January 25, 2009: The Reality Check of 2009

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know You have counseled us to be in the world but not of the world. Lord, that’s a hard concept to digest. We need Your help, Your strength, and Your guidance to accomplish it. Today, give us such help so that Your reality won’t get lost in our reality. Amen


TEXT: I Corinthians 7: 29-31

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

In the words of one radio pundit, Ricardo Montalban “won’t be down for breakfast.” He died about a week ago. My generation remembers him as the mysterious fellow named: Roarke on the ‘70’s T.V. show: “Fantasy Island.” Remember that show? People went there and got to live out their fantasies, usually with some sort of twist. In a sense, that show is a metaphor for a generations growing up in America. Considering the socio-economic upheavals we’re undergoing, the question needs to be asked: “Have we all been living on fantasy island?”

I doubt any of you have to be convinced of the economic hardship in America today. They say that 70% of our economy is driven by the consumer. I went to the mall on Friday. I counted about 6 closed stores with a couple more liquidating their merchandise. Sale signs were in every window. And not many people have bags under their arms. The titans of industry bemoan the fact that people aren’t spending. But, they don’t spend because they have nothing to spend! The mirage of the credit card has hit home.

A whole generation has grown up in America believing in the free lunch syndrome. Buy now, pay later—that’s been their mantra as they worshipped at the altar of the mall. Now those chickens, along with all those “free lunch” grandiose government programs, all that is coming home to roost. The age old concepts of: saving, budgeting, and frugality are once more in vogue, until (we’re told) the economy gets back to normal. I’m sorry, but that’s a crock. The point is: we haven’t been “normal” for the past 30 or 40 years!

So, where does God’s Word fit into this gloomy picture? Where does our text fit in? That’s simple. Right here St. Paul, about 1952 years ago, gives us an insight into:



Last fall I attended our synod’s circuit visitor’s conference in Minnesota. The stock market drop hit full force that week. Some of my fellow pastors started musing about the “end times.” They wondered: “Is this the start of it?” My reaction is: I don’t know. Humans have had tough times, horrendous times before, and muddled through it all. But, I do know that God tells us to always be ready when He decides to come “like a thief in the night.” That is, we should always live our lives in watchfulness and prayer. And we should always prioritize Him as #1 in our lives. We dare never take God for granted, or think this world is the be-all and end-all of human existence or human happiness. Sorry, retailers, but shopping is like “Fantasy Island.” And eventually bills must be paid and the reality check must happen.

The members of the Corinthian church had a pretty good existence, humanly speaking. Their city was bustling. The economy was good. Rome kept them safe. Credit was easy to come by. They thought it would all go on forever, spiraling up, up, and away. But, we all know that it didn’t. In their case, it took another 300 years or so. But, the reckoning occurred. The barbarian hoards overwhelmed their society. And today all that remains of Corinth is ruins.

The day of reckoning can occur for anyone when they least expect it. It may be social upheaval due to economic disaster, as it is today. But, it may also be a personal disaster like a dread disease, untimely death striking a loved one, or anything else that upsets our comfort zone. The question is: are you prepared to endure it? Have you invested your time of grace wisely? Yes, only God, through His Church provides us with the means to endure it.


“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 the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”

If you rip those words out of their context, they sound rather unchristian, don’t they? But don’t do that. Don’t miss his point of comparison. He’s not saying that husbands should neglect their wives. He’s not saying it’s wrong to mourn the death of our loved ones. Even Christ did that when Lazarus died. He’s not saying we shouldn’t be happy—after all Scripture does tell us to “be content.” He’s not saying we should treat private property with contempt. No, what he is saying is the exact same thing Christ said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” Put your priorities in the right place. Remember that your soul is eternal and treat it accordingly. This entire world is “passing away” being worn down day after day. Nothing remains constant in life except God and His Word of truth. So put Him first in your heart and life, don’t get too enamored by what this world has to offer, and value your personal relationship with Him above all else.—For it alone is lasting.


At the time Paul wrote these words, Epicureanism was popular in the Roman world. In a sense, it was much like “American consumerism” in that gratifying the senses momentarily was their chief focus. It is summed up by the phrase: “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Meanwhile, they were so busy satiating the senses that they thought tomorrow would never come, the day of reckoning would never occur. But, it always does. Is history repeating itself today? I leave you to your own judgment.

Of course, there is at least one example in the Bible of waylaying the day of reckoning, at least for a while. It is found in our O.T. lesson from Jonah, where God sent him to preach to the super-city of Nineveh, telling them to mend their ways and repent. That city was notorious for evil, even by today’s standards. But, by God’s grace, those shameful people took Jonah’s words to heart, changed their ways, and God had compassion on them and didn’t destroy them.

Will America do the same? Will people turn to God during this time of fear? Will they put away their pride and embrace the love and forgiveness He holds out to us in Jesus Christ? You know, God’s Son died, died a bloody death on a cross, in order to set you free from fear. He died and rose and ascended into heaven to show you that heaven, not earth, is your real home. And by believing in Him, the final day of reckoning won’t be fearful, but joy-filled because it will mean we’re going home! Right now we’re going through tough times. So, get your own heart in order by focusing on God’s eternal power and love. Ultimately that is the only thing that will get anyone through the day of reckoning. Yes, “God humbles the proud and exalts the humble.” And He does that because humility is part of His core being and thus must be part of ours, too. Amen