The Vanity of Knowledge Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 11:1 | Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.    

Ecclesiastes 11:4 | He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

OPENING THOUGHT

No other book, inside or outside the Bible, is quite like Ecclesiastes. In its attempt to capture the brutal honesty of life under the sun, Ecclesiastes displays the vivid joys and pains of life in a post-Genesis 3 world. Written by the Preacher (most likely King Solomon), the book’s message is that everything under the sun is vanity. What does he mean by vanity? Vanity could also be translated as meaningless, pointless, worthless, futile, temporary, here-today-gone-tomorrow, a vapor, or a mere breath of air. The idea, then, is that everything under the sun fails to have any real substance. It’s all nothing more than smoke passing through the air. The Preacher, therefore, pleads for us to not waste our lives pursuing the things of earth. Health, wealth, pleasure, family, community, and time, all these things are gifts from God, but they are not God Himself. They will each pass away, so trying to capture them is like chasing after the wind. Solomon’s answer is to fix our eyes above the sun, upon God, instead. He claims that true enjoyment of life can only come as a gift from God.

This week, we enter Ecclesiastes’ penultimate chapter. In these six verses, Solomon discusses principles for taking wise action, even when we do not have all the knowledge that we need to make that decision. The lack of information can often paralyze our ability to make decisions, but Preacher notes that only God’s knowledge is perfect. We will never know the disasters and blessings that we befall us in life, but we are still called to do what God has set before us.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Do you tend to be more overly-cautious or reckless in life? Why are both extremes harmful?
  3. Have you ever been paralyzed by indecision or inaction? Why?
  4. Why does the Bible call us to give away instead of store up?
  5. How does the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) relate to our passage?

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 about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

 

Advertisements

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

A Dialogue

God: I gave you my very Word. Why did you not meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2)?

Man: I definitely would have, but you see, I was far too busy.

God: Yet you most days watched multiple hours of television. You gave 9 years of your life to it.

Man: Perhaps, but that was my leisure time. I was so weary and exhausted from life. I think I deserved some rest.

God: You sought rest in vain. Did I not tell you where to find true rest (Matthew 11:28)?

My Dog Never Catches Squirrels (and neither do I)

She tries every single morning without fail to get the squirrels chattering happily in the trees above the backyard. She’s out there each day but hasn’t even come close to catching one (and wouldn’t know what to do with it even if she did). It’s a worthless exercise, but one that she will urgently awaken me to pursue.

Unfortunately, I do the same thing.

Not with actual squirrels, obviously. Instead, I tend to always pursue things that are outside my reach.

Like most things, I think the problem started in Genesis.

In that book, we are told that God created a really good world full of good things and made two good human beings to live in it. He made the humans in His likeness, in His image, and established them as the stewards of the planet. He gave them everything to enjoy with only one, single prohibition: don’t eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Not content with being made in God’s image, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. They bought the lie that God was withholding something good from them, that they could become gods themselves. Ignoring the multitude of blessings, they sought after what they could not have. They thought that they were wiser than God.

But I’m in no position to judge. I do the same thing, and most of the time it’s not “big sins.” Just the little, nagging ones that are equally as damning.

For example, I know what the Bible teaches about rest. In Christ, we might no longer be required to observe a sabbath day, but the pattern is still a really good idea. God created us to function best when we rest one day and work six. That weekly rest helps us refocus and reenergize.

But I often opt for vacations instead. I refuse to take a true rest week after week, focusing on a getaway that will recharge my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical batteries. Vacations never live up to the hype, never meet the expectations. I simply can’t go nonstop for 6 months to a year and expect my body to recover in one week. I wasn’t designed for that kind of living, but I often pursue it anyway.

Likewise, I know where God tells me to look for rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)” But my eyes always look to Netflix or YouTube by default. He has never failed to give me rest when I come to Him for it, but I still chase after worldly things that never satisfy.

Sin is an empty promise, offering what it cannot give, causing us to dedicate our time and energy on things worthless pursuits. It is a vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.

How Do We Make Disciples? (Making Disciples: part three)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42 ESV

It is wonderful to speak about the importance and preeminence of making disciples; however, most of it is meaningless if we never ask the next question: How do we make disciples?

There has been a wonderful movement over the last several years to reclaim discipleship.

The state of the modern church looked rather bleak. The need to be comforted and encouraged slowly replaced the gospel call toward holiness and sanctification. Worship preference replaced joyfully solemn worship of the Holy One. And many saw these changes as the failure to make biblically-mandated disciples.

The response was to bring discipleship to an individual level, emphasizing that each Christian has the responsibility to make disciples. Typically, one-on-one regular meetings are promoted most, though discipleship within small groups has also become tremendously popular.

As I said, this is a wonderful and much-needed movement, but we must also be careful not to jump to another equally dangerous extreme in reaction.

I believe discipleship, like our own walks with the Lord, occurs on two fronts, individually and communally.

In the past, we tended to rely upon the church community alone to make disciples, but we must be wary of over-emphasizing individual discipleship now, lest we ignore the benefits of community discipleship.

Because these posts are focused upon the church as a whole, I will spend more time covering the three basic forms of communal discipleship (Scripture, Prayer, and Community) within the next three series.

But for now, let us briefly discuss over the next three posts the three broad ways that we are able to make disciples at an individual level: witnessing, evangelism, and teaching.

The Great Commission (Making Disciples: part two)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

The life of Jesus is the most astonishing act in all of human history.

Because of our continuous sinning against God, we deserved nothing from Him except His wrath. As the Creator of everything, He demanded absolute perfection from us and even the smallest of sins bear eternal consequences because He is an eternal God. We were trapped in a well of sin with no hope of escape.

Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are: but God. They appear whenever God intervenes on our behalf, which means they appear often. Sin and its consequences are bad news, but God intervenes, bringing good news.

The good news is that God came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ. Being fully human and full divine, Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we were commanded to live. He then died a horrific death for us, even though He did not earn death. Jesus lived His life and died His death in substitution for us. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Jesus did not merely die for us; He also rose again to life, defeating death permanently.

It is from this position of death-conquering that we receive the Great Commission.

Before ascending to sit at God the Father’s right hand, Jesus gathered His disciples to Him for one final in-person teaching. He gave them a declaration of His authority and their final mission until He returns.

Notice that Jesus’ prefaces His commands with a declaration of His authority. Just as God gave Adam the First Commission as Creator, Jesus commissions His disciples as Lord of all, as the Re-Creator. We must, therefore, keep this authority in mind as we move forward to the commands.

As with the First Commission, Jesus issues four commands, but they are summed into one. The heart of the First Commission was the order to multiply. Being fruitful was accomplished through multiplying, and filling and subduing the earth could only be fulfilled via multiplication. Likewise, making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. We go to all nations, baptizing and teaching, in order to make disciples.

We are called to make disciples, and this call comes from our Lord.

Making disciples, therefore, is not optional.

We can only either obey or disobey the command.

But why does Jesus call us to make disciples?

Jesus did not command His disciples to multiply simply for the sake of creating more disciples. Jesus never played the numbers game. John 6 gives the account of Jesus feeding the 5000. After doing so, Christ had more than 5000 followers because everyone loves free food. But seeing that they were not actually interested in His words, He told them that real food is found by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Almost everyone left because no one likes to get free food from a possible cannibal.

Jesus was never afraid to thin the crowd by separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. But still Christianity has become the most culture-shaping force on the planet, with Christians being found in every nation. How is this so?

We should note that disciples, being students, embody the characteristics of their teacher. It is a natural process to become like whomever you follow. This thought is captured in the word Christian, which essentially means “like Christ” or “little Christ”. As Christians, we desire to become like our Lord and Teacher, meaning the goal of creating a disciple is to create an image-bearer of Christ.

The First Commission and Great Commission, therefore, both have the same goal: the glorification and exaltation of God. Both accomplish this goal through multiplying and filling the earth with image-bearers.

Making disciples means creating more image-bearers of Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we should desire to make more disciples of Jesus. We should desire to make the good news that God saves known to the world, a truth which brings light into the darkness of the world. Jesus also called this the expansion of His kingdom against the kingdom of darkness.

As the Church (the collective followers of Christ), our aim and mission is to make disciples, which is the expansion of Christ’s kingdom, which is the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ.

Because local churches are composed of their members, each individual church congregation will change continuously with each member that goes and comes, but this mission does not and cannot.

The function of the individual Christian and the Church collective is to make disciples.

A Christians that does not make disciples is no Christian.

A church that does not make disciples is no church.

 

 

Making Disciples | Matthew 28:18-20

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Great Commission is important because it is Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. These are the words that Christ wanted to be ringing in our ears until He comes back. We would, therefore, do well to heed them. Jesus’ Great Commission is the mission statement of the Church. His earthly ministry was primarily about bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, which reached its culmination in His death and resurrection. Though Jesus is no longer physically here, God’s kingdom must continue to expand. This is where we come in.

Disciples are made through two simultaneous avenues: individually and communally. As individual Christians, we obey Christ’s command primarily by witnessing, evangelizing, and teaching other about Jesus. As a community, we make disciples through the proclaiming and holding to the Scriptures together, praying together, and growing into mature community together.

Through the Western Meadows Values Series, we will focus on why making disciples is the mission of the church and how disciples are made through Scripture, prayer, and community. As the church, our aim and mission is to make disciples to the glorification and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This mission comes directly from our Lord. Making disciples, therefore, is not optional. We can only either obey or disobey His command.

Read Genesis 1:28 and discuss the following.

  1. Why did God command humanity to multiply and fill the earth?

Read Matthew 28:18-20 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus command His disciples to go to all nations and make more disciples?
  2. How can each Christian obey the command of making disciples?
  3. How does the church as a community make disciples?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Are you intentional about making disciples, both individually and collectively? Think through how your life serves as a witness for Christ, how you have shared the gospel with someone, and/or how you have trained someone up in the faith. In what ways will you continue to do so?
  • Pray. Ask the Father for grace and strength to obey the commands of Christ.