A treatise on vanity. This is basically the book of Ecclesiastes. What a depressing book. How is a book like that ever to be read and enjoyed, especially with our modern sensibilities? We need stuff that will make us feel good even if it is not the truth, right? Isn’t that what we need? That, at any rate, is what much of society would have us believe.
At first glance, it seems that the book of Ecclesiastes is a book that would throw you into nihilistic depression just short of suicidal. So what use has it in Scripture? Or, what, at least, use do we have for it today?
Well, it does no good to build upon a shoddy and cracked foundation. We can build all we want but all we do is for naught if the building will never truly stand. If we are to truly build something that is worth anything we must start anew. We must strip it down to the bedrock. To say that all is vanity is to say that all is cracked, you cannot build upon it. That is not to say that these things are inherently bad, they are not. But for us to understand these things, whatever they may be for you, we must first know they are desperately cracked. They can never hold anything of substance. They can truly never be built upon. They can’t hold the weight. Thus, if we experience discomfort from Ecclesiastes it is the doctor’s scalpel. It is the necessary pain for the healing of our life.
Significance for Christian Practice
Nietzsche is certainly good at reminding us that if God does not break into human experience then we are hopelessly lost. Nietzsche shows us what the antithesis of Christianity looks like. Nietzsche is correct, if God is dead, “if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one’s actions… If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as Stalin or as a saint.”
Apologists need to show people the world as it is, and existentialists like Nietzsche can do a good job at shaking us awake to the realities of our broken world. Ironically, understanding Nietzsche could help people become “poor in spirit,” a prerequisite to the Kingdom of heaven. Through, the dark and dooming picture that Nietzsche paints we can see our existential need for God. Thus, understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy can actually be helpful for Christians. Read More…
The Christian Ideal and the Answer to what Ails Us
Apologetics sees the questions in philosophy and religion and points to how Scripture ultimately answers them. Scripture answers Nietzsche’s questions (though perhaps unvocalized) about meaning and hopelessness.
Nietzsche is basically stuck on the Fall but does not understand the rest of the Biblical story that explains our reality. He does not realize that because God does exist and has revealed Himself and made us in His image that we have access to and can know truth. We also see in Scripture that there is more than nothing (nihil), there is hope in Christ. In fact, hope of everything that Nietzsche acknowledged as so wrong being fixed.
Interestingly, we see that we desire a superhero, a savior. We see this truth in all sorts of examples (e.g. The Avengers, Matrix, Batman, Superman, etc.). For Nietzsche, it was the Übermensch that he hoped in. In all of this, we see humanities need for meaning and morality and for a Savior to fix all that we sense is so wrong. What explains all of this? The biblical worldview. Read More…
Redemption: Romance Rebuilt
The world is broken but Christ came to redeem and fix it. Yet we live in the “already and not yet,” the time in between. We have the down payment and first fruits of all that is to come but Christ’s Kingdom hasn’t come to full affect yet. However, we do see what it means to truly love.
In Ephesians 5 we see an amazing picture of how a husband and wife are to relate to each other. We see a paradigm to build upon. We see love, respect, and mutual concern. We see the things that fell out with the Fall of humanity.
We need instruction. We need to be reminded that sex is a gift from God and not god. We need God to help us.
“God wants married couples to know that sex is his gift to them. And God does not give gifts to people so they won’t enjoy them. If God gives you steak he wants you to savor it. If he gives you wine, he wants you to enjoy it. And when he gives a couple sex in the covenant of marriage, he wants them to indulge in it. The NIV translates the end of Song of Solomon 5:1 this way: ‘Drink your fill of love.” Why would he tell us to drink up if he didn’t want us to be fully satisfied?”[i]
So often Christians are known for being boring and unable to enjoy things. But that just isn’t the case. We should be “known for saying ‘do’—do look, do touch, do indulge, do enjoy sexual relations within marriage.”[ii]
Our loving Father has created many good gifts to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4). “God is not stingy with joy when it comes to sexuality. If he gives you a gift, he wants you to enjoy it as it is designed to be enjoyed, which will ultimately lead to your satisfaction, not only with the gift itself but also with himself as the Giver.”[iii]
The Bible teaches that sex is not only a gracious gift but that pure passion is protection against impure passion (Cf. 1 Cor. 7:9).[iv] We see this in various places. Proverbs 5:15-23 says,
“Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
“Failing to structure frequent sexual activity into your companionship may open you for Satan’s temptations.”[v] Paul says, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:5).
However, that does not mean that we have an excuse for sexual sin if we feel like we have been deprived. This passage is not to be used to hold over your spouse’s head to tell them that they have to have sex with you.
New Creation: Our Longings Fulfilled
Sex is great and I thank God for it. But sex is not what life is about. God is what life is about. And soon we shall see Him face to face. Sex is an empty trace of the connection we long for, all the good that we enjoy is a mere pointer. It points us to God for whom we long to unite in fellowship with.
“Sex is a blessing from God. But sex is more than that. It is also a bridge to God. What I mean is that even the highest pleasures are sweetest intimacies are designed to leave us wanting something more. Sex creates a hunger for something infinitely more beautiful, pleasurable, and satisfying: God!”[vi]
Truly, what we as humans “crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us.”[vii]
As I said, we are in the “already and not yet.” We have the first fruits but not the consummation. Though we can even now have fellowship with God through the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit we still see God in a mirror dimly. We long for our faith to be sight.
In the the beginning Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and with each other. After the Fall the world fell apart, and like Humpty Dumpty it couldn’t be put back together again. Until Christ came. Christ put the world back together. He gave us something that sex could never give: restored fellowship with God.
Brothers and sisters, let’s not get the gift mixed up with God the Giver. Let’s not look for sex to fill the infinite hole that only the Infinite One can fill. It is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who created sex and every good gift, and holds every speck of stellar dust in the universe in His hand that fulfills and gives true life. In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand their are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).
[i] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139
[ii] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 131.
[iii] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139.
[iv] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 107.
[v] Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 5. “Satan tempts and destroys many marriages by extreme inhibitions, extramarital affairs, and other sexual distortions. Often it is subtle drifting apart and a lack of warm, connecting companionship. God has given spouses something precious in the ability as husband and wife to share a physical intimacy that cannot be matched in any other relationship. There is no replacement for what God intended sex to be for intimate marriages. It is a framework for expressing many powerful emotions, like joy, love, trust, and playfulness… Spouses who frequently play together sexually stay together in warm, bonded ways” (Ibid.).
[vi] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 83.
[vii] Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 24.
Below are some follow up questions for you consider related to my message “Treasure in the Right Place” from Matthew 6:19-34.
Is it true that worry often tells us what we worship?
Is it true that we can be orthodox and even astute theologically and actually have our heart somewhere else entirely?
Is it true that social media and shopping malls shape us and our views of significance and security subtly but substantially?
Materialism may be the single greatest pull away from authentic Christianity (cf. Deut. 6 esp. v.10-13). What do you think?
- What does it mean to “lay up treasures in heaven”? What are “treasures” in heaven?
- How do vv. 25-34 relate to the previous verses (vv. 19-24)? How do we apply these verses to our context in Fairfax?
- How can we purposely invest in heaven and not drift to the service of other gods?
- Daily and seriously ask yourself, “Is life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
- Ask yourself if what you’re focused on and are worried about will stand the test of eternity.
- In chapter 6:1-18 we see the word “reward” 6 times (ESV) and then in vv. 19-21 we see “treasure” used 3 times (ESV). Do we very often think about the “reward” and “treasure” that awaits us in heaven? Remember, anxiety produces nothing; except perhaps ulcers. And remember, anxiety isn’t inevitable. What can help us loosen the grip of anxiety upon our life?
Quote from the Message:
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…” and the thing is “If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already… The whole trick is keeping the truth up- front in daily consciousness. Worship power—you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.” And so on.
He goes on to say, “Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day… And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default- settings, because the so-called world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. ” – From a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College
A 20 Day Study in Stewardship by Redeemer Presbyterian Church
East of Eden, this trance in which were caught. Serpents all around, lies within, lies without. Death, death, unspoken though it be, prevails. Prevailing misery, wrapped in supposed ecstasy. Whisper, whisper; slither near, they speak the lies into my ear. Sell it all, the order built tall, fails. Embrace it all, accept all, end null. Trudge on and live and die, for what do we expire? Only all we desire. Endless cycle of misery, never free. Eat the apple, embrace the noose. Slither near, oh yes, my dear. Come here, constrict me. Worthless cycle, the viper of this world, strikes fast yet the venom kills slow. How strange, but the hand that feeds me, bites me. Diluted profit, fruitless field, this the futility that we yield. Strive for the Garden, yet we embrace the curse; oh, the contradiction that is humanity.
East of Eden, for a season, the King will soon return. Every foe vanquished, for every thorn a rose. The King, He soon shall reign! Then, the refrain, forever remain, “life, life!” The serpent is gone, we sing a new song forever of our Savior. We ate of the tree, He died on a tree to be the curse we created, and with His death, death’s defeated.
Guided by misdirection
I fall to the grave
In false glory
The story goes on
Repeated with repugnant nausea
O’ for the crash
To hold and make new
O’ for light
O’ dawn blaze
Inflame my gaze
No more night
Set it to flight