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The Brevity of Life

June 15th, 2018

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14 NIV)

Life on earth is surprisingly brief. We hardly realize how brief it is in the early days, when we long to grow stronger, taller, and, thereby, older, but in the later years of our lives are amazed at how quickly it has all passed. If life were a clock, in our youth the hands encircle the face in slow motion, creeping like snails past its numbers. But in our later years they gain speed until they seem to spin like the blades of an electric fan.

An act of God: God has left this mark upon our race – temporariness – and it is just part of our overall limitedness. Our natural life is marked with boundaries – limitations in knowledge, perspective, imaginations, talent, ability, power, influence, resources, and time. Adam and Eve were originally created with physical bodies, and though sin has shortened the original life spans of people, it is clear that from the beginning human life left to its own resources would die. They would live only as they ate of the tree of life in the Garden (Genesis 2:9,16, 3:22).

Man tended the tree of life, as he did other plants, but he had not created it. He was utterly dependent upon God for any hope of eternal life. Once he was cast out of the Garden he could not recreate this mystical tree. It appears again in scripture at the end of the book in the New Jerusalem, the eternal home of believers, and there it is described not as a single tree, but as a unique species of tree, “yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

There is a commonly held thought that our immortality is expressed through the memories of our loved ones, but all are eventually forgotten, most very quickly. Though some are remembered longer, no one has been so well remembered that they lived forever that way. This idea offers no real hope of eternal life, for being remembered is not the same as being alive. Memories are left to the whims of the living to re-interpret, and sometimes to mangle and destroy with no ability of the deceased to defend themselves.

We are completely dependent on God for eternal life, and the only sure promise is through Jesus Christ, that He died for our sins and rose from the grave victorious over death. He offers eternal life to those who repent of their sins and trust in Him. Outside of Him there is no real offer.

James wrote that we are like a mist that only appears for a little while. This is a great illustration, for though a mist, or a fog is a real thing, it is only temporary and when it vanishes we may even wonder if it ever really existed. It goes slowly, vanishing a little at a time, and this the way many of us die. How often have we heard of someone and then say, “I didn’t know they were still living.” They had already begun to vanish and were barely there at all.

The rejuvenating power of God: Yet we also see that God can give surprising strength to us in our old age. Joel wrote that God will pour out His Spirit upon the world, and “Your old men will dream dreams” (Joel 2:28). This is a mark of the Spirit, that he renews us in our old age. If there are limitations in our years, this reality is counter balanced by the surprising power of God. Life is surprisingly brief and God is surprisingly powerful.

Samson was such a man who had wasted his youth, his talents, and his opportunities. Yet in his final years, blinded and chained as he was, God renewed his gifts and strength. He who had been a paradigm of spiritual failure became a paradigm of spiritual renewal.

It is God’s plan that we counter our limitedness through spiritual renewal in Him. Paul wrote: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

The Last Surprises of Life ,

God in Christ

April 21st, 2018

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son … For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Col. 1:13-19

The kingdom of God is always revealed through personality. The heavens declare the glory of God, but His rule is declared through Christ. The idea of a kingdom is not possible unless there is a king. For the last several centuries there have been brave democratic experiences of many nations, yet all have felt a need to have some human person to be “on top of the heap” or to embody the values and identity of the nation. We may validly ask on earth whether or not the people of any nation can identify with each other strictly through mere impersonal means.

True values must have a face. There is an ache within the human heart for intimacy, and though some of us are more drawn to ideas than others, no human can say that he is fulfilled in life without intimacy and relationships with others. God has placed this need in our natures and it is an indispensable element of who we are. And it is the unchanging reality of who God is as well. He reveals Himself to us best as Father, Redeemer, Shepherd, Comforter, Teacher, and Friend – all of which are roles that demand personality and relationships.

The Bible is abundantly clear that God is a Person and He has revealed Himself through Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible testifies that all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell Him. And it was not some impersonal principle who served as the Creator, but it was God as a Person who created personality. Along with that creation is individuality and the ability to express oneself and to think for oneself.

Christ was not some mere afterglow of the eternal. He was and is God who was God from before the beginning. Some I know have struggled with the concept of the Trinity, but without this concept we have no explanation for community or the capacity for people – God’s creation – to exist in relationship with one another. However far back we may go in time, we will eventually come to a point where only God exists. And if that God were a single solitary entity, with no capacity for fellowship or intimacy with another, what type of world would such a God create?

Christ spoke plainly of the glory and love he and the Father shared from eternity (John 17:24), and there is the element of God’s eternal nature that speaks of unity, wholeness, and intimacy. So the kingdom of God that He invites us to is one of love and intimacy, where community and unity will be experienced in and through Christ. Yet where individuality will still be maintained, and where sin will be purged out of our spirits.

We people are not more profound simply because we have been trained to think in metaphysical terms, in objective notions of truth and reality that are divorced from personality. If anything, we demean ourselves when we think of God or His eternal reality as such. For His personality begat our personalities. And we are going not merely toward an idyllic setting but to the Lord Jesus Himself.

The kingdom of God is never about impersonal rules. It is eternally centered in the reality of the divine Personality of Jesus Christ, the Son He loves. So we are most at home when we think of our life in these terms. I am sixty-seven years old today and as we age it is not, as we might think, that our wisdom only increases in terms of logic. In fact, our capacity to think clearly seems to diminish somewhat with age. But our capacity for intimacy should increase, our willingness for honesty and unaffected intimacy, and ever deepening relationships grows. There in eternity we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).

Let Christ draw you to Himself, and be comforted with the assurance that this knowledge shall never fade with age, or shall it dim or become dull throughout eternity.

Daily Devotions, The Last Surprises of Life