo. I’m almost done with the posts about this very interesting book, hope you’re enjoying them.
This world is full of things that provide pleasure. Besides that, we may also find pleasure in relationships with others. There are countless sources of pleasure down here in this temporary, fallen world.
But we must never get so attached to this world and its pleasures that we lose our main focus on God. God is the one who made this world, including its pleasures, and He is the one we need to keep in that number one place in our hearts. Because what God has to offer is eternal life, if we seek Him out. This world can’t offer anything close to that. In fact, what this world has to offer is short-lived and ends in death, not life.
Augustine of Hippo explains all this in his Confessions. He lays out how we can go astray in loving the things of this world, and why we must not do that. So read on, and let’s find out what he has to say about it.
Whatever We Love, it Comes from God
In a recent post I wrote about a book called The Compass of Pleasure. It’s a book about pleasure and how it works in the brain, and how we get addicted to it.
In that post I said that since God created us, He created our brains too, and our brains are designed to feel pleasure. So clearly God wants for us to take pleasure in this world. Addiction and obsession go against His Plan for us, because He wants us to have Self-Control—and not let pleasures control us instead. But pleasure is part of His plan for us, since He both designed our brains to feel pleasure and filled this world with things that are pleasing.
Since pleasure is part of God’s Plan, we need not feel any guilt over enjoying it. But we must always be sure to thank God for pleasure.
If we enjoy the physical pleasures of this world, we must thank and praise God for them. That’s something Augustine of Hippo talks about in The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
If physical objects please you, praise God for them, but turn back your love to their Creator, lest, in those things which please you, you displease him. If souls please you, let them be loved in God; for in themselves they are mutable, but in him firmly established—without him they would simply cease to exist.Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book Four, Chapter 12 (Page 56)
His second point is very important too. If we love people here on this earth, we have to love them for God’s sake and in God. Let our love for them be a (imperfect and human) reflection of God’s great love for us.
But whatever it is in this world we love and take pleasure in, we must always remember it comes FROM GOD. We will suffer if we turn from God and love the things and people of this world more than we love Him. If we get our perspective and priorities wrong.
Augustine also points out this danger. He explains that whatever we love will turn to bitterness if it isn’t rightly loved. As in, if we don’t love it because it’s from God, and we don’t thank and praise God for it. And if we desert God out of our love for some person, because we feel that person is all we need, then we’re committing idolatry and Spiritual adultery. If we turn from God for some person, we’re making a huge mistake. It’s no problem for us to love someone, but we need to love them in God and for God’s Glory.
The good that you love is from him, and insofar as it is also for him, it is both good and pleasant. But it will rightly be turned to bitterness if whatever comes from him is not rightly loved and if he is deserted for the love of the creature. Why then will you wander farther and farther in these difficult and toilsome ways? There is no rest where you seek it. Seek what you seek; but remember that it is not where you seek it. You seek for a blessed life in the land of death. It is not there. For how can there be a blessed life where life itself is not?Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book Four, Chapter 12 (Page 57)
It’s what Augustine says at the end that’s most important: This world is not where we’ll find life.
This world is not where we’ll find life!! Our life is in Heaven, it’s an everlasting life with Jesus!! Stay focused on that, and get excited for that!! If we look to anything or anyone in this world for comfort, we’re looking in the wrong place. We can find comfort in the things of the world, but it’s short-lived. This world doesn’t please for long. The pleasure we enjoy here never lasts.
Because this world and its pleasures are passing away. That’s the message of 1 John 2:15-17, a very famous Bible passage and one that I often quote here on my blog. Don’t get attached to this world or anything in it. Focus on God and doing His Will, focus on eternal life.
(15) Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. (16) Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. (17) And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.1 John 2:15-17 (CEB)
Come Down off Our Pinnacle
So then, whoever wants eternal life needs to turn to Jesus. And turning away from this world is a big part of doing that.
Though it’s not a sin to have material possessions, it must never be our goal to pursue them. We must never value those over our relationship with Jesus. We must never love any of these things. But if they give us pleasure that’s fine too, as long as we thank and praise God for that pleasure.
But still, let’s be honest here: The less possessions we have, the better. The less we have of this material world, the more Spiritual we should be. Jesus is calling us to Him, but we must ask for Him. If we find all our satisfaction in this world (or if we think that we do, because this world’s satisfaction doesn’t last), then we aren’t going to ask for Him.
If we put all our faith (little ‘f’) in the material world, believe that we (humans) know everything, and don’t want anything more from life than the satisfaction of sensual pleasures of this world (any pleasure that stimulates the senses), then we aren’t going to ask for Jesus because we’re already on a pinnacle. We’ve already exalted ourselves, we don’t need anyone or anything else at that point.
This is what Augustine explains in Confessions.
But our very Life came down to earth and bore our death, and slew it with the very abundance of his own life. And, thundering, he called us to return to him into that secret place from which he came forth to us […]Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book Four, Chapter 12 (Pages 56-57)
Even now after Life itself has come down to you, will you not ascend and live? But where will you climb if you are already on a pinnacle and have set your mouth against the heavens? First come down that you may climb up, climb up to God. For you have fallen by trying to climb against him.
Before we can ask for Jesus and accept Him in our life, we have to come down off our pinnacle. We need to admit that this temporary world isn’t enough; it doesn’t last and it doesn’t please for long. We have to be Humble and admit to Jesus that we need Him. As long as we aren’t admitting this, we’re saying that we are all that we need; that we’re at the top of this world. But that simply isn’t true.
The crucial first step to doing that is falling out of love with this temporary, material, fallen world.
The Soul Lives by Dying to this World
Almost everyone knows the beginning of Romans 12:2, a very famous verse. It tells us not to be conformed to this world; Christians should think and act differently. We must focus on conforming to what God wants.
(2) Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.Romans 12:2 (CEB)
Toward the end of Confessions, Augustine tells us the same thing. But he phrases it in an amazing way I’ve never heard before: The soul lives by avoiding those things which bring death if they are loved.
Be not conformed to this world; separate yourselves from it. The soul lives by avoiding those things which bring death if they are loved. Restrain yourselves from the unbridled wildness of pride, from the indolent passions of luxury, and from what is falsely called knowledge. Thus may the wild beast be tamed, […]Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book Thirteen, Chapter 21 (Page 287)
There’s no better way of putting it than that. Remember: If we’re looking for life here in this world, we’re looking in the wrong place. Our life is in Heaven, with Jesus. What this world has to offer is death, because everything in this world—including the world—are passing away. Nothing lasts down here. If this world is our only source of comfort and pleasure, we’re in a sad state indeed.
So don’t get too attached to this world!! Don’t love this world!! Though it’s not a sin to enjoy pleasure from the good things to be had down here, we must never look to these things as our source of comfort and joy. God is our true comfort and joy, which we need to remember. The pleasures of Heaven last forever, while all the pleasure we enjoy in this world is short-lived.
We need to always keep our priorities straight. We need to love God more than this world or anything in it. And this includes loving people. Of course it’s no sin to love someone. But we need to love them in God and for God’s sake.
Here’s a simple rule to remember that will always keep us on the right track. If we enjoy pleasure from something or someone in this world, that’s fine. But always remember to thank and praise God for that, who filled this world with pleasures and designed us to enjoy them. And always remember the short-lived pleasures of this world, whatever they are, can never compare to the eternal pleasures of Heaven.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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