Everyone I have ever met longs for paradise. And why not? Isn’t it normal to desire happiness?
Many imagine their own forms of paradise, but most people find that this “paradise” is, somehow, always out of reach. Our “so many fish, so little time” philosophy never seems to function as well as we imagine it should, and sadly, no matter what we do, we never seem to be truly happy.
Our problem? We are pursuing the wrong paradise! None of these man-made paradises will ever lead us to our long-sought after bliss!
We had just arrived in Nassau, on the Island of New Providence, in the Bahamas, and my boys and I were wasting no time in enjoying the beach. We dove, we snorkelled, we swam . . . Nothing could have been more refreshing after a hot day in the sun.
My wife apparently thought otherwise. She sat on a nearby dock working on her cross-stitch, talking to a total stranger. The local seemed friendly enough, and my wife seemed to be enjoying talking with him, but when they were still chatting 15 minutes later, I became curious. It was time to leave the beautiful water anyway, so I pulled myself onto the dock and joined in the conversation.
The stranger was talking about the Bahamas in general, but was specifically stressing the positive points of Paradise Island, a small island connected to New Providence by bridge.
As he continued, he began to rave about Atlantis, the huge and expensive resort on Paradise Island. “You know what?” He said finally. “I can arrange for you to visit Atlantis for free! In fact I will even pick you up and drive you there and back. You may visit the hotel and have access to all of Atlantis’ attractions!”
I was about to answer that we were not interested when I noticed that my boys had also gathered around. My youngest son was jumping up and down for some reason. Had he cut himself or something?
“Please, papa, please!” He pleaded.
Oh. So that was the reason for the dance! He had already read about (and drooled over) the wonderful water park at Atlantis, along with the aquarium, and all of the other great activities Atlantis has to offer, and the idea of going there for free was more than he could resist.
But he knows how well I tolerate begging. I would have to squelch his excitement immediately: “Uh . . . Well . . . My son sure does want to go!”
“You wouldn’t regret it!”
“But why are you doing this for us?”
“I work for the resort and am paid to attract tourists. We know that once you’ve seen our resort, you will make sure that you stay with us the next time you visit. All we need is an hour of your time, then you will have the rest of the day to enjoy your stay at Atlantis. I even will throw in a free breakfast. All you need to do is bring your swimming gear!”
It was too good to be true and I knew it, but my son’s eyes were shining with enthusiastic desire. It was true that we had already planned to spend a day on Paradise Island. What would it hurt to go there for free?
Needless to say, our “paradise” didn’t turn out to be quite what we had expected. We were taken to a Vacation Share resort whose only connection with Atlantis was that they shared the same island. The “one hour” presentation ended up being three hours long, and only after repeatedly saying that we weren’t interested were we finally released.
Interestingly, the painted-on smiles of the sales people somehow disappeared about this time, as did our transportation. We were forced to trek around the island on foot, lugging a heavy bag of swim gear and snorkels, and we ended up having to pay $140.00 to visit Atlantis, and even this didn’t include the drooled-over water parks. We spent over $50.00 on simple sub sandwiches for our lunch, and it cost us $12.00 to take the water taxi back to Nassau. In the end it was clear that that Paradise Island was nothing more than a monstrous tourist trap that didn’t even vaguely resemble the Bahamian way of life, and we counted our blessings that we had chosen to stay on the main island where we could truly experience the Bahamas!
Beware of the false “Paradise” promoters, even if what they proclaim is supposedly free!
This is especially true when referring to the only true Paradise. Many will come to us and tell us they know the way to paradise. Beware! “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matt 24:5: NIV); and “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt 23:15 NIV)
In all reality, anyone who proclaims “the truth” apart from the One, Jesus Christ, is a deceiver: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6-7 NIV). If you give in to them, they will try to control you for the rest of your life. These people are manipulators who will lead you to a life of misery and torment. Control will be taken out of your hands, and in the end, you will begin to doubt ever reaching paradise. Why? Because you will never be able to measure up to their petty, unbiblical demands!
Remember: Jesus is not a doctrine! He isn’t a specific denomination promoter, and He never endorses any writings besides the Word of God (“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Mark 7:13 NIV) Only One can bring us to true Paradise, and He is not the One proclaimed by those who declare they are the only ones who have “the truth”! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV)
There is only one gospel and one gospel alone! “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Cor 15:1-8 NIV)
You will never be able to reach Paradise on your own, neither will you reach it by relying on others. Jesus is the “only way”. Come to Him and learn from Him. Unlike humans, He will never disappoint you. If you accept Him into your life, if you start to trust Him and put Him first in your life, you will one day hear Him say to you: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV)
“Would you like to come to Paradise with me?”
(To access the entire “Control Freaks’ Senility” devotional series, please click here.)