“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19)
In our earliest and most formative years within this culture, a very potent message was communicated to us. It has continued to to be instilled in our souls from virtually every point of contact we have with society. Unless something quite drastic occurs, this message actually becomes the axiom for our entire existence: Self-fulfillment is the pinnacle of existence, and there fore self-gratification is the apex of freedom. If we pursue a path where we can be unencumbered relationally, financially, and circumstantially, then we can do as we wish and our contentment will know no bounds. Decisions are made based on this goal, and life becomes focused on removing any resistance to our gratification so that we might eventually find fulfillment. If we can look the way we want, eat what we want, do what we want, feel the way we want, have the spouse we want, with the kids we want, and buy what we want then we would finally want for nothing.
The tragic irony is that what is elevated as the height of freedom by our culture is in fact the darkest of dungeons, and the supposed path to self-fulfillment leads to utter destruction. When one lives to gratify themselves, the contours of reality collapse and become synonymous with the dreadful smallness of their frail existence. The limitations of sensory and emotional experience become the cold, stone walls that imprison them. They cannot enjoy anything in the world around us unless it somehow affirms them or brings them pleasure. By choosing to make themselves the center of the universe, they walk into the cell of their own fractured soul and throw away the key.
True freedom and fulfillment are found not just in living for others, but for Another. All things – including you and me – are by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus (Col 1:15-18). He died for us so that we could be free to no longer live for ourselves but to live for Him (2 Cor 5:16). The grave threat posed by the consuming quest for self-fulfillment driving modern culture in the West is that we will subtly adopt of false version of Christianity that caters to its demands. Instead of confronting and overthrowing the pursuit of self-fulfillment through self-gratification, within this distorted schema Jesus would simply become the means to it. Christ would be portrayed as the one who secures our ability to gratify ourselves by removing financial, relational, and circumstantial barriers, while at the same time offering the height of fulfillment through transcendent affirmation and pleasure.
We must all seek to discern the extent to which our own view of biblical truth has been skewed by the powerful ideological currents within our culture. No one can do that for us. We should do it with sobriety, knowing that though it may be framed within Christian language, the end result of subverting God’s design and putting ourselves at the center of the universe is the same as its secular counterpart. It holds out a euphoric promise of liberty that only leads to slavery. It places us in a desolate misery of solitary confinement – the confinement of self-absorption.