I received a call from my sister early this afternoon informing me that one of our pastor friends, one of the first elders of our church, have gone to be with the Lord. The last time I saw this pastor was January of last year during Michael Horton’s conference in Manila. He was probably surprised that I was attending a conference on Reformed Theology. We talked a little and he asked when I became reformed. Before we went our own way he encouraged me to press on but also cautioned me to be careful. On the first Sunday of this month I learned that he was taken to the hospital on New Year’s day, and was diagnosed with acute leukemia. This morning, after 2 weeks, he’s gone.
I have blogged about the other two who passed away during the holiday season, and now, our pastor friend. Three unexpected deaths in four weeks. That’s a record. Two of them had been part of our lives. I cannot deny the fact that I am affected by all these. Losing friends or even people whom you knew isn’t something you just brush aside. I am writing this blog not devoid of intense emotions. I feel sad that they have gone, but in a way, I envy them for they have gone ahead of us. They need not see through the eyes of faith for they are already in the presence of the Lord. These events reminded me of the brevity of life, and have made me think about how our lives should be lived.
I have known the Lord for most of my life. I have been active in various ministries ever since I can remember. But I know that for years I never really lived the Christian life despite my claims of being a Christian. I look back and see how I spent my life enjoying what the world had to offer. I remember spending time in my own version of a Vanity Fair kind of world. I was a Christian, but I lived only for myself. It was only by the grace that God rescued me from my pretensions, my pathetic double life.
I see this kind of lifestyle in a lot of young people today, and that gives me insurmountable amount of grief. There is so much of the world in some young Christians today that if not for their being members of a church and occasional references to God, you might not even recognize them when they are outside the church. It is a terrible thing that a lot of Christians willingly commit adultery with the world. Willingly because they are aware of it, are consistently warned against it, but will not forsake it.
I agree with J.C. Ryle when he wrote about this kind of Christianity is worth nothing.
There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough – a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice – which costs nothing, and is worth nothing. 1
In his sermon Getting Used to the Dark, Vance Havner mentioned that young people who attend conferences almost always ask the same questions:
How much like the world can I be and still be a Christian? How much of this world can I enjoy and still go to heaven. How near to the precipice can I walk without going over, instead of asking how much like the Lord can I be and how little like the world?… The point really is how much like the world can I incorporate into my program and still get to heaven? 2
Sad, isn’t it? These questions are familiar because I used to ask them, too.
But the call of the Christ is that of self-denial in order to follow him. Daily we die to ourselves, having no room for the world. The apostle Paul knew this all too well. He knew that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). He no longer had an identity of his own for his identity was now already found in Christ (Gal. 2:20).
We are also short-sighted and shallow. We are easily satisfied with things that do not last. We are interested with the right-here’s and the right-now’s rather than the things that are eternal. It was different for Paul who “pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14), and reminded us to set our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).
We have no sense of urgency, too. We live our lives as if God would wait for us to turn our attention toward Him. It is as if we say, “I will enjoy this for now. I can live for God later.” Or our version of “living for God” is when we’re in church doing church stuff, or with Christian friends. What if Jesus comes? What if the time He has given us is up, and we’re still pursuing the temporary pleasures of this world?
The early church awaited with eagerness the return of Jesus Christ. They had a sense of urgency that fueled their ministry. The apostles preached the gospel as if Christ was coming again any time then. They lived their lives as if each day was the last.
“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” 1 Cor 7:29-31
Are we living our lives in the light of eternity and with a sense of urgency? Are we living for the One who gave us life, or are we living for the world that killed Him? Life is too short, and if it is not lived for the Lord then it is only wasted. John Piper said that, “It is better to lose your life than to waste it.” 3 Being involved in a ministry alone doesn’t mean living for God, nor does regularly going to church. Rather, it is living in constant faith, trusting in the finished work of Christ and being changed in His image as its fruit. It is a life committed to giving Him the glory He deserves.
All I want in my life right now is to bring glory to my King, though my life is far from perfect, and still incredibly rough around the edges. So when the time comes for Him to take me home, then I will have lived a wonderful life.
We are justified by faith in Christ alone, and no amount of “work” will score us brownie points before the Lord. However, it is one of the marks of a true Christian to desire to live his life for God. it is out of gratitude that we desire this and by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The pleasures of a life that is lived for God far exceeds the pleasures of this world.
“The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion. The well-lived life must be God-exalting and soul-satisfying because that is why God created us (Isaiah 43:7; Psalm 90:14).” 4
1 Vance Havner, Getting Used to the Dark, Sermon.
2 J.C. Ryle. Holiness, (Grand Rapids:Baker, 1979), 204.
3 John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL:Crossway, 2007),10.
4 Ibid., 43.