January 22, 2006: How Are You Treating The World?

Let us pray:  Dear Savior, today we come to thank You for all Your blessings—especially the spiritual ones.  For we know that our earthly blessings which we value so highly will not last, but forgiveness, love, and the fruits of the Spirit will last forever.  Yes, we can take them with us when we depart this life.  Thank You for making us eternally wealthy through Your blood and righteousness.  Amen


TEXT:  I Corinthians 7: 29-31

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

What’s your address?  Where do you live?  Burlington, Wilmington, Reading, Andover?  Where we live helps define who we are.  It gives people a frame of reference.  In some contexts we simply list our street address.  In others we tell the town where we live.  When you’re out of state the simplest thing to do is to say: “I live in Massachusetts.”  If you’re traveling in foreign lands, you say: “I live in America.”  And someday, perhaps, people will say: “I’m from planet earth.”—That is, if space travel and colonization ever occurs.

This world is really the center of our universe, isn’t it?  We’re stuck here until Christ comes to take us into glory.  And although most of our conversations are all about how the world is treating us, St. Paul phrases it a bit different.  He asks,



At the end of our lesson, Paul writes: “For this world in its present form is passing away.”  In short, he states a truism which every person, Christian and unbeliever alike, knows it true.   So, are you treating it that way?

You and I mark our lives in this world by events.  That’s why we like to celebrate anniversaries.  And those events that help define our lives on planet earth are: births, marriages, marketing, feasts and funerals, aren’t they?  Such events occupy our time and energy.  They help define our happiness or lack of it.  And because of that we begin to think they are the center of our universe–that they are all-important.  But, of course, they are not.  For all these things belong to the form of this world.  And as Paul writes, this world is passing away.  The day will come when it ceases to be our primary focus.

Listen to what the Apostle says: “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them.”

Now Paul isn’t saying that you should ignore your spouse.  After all, they are a gift from God to help make life more livable.  He isn’t saying that you should never mourn the loss of a loved one, for didn’t Jesus Himself weep at the tomb of Lazarus?  He isn’t saying that you should never smile or feel guilty about being happy.  For we’re told in the bible that Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Likewise, he isn’t saying that possessions are inherently evil.  For they, too, are gifts from God, and no gift from Him is ever evil.  No, his point is summed up in that little phrase: “those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them.”  In other words, don’t get complacent in life and take it for granted.  Don’t get so caught up in every day existence that you forget that this life is but the blink of an eye.

In our day this is easier said than done.  In fact, in our day following this blessed advice is far more difficult than in Paul’s time.  What do I mean?  Well, now days people live longer and providing for their daily necessities comes much easier than in Paul’s time.  That’s why we hear so much about financial planning, isn’t it?  Most Americans don’t really live hand-to-mouth.  We have welfare programs, food stamp programs, fuel assistance programs, Medicare and Medicaid to help ease the pain of just surviving.—Unlike in Paul’s time.  That being said, all this secularization of making life a bit easier causes us to forget that we won’t live forever.  It causes us to forget that this life does not permanently satisfy the longings of our soul for an escape from modern stress.  And none of it breeds eternal satisfaction.  For in the end even the world’s richest person will die and turn to dust.


So, how are you treating the world?—As if you might leave it at any time?  Do you really have your own house in order?  Put another way, what’s the status of your soul?

Jonah went to Nineveh, the New York City of his time.  The people there didn’t want to hear about repentance.  They didn’t want to hear that their city would fall and turn to dust.  The eternal dimension of their lives was an afterthought because they were so caught up with marriage, marketing, feasts, and funerals.  And yet, Nineveh did turn to dust.  And their own funerals did occur.

Life is fleeting.  Financial health is fleeting.  Possessions don’t last forever.  And neither does youth and good health.  Any one of us can have a heart attack this week.  Any one of us can suffer a stroke.  A car accident can certainly snuff out our life at a moment’s notice.  And then what happens to all our planning and all our worldly dreams?  They are gone like the wind.

The same is true on a larger scale, the scale of this world.  God didn’t create this world to last forever.  He has a timetable for its destruction.  A time when He will end all the human commotion that is occurring and with it the pain, suffering, and loss that always accompanies that commotion.  Yes, someday God will come back visibly to earth to end it all and to judge the living and the dead.  And when that occurs, those who are left cannot appeal to their bank balance or the value of their property.

As Christians we know all this to be true.  But we don’t like to dwell on it because we’ve never faced such things and therefore it’s all a bit scary.  But, it doesn’t have to be!  For Jesus has come to purchase your soul!  He did that by dying on a cross for you!  He did that by rising from your grave!  He did that giving You His timeless possessions to enjoy here and now and even hereafter—“love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and of course, forgiveness.”  Those gifts of the Spirit, which you possess through faith in Him, really are eternal.  You really can take them with you.  They really do span time and space.  Although the world may look down on us because we don’t have as much as someone else, in reality we’re all rich—in Christ and in His lasting gifts!  So, as you plot and plan for your future, keep that in mind.  It will put all your worldly struggles into just the right focus.  And as a result, you’ll never be poor or forgotten.  Amen