"The things which are not seen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:18)
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Antoine de St. Exupery
The late great theologian, Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, stayed in our home for a week in the Fall of 1982. One morning around the breakfast table I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Schaeffer to explain the book of Ecclesiastes. What I remember most about what he said is that Ecclesiastes is the greatest existential book ever written.
In looking up existentialism in the dictionary, I learned that the writer of Ecclesiastes was correct. There truly is "nothing new under the sun". Existentialism is just a name for an ancient problem which began in the Garden of Eden. One dictionary defines existentialism as "the term for various philosophical doctrines based on the concept that the individual is entirely free, and must therefore accept commitment and full responsibility for his own acts and decisions in an uncertain and purposeless world." I might add that many existentialists see no harm in bad or wrong as long as he or she is undiscovered. It has been a slippery slope. In its extreme today bad and wrong have taken on an "in your face" flaunting of the same. To much of our culture, to call anything bad and wrong is now bad and wrong. The good, the right, the lovely, the pure and the true have become victims of this and other self- centered, like-minded philosophies supporting the doctrine that truth is relative and dependent upon time, place and one's own experience and interpretation. In fact, what is good, right, lovely, pure and true is being redefined and ridiculed as bad and wrong.
Isaiah addressed these very issues over 700 years before the birth of Christ.
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21).
It is possible for those who do not call themselves Christians to experience the benefits and blessings of the Judeo-Christian ethic in the here and now if they live according to its inevitable, unavoidable invisible principles. Likewise the devastations of existentialism are destroying lives, even the lives of those who have never heard of existentialism. One of these two belief systems rules in every heart. Sometimes they war one against the other in our hearts and minds.
If God didn't exist,
everything would be permissible.
Dostoyevski said, "If God didn't exist, everything would be permissible". John Paul Sartre responded to Dostoyevski's statement in Existentialism and Humanism, "If God did not exist, everything would be permitted; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself . . . he is without excuse."
Existentialism is the opposite of Christianity. From a Christian perspective, the existentialist creates many gods in the image of self and disavows absolute truth. More than the issues of immorality and morality, this supremacy of self, this exaltation of self as one's own god, this claim of our right to ourselves, is the very essence of Sin from a Christian perspective.
Though quite imperfect, a biblical Christian recognizes the supremacy of one God and deems the Bible to contain the truths as to what is right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. The Christian also believes there are consequences for violating eternal truths, regardless of whether they are discovered or undiscovered, acknowledged or unacknowledged.
The Word of God says the rain falls on the just and the unjust, that the sun rises on both the evil and the good. The distinction between existential living and Christian living is perspective. The perspective of the existentialist is temporal. The perspective of the Christian is eternal.
An eternal perspective
is grounded in the belief
that there is something more important than the here and now
and that there is blessing
in every good thing and in every bad thing that comes our way.
An eternal perspective is grounded in the belief that there is something more important than the here and now and that there is blessing in every good thing and in every bad thing that comes our way. The Judeo-Christian Bible teaches there are consequences of both blessing and/or destruction for our actions in this life and potentially in the life to come as well.
Both the existentialist and the Christian rejoice in the good times. Only the Christian can truly rejoice in the bad. Joseph said to his brothers after years of
suffering and loneliness because of their bad will toward him that what they intended for evil, God not only used for his good but for theirs as well (Genesis 45:4-8). The New Testament promises the same thing. Paul wrote that God will work all things together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Romans 8:29 amplifies on this powerful truth. God will use all things, yes, our sins, our suffering, our failures, our successes, even our self-righteousness, ALL THINGS, for our good. And what does God deem to be for our good? It is the transformation of the souls of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
And what will be the result of this metamorphosis? It will be the character and righteousness of His Son, Jesus, the express image of Himself, being formed; within our souls. The ultimate good is the blessing of heaven. This is the hope and promise of an eternal perspective.
The ultimate good
is the blessing of heaven.
This is the hope and promise
of an eternal perspective.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18 of two dimensions, one of time and another of eternity. Time, that which is temporal, is the dimension in which we live on earth—twenty-four hours a day, 365-1/4 days a year. In time, there is past, present and future. Eternity is the invisible dimension of the invisible God. There is no time in eternity, no past, present or future, though the Lord observes and works in all things through both dimensions.
Paul also indicates in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that those who believe in Jesus Christ are called to live in eternity while living in time. Now. Today. This moment.
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seenare eternal."
Time—The Temporal, Material and Visible
Time is the realm of the material. That which can be seen, touched, heard, smelled, tasted and intellectually understood is indicative of the realm of time. Creation dwells in time. In time we have to do such things as brush our teeth, be careful not to get too close to a fire, get through school if we expect the odds to be on our side for a successful life, etc. Time is the reality of every living creature.
William Law contrasted
the two realms as
"the vanity of time"
"the riches of eternity.
Eternity—The Spiritual, Mysterious Invisible
Eternity is the realm of the invisible—the realm of faith. The writer of the existentialist book, Ecclesiastes, defined the realm of the here and now of time as vanity. William Law (1686-1761) contrasted the two realms as "the vanity of time" and "the riches of eternity".
The Word of God and the promises contained therein are the bases of faith for eternity. Significantly, even our faith comes from the invisible God. In Ephesians 2:8, Paul proclaims that we are saved by grace through faith, and that our faith does not come from our own initiative. It is a gift from the unseen God. Faith in the unseen is the essential element of eternity and the unseen is not wishful thinking. Hebrews 11:6 says,
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen".
The invisible is far more substantial,
real and weighty than the visible,
but it can only be seen
through eyes of faith.
The invisible is far more substantial, real and weighty than the visible, but it can only be seen through eyes of faith. There is no clearer demonstration of faith than Abraham.
"By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God . . . All of these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Faith Comes by Hearing the Word of God
If faith comes from God, then He must have some way of awakening it within us. Romans 10:17 says, "So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". The Greek word for "word" in this verse implies a supernatural understanding of the scriptures from the Lord . . . the Holy Spirit teaching us
. . . the stirring enlightenment of God.
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
God also speaks to mankind through His creation. That which was spoken into existence by God is still proclaiming God to us every moment of every day. Through creation, unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-2).
That which was spoken
into existence by God
is still proclaiming God to us every moment of every day.
And God speaks to mankind through the lives of believers. This is how I came to know Him—through the testimony of someone whose life He had changed.
Jesus promised His disciples that His Holy Spirit would make The Way, The Truth and The Life alive to us.
"But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you" (John 16:13-15).
Throughout the scriptures, both Old and New testament, hearing the voice of the Spirit whispered from God's mouth to our ear—enlightening the eyes of our understanding—is an indication of relationship with Him.
To live and breathe in the rarefied air of eternity requires surrender as much as we know to surrender to the higher purposes of God through His Son Jesus Christ. In this realm of the Spirit or breath of God we accept that God's ways are not our ways, that His thoughts are not our thoughts, that His plans and purposes for our lives are greater and higher than ours. His word says so.
To live and breathe
in the rarefied air of eternity
requires surrender as much as we know to surrender to the higher purposes of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:9-11).
This is eternal thought!
God enables us to live in eternity while still in our flesh and blood bodies through His Holy Spirit and His gift of faith in promises like Isaiah 55:9-11 referenced above.
In the visible realm we learn to trust God to do what is ultimately right and best for each of us. By His grace, we learn to subject our will to His will and trust Him for the outcome even when it does not line up with our desires and expectations.
Someone once said that vulgarity (that which is typical, common, ignorant, ordinary and unregenerate) is the inability to delay gratification. In the visible realm of time vulgarity prevails—we want what we want when we want it. Now! Today! This minute, even when it might not be what is best for us. Or we might want it before it is best for us to have it. Without an eternal perspective, we can grow bitter and disappointed or arrogant and self-serving, or all of the above. Through the prism of an eternal perspective we find peace and rest for our souls regardless of our circumstances.
In the visible realm
we learn to trust God
to do what is ultimately and eternally
right and best for each of us.
If wanting what we want when we want it is the byword of time, patience, endurance and perseverance are the bywords of the eternal. At their root, these words mean "the ability to stay under present suffering with hope" and an eternal vision. Not the ability to avoid our heartaches, disappointments and broken dreams! And not the disability of climbing into a hole and giving up on our hopes and dreams! But the divine ability to endure waiting with hope until the Lord has resolved our dilemmas at their very roots and brought forth His purposes AND promises for our lives.
"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it" (Romans 8:24-25 NAS).
Listen to the promise in James about patience, endurance and perseverance.
"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots" (James 1:2-4 The Phillips Version).
Paul speaks of this same progression of trials and tribulations. He claims these things produce patience, perseverance and endurance in us and that these qualities further produce character, hope and the love of God in us.
" . . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5 NAS).
In the here and now of time, integrity and godly character sound old-fashioned, but there is no safer, happier, more fulfilling place to be. In the visible realm we learn to trust God to do what is ultimately right and best for each of us.
In the here and now of time,
integrity and godly character
but there is no safer, happier,
more fulfilling place to be.
A Bigger Look at God's Eternal Plans
Betrayal and loss could have blinded Joseph to his destiny and the destiny of Israel had he not been broken and transformed by God through them. When he was seventeen, Joseph had two dreams which indicated to him that he would be the ruler of his family. He arrogantly flaunted those dreams before his brothers. They rebelled against his arrogance.
Joseph's long, painful journey began when his jealous brothers plotted his murder. They were only dissuaded from their plans for his death by their brother Reuben's ardent pleas. Instead of physical death Joseph descended the long narrow way of God's high calling of death to his own ambitions and dreams to fulfill God's. He was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar. Betrayal and loss revisited Joseph when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him into her bed. He honorably refused.
Unaccustomed to being denied, she vindictively accused him of attempted rape. This led to his next appointment with destiny. Potiphar unjustly cast him into prison. It was there that Psalm 105:18 says "his soul entered into the iron," a phrase which only minimally describes his sense of betrayal, abandonment and forlorn agony. He remained in the dungeon of despair until God swung wide the door to his ultimate destiny in history. Ruler of the world.
Those twenty-plus years
of loss and grief
were Joseph's valley of soul-making.
God permitted every step of Joseph's life. His brothers' jealousy, his enslavement, Potiphar's wrath and the prison of gloom and despair were all part of God's divine preparation and plan for Joseph's reign over Pharaoh's kingdom. In Joseph's own words to his brothers years later, "It was not you who sent me here, but God" (Genesis 45:5).
The fulfillment of God's plans for Joseph were far more grand and glorious than anything Joseph ever imagined. Those twenty-plus years of loss and grief were Joseph's valley of soul-making. God wanted and needed a man with bigger vision and heart than those of a spoiled seventeen-year-old boy. Joseph's trials enlarged his heart and made room for God's love, care and provision for the entire world in it.
God's purpose in all that happened to Joseph was to prepare him to be His chosen ruler over Egypt, which was essentially all of the world. An arrogant adolescent would never have been up to the task, at least not for what God had in mind. He had a much higher purpose for Joseph in a much bigger picture than the here and now. God used Joseph to fulfill the promise He had made to Abraham some 200 years earlier.
"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs [Egypt], and shall serve them: and they shall afflict them for four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance" (Genesis 15:13-14).
An arrogant adolescent
would never have been up to the task,
at least not for what God had in mind.
God used a worldwide famine to bring Joseph's family [Israel] into Egypt, "the land that was not theirs". Galatians 3:17 confirms that the promise God made to Abraham was fulfilled four hundred and thirty years later when Moses brought them out of Egypt to begin their return journey to Israel.
"What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise."
Joseph probably did not have the Big Picture at the tender age of seventeen, but at the end of his life he clearly knew he had participated in the fulfillment of God's grand and glorious plan and promise to his great-grandfather, Abraham. Ninety-three years after his first dreams of being the head of his family, which he became, he said to his brothers before his death,
" . . . ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob'. Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here'" (Genesis 50: 24-25).
And so he was. Four hundred years later, Moses did just that. Joseph entered the promised land with the rest of Israel.
"And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, ‘God shall surely take care of you; and you shall carry my bones from here with you'" (Exodus 13:19).
This account of Joseph's life teaches us that God has greater plans and purposes for our lives than many of our own puny plans and longings. Like it or not, our lives make an impact for good or for evil. God's blessings are never for us alone. They flow out to those we directly touch and are passed on from there to others. They will continue on to the generations yet to be born. Ultimately they flow out beyond our families into the world. We see how this principle operated in the life of Joseph. The entire world at that time experienced the blessings of God through him as they partook of His provision during the devastating famine. Through God's man, Joseph, He made Egypt the storehouse for every living creature.
Joseph's life teaches us
that God has greater plans and purposes
for our lives than many
of our own puny plans and longings.
Abraham and Joseph were used of God to bring the eternal purpose of God to pass hundreds of years later in the land promised to Abraham—the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was the seed God promised to Abraham centuries before His birth and so are all believers in Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:1-2, Genesis 15:1-6, Galatians 3:6-29). His was the invisible city Abraham was in search of and He was Abraham's God. And He is our God. What an exciting way to live—for God and for the benefit and blessing of mankind.
We enter the invisible realm of eternity through God's gracious gift of faith. And we receive that gift by surrendering our hearts to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our lives. I pray He will give you eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand Him. If you are walking by sight and living a life of relativism, I pray the gift of repentance will come to cleanse and turn your heart to the invisible God Who reigns in the invisible realm of eternity. I pray that He will fulfill all of His purposes and dreams for your life and the lives of those you hold dear—even to the generations yet to be born.
We enter the invisible realm of eternity
through God's gracious gift of faith.
"'For I know the plans that I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future hope, Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,' declares the Lord . . . " (Jeremish 29:11-14).
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10 NAS).
Are you weary and heavy laden? Faith in Jesus Christ opened my eyes, ears and heart to behold Him Who sits on His throne in the invisible realm. One moment I was living in the one-dimensional realm of time and the next
I became a child of the King. My eyes were opened to another realm I had never known before. From that first moment, my life began to change. Would you like to trust your life to His loving care? Ask Him to take your life. Ask Him to forgive your for your sin and waywardness. Ask Him to make you what He wants you to be. Find a church that teaches that the entire Bible is the truth. Study the Bible. Ask the Lord to teach you truth. Become a member of a small group. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship—with Jesus Christ and with other believers. You cannot walk with the Lord without His body—other Christians.
The core of sin
is our making ourselves the center of life,
rather than accepting
the holy God as the center.
D. D. Williams
"Thus says the LORD, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient [invisible] paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls'. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jeremiah 6:16 NAS).
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6 NAS).
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS).
"We cannot understand the depth of the Christian doctrine of sin if we give it only a moral connotation. To break the basic laws of justice and decency is sin indeed. Man's freedom to honor principles is the moral dimension in his nature, and sin often appears as lawlessness. But sin has its root in something which is more than the will to break the law. The core of sin is our making ourselves the center of life, rather than accepting the holy God as the center." D. D. Williams
"The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self- realization which leads us to say, ‘I am my own god.' This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper morality, but it always has a common basis—my claim to my right to myself." Oswald Chambers
Eternity Now (c) 1998 by Anne Murchison
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