Publication:Pastoral Letter, August 2000
Dear Friend in Christ:
Age and open-heart surgery have focused my attention more on eternal issues, and less on temporal issues that once consumed my thoughts. Even as I think more about eternal issues, it seems that our society is becoming more focused on trivial circumstantial issues, and other things that are passing away.
As I remember, it was the “Cause of Life” and not the cares of life that called me into the Lord’s service. How easy it is to forget the original cause and become lost in the immediate cares.
Our Western world has lost its sense of eternal cause, and has become lost in temporal cares. The world I grew up in seemed to have fewer cares…it was much less complicated. But we believed in the original cause – God. We believed in the pre-existent Christ, the Eternal One, the Creator of all that is, the Beginning and the End. We believed in both Genesis and Revelation, and all in between. Oh, I did know of some people who were skeptics, but they were a small group, and not really part of my world.
I will never forget my first serious encounter with Darwinism; I was in the eighth grade. Our teacher was also a Christian and a Sunday School teacher. Darwin was disturbing to the class, and to the teacher, but she was compelled to teach the text. We were comforted by knowing that it was “just a theory,” that no one really knew for sure. That was around 1950.
I recently took my family and granddaughter to see the Disney movie, Dinosaur. It was one of the very few clean movies available. Disney produced a technically spectacular portrayal of dinosaurs. And as I sat, I realized once again that Darwin and Disney have more credibility in this generation than does Moses. Life, for too many of our youth, is causeless, void of absolute truth, and only randomly evolving.
Darwin is now the official dogma – most people believe we live in a causeless universe. How has the removal of cause affected everyday life? The removal of the eternal cause has cut our anchor line, and Western society is adrift on the seas of chance and relativity. The passengers on this ship are living for the moment, not the future; for experiences, not purpose; for sensuality, not spirituality.
Many people_even Christians_have become “shoppers for sensations,” rather than contributors to a cause. Others have joined the “cult of one,” totally independent, self-esteeming, self-loving, and worst of all, self-worshipping…because there is no cause (except perhaps “Mother Nature,” whom some also worship). Much of our world has become an audience that is living vicariously through those who entertain them. We pay them well to give us an “experience.”
It is just a short step from life without cause, to life without consequences. When Genesis is removed, sooner or later Revelation will be removed also. If one is convinced that there is no Creator, no purpose, and no grand design, then it becomes easy to believe that since there is no God, there are no absolutes, and there is no accountability…except what the State may require to maintain civil order. Such people are unaware that those who are not ruled by God’s Kingdom in their hearts will soon be ruled by an external kingdom imposed by a tyrannical state. As we grow more temporal and self-centered in our lives, the State grows more controlling over our lives.
If there is no God, there is certainly no eternity and no judgment with its heaven and hell. It is therefore easy to assume that belief systems, philosophies, and theologies are merely matters of personal choice with little or no consequences. Or, as Shirley MacLaine said, “You can create your own reality.” (Wow!) There are many people who are considered mentally ill that would agree with her.
The removal of eternal judgment from our thinking influences us to remove other forms of consequences, accountabilities, and responsibilities from our thinking. If there is no consequence in eternity, how many consequences will there be in daily life? Everything from cartoons to sitcoms to action movies give us actions without consequences. Virtual reality games give us action in which consequences can be eradicated by simply pressing the “restart button.” Unfortunately, life does not have a restart button.
Churches can also become compliant in the causelessness of society by treating the Christian congregation as a mere audience, and by omitting the message of accountability and eternal consequence. In so doing, churches can cater to the perceived temporal need verses the real eternal need, induce a “worship experience,” and make people feel good about themselves…all without affecting behavior.
I will simply cite two chapters that give us a window into the biblical philosophy of life. One is Matthew 6; the other is 1 Corinthians 15.
Matthew 6 contains part of the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus delivered early in His ministry. The Sermon on the Mount is about the principles of the kingdom of God. Matthew 6 tells us how to pray, and even gives us what is often called, “The Lord’s Prayer.” In this passage, Jesus admonishes His followers to be aware of what God sees in us and in our activity_not what people see. We should not try to project an image, but live to please God.
Jesus further tells His followers to lay up treasures in heaven – where they are safe, and He reminds them that where their treasure is, their heart will be also (see verse 21). He continues to warn that we cannot serve God and money. We can serve God with our money, but to serve money is to make it god, and deny the eternal God. God and money cannot both be the God of our lives. We must choose. In fact, we must choose between God and all else.
Jesus sums up this issue by saying that if we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness above all else, He will add everything else that we need. If we serve His cause – He will take our cares. If we serve our cares, and lose His cause, we are lost and have lost our souls.
Biblical Christianity is Christ-centered and eternally invested; it is being motivated to “serve God first, others second, and ourselves last.” It is strange how such a timeworn statement has once again become radical.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul tells us that the core of the Gospel is Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection on our behalf. This chapter makes a strong evidentiary case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its vital importance to our faith (see verse 19).
This chapter goes on to tell us about the return of Jesus Christ to conquer His enemies and death itself. It tells us about the resurrection of the dead, immortality, and how Jesus will deliver the Kingdom back to the Father. Chapters such as 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 25, and Revelation 20 remind us that there is a day of accountability.
There is a beginning and an end to history. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. The biblical view of history is linear. It starts, moves toward a purpose, and concludes. It is not cyclical, or random, as some might suggest. There is a vast difference between the biblical purposeful view held of life and the random meaningless view held by secularists and naturalists.
To the Corinthians, and to us today, Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We are admonished to have steadfastness in our lives and to labor sacrificially, because there are eternal consequences and rewards. We who believe these things are looking forward beyond death to eternity, and not just to the next moment or the next experience. Original cause and final consequence define our lives and how we live between those two points. To be without cause or consequence is to be without purpose and hope.
Why have so many wonderful people sacrificed and given so much to others? Why did they not spend their lives on themselves, instead living for God and others? Why did they sow themselves, like Christ, into the soil of human history? I believe they did these deeds believing in the divine cause and in the eternal consequence of life with Christ…and understanding the eternal consequence of life without Christ.
LIVING OUT ETERNAL TRUTH
People who believe such truths do great things. Our family recently traveled to Costa Rica to be a part of our daughter Charlyn’s marriage to Enrique Mejia (pronounced “Ma-HEE-ah”). The wedding was performed by our close friend, Hugo Zelaya, and attended by many of our friends in Costa Rica and some friends from the United States. We also were able to spend time with the nine children that Charlyn has received for foster care.
Now she is joined in this special ministry by Enrique, who is both a husband to her, and a father to these children. They love the children so much, and the children are very grateful to them. It was a special experience to see the children in the wedding and to know their stories of redemption…to know that just a few months before, they had no shoes and no floors in their homes, and that their little bodies had parasites, and to know that they had been neglected and abused…now to see them radiant and joyful, healthy and well-fed, clean and well-dressed, and so proud as they marched down the aisle in the wedding…it was a great reminder of God’s redeeming love for all of us.
We took all of the children to eat at a restaurant. When we first entered the restaurant, the host looked at all the children and seemed rather frightened. You can imagine the difficulties that nine children could cause in a restaurant. But these children behaved perfectly. Enrique and Charlyn already have had a strong impact on their lives.
There is no government support for Charlyn’s work. There is no subsidy for the children. Yet Enrique and Charlyn have begun their marriage with nine children, each one of them having special needs. Why would anyone do that? They have done so because they discovered the Cause and they have seen the consequences, just like thousands of other young people who are giving their lives for an eternal purpose today.
CSM is investing in many outreach efforts like those in Costa Rica. We publish and proclaim biblical truth in more than 70 nations worldwide, as we have for more than 30 years. This has always been a faith ministry. We have no “guarantees” of income, other than the faithfulness of our God and His people. Those of you who have received our materials through the years know that we have never been into “high-pressure” fundraising. But we do believe it is biblical to keep you aware of the ministry needs and opportunities. When you stand with us, whether it’s in your prayers, your giving, or in telling a friend about CSM, you help us to move forward in the mission that God has set before us. Thank you so much for your friendship and faithfulness.
Scripture References: Matthew 6; 1 Corinthians 15; Revelation 20