The Future: How to Prepare

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The perspective of age

I’ve been a senior three times in my life: a high school senior, a senior in college, and now in the senior stage of life.

A congregation provided visitors with a card that requested the usual contact information, and also a place to indicate the visitors’ age categories: child, Jr. High, Sr. High, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50+.

Many of us are in that 50+ slot—and have been for quite some time. How should we feel about it?

First, aren’t we grateful that God has allowed us to live this long? So many obituaries I see in the paper are for those who were far younger than I.

Second, don’t we feel an increasing sense of the preciousness of the time remaining? It’s true that the 50+ category may last longer than any of the other age brackets, but we don’t know that it will.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

“. . . you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Soon it is gone, wrote the Psalmist. Just a vapor, says James.

We speak of longevity, but never shortevity. Perhaps we should.

And third, doesn’t it make good sense to make diligent preparation NOW for what lies beyond? “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

The two stages

The future can be divided into two parts:

Future: Part I is whatever time remains for us in this world.

Future: Part II is eternity.

When we die, Part II begins. Part I is temporary. Part II is forever.

Part II is dependent on Part I. How we spend the first part determines how we spend the second (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We have a choice.

Satan seeks to distract us with the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). God calls us to raise our sights and make wise choices (Colossians 3:1-2).

“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

What does it mean to do God’s will?

It means trusting and obeying the Son He sent to be our Savior (John 8:24; 11:25-26; Hebrews 5:8-9).

It means turning from doing our own will to doing His (Acts 17:30-31).

It means being united with Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27).

It means remaining faithful to the end (Hebrews 3:6. 14; 10:35-39; 12:1-3).

“. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

“. . . the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Thinking Ahead

When our belongings start to crowd us

It would be interesting to know how many more storage units there are today, compared with 40 years ago.

Most of us are so abundantly blessed that we are running out of room to store all our stuff.

One of the benefits of Bible study is that it reminds us that material things are not what counts most.

A far better investment

Since possessions are so vulnerable to loss, Jesus reminds us that we can have treasures that are moth-proof, rust-proof, and theft-proof (Matthew 6:19-21). Heavenly treasure is the way to go!

The rich young ruler was unwilling to accept Jesus’ challenge to sacrifice his earthly wealth for heavenly treasure, by giving to the poor. So he walked sadly away (Matthew 19:16-22). Big mistake!

Better glad than sad

People keep making that same mistake. They can’t bring themselves to take Jesus’ word for it.

If we prudently lay aside an amount every paycheck for retirement, we are operating on the principle that we’ll benefit eventually. Someday we’ll be glad we planned ahead and made whatever sacrifice was necessary.

Small children usually don’t think very far ahead. They want it NOW! As we grow older, ideally, we mature to the point where we are willing to defer gratification.

Laying up treasure in heaven by giving to those in need is the ultimate extension of this principle. God promises us that if we’ll do His will and depend on His grace, we will be glad someday. Very glad!

If it’s wise to plan for retirement, how much wiser to plan for eternity!

Retirement lasts a few years at most. But eternity . . . .

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Getting What We Need, Not What We Want

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Not what he wanted to hear

Once someone interrupted Jesus’ teaching with this demand: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

Jesus’ reply was blunt: “Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter over you? Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).

He then told the parable of the rich fool whose attention was focused entirely on material pursuits, with no thought of eternity. “So is the man,” Jesus said, “who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Lessons for us today

Not only does Jesus teach us a needed lesson on materialism (a growing problem in our culture), but also that sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

This man wanted Jesus to help him get the money he thought he was due. But instead Jesus gave him what he truly needed—a warning against greed.

What happened next?

Did the man heed the warning, drop his grievance, and learn to look at life from Christ’s perspective? Or did he go looking for someone else to help him get what he wanted?

He had a choice, and so do we. We can ignore Jesus’ warning and return to business-as-usual, or we can do some healthy self-examination.

Is it possible that we too have been infected with what has been called “accumulitis”? This disease is highly contagious and certainly fatal—unless we take Jesus’ prescription and learn what it means to be truly rich toward God.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How Important is the Body?

The body: present and future

In this life we who are Christians are “at home in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:6). At death our spirit is separated from our body (James 2:26). After death we are “absent from the body” and are “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

When Christ returns He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory . . .” (Philippians 3:21; see 1 Corinthians 15:42-58).

In this life we dwell in a body that is mortal (capable of dying). After the resurrection we will be given an immortal body (untouchable by death). Amazing!

The proper use and abuse of the body

“Or do you not know,” Paul writes, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit . . . and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Paul urges believers “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

How then could we let sin reign in our bodies or use our eyes/ears/hands/feet/tongue/etc. as “instruments of unrighteousness” (Romans 6:12-13)?

“. . . the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).

The body in view of eternity

Someday each of us will be “recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So what we do in and by means of our bodies is of eternal consequence!

“. . . may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Hourglass

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This life

Although we no longer use the hourglass to measure time, it illustrates our brief life on this earth.

The lower chamber represents the days we’ve lived, the top chamber our future, and the narrow neck the present.

To make the analogy true to life, the upper chamber remains covered—we cannot tell how much time we have left.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Eternal life

If we are wise, we prepare for that eventuality by regulating our lives by Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:24-27).

We can then “depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better . . .” (Philippians 1:23).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Rotten!

Dealing with a potential risk

A crotch in an oak tree near our house is rotting. Other dead wood is evident here and there.

This may be due to a severe ice storm that broke limbs all over town. Then too, some ants made their home in this same tree some time ago.

Is the tree endangering the house? Should it be trimmed way back or removed entirely?

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A far greater danger!

Is there something in our lives that could jeopardize our eternal welfare—perhaps a sinful habit, a questionable friendship, a rotten attitude?

Is anything worth going to hell for? Jesus said, in essence, “Whatever hinders you, get rid of it now before it destroys you” (Matthew 5:27-30; see 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Hebrews 12:1-2).

How we respond reveals whether or not we really believe Him.

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Theft-proof?

Secure?

Even though my bike wasn’t worth much, I bought a combination lock for it. But I became a victim of theft after all. Someone stole my brand-new lock and left the bike intact!

Jesus mentioned theft as one of the ways we can lose our stuff (Matthew 6:19-21), So what can we do about it? Better locks?

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Secure!

Here’s what Jesus recommends: Lay up treasure in heaven—it alone is truly secure from loss.

But how does this work? We lay up treasure in heaven by giving priority to what is eternal and by helping those in need (Mark 10:21-22; Luke 12:12-21, 33-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 11:24-26).

Ready to invest?

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