Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
The Time Is Short - January 25, 2015 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (32-35)
Can you believe it, we are already 25 days into 2015. We are almost through one month of this new year. Time has a way of getting past us. As children we may have thought that time took forever to get here, time for this or time for that. As adults, especially the more we have to do, the faster time seems to move. There is nothing we can do to stop time, it keeps coming at us, faster and faster. One person once described our traveling through time, not as our moving through time, but as time swiftly moving at us. We are born today, and we die tomorrow. We are here on this earth for a relatively short period of time.
Time is short especially when compared to eternity. Eternity is forever, no beginning and no end. Our lives on this earth have a beginning, and that is at our conception, and our lives have an end, usually less than 100 years later. We are mortal, which means we do die. And do not be fooled, just because some people may live to be a hundred, there are just as many and even more who die at birth, or are even killed before birth.
In our text Paul tells us that we are to live as if we had no wife, as if we did not mourn, as if we were not happy, as if we did not purchase things that belonged to us, as if we were not engrossed in the things of this world. Notice that he does not say that a man should not have a wife, nor that a person should not mourn, or not be happy, or not purchase things, rather he says we are to live as if we do not have these things. Paul is trying to direct our attention away from the unimportant things of this world to the important business of being prepared for our eternal life.
Paul tells us that this world in its present form is passing away. How well we know that. We are constantly reminded of earth quakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, snow storms, wars and rumors of wars, terrorism all around, we are even told that the sun is burning up, that everything is getting worse. As Christians we realize that because of the curse after the fall into sin the whole world has been groaning waiting for the Lord to return and create a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
What does all this mean? Paul was writing shortly after Jesus ascension and he believed that Jesus would return very very soon. Paul and all the Christians of his day were expecting Jesus to return during their life time. Paul did not realize that Jesus would wait over 2000 years and more to return. But let us not lose our context. When we compare 2000 years to eternity we realize that even 2000 years is a very very short period of time. Paul is right when he reminds us that Jesus will return soon which means that even more so now, as we are 2000 years into the future from Paul’s day, should we heed his words today.
Because Jesus will return soon, Paul tells us to live as if we had no wife, as if we did not mourn, as if we were not happy, as if we did not purchase things that belonged to us, as if we were not engrossed in the things of this world. What does Paul mean by telling us this? He means that we are not to wrap ourselves up in the anxiety or the enjoyment of this world, but keep our eyes focused and fixed on the hope of eternal life. Marriage, tears, joys, purchases, the whole world of earthly things, we Christians may have all of them, use all of them, experience all of them, for what they are, as belonging to this present world. What Paul says is true: as soon as we go beyond this limit and permit any or all of these to interfere with our spiritual life and our relation to the life to come, a false power reaches into our lives and begins to ruin them.
Time is short. This world is going down hill, ever since the fall into sin things have been getting worse. Even evolutionist tell us that the world is getting worse, not better. Watch the news, listen to the radio, read the paper, we are here for a very short period of time.
Last week we were reminded that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We were reminded especially of two sins, gluttony and immorality. We were reminded that over eating is a sin just like any other big or little sin. We were reminded of the boundaries God gives us, good boundaries because He loves us and wants to keep us safe. And yet we were reminded how too often those good boundaries are despised by the world as barricades to our freedom or perceived freedom. We were reminded of our responsibility and privilege to speak up and speak out against the immorality of this world even if it means being labeled intolerant and perhaps even being persecuted or even jailed.
Two weeks ago we were reminded of our “duty” to struggle and fight against temptation and sin. We were reminded of what true grace is, not God giving us the ability to do something, not our choosing, accepting or making a decision for Jesus, but the fact that God has chosen us, that He has called us, that He gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life. Indeed, to suggest that anything needs to be added to grace means it is no longer grace, but what has been added. Grace is grace plus nothing.
Today Paul continues to encourage us in our faith life especially reminding us that our focus is to be heavenward, not earthward and that we cannot do both for we will either love this world or the world to come. Paul’s words may sound rather harsh. He tells us that a person’s first duty is to the Lord and no earthly duty should get in the way of that first duty. All the matters mentioned should not be the end and aim of existence. We do not wrap ourselves in the enjoyment of this world, but we keep our eyes focused and fixed on the hope for eternal life.
Paul is telling us that marriage, tears, joys, purchases, the whole world of earthly things, we Christians may have all of them, use all of them, experience all of them, but with the warning that we are to use them for what they are, as belonging to the schema, σχμα or form of this present world. The things of this world belong in this world. The things of this world are only for this world and we must be vigilant about making this distinction. Paul’s words remind us that as soon as we go beyond this limit and permit any or all of the things of this world to interfere with our spiritual life and our relation to the life to come, a false exousia, ἐξουσία (6:12b) or power reaches into our lives and begins to ruin them.
Indeed, Paul’s words are so true and can be seen so well in our world today. The things of this world have so taken the attention of the people of this world that every Sunday morning more and more people find something they believe is more important than being in the Lord’s House to be given the eternal gifts He has to give. And just like we said last week, when the preacher preaches about sin in general that is okay, but when he starts preaching about my sin, then he is meddling and so I will meddle again this morning. What is happening in our world today is that every Sunday morning more and more people believe it is more important to be at a ball game, fishing, hunting, at the lake house, on the golf course, or anywhere except in the Lord’s House where His gifts are being given out. It is as if we believe we really are good people, that we have not sinned too much and so we do not need too much forgiveness. “No gifts for me this week Lord, I’m okay.” Sometimes I wonder if our attitude comes from the fact that we do not really believe the Lord will return during our own lifetime. We are kind of like the rich man in the parable who tore down his barns and built bigger barns with the idea that today I will eat, drink and be merry and tomorrow I will worry about my soul. If we remember that parable, Jesus says that very night his soul was required of him.
One look at the obituary section of the newspaper, which I believe is now called the life tribute section will remind us that from the moment of conception we are destined to die. Which reminds us that even if the Lord does not return during our own life, we will pass on and go to Him. Either way, we will stand before Him and I would suggest as I always do that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might image. So we would do well to heed, not my words, and really not Paul’s words, but God’s Word which says that we are to not let the things of this world get in the way of our spiritual well being, as we often do.
The good news, however, as we stated last week, is that there is forgiveness. All the sins which we commit and even those we have yet to commit have been paid for by Jesus on the cross. The forgiveness is there. The problem is when we refuse and reject that forgiveness, which we do when we fail or refuse to confess. Remember, with confession comes absolution. The forgiveness is there so that all we can do is reject it and indeed Satan puts all kinds of temptations in our way, the things of this world, so that we do reject the gifts God gives.
With confession is absolution, the forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we know is life and salvation. Indeed, our greatest need is this forgiveness of sins, and God has it for us in abundance. His grace, His forgiveness always outweighs His law. What great joy comes from sins forgiven and the certainty of heaven.
Time is short, Paul reminds us. This world in its present form is passing away. Therefore we are to live our lives focused on our prize of eternal life with our Lord in heaven because of Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross because of His great love for us.
Time is short and so I encourage you, focus your attention, not on the things of this world, at least not so much that you become anxious about your lives in this world. Instead, focus on what is important, getting yourself ready for heaven. Focus on making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, those means through which the Lord works to get you ready for heaven, those means through which the Lord works to give you faith, forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, life and salvation. As the Lord helps you in getting your focus right, you will notice how your anxieties will melt away. As Paul says in the last verse of our text: “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (v. 35). To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.