The Meaning Above the Meaningless

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 (ESV)

In these verses, Solomon proclaims that all is vanity. Or using other words, everything is meaningless. That statement is true, but there is a problem.

Saying that everything is meaningless is unavoidably a meaningful statement.

It’s like making the claim that there is no objective truth. It is a self-defeating proposition. By being true, it would also prove itself false.

Similarly, the Preacher says something of meaning, even while he claims that nothing has meaning. How do we reconcile this?

The key is the phrase under the sun.

Everything under the sun is meaningless. The things of this life, including us, are fleeting vanities, little more than blips on the radar of eternity.

If this is true (and it is), Solomon is able to utter this meaningful statement only because meaning exists somewhere beyond the sun.

We know, of course, that all meaning flows from the Author of life, Jesus Christ. Paul describes Jesus like this:

Colossians 1:16-17 | For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Take a moment to allow the sweeping magnitude of those verses sink in.

ALL THINGS were created through and for Jesus, and He holds EVERYTHING together. In other words, the atoms that form my keyboard as I type this are held in place by Jesus.

Existence exists because Jesus keeps it existing.

This means that there is no reality outside of Jesus. If all things are held together in Jesus, then nothing exists away from Him. Everything, therefore, is meaningless without Christ because without Christ there is nothing.

With this understanding, Ecclesiastes’ life under the sun is a myth.

It is a fantasy, nothing more than a day dream.

We cannot actually live outside of God because He is the giver of life. Life without God is a fool’s quest since “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Attempting to avoid God is a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes, therefore, does not need to be a depressing book. The Bible reveals to us the God who created the sun and gives meaning to all existence. He is the only source of true purpose, meaning, and satisfaction.

We do not have to embrace the meaninglessness of life, the abyss that stares back; we can follow and serve the Creator.

We can exchange the vanity of life under the sun for the fullness of abiding in Christ.

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God With Us (an Advent reflection)

All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:22-23

Jesus is the centerpiece of all human existence. His advent, His arrival  is the highest point of human history. The significance of His birth can be glimpsed by a quick thought upon our conception of time.

Chronologically, we divide existence into two eras. They are now being officially called the Common Era (C.E.) and Before Common Era (B.C.E.); however, they are still commonly called Anno Dominae (A.D.) and Before Christ (B.C.). Regardless of their name, the event, which serves to divide them, remains the same: the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Matthew seeks to capture the weight of this moment by revealing how every promise became fulfilled through Christ. Through a virgin birth, Jesus became the only one who can claim to be the offspring of woman. As a Jew, Jesus was the offspring of Abraham. Being of the tribe of Judah, Jesus could also trace His lineage back to king David.

Matthew concludes that because of these fulfilled promises that Jesus is the only one worthy to be called Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is the completion of the Old Testament, the hope underlining its entirety.

As the Promised One, Jesus alone is able to be called Mighty God[1].

He alone is the King whose kingdom will last forever and who will be worshipped by everyone from everywhere in every language[2].

Jesus alone is the meeting of heaven and earth.

He is God come down to deliver His people.

He is the innocent sacrifice that died to pay for the sins of His creation.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated. It cannot be given too much importance. It is the very moment of God making Himself nothing for the sake of the merest of vanities such as us. Though our lives are like passing vapors in the winter air, God chose to dwell among us, to take on the form of humanity[3].

What is our central thought during this Christmas time, during this season of Advent? Like the rest of our lives, may it be consumed by the wonder that God would choose to save us by being with us.

[1] Isaiah 9:6

[2] Daniel 7:14

[3] Philippians 2:7

Do You Love the Church?

The church is terribly important in the Bible.

After all, it is called the body and bride of Christ. For most men, their wife and their own body come pretty high up on their list of priorities, and I believe the Bible uses those metaphors for that very reason.

Today, even many otherwise theologically sound believers want to neglect the importance of the church. Of course, they would rarely ever say this exactly. But often when they speak, it becomes clear that they nearly always speak about the universal church instead of the local church.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of the universal church is important. I love reading about church history, specifically because I know that in Christ I am reading about my brothers and sisters. The universal church, that transcends time and space, is a glorious truth.

The local church is no less glorious, but it often doesn’t feel like it.

It’s invigorating to read about Ambrose of Milan defiantly refusing to sway his conscience at the Roman Emperor’s command. But it’s less invigorating to sit through a business meeting talking about what the new paint color of nursery’s walls should be.

Our emotions are stirred when we read stories of miraculous conversions from missionaries we support. But they are significantly less stirred when we listen to an older member tell us the same story about their grandchild for the ninth time.

Passion is ignited when reading Calvin’s Institutes or Spurgeon’s sermons. But it’s difficult to find such passion when we learn that a beloved family is leaving to join another church because they dislike the new leader’s style of worship.

The local church looks less glorious than the universal church, but the universal church is composed of regular, sinful people, just like the local church. We see the universal church as more exciting because the stories that travel across time and oceans are typically the worthwhile ones. And if we hear stories of Christians in sin, we can simply dismiss those them as not being a part of the real church. That’s far easier than looking contrition in the face and walking with a brother or sister through the bumpy road of repentance and reconciliation.

Although we get much benefit from the writings and lives of Christianity’s theologians, almost all of them devoted themselves primarily to serving their church. They were pastors, deacons, and members of local churches before they were ever giants to the church universal.

The local church is not perfect, but she is the bride and body of Christ.

Bear with her.

Cherish her.

Lover her.


This quick post was inspired by this video of Paul Washer.

You really should watch it.

Like right now.

The Blessing of Wisdom

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. (Proverbs 3:13-14 ESV)

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:17-18 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is generally divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-9 are the introduction, and chapters 10-31 are the actual collection of proverbs. These nine chapters continue to teach us that wisdom does not come from the proverbs themselves. Wisdom comes from God. The proverbs teach us what wisdom looks like and to turn to God. But wisdom itself only comes from the hand of God.

Let us also remember that wisdom is applied knowledge, the skill of living life well. When we talk about wisdom, it has its root in knowledge and understanding, but wisdom is primarily about living well. When you make good decisions and life goes well for you, you are living in wisdom. And true biblical wisdom is only found in knowing God.

Today we will view the blessings that wisdom has for those who find her. In these verses, wisdom is described as being better than gold, jewels, or anything else we could ever desire. This is because God built wisdom into the foundations of the earth, so that when we find wisdom, we walk away from sin and towards the LORD.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 3:13-35 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 3:13-35 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • Verses 13-18 describe the riches of finding wisdom. How does someone find wisdom? Why does Solomon consider wisdom to be of greater worth than gold or jewels? Do you agree? How have you been blessed by wisdom in life?
  • In verses 19-20, Solomon claims that God founded the world by wisdom. What does this mean?
  • Solomon urges us to do good to our neighbors when we are able. What does this look like practically? How does this relate to what Jesus claims are the two greatest commandments?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Joseph Before Pharaoh | Genesis 41

Week 5 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:16 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the introduction to the Bible. The first eleven chapters reveal how the world became like it is by describing creation, our fall into sin, the great flood, and the scattering at Babel. The rest of the book concerns how God begins working through one family to repair the effects of sin, the family of Abra-ham. But Abraham did not save us from our sins nor did his son Isaac or grandson Jacob.

Thus, now we come to the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, ready to learn more of God’s plan for salvation. For being in a blessed family, Joseph’s story does not appear to be one of blessing. Although beloved by his father, his brothers despised Joseph, eventually selling him into slavery. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to a captain named Potiphar, and the young man quickly earned the Egyptians favor. Unfortunately, a false accusation from Potiphar’s wife got Joseph cast into prison where he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker.

Though Joseph is still in prison, his fortune shifts in our present text. After successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, the king of Egypt will place Joseph as his second-in-command over the entire kingdom. In this, we see God’s providence elevating Joseph from his temporary stay in prison to the palace of Pharaoh, and we see Joseph’s faithfulness to trust God through sorrow or joy.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 41 and discuss the following.

1. When Pharaoh was distressed by his dreams, he turned to his wise men and magicians for answers, but God alone could provide the peace that Pharaoh sought. What are things you turn to during times of stress, anxiety, fear, confusion, etc? What should we do instead?

2. Joseph’s knowledge of God’s plan for Egypt leads him to almost immediate action. Similarly, how should God’s sovereignty of salvation and missions lead us to bolder evangelism?

3. In some ways, wealth can make following God more difficult since it provides more opportunities for our hearts to stray. How did Joseph remain faithful even when elevated to second-in-command?

4. Though Joseph has been elevated, the story of Genesis is not over because Judah’s descendant, Jesus, is the hero, not Joseph. Joseph must still be used to save Judah from the famine, so that Jesus can be born. Likewise, in what ways does your life reflect that Jesus is the hero of your life story?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

• What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?

• What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?

• How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?

• Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Joseph Sold into Slavery | Genesis 37

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28 ESV).

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)
OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It opens with eleven chapters that describe the creation of the world, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood that only Noah’s family survived, and the scattering of humanity at Babel. In the creation account, we learn that God created the world good and even made humanity in His image. We were not content, however, to be made in God’s likeness. We wanted to be God, and so we disobeyed, bringing sin onto the earth. But even in the midst of our sin, God showed grace beyond measure, proclaiming hope that one day sin would be defeated for good. Indeed, these chapters are essential for properly understanding both the Bible and ourselves.

Beginning with chapter twelve, Genesis takes a significant shift in perspective by focusing upon a man named Abram instead of on humanity in general. Through his faith walk with God, the LORD promises to bless him by giving him a son through his barren wife, blessing all the nations through him, and giving him all the land of Canaan. Abraham then dies, only seeing the first of God’s promises fulfilled. The narrative then follows Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, as he attempts to follow God but repeatedly trusts in his own strength instead.

We now come to the fourth and final section of Genesis, which focuses predominately on Jacob’s son, Joseph. As the eleventh of twelve sons, Joseph could have been the runt of his family but was favorited by his father instead. This favoritism ultimately causes Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, leading to one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. Unlike the lives of Abraham and Jacob, Joseph’s life is marked by stunning displays of God’s glory; rather, Joseph’s life is saturated in the providence of God. Although he faces abuse, slavery, and prison, God’s plan is present throughout and ultimately leading to Joseph becoming Pharaoh’s right hand. As we dive into Joseph’s story, may we become more aware of the everyday glories of God around us.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 37 and discuss the following.

  1. A great benefit of reading narratives in Scripture is that we often are able to become aware of our own sin through reading these ancient sins. Do you presently wrestle with any sins present in this chapter (i.e. Jacob’s favoritism, Judah’s greed, the brothers’ unwillingness to reconcile, etc.)?
  2. How does this chapter serve as a stern warning against the dangers of unrepentant jealousy?
  3. Because no sin is ever committed in isolation, Jacob is grievously impacted by his sons’ sin. Can you recall a time when your sin hurt someone else? How might “secret” sins still harm others?
  4. The chapter ends with a cliffhanger, informing us that Joseph’s story is only beginning and that his visions might still become reality. How might this example of God’s providence provide hope for those suffering?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Healthy Members | Ephesian 4:17-32

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clarmor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

In the Western Meadows Values Series, we have been studying the primary values that we hold as a church. We began with the Great Commission, Jesus’ final command for His disciples to continue making disciples. The great purpose and mission of each Christian and church is, therefore, to make disciples, and we do so because by making more disciples of Jesus we continue to fill the earth with Christ’s image and glory.

Like the Christian walk, making disciples happens on two fronts: individually and corporately. As individuals, we live our lives as a witness for Christ, proclaim His gospel to nonbelievers, and teach other Christians to obey all that He has commanded us. Corporately, we make disciples by devoting ourselves to Scripture (by faithfully preaching and hearing them), prayer (specifically praying for boldness to proclaim the gospel), and community (by loving one another as Christ has loved us).

We now conclude our study of the church’s values by turning to Ephesians 4. In the first half of the chapter, Paul described how to become a healthy church by prioritizing unity and helping one another grow in maturity through our diverse gifts. The second half likewise describes being a healthy church member. Here Paul urges us to put away our previously sinful way of life and to live like Christ. He ends with a volley of quick commands that show practically how we are meant to live around each other in Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 17-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Paul commands us to put off our old, sinful ways of living and to put on our new life in Christ. What aspects of your life before Christ have you put away? What aspects do you still wrestle with? How does this gospel provide us hope even in the midst of our sin?

Read verses 25-32 and discuss the following.

  1. Within these verses, Paul delivers a series of exhortations for how we should live as members of the body of Christ. Which verse is most convicting for you? Why? What practical steps might you take to walk in obedience?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.