Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX
Focusing on Eternity- Part 1
1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program. Iíd like to talk about something this week that I touched on when I was examining the topic of death several weeks ago. As many of you know, my 11-yr old son, David, died this past Memorial Day. The topic of death of was, obviously, fresh on my mind then so I talked about it here on KLMX. In the 3 months since then, one particular thing has had me thinking and that is the subject of eternity or, more specifically, our actions in light of eternity. God willing, and may this message magnify His grace and glory thru the truth of Jesus Christ, Iíd like to dig a little deeper in the subject of our actions in the face of eternity.
What started me thinking about this was, of course, Davidís death. Because he had a severe and undiagnosed anemia, I suspected that his life might be short, therefore I tried to make the most our time. David and I did a lot of things together. For instance, he said several times that he would like to go to Washington DC. Because of his anemia flying was out of the question- the air at 30,000í and even pressurized airplane cabin air has less oxygen and since anemia is a lack of oxygen in the blood cells, flying might be flat-out dangerous to his health. I sure didnít want to drive to Washington DC. My mother suggested we take the train. I looked into it, and we ended up taking Amtrak to Washington DC. It was a lot of fun and we saw a lot of things. And so it went. I took David hunting, to bluegrass festivals, to South Dakota, let him shoot guns and bows, went camping, helped him learn to ride a bicycle, and so forth and so on. Whatever David wanted to do, I did my best to make it happen. After his death, several people commented that heíd packed more into his 11-years than many people pack in their 60 or 70 years.
It was that sentiment that got me to thinking and the question that I asked myself was "So, what?" In other words, so what if a person does a lot of things in their life? If they die and there is nothing after the grave, that is, if dust to dust is all there is and the soul doesnít live on, then so what if you did a million things? Some might say "well, you showed love" or "well, you have memories", but if the person showing love or the person storing memories dies and all that awaits them is dust to dust, then so what? Eventually, the earth will be destroyed, either because of a meteoritic collision or global warming or drifting from orbit, or whatever. Then itíll all be dust to dust and what value was anything that we did here on earth?
This is a pretty gloomy outlook, but as I looked into it I discovered- just as I suspected- that this is hardly an original thought. Countless philosophers and atheists, running things to their logical conclusion, have come to this same point. In philosophy, this school of thought is nihilism. From the Wikipedia entry, we can read this:
Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential
nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose,
or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality
does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are
Richard Dawkins, a well-known and prolific atheist had this to say in Scientific American, 1995:
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
At the end of this article, Dawkins concludes with:
DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.
This is the viewpoint of atheism and atheistic philosophy and it, quite honestly, is a very logical conclusion. It concludes that in the absence of God, there is nothing. There is no driving force, no direction, no meaning to life, and no purpose. Itís the conclusion Iíd probably arrive at myself, if I didnít have something bigger on my side. That bigger thing is, of course, God.
Iíve read and said it myself that there are no objections that an atheist or non-believer can bring up that the Bible doesnít already address and thatís the case here. Iíve spent several minutes blab-blab-blabbing about how, if there is nothing after the grave, then there is no meaning to life. I think that is exactly what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about. Letís take a look.
Ecclesiastes starts off with this cheerful little passage:
Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 NKJV The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. (2) "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (3) What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
First of all, the word "vanity" as used here doesnít mean spending time primping in front of a mirror. It means, from Websterís original dictionary:
VAN'ITY, n. [L. vanitas, from vanus, vain.]
1. Emptiness; want of substance to satisfy desire; uncertainty; inanity.
2. Fruitless desire or endeavor.
3. Trifling labor that produces no good.
4. Emptiness; untruth
5. Empty pleasure; vain pursuit; idle show; unsubstantial enjoyment..
So when Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes says "all is vanity", what heís saying is that everything is "lacking substance to satisfy, fruitless, trifling labor that produces no good, empty". In short, everything under the sun is a waste of time. Now isnít this very similar to the philosophy that Iíve been discussing? The question is "what good is it?" If we spend time with our child and the only thing that awaits us and them is the grave, then what good is anything? If nothing but emptiness awaits us, then life itself is empty too. Solomon explores this theme fully in Ecclesiastes. Let me quote some passages:
Ecclesiastes 1:13-17 NKJV And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. (14) I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (15) What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered. (16) I communed with my heart, saying, "Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge." (17) And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-2 NKJV I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was vanity. (2) I said of laughter"Madness!"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?"
Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NKJV Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. (11) Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 3:16 NKJV Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, Iniquity was there.
Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 NKJV All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. (3) This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 NKJV I returned and saw under the sun that The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. (12) For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.
Ecclesiastes 12:7-8 NKJV Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (8) "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "All is vanity."
Solomon has searched for satisfaction in wisdom, pleasures, justice, fairness, and more, and they have all come up lacking. None of these things has left him with lasting and pure satisfaction. He ends up calling them all "vanity". This falls right in line with the attitude of our philosophers who have concluded that there is no meaning, reason, or purpose to life. Isnít that a cheery picture?
Fortunately, Solomonís not done. At the end of Ecclesiastes, his tune changes:
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV (13) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. (14) For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
So what does matter then? What matters is this:
Ecclesiastes 12:13 NKJV Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.
Solomon says that fearing God and keeping His commandments is "manís all". Heís saying that the purpose for the existence of mankind is to fear God and keep His commandments. When- and only when- we do this, will we find satisfaction. We wonít find satisfaction in this life- Solomon makes that clear when he says over and over "under the sun". Remember my first quote from him?
Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 NKJV (2) "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (3) What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
Of course, since they are atheists who deny the existence of God, our philosophers will never find this satisfaction. They correctly state, just as Solomon does, that life without God is meaningless and pointless. So, when David and I did things together, the only value those things had were the eternal values. The things we did "under the sun" were vanity. The things we did in obedience and in fear of God will last forever. With all this in mind, watch closely what Paul says here:
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NKJV According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. (11) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. (14) If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
There is no other foundation besides Jesus Christ and we can build no works except what we build upon that foundation. Even then, not all those works will last.
Time to go- join us again tomorrow at 9:45, here on KLMX radio.