Volume 19, Issue 32 (August 6, 2017)
“From Now On…”
By Kyle Pope
Paul’s letters encourage us towards a spiritual perspective on life that rises above what our eyes can see and our hands can touch. The apostle calls us to higher things that are eternal. His life demonstrates itself as an example of this very quest. In the face of hardship his thoughts turn to hope, joy, and what lies ahead.
In the seventh chapter of his first great letter to the Corinthian church Paul urges brethren towards this view of the world. He writes — “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away” (7:29-31, NKJV). Let’s consider briefly the peculiar perspective on life this passage teaches.
“Those Who Have Wives”
Our devotion to our families is a powerful bond. It is a bond that should never be easily set aside. At the same time, a commitment to Christ is something that must take precedence over even this important relationship. If our wife, husband, or family demands things from us that violate the will of God we must refuse their demands in obedience to God. When Paul writes that those with wives “should be as though they had none” (7:29), he is not encouraging neglect of family, rather he is teaching us that the Christian perspective places Christ as Lord of our lives at all times.
The world has no such higher authority—or rather, they do not recognize the authority that is over them. As a result the world’s commitment to family is the highest commitment the world recognizes. When the Christian submits to Jesus as Lord, he or she begins to live (in a sense) as if he or she had no mate, even though in reality this produces the best and most lasting marital relationships possible.
“Those Who Weep”
The Christian can have a wonderfully unique view of life. At any time in our lives we can find good cause both to rejoice when we experience things that make us sad, or we can find cause to weep when others are blissfully overjoyed. This is not a mark of mental instability, but an indication of a spiritual perspective on life.
Imagine that the worst possible thing plagues your life: the death of a family member, a painful illness, a terrible disaster or even persecution. Do you as a Christian have reason not to weep? Absolutely! Can any of those things change your relationship with God? Do any of those things rob you of the hope of joy, rest and peace with God in the age to come? Not unless you allow them to!
Paul told the Romans, through the Holy Spirit — “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
“Those Who Rejoice”
Most of us would prefer not to have a perspective on life that denies joy. We all find reason enough to rob ourselves of joy from day to day. Paul is not saying in this text that we should have a gloomy, depressed view of life, but rather that we should avoid being so overjoyed with life that we ignore the reasons that we have to weep.
For example, what was it that was demanded as a result of our sin? The horrible, agonizing, and shameful death of Jesus on the cross! No matter how faithful we may be or how strong we have grown in avoiding temptation we can never escape the truth that it was our sin that drove the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet and shoved the crown of thorns upon His head.
In addition to this, all around us are those who have never recognized their own sin and their need for salvation. Should we live blissfully ignorant of the millions that stand at hell’s doorway never having known Jesus as their Savior? Should we smile as those around us face poverty, cruelty, injustice, and abuse? This is not to say that we should dwell on such things to the point of discouragement, but instead that we should have a healthy awareness of what needs to be done in order to encourage us to act.
“Those Who Buy”
The last few thoughts in our text describe an attitude that can best be described as “stewardship.” That is the perspective that all that we have in this life is simply a trust given to us by God. That means that we must answer to God for how we have used this life. Whether we are talking about material things such as homes, cars, clothes, or abilities that we have been given to work and glorify God—or if we are talking about the influence we have on people around us, we all have a responsibility to use these things, abilities, and opportunities for influence to the fullest. That means that we can’t view these things as ours alone, but as things given to us for a time.
“Those Who Use This World”
As long as we live we must make use of the things that God has given us in this world, but like our possessions the air we breath, the food we eat, the elements that make up our homes, cars, and clothing belong to God. How might we be guilty of “misusing” such things? John rebuked the one “has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him” (1 John 3:17). Paul told Timothy to “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches” (1 Tim. 6:17). If we put our trust in things of this world and not in God we are misusing the things God has given to us.
It is one thing to “use this world” but it is another thing to love “this world.” John commanded “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). To love the world is to love the things created rather than the Creator. John explains, “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). This is the very point Paul made “the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). To love what is only temporary without showing love to the One who is eternal is a misuse of this world.
May God help us to make each of these perspectives upon life a part of our view of ourselves and the world in which we live.