Self-indulgence is a silent killer that shows up subtly in our lives through laziness and gluttony. Whether we tend to avoid responsibilities, lack effort at work, or overindulge on the weekends, it will affect our career, relationships, and future. In this message, we talk about how to identify the ways we self-indulge and learn how we can change it.
Guys, if we haven't met yet, my name is Josh Thames, and I get to be a part of leading The Porch over in Fort Worth. Shout-out to Fort Worth. Exactly the same as you heard that here in Dallas they are reopening, we are also reopening next week in Fort Worth, so we would love to have you join us.
Here's where I'd like to start this evening. Who in here likes New Year's resolutions? Anybody in here do New Year's resolutions? A few of you guys. There are some friends joining me. I love them. I think they're great. It makes me feel like I'm moving the needle. There are times where I've felt good about them even if I haven't done them, but I love New Year's resolutions.
There was a year that I decided for my New Year's resolution "I am quitting sugar, all things sweet. I'm cutting sugar out. It's going to be amazing. I'm going to be fit. It'll be awesome." There was one singular thing that I was like, "If anything is going to take me out… There's going to be one thing that robs me of fulfilling my year commitment to a year without sugar." It was doughnuts.
To be really specific, it was the original Krispy Kreme doughnuts. You feel me? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is the best doughnut out there. So, I knew that to be the case. Friends, I pulled it off, largely. There was a Gatorade or two that I drank, a little sugar, but largely, I spent an entire year without sugar. But during that year, I thought about doughnuts. I was like, "Man, it'll be awesome."
Finally, the day came. It had been a year. I fulfilled my commitment. It is time. We all know what has happened. I'm getting some doughnuts. So, I'm excited about it. I drive up to Krispy Kreme. It's amazing. It feels like I could smell it from miles away, if you guys have ever been there, when it rolls right off the belt and melts in your mouth. I'm excited about this.
I get there, and my girlfriend at the time, wife now, had said, "You know what? You should just have one. Just one doughnut." I get there. I'm like, "Yes, I will have the whole box. I'll take 12 of them." I was like, "Yeah, I'll just take 12 of them and then just leave them at home. I'll just have one now, and then for the next 11 days." I wholeheartedly did not follow that advice, and I ate all 12 delicious doughnuts in one sitting. It was amazing. It really was. It was incredible. I loved it. In the moment, absolutely amazing.
Then there was something interesting that happened. I didn't see this coming. My stomach started to not feel good, and then it went from not feeling good to where I spent most of the rest of my day on the porcelain throne of my home. That's just where I was. It messed me up. There were things happening inside of me I didn't know could happen inside of me, and all because what I had done was I had taken this desire and turned it into this fully indulging on everything I wanted.
The reason I start there tonight is because we are going to talk about two sins the Bible identifies as deadly: laziness and gluttony. I just wrote some definitions down so we can have an understanding, so we're all talking the same language. Gluttony is excessive consumption. We often think of it in relation to food, but it's not limited to that. Then laziness is the avoidance of effort or responsibility. At the core, they are both seeking to gratify self.
So, for our purposes this evening, I'm going to put them under one umbrella of self-indulgence. Self-indulgence is excessive or unrestrained gratification of one's own appetites. Friends, I want you to listen closely this evening, and it's incredibly important, because, genuinely, I believe everything you want in life rises and falls on your ability to master your self-indulgence. Your future career depends on whether or not you're able to master your self-indulgence. Your future marriage depends on whether or not you can master your self-indulgence.
If I'm really honest, especially in the United States of America, I believe self-indulgence is responsible for sending more people to hell than any other sin. It's incredibly important, and it's something every single one of us deals with. There's not a single person listening here in the room tonight who doesn't deal with the desire to self-indulge.
So, tonight we're going to talk through three things. We're going to talk through the presence of self-indulgence, the problem of self-indulgence, and the path to true satisfaction. Before we jump in tonight, I'm going to pray for us and would invite you to pray for me as we open God's Word and see what he has to say.
Father, thank you for the opportunity to open your Word, to sit underneath your truth, to understand what you have to tell us about how to live and that life to the full is found in you. Father, I pray tonight, for every person listening, that you would do an amazing, incredible work in their life, that you would give us all humility to sit underneath the truth of your Word, that we might be changed to look more like you.
Father, I just ask and pray selfishly for myself that you would be with my words, that anything I would say that is not in line with you would be forgotten, and, Father, may we end our evening just being more in love and more excited about you. In your name I pray, amen.
Friends, the first point we're going to jump in this evening is in the text Philippians, chapter 3. Before we get to Philippians, chapter 3, just to pull our first point out, I'm going to set up a little bit of context here. Paul is writing to the church in Philippi, and here in chapter 3 what he's doing is calling out false teachers who have been placing these expectations on other believers that were not in line with God's Word, and he's exposing their false doctrine. So that's where we're at. Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17-19. Paul says:
"Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth."
1 . The presence of self-indulgence. We believe laziness and gluttony should be really easy to recognize. In our minds, it's kind of like laziness… That's the guy who doesn't have a job and still lives in Mom and Dad's basement. And gluttony… That's the person who lies on the couch and eats potato chips all day long. Really, we shrink it down to overeating and being overweight.
I think what happens when we do that, when we shrink those things down to just being overweight or overeating, is it's easy for us to go, "Oh, that's not me. Laziness and gluttony… That's for other people, but that's not really me." Here's the thing: self-indulgence is incredibly more subtle than that. Gluttony doesn't always look like being 400 pounds.
Here's what gluttony could look like. It could look like you're in the gym every single day so on the weekends you can drink as much beer as you want and not get fat. I actually remember that conversation when I was college-age. Laziness could look like this. We've all been here. Maybe you guys haven't been here, but I'm here a lot because I own a truck.
You have that one friend who's moving, so they call you up. You have the truck, and you get a text from them, and you know what that text is about. So, you leave that text unread so you can truthfully tell them after they've moved in, "Hey, I'm so sorry. I hadn't read my texts yet." It hides itself in our lives, which is what makes it so deadly. It isn't always easy for us to recognize in our lives.
In fact, if I'm really honest, it shows up in a place inside of my heart where what I want to do is work really hard. I want to hit the ground really hard so that at 35 I can retire and then spend the rest of my life in swim trunks on the beach. It doesn't look like it. You're like, "Oh, that's not really… Discipline." No. I'm telling you, I want to work hard so that later on in life I can essentially do whatever I want whenever I want.
If we're honest, none of us actually think we're self-indulgent. The reason we don't think it is because we justify our actions. Maybe you can relate to this. "I just had a hard day at work, so I deserve this glass of wine." Or maybe, "Man, I don't need to work hard at my job, because if I'm honest, I'm just not really passionate about it." Or "Man, I just had a really tough conversation, so I need a little retail therapy." Or I'll just welcome you into my life this week.
Come Saturday, I just had a long week at work, and there was a part of me that was like, "This has been a stressful week, so I feel like it's okay for me to sleep in until 10:00 and neglect responsibilities that I have." That's inside all of us. None of us think we're self-indulgent because it is hidden inside of us, yet Paul is saying here in Philippians that our actions reveal our hearts. Paul tells us our actions expose our self-indulgence. I'll read it to you again. He says:
"For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their God is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth."
Self-indulgence is present in your life when your appetite is your god. What do I mean by appetite? What I mean is your desires and your cravings. Not just an appetite for food or drink but your desires and your cravings. Then, what do I mean by making your appetite your god? Making something a god in your life means your whole life revolves and centers around it. Making your appetite your god just means your life revolves around satisfying your desires and your cravings. Plainly, what it means is that our lives revolve around us.
Paul says some things that hit home for me here. They sound really harsh, but he's trying to shake us out, like, "No, no. This isn't just something that's outside or just for those people over there, but this desire to self-indulge is inside all of our hearts." He says three things that I think are really crazy. He says, "If that's you, your life is headed for destruction, you're going to have a life that is marked by shameless selfishness, and it will not matter in eternity."
Friends, our appetites were never meant to be our god. God is meant to be God. Here's what's crazy. We all know this. We all understand this. Appetites don't shrink when you feed them; they grow. The more you consume, the more you want to consume. What makes them such a terrible god in our lives is, first, they're never satisfied, and then they're always changing. God is meant to be God in our lives.
I want to care for you, but there are some of you in the room, I can't help but feel like, who are maybe hearing this and invalidating me, like, "Hold on, Josh. Look. Yes, I'll have a drink or two, but I don't need those things. I don't need a drink. I don't need the chocolate bar. I don't need to play video games." Great. Prove it. Don't do that for a week. I'm not saying that because those things are bad but because, often, self-indulgence is hiding inside of our hearts, and our conduct shows and reveals that inside of us.
Those things in our lives that we crave, that we desire… I'm not saying your desires or cravings are bad or that you can't fulfill them and satisfy them in moments. What I am saying is that they may not be as innocent as you think and you may be feeding your self-indulgence. Just to recap, self-indulgence is often more present than we believe. Now, with an understanding of just how present self-indulgence is in our hearts, let's see if we can understand the danger.
So, if all of us are dealing with it, what is the problem? Why is it so bad and why is it so dangerous? We're going to be in James 1:14-16. Just to set this up, at this point, James is writing this letter to these people who were suffering persecution at the time. They were living in poverty, and a lot of them were believers living really worldly, completely apart from what God had to say.
James is correcting them and challenging them to turn back to God. Here's what he says. James 1:14-16: "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters."
2 . The problem of self-indulgence. Here's what the problem is. It all starts with a desire. Self-indulgence begins, at its very core, as a desire in our hearts. Here's the thing. Every single one of us desires to be full, to be content, and to be happy. What that means is you and I pursue things that make us that promise. Anything that promises it's going to fulfill those desires, we pursue those things, which means we often self-indulge.
It just means that when we feel these desires… If you're anything like me, any desire you have you feel really strongly. We believe self-indulgence is going to be the thing that appeases that desire or that craving. We self-indulge because doing whatever feels good in the moment is what we want. The problem, James explains here, is that we are believing a lie or at least a half-truth.
I'm going to reread those verses to you, because James in this moment uses a really jarring illustration, explaining just how this sin in our hearts that hides itself in here and how we all deal with it… He uses a really jarring illustration to show us just how painful and dangerous it is. I'm going to read this again.
"Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters." The illustration is one of a stillborn. It's really sobering. I have had friends who have been pregnant and then had a miscarriage.
Here's what's so jarring about it. When someone is pregnant… Like, "There's life in there. This is exciting." Two months ago, my wife and I had our first kid. I mean, it's exciting. There's amazement, there's anticipation, and you can't wait. Then you go from "There's life in there; there's life found there" to "Life is not there" and it leads to pain and sadness.
What James is trying to do is he is trying to tell you and me that we often are going to think, "There's life found in indulging in what I want. There's life found in satisfying my desires." But he's going, "Don't do that. Don't believe that. There's not life there. If you believe there's life there, it is only going to lead to pain and sadness in your life." Self-indulgence works exactly the same way. You think there's life there, but in the end, there isn't.
I remember when I first started reading the Bible. It was easy for me to be like, "Man, it's saying that sin leads to death, but I just slept with my girlfriend and I didn't fall over dead, so I don't know if I can trust the Bible." Let me, as best as I can, walk you through what I mean and what James is saying when he says that sin leads to death.
You see, when self-indulgence becomes a habit, it consumes all of your time and energy. Meaning, all of your time and energy become focused around you just getting what you want. What happens with that is you begin to have a decline in your motivation and in your health. A lack of time and energy in a job often leads to the death of a job. Proverbs 6 says this. Proverbs 6:10-11: "A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber."
A lack of time and energy for relationships can lead to the death of a friendship. A self-consumed friend is a really bad friend. A self-consumed friend is not a friend that stays a friend very long. Friends, if you and I continue to indulge, if we continue just to satisfy our own desires in the moment, do what we want when we want in the moment, it really does lead in practical ways to death in our lives here on earth, and then, in a much bigger and much more serious way, it can lead to death spiritually and for eternity. How? I'll explain.
When you and I believe "Life is centered around me getting what I want," what we are saying and what we are believing is "I'm god of my life. God isn't God of my life; I'm god of my life." If you have taken over the throne where only God is supposed to stand, that means you and God are not reconciled, which means when the end of your physical life comes, you'll be separated from him eternally. Friends, I want to implore you. James is imploring you. Do not be misled. There's not life there.
We're not alone. I do this. In the moment, the easiest thing for me to do is whatever I want to do, and I have to be reminded that, ultimately, there's not life there. Laziness and gluttony always overpromise and under-deliver. So, if self-indulgence equals making our appetite our god and if we self-indulge because we buy the lie that it will satisfy, a life marked by self-indulgence is going to lead to death. The problem of self-indulgence is it makes a promise it can't deliver.
3 . The path to real satisfaction. We're going to be in Matthew, chapter 5, and this is the beginning of Jesus' most famous sermon. It's called the Sermon on the Mount. He begins with the Beatitudes, and he says something incredibly radical. How are we to do this? If you're anything like me, I'm a little bit like, "I have strong desires, and I don't know how I can move from not choosing to do what I want when I want. How is it that I make it there?"
Jesus says it really plainly. Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." He makes us a promise. You see, the promise of self-indulgence that it doesn't deliver on is that you're going to be satisfied, and even though you may in a moment feel satisfied, in the end it doesn't deliver. Jesus says those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be satisfied.
So, the beginning of a path toward satisfaction is to hunger and thirst for what alone satisfies. Here's where I want you guys to understand something. Your desires, your cravings, the fact that you want more, the fact that you want happiness…there's something so real inside all of us…was given to you by God. He didn't give that to you as some sort of a sick joke. "Man, I'm going to give you these desires, and you guys figure out how to handle them."
No, he gave them to you on purpose, because what he wants is for you to pursue them to the end of something that will truly satisfy, which is him and him alone. The desires God gave you are not bad; in fact, they are God-given. What he wants for you is to pursue them and to drive you to what ultimately will satisfy you.
There's an author I love a lot. His name is C.S. Lewis. He has one of my favorite quotes ever on this topic. I think it's so insightful. He's a man who loved the Lord, and he really understood humanity and our brokenness. He says this: "It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak."
I don't know if you're like me at all. I remember before I was a believer I thought, "Man, I just crave more than other people. This whole Jesus thing is great, but I just need more." C.S. Lewis is saying, "No, no, no. You don't need more; you are settling for less." He finds our desires not too strong but too weak.
He says, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." He's saying, "Don't settle, friends. That desire God gave you is a good one. Cultivate it. Grow it. Let it drive you to the thing that ultimately satisfies."
The answer on how to overcome laziness and gluttony and self-indulgence in our lives is not simply just to grit it out. God is not going, "Just be strong. Pull up your bootstraps. You're going to make it. It's going to be all right." No. In fact, it is to pursue wholeheartedly what alone will satisfy you. Jesus says it. He says, "Hunger and thirst for righteousness, because if you do, you'll be satisfied." Desire and pursue righteousness.
What's really cool, what I love about his language there is that just the terms hunger and thirst imply that it's very natural, imply that our cravings and the fact that we want something more, the fact that we want fulfillment, is something God gave us. It's a natural thing. Also, what he means when he says righteousness here is just a personal faithfulness and loyalty to God.
He says, "Pursue personal faithfulness and loyalty to God." Pursue God, and you will be satisfied. So, the path to long-term victory over sin is to gain a superior satisfaction in God. I just want to give us some practical steps this evening on what to do. How do I grow hunger and thirst for righteousness or superior satisfaction in God?
A. Believe that God alone can satisfy. We're never going to move the needle; we are never going to be able to quit our desires or our self-indulging hearts and ways if we do not believe that God alone can satisfy. Here's what I want you to know. I'm just going to be so real with you. That belief, if you get there, is going to be constantly challenged. There is never going to be a day that you wake up where that belief isn't challenged.
There are going to be things that are in your face that you know will bring you satisfaction like this. That belief is going to be constantly challenged, so you need the truth of God's Word. You need to know what God's Word has to say, and then you need his people around you to remind you that God alone can satisfy you. So, the first way to grow hunger and thirst for righteousness is to believe that God alone can satisfy.
B. Discipline yourself. Discipline yourself to grow a taste for righteousness and a distaste for self-indulgence. There are a lot of ways you could explain discipline. I just said it this way: discipline is consistently making the choice to do what is best. Not just what you want in the moment, but discipline is consistently making the choice to do what is best. It is a daily, moment-by-moment choice.
Friends, be aware of your choices. If you really want to desire and pursue something that's going to satisfy you, you need to be aware of your choices. You need to discipline yourself in your choices. I've had someone explain it to me like this, and this is really helpful: discipline begets desire. Meaning, it starts with I'm just doing this thing because I know it's good for me, and that moves to this place of, "Man, I want to do this," and then desire moves to a place of delight where you're going, "I find life here."
Moving away from just, "I'm doing this because I know it's good for me" to "I think I'm starting to enjoy this" to "This is what life is about." Discipline begets desire. Desire begets life. Here's the thing, and we all know this. I just want to be so honest with all of you. Discipline does not feel good in the moment. It doesn't. Discipline never feels good in the moment.
I'll put it this way. I like to work out. It's a thing I do. I'm really into CrossFit. Boo. Yay. Whatever. Hard on my joints. Whatever. Every single workout for me starts like this: "I don't want to." I'm serious. Every single workout starts like that. I just don't want to. And every single one of them ends like this: "I'm so glad I did." Friends, discipline isn't going to feel good. Jesus also is incredibly honest about this. He speaks directly into it.
In Luke 9:23-25, Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" He's really honest. He says, "Following me equals denying yourself." But the promise he makes is wild. He says if you deny yourself in this life for his sake, you will save your life for eternity.
I want you to know, friends, we, in and of ourselves, are unable to deny ourselves. It's impossible. What's amazing is that when we trust in Christ and what he has done on a cross for us, he actually gives us the strength and the power to turn away from the things we want, to turn away from the immediate gratification and satisfaction and to pursue wholeheartedly what's going to satisfy us.
Just to finish the point, the path to change self-indulgence is in believing a different promise for happiness, believing the one person and one thing that can come good on that promise, and it's Jesus. He says, "Hunger and thirst for righteousness." Here's where I want to close this evening. I just want to welcome you into my life and what this journey of self-indulgence, of sin, has looked like for me.
At 17, when people are graduating high school, I was leaving home. I was leaving home to pursue a career in riding bulls. I know that's really crazy, but I was doing that because I had found out that I was… There was a friend of mine who said, "Hey, there are guys bucking bulls. You can go pay $30 and get on." I was like, "Man, I'm going to try that out," and then as it turns out, I was good at it. I was really good at it.
So at 17, I left home to go pursue this dream. Here's what it did for me: I lived exactly how I wanted to every single day. I was making a lot of money. I didn't have a coach. I wasn't tied to anything. I literally lived out of a minivan. I've rode bulls in almost every single state. It allowed me experiences. I crave and desire and long for experiences. I got that in spades. Wherever I wanted to go I could go. I was free. Relationships with women in different cities every single weekend. Fame. People knew my name. I did it. I got it.
Everything I was pursuing, all of those cravings I wanted, God in his kindness allowed me to find that, and here's what I found: it was incredibly and devastatingly empty. In the middle of when I was at my peak, when I was like, "Everything is going well. I couldn't be any better. More people know my name. I have more money than I've ever had. I'm dating someone who's beautiful," I had never felt so empty, because the truth is, friends, you and I were never meant to be god in our lives. God is meant to be God.
If you don't know him and if you don't know what it's like to be fully satisfied, I can tell you now on the other side of this, on the other side of pursuing all of my fleshly desires and finding it and making it, that the only time I've truly felt satisfied is when I sit in relationship with the one who created me and made me. I want that same thing for you, but there is a hidden little thing in our hearts that hides itself that we want to justify. It's the sin of self-indulgence, and it will rob you if you just hold on to the satisfaction it brings instead of running to the true satisfaction that's only found in Jesus. Let me pray for us.
Father, I confess in my own life that even though I know these truths, even though I know and understand and believe that you alone can satisfy, I turn to myself. I, frankly, want to be god of my own life. I pray for every single one of my friends, that they would understand there is more to be found. There is more life, life to the full, you say, found in you. So, would you give us the strength? Would you give us the courage? Would you give us the ability to deny ourselves, to let go of the things we think are going to satisfy us and hold on to you, the only one who will satisfy?
Father, forgive us for the ways we turn from you and look to satisfy ourselves with our own desires. May you grow in our hearts a superior satisfaction in you and in you alone. Thank you for this evening. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for the fact that I can run to your Word and be reminded of your truth. Father, I just ask if there's anyone out there who doesn't yet know you, if there's anyone out there who is still sitting in the desires of thinking that they're going to find satisfaction, and just the emptiness…
They're sitting there empty, alone, wondering what happened, wondering how they got to this feeling of emptiness, this feeling of loneliness, because they pursued all of the things they wanted to. Father, would you just step into their lives tonight and show them that you love them and that they need you and that life to its full is found in you. We love you lots. In your name I pray, amen.