Will it Seem Important 1,000 Years from Now?

 

Will it Seem Important 1,000 Years from Now?

Does Eternity Determine Your Values?

Richard Hollerman

As our days go by and they add up to weeks, then months, and eventually years, what thoughts go through your mind? We all see the passing of time and may lament how our life seems to go by so quickly, but how do we evaluate all of this? What’s the bottom line in the passing of time and your lifespan?

Maybe you lose a friend or loved one at a young age. You expected this person to live a “ripe old age” of seventy, eighty, or even ninety, but the person succumbed to cancer at age 20, or a car accident at age 30, or a heart attack at age 40. It didn’t seem right. It was entirely unexpected. You are convinced it was unjust. But it happened and now you must find some rational explanation for the person’s life on earth. You try to make sense of it all and ask, “What was the purpose in my friend’s life? What did he accomplish? What of lasting worth did he do?”

Day by day you may glance at the obituary notices, with the deceased person’s photo and life record, but it seems to “wrong” and unreasonable. How do we explain how long someone lives and why they lived? But death is with us and we can’t deny it.

When these kinds of things happen to you, how do you view your own life? Do you sometimes ask yourself, “Since I, too, will one day die and be put into the ground, what am I doing with my life? How am I using it now? What do I have to show for it? When I am gone, what remains? And what can I do now so that I can have something that survives death?” These are sobering questions but they are ones that any wise and thoughtful person should ask.

Jesus told the account of two men in Luke 16. One was wise and the other was foolish. The first man was rich and “habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day” (v. 19). The other man  lived a wretched life of sickness and poverty. The Lord doesn’t describe much about these men and what they thought of God, but we assume that the first man had no interest in the Lord or living for Him. The poor man must have lived with God in mind and lived for eternity. But we do know this: after death, the conditions of these men were reversed. The former rich man was in “torment” and “agony” in the flames (vv. 23-25, 28), whereas the other man enjoyed “good things” and was “comforted” (v. 25). The rich man couldn’t take anything with him to “the other side,” whereas the poor man had blessing, joy, and abundance in the afterlife.

This may teach us several things. We need to live for God right here and now if we expect our eternal situation to be a blessed one.  We don’t know the actual time of our departure, thus we need to live for the Lord day by day. We need to lovingly focus on others and their needs rather than selfishly accumulate riches without regard for others. We need to take advantage of present opportunities in life for they will have a direct bearing on our condition after death.

As we read the remainder of the Bible, we notice that we must make sure of forgiveness, salvation, and reconciliation with God now for there will be no “second chance” after death. After death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

When we are young, it seems that all kinds of wants, desires, pastimes, hobbies, and interests may be found in our life. A child may want to visit a zoo, or go to a sporting event, or get a computer game, or go on a vacation. As an adult, you may know that these occupations are not that important in the long run, but the child may fill his or her mind with them. He dreams about that vacation. He reads about a hobby. He watches TV on a particular subject. Regardless of the way you pass off their interest as being unimportant, they seem obsessed with it.

In one respect, adults may also be preoccupied with a variety of interests. Their mind becomes filled with all kinds of things—going to an exciting ball game, making a special deal on the job, earning a bonus in the office, having a date with a new acquaintance, buying a new car, or watching a favorite TV program. Like the case of the child, the adult seems to be oblivious to the frivolity of his pursuits. Those things that fill our mind and attention are really not crucial to our health or future. They are passing playthings that mean nothing to God and should mean nothing to us!

Jesus gave a parable that went like this: “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do; I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods” (Luke 12:16-18). Doesn’t this sound very contemporary? People are consumed with the desire for money and possessions. They want to earn more, save more, and find ways to increase his investments.

The account continues: “’And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’” Not long ago, I read something about investing money for retirement. It would seem that this kind of goal is a consuming passion for some people. Money, money, money is their theme. Others make possessions their ambition. Still others are fixated on their house—repairs, renovations, furnishings, lands, and everything else pertaining to their dwelling places. And we know that many have food as their focus of attention in life. Restaurants, new recipes, eating too much, feasting, and entertaining—all of this becomes dominant in their life.

God says that one who fills his life with possessions (or any other pastimes or interests) is a “fool”! The rich man was so focused on the present and that which is passing that he entirely forgot about preparation for life after death. As God soberly said, “This very night your soul is required of you!” We don’t know when our end will be! We have no way of knowing whether our plans will be fulfilled. It is all in God’s hands. James puts it this way:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

We just don’t know what a day may bring forth (cf. Proverbs 27:1). We are just a vapor, a fog, a breath, a flower, and after a short stay on earth, we die. Yes, Die. Many of us don’t like to think of death, but that is exactly what will happen to us. We’ll die and leave it all behind! “We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7).

How did Jesus end His account of the foolish rich man?  He said, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). I often think of this when I learn of someone who has worked hard and accumulated piles of fine possessions and money—bank accounts, investments, new cars, a vacation home, fine clothes, rich furniture, cruises in the Caribbean, and so much more. I ponder: Has this person only pursued earthly things? My guess is that such a person probably didn’t even give a measly tithe (10% of his gross income) to the Lord. He could have easily given 20 percent, 30 percent, or even 50 percent of his income to the Lord and spiritual causes, but he may have been content with a mere five percent—or nothing! He thinks that he deserves the best things in life since he earned it! But he has left God out of his thinking! Like the foolish rich man, he has stored up “treasure for him, and is not rich toward God.”

Maybe you remember Christ’s warnings about earthly possessions: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and were thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Just how do we store up treasure in heaven? We do this by “investing” in heavenly things for God and for the Lord Jesus, such as blessing the lives of others through material means, by helping the poor, by sharing the good news of Christ with the lost, and by instructing and edifying the people of God (cf. Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:21, 33; 18:22; 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17-19; Hebrews 13:5; James 5:2).

To do the will of God takes an entirely different frame of mind than what we naturally have. To store up treasure for ourselves and seek our own pleasure is the natural way, but to be rich toward God is the spiritual way. If we are living for eternity and not for this earth, we must definitely seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. We must set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2). We must have a complete reorientation in our heart that will redirect our life into the ways and purposes of God! This will run counter to what the world around us does!

We began by asking the question, “Will this seem important 1,000 years from now?” We could have referred to 1 million, 1 billion, 1 trillion, or 1 quadrillion years from now! Eternity is endless! It will have no end!  So what will seem most important then?

Ask yourself this question before you make any decision—large or small—and you may find your view of life radically changed! Think of the things that occupy the mind and life of your neighbor, your fellow worker, your family, your cousins, your fellow-students, and others. And think of what fills your own mind and consumes your time. Let’s mention a few people, pastimes, pleasures, and things here so you can ponder the answers and gain some insight into your own perspectives:

 

1.    The TV that you view

2.    The music you listen to

3.    The books and other literature you read

4.    The courses you take at college

5.    The friends you cultivate

6.    The way you spend your Friday and Saturday nights

7.    The relationship you have with your husband or wife, your children, and your parents

8.    The relationship you have with your immediate neighbors

9.    The clothes you wear

10. The computer sites you go to

11. The video games you engage in

12. The emailing you do

13. The sports you watch

14. The sports that you engage in

15. The job training you have had

16. The position you fill

17. The store shopping that you do

18. The things you buy and accumulate

19. The car you drive

20. The way you use your time

21. The vacations that you take

22. The sleep you take

23. The conversations that you have had

These points may help you to pinpoint ways that you are living for time and not for eternity. Honestly ask yourself this question: 1,000 years from now, what will seem most important to you? Will you wish that you had watched more TV programs, or gone to more ball games, or taken more college courses, or read more magazines, or gone to more stockcar races or horse races? Or do you think that your values will have changed?

Will you wish that you had invested more money, energy, and time in spiritual pursuits? Will you wish that you had not spent so much on yourself and given more to the poor, the weak, the “have nots”? Will you wish that you had spent more time reading and studying God’s Word, praying and singing to the Lord, going to Bible studies and Christian fellowships? Will you wish that you had devoted more of an interest in blessing your husband or wife, your children, your parents, and others you know? Will you wish that you had taken more of an interest in spreading the message of Christ with others or sharing the Word of God with professing Christians? Will you wish that you had shared Bible tracts or Christian literature with others, that they may learn of the way to heaven? In fact, do you think you will wish you had diligently spent quality time to discover God’s will for your life and learned whether you actually were on the way to heaven or actually were on the way to hell?

One thousand years from now, how will you wish you had used your time, money, and possessions? For yourself—or for God? For your own interests or for the interests of God? Paul wrote to Timothy, “They all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:21). Are you one of those who seek your own interests—or are you like Timothy and seek after the interests of Christ Jesus?

Quite frankly, if we look out on the general population, we must admit that the vast majority of people are occupied with material things, means of entertainment, sexually stimulating things, activities that simply waste time, and like pursuits. Very, very few are overwhelmed and dominated with a passion for the Lord Jesus and an interest in carrying out His will on earth. What about you? Only you can answer this. In fact, it is hard for you to do this yourself since most people are self-deceived and are blind to their own faults. “The heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9). Ask God to remove your blinders and help you to view yourself clearly and honestly. This is the only way.

When you do see yourself as God sees you, be willing to grieve over your sin and repent of them. Place your sincere faith in God through Jesus Christ, His Son, and then proceed to be baptized into Christ to begin a new life for Him. God will make you a new creation in Jesus and will prepare you for His eternal Kingdom (see John 3:16-18, 36; 5:24; 11:25-26; Romans 5:6-11; 6:3-11; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Please feel free to write for further information on how you can live for God and Christ Jesus now so that you will be able to live with the Lord in eternity. Now is the time to prepare!

 

 

 

 

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Idolatry

Do you know what idolatry is?  How do you use it in your own conversations?  Could it be that you, yourself, are an idolater?  Let’s study this sin from the pages of Scripture and it may be that we’ll discover something new and interesting. It is a sin that we all must avoid!

Most of us assume that we know what idolatry is.  We know that idolatry is “worship of idols” or “blind or excessive devotion to something.”[1]  We may think that it is “the religious worship of idols” or “excessive admiration or devotion.”[2]  Indeed, the worship of false gods or idols is at the center of this sin.  The Greek term eidolon means “image” or “idol” that “represents a false god.”[3]  “Idol worship is the worship of the created thing rather than of the Creator of all things.”[4]

Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh God condemns idolatry which amounts to a spiritual adultery against His own person and love.  In the Ten Commandments, God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3; cf. Deuteronomy 4:15-19; 5:7-10).   The second command adds to this: “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5a). 

Whereas Yahweh was the living God of Israel and Lord of the entire earth, “gods” were false and unreal.  Isaiah ridicules the idolatry of his day.  He says, “Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit” (Isaiah 44:9).  Of one tree, an idolater burns part to keep warm, but of the other part, he makes an idol: “He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it” (v. 15).  The prophet says that the idolater foolishly “prays to it” and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god” (v. 17).  He says that the idol is an “abomination,” and he ridicules the idolater who says, “I fall down before a block of wood!” (v. 19).

Literally worshiping and serving a false god in the form of an idol is definitely prohibited by God, who is the only true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  Thus, Paul could directly state, “Flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).  John said the same: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  An idol is nothing.  It is the “work” of one’s hands (Acts 7:41).  It cannot speak (1 Corinthians 12:2).  A idol cannot “see nor hear nor walk” (Revelation 9:20).  Paul sees that there is something sinister in idolatry.  When one sacrifices to an image, a false god, he is actually sacrificing to demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-21), and Paul warns, “I do not want you to become sharers in demons” (v. 20).

The Christian must have nothing to do with false gods!  Paul asks, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16).  Since we are part of God’s temple, we must totally reject idolatry.  No wonder that Paul said, “Do not be idolaters,” and “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:7, 14).  The Jerusalem gathering concluded that we must “abstain from things contaminated by idols” (Acts 15:20), those things “sacrificed to idols” (v. 29; cf. 21:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1, 4, 7, 10; 10:19; Revelation 2:14, 20).

Probably we immediately think of Hinduism, with its multiple idols and 330 million different gods.  Or we may think of Buddhism with its large and small images of Buddha throughout society.  Or perhaps we think of Catholicism with its images of Mary, Joseph, the apostles, angels, and assorted “saints”—all of which may be part of the Biblical condemnation of idolatry. Maybe we think of the Orthodox Church which vehemently rejects graven images of Catholicism—but hypocritically accepts a wide range of paintings which they revere!

Maybe we think of the animists who worship the rocks, sun, wind, and rain.  But, from the perspective of God’s Word, idolatry goes further and deeper than all of this.  It includes this, but it goes beyond it.  Yes, it would be wrong to have a image of Buddha on our mantle and would be wrong to have an image of Mary or St. Francis on your front lawn, but does idolatry not go further? Lest we assume that we are not guilty of idolatry if we don’t bow down to a literal image, we must look more deeply at the meaning of idolatry.

Basically, “the idol, or image, is anything that one may shape for use as an object of worship.”[5]  Since God is “spirit” and we must “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), any earthly and material representation of God is a created false god.  This amounts to creating an image in our own image!  It is not the true God—who  is perfect in all of His attributes—but a false god who is less than God and something other than God.  This shows how heinous it is to commit idolatry (Exodus 20:3-5)!

Some tourists may look at the images of the false Greek and Roman “gods” with fascination, but we must remember that they were false gods that brought the wrath of the true God of heaven. When Paul went to Athens to preach the good news of a crucified and risen Lord, “his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16).  He proceeded to proclaim to the Areopagus, “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (vv. 23-24).  While tourists find the false gods fascinating, the apostle found them an abomination! They were detestable to God!

Wherever he went, Paul was concerned about pulling people away from the blasphemy of worshiping false gods and bringing them to faith in the true God of the Bible.  To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:1).  When the people of Lystra wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as the Greek gods, Hermes and Zeus, Paul cried out for them to stop, saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15; cf. vv. 8-18). 

In Ephesus, the silver smiths who made images of Artemis (Diana), became disturbed since so many were deserting the Ephesian temple to serve God.  They said “This Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all” (Acts 19:26; cf. vv. 23-41).  The apostle knew that no one could be saved and continue their idolatrous practices. They needed to repent of this abomination.

Idolatry doesn’t just relate to objects of worship, but it has moral implications.  Paul describes the sin of the pagan world in Romans 1:16-32.  There he says that “even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (vv. 21-23).  This rejection of the true and living God who created all things led to idolatry, whom he calls a “lie” (v. 25), and this idolatry stimulated lustful immorality (v. 24), including the perversion of homosexuality (vv. 26-27), and all other sin (vv. 28-32), all of which is “worthy of death” (v. 32).  Worshiping false gods and immorality were the twin sins of the Old Testament era and they were inextricably connected in Greece and Rome as well.

Many in America and other countries may reply, “We don’t worship false gods and have no idols in our house, thus all of this doesn’t apply to us!”  Indeed, even in secular society there is much idolatry.  Not only do some people worship and serve false idols (as we have noticed above), but there are all kinds of other “gods” that people worship.  One may worship the “god” of materialism.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).  The term “wealth” here is “Mammon,” the Aramaic word for wealth or possessions.  Some people serve “Mammon” in place of God or they try to worship Mammon in addition to God.

 

In another place, Paul says that we must be “dead” to “greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).  He says that the “covetous man” is “an idolater” (Ephesians 5:5).  When we seek money and possessions and give our heart to them, we are placing “things” where only God should be!  In another place, Paul refers to false teachers as “enemies of the cross of Christ” whose “god is their appetite” (literally, “belly”), “whose glory is in their shame, and who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).  They “worship” themselves and earthly possessions or maybe fleshly appetites. 

All of this reminds us that we can be idolaters if we worship and serve the “god” of money, the “god” of possessions, the “god” of sex, and the “god” of our appetite.  Other “gods” would be education, travel, music, clothes, food, cars, houses, sports, and anything else that is elevated beyond God and His will.  Even when it comes to family and human relationships, we must have such a love for God that all other legitimate “loves” seem like hatred in comparison (Luke 14:26; cf. Matthew 10:37). We must renounce everything that is in competition with God.  Someone has rightly said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all!”

Barclay has an interesting discussion on the basic meaning of idolatry:

A man’s God may rightly be said to be that to which he dedicates his time, his substance and his talents, that to which he gives himself. . . . The status symbol may be a house in a certain district of a town, a car of a certain make, some kind of piece of furniture or household goods which is coveted by many but achieved by few.  It may well be said that this status symbol is the man’s idol, for it is to the gaining of it that he dedicates himself.  Whenever any thing in the world begins to hold the principal place in our hearts and minds and aims, then that thing has become an idol, for that thing has usurped the place which belongs to God.[6]

This writer goes on to observe that idolatry in the ancient world was usually connected with some sexual expression.  “Of all the powers of growth that of sex is the most vivid, and vital, and powerful.  To that end the sexual act became an act of worship and of glorification of God; and therefore the stocking of the ancient shrines with sacred prostitutes became the custom and sexual intercourse with them became a kind of act of worship of the power of the force of life.”[7] 

This reminds us that today also sex has become directly related to worship.  Not with the intermediary of a graven image, but sexuality has become so important, so dominant, so captivating, so engrossing that it has become a “god” that is worshipped by the masses!  This is displayed on the beaches and at the swimming pools, where men and women unclothe themselves and parade their sexuality before others.  They are acting like little gods and goddesses as they delight in the adoring gaze of others. It is displayed on the internet, where thousands of porno sites make all forms of sex available at the touch of a button.  It is displayed in the casual sex when teenagers and older men and women assume that going to bed is a natural part of dating and “living together” is the accepted practice among millions.  Indeed, sex has become a leading “idol” in America and the rest of the world.

How serious is idolatry?  Paul says that “idolaters” will “not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9) and “idolatry” will prevent one from entering His kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21).  At one time people were involved in “abominable idolatries” but were willing to forsake this for God (1 Peter 4:3-4).  Idolatry will bring “the wrath of God” on such sins (Ephesians 5:5-6; cf. Colossians 3:5-6).  If a Christian falls into idolatry, believers must “not associate with” such a person, and “not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11).  Scripture is clear that idolaters will be consigned to the lake of fire, which is the terrifying second death (Revelation 21:8) and will not be permitted to enter the Heavenly City of God (22:15). 

Thanks to God, an idolater can repent even now and turn away from idolatry (Colossians 3:5-7).  Paul writes to the Corinthians and said that “such were some of you” (some had been idolaters), “but you were washed [from their idolatry], but you were sanctified [made holy and separated from sin], but you were justified [declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).  Salvation is available for the idolater!

 



[1] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[3] Mounce, Expository Dictionary.

[4] William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 34.

[5] Richards, Expository Dictionary.

[6] Flesh and Spirit, p. 35.

[7] Flesh and Spirit, pp. 35-36.

 

 

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