Saturday, December 17, 2016

Where are you going on your life-journey?

The most important question of your life. The problem is that many people deny what ought to be so obvious—that we are eternal creatures found in mortal bodies. Immortals bound with the decaying bodies of mortals. It should be self-evident to all of us, but strangely it is not.

By his word, he spoke the world into being, filled with animal diversity, and all the wondrous beauties of nature. The Bible teaches that it happened almost instantaneously; men have now stretched the life of the earth back to nearly 5 billion years, to try to make the impossible seem more likely with time, and still they find they have a monstrous task. But God says he did it, creating and making and fitting and designing all the things in the universe that would make the earth have life, and have it abundantly. But by their own designs, men have plotted to replace this work of God with a work of accident, time, and mutation. Still, the word of God rings for those who will listen: “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away” (Psalm 102:25).

I understand on our life-journey, if we are lucky, we find animals to bond with. I have done that myself. But there is a great void of difference between us and the nearest animals. Perhaps Descartes came closer than he realized when he said I think therefore I am. Rationality is a great mark of difference, and though it appears in some of the higher animals, particularly the higher animals that spend time with man, it is not well formed. If man just fished, he would be like other animals. But man fishes with a hook and a pole, and there are fewer animals that can imitate that. How many animals take it a step further, and create a boat, that they might be more successful fishermen? Even if we find such an exception in the wonders of nature, how many of those boats are powered? And which animal cultivates and grows fish that he may eat? On every hand, man so far outstrips his fellow animals that there is a great divide between them than cannot be surpassed.

Men have thoughts—perhaps animals do some reasoning. I think I can see it in my dog at times. But man does not stop with reasoning. He writes. He collects ideas, and ruminates upon them. He puts them into books, and then builds libraries to hold the books. To make it yet easier on himself, he puts the books into electronic format, that he might literally have vast reservoirs of books at his whim. Animals never approach this standard. What does God say but that he breathed into man and he became a living soul? There is a vast ocean, broader than the Pacific itself, between man and animal.

All of this the tiniest child seems to intuit; it is only when we “grow up” that we forget our basic beginnings, our roots. For indeed, we are rooted in the image of our Creator, and stand in all our earth as something unique, the only animal, if you will, to receive the breath of God. Perhaps that is why Jesus directed us to be like the little children in coming to him. As a teacher, I saw young children all the time, and it greatly saddened my heart to see so many of them becoming captivated by the things of this world, instead of being opened to the Creator-God who makes all life possible. Their life journeys were being set in the wrong direction, a direction that leads them away from God.

Ezekiel, chapters 3, 18, and 33, all make it clear that the will of God is that the wicked should turn from their ways and find faith. I do not pretend to understand the sovereignty of God; in my morning prayers I see the hand of God as everything, all-powerful and everywhere present. And yet within God’s nature, as powerful as it is, he still commands us to turn from our self-centered lifestyles to one that is centered in him. Ezekiel makes it plain that it is not the will of God for men to perish; instead their plight remains upon their own heads as they careen their way through life, bashing their way through the stop signs of warning, never heeding those signs until their life ends in a stupendous crash. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

In the time of coming judgment, the prophet warned Israel, prepare to meet your God, Israel. That warning certainly applies to all of us today. As eternal creatures, created by God in his image, our journey is this lifetime is as but the first step. It might seem strange to consider it so, with all of our years’ of experiences behind us, but the time of our lives is frequently compared to grass and flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow. Still, God gives us this first step that we might start correctly, with him leading us throughout the rest of the journey.

Therefore, all the other journeys that we would take are by definition wrong. There is one way, Jesus teaches, the narrow way, and few there are that find it. The blindness of our world as they plunge into darkness is amazing to this old man. The tolerance taught in my own country is so wrong—Jesus also taught that the way to Hell is broad, and that there are many who are treading its pathway. Every lifestyle apart from one of faith is doomed to destruction; it matters not how virtuous one may paint such a lifestyle.

“I am okay,” says the non-thinking person. “I will be alright when I face that last day.” After all, they reason, I am better than my neighbor who is a drunkard. I raise my kids carefully. I do my best, they say, and I will trust God with the rest. Their ill-measured idea of God is that he will overlook their faults, and see somehow inside their hearts, and know that they are really a decent sort, worthy of heaven. But the reality is so far from that picture. We are a woeful and sinful people, and when we compare ourselves to others, we are taking our eyes off of our needs, and pointing fingers at others. The truth is that God does see into our hearts, totally and completely. He knows you better than you know yourself, even when you are being candid with yourself, which if you are like me comes all too seldom. God knows that heart of yours, that it is fully disobedient, and in desperate need of a divine solution. It is no good saying that you are better than someone else—it may be true, but it belies your need, and God cannot “fudge” the scales in your favor, and overlook your sin.

But such people can go blithely on through their life-journey, never seeing themselves as God sees them. What a surprise it is to so many when they fail their expectations of a glorious afterlife based on their own deeds. God has given a divine solution in our trusting Jesus Christ. You see, God did not overlook sin—instead, he poured out all of his divine wrath upon his son, that by believing we might be saved. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, John tells us, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Perhaps you are not familiar with the story. Poisonous vipers were loose and plentiful in the camp of the Israelites, biting and killing many of them. Moses, listening to God, took a pole, put one of the poisonous vipers on it, and commanded all who were bitten to look upon the serpent. Those who trusted Moses and looked upon the serpent were healed.

In a manner, the Son of God is like that serpent. He took upon himself all of your sins, indeed, the sins of the world, and in doing that, became a fiery serpent, drawing all the wrath of God. If you will look today and understand and have faith in what God did, you will be saved. But nothing less than divine wrath for your sins can get you out of judgment. What a folly it is to trust your own efforts, when provision has been made for you to escape the wrath of God. Yet, the blind go on, trusting themselves yet another day, and doom themselves to total and complete failure.

I know people who want so much to make it on their own; isn’t that the first cry of the infant who wants to do it for himself? But if you will not look to the cross, and see the provision that God has made, there remains no provision for you, and you doom yourself to perdition. How much better that the wicked man should turn from his way and live!

The classic definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. From the beginning of time, the pathway to Hell is paved with men and women who have tried it their way, presenting themselves to God, and expecting that to be merit enough. There is only one merit acceptable to God, and he had fully provided that in his divine solution, the only solution that will carry us on our life-journey to heaven. I close with something Tozer has to say about a man dying without Christ: “An old sinner is an awesome and frightening spectacle. One feels about him much as one feels about the condemned man on his way to the gallows. A sense of numb terror and shock fills the heart. The knowledge that the condemned man was once a redcheeked boy only heightens the feeling, and the knowledge that the aged rebel now beyond reclamation once went up to the house of God on a Sunday morning to the sweet sound of church bells makes even the trusting Christian humble and a little bit scared. There but for the grace of God goes he.”1Is it not ironic that men go through all of their lives, somehow never having looked seriously at the claims of Christ? There is not a more tragic event than someone who spent their life not looking where they ought to—upon the Christ who has been lifted up that all men might have life, and have it abundantly.

1. Tozer, A.W.. Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 554-557). . Kindle Edition.

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