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A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with some dear Christian brothers. While "breaking bread" with them, I shared a Bible passage from Psalm 33 verse 5:
"...the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord."
I encouraged them that everything we have in this life comes from the good hand of God and is meant to be enjoyed within the boundaries of His Law. The Apostle Paul teaches us that we can glorify God in the most basic elements of life—such as partaking of food and drink (1 Cor.10:31). Enjoying a walk through the woods with my children, drinking a good cup of coffee, or even watching a football game on a crisp autumn day brings glory to God because I recognize that it is His goodness that allows me to have these things.
The Bible tells us that we are to enjoy our wife (Prov. 5:18), our children (Ps. 127:3-5), our home, our work (Eccl. 9:10), etc.. All of these things are physical, tangible, earthly things that God has graciously given us. And by properly prioritizing and enjoying them, we give glory to God and enjoy His goodness.
Little did I know, however, that this concept would not resonate well with my Christian brothers. In fact, they very politely informed me that I should simply focus on the Lord and not on earthly things. They also reminded me that we are simply "pilgrims passing through" and that our treasure should be in heaven and not on earth." Apparently, applying God's Word to all of my life on this earth is not the same as focusing on some ethereal heavenly concept of God.
Don't get me wrong. There's certainly great truth in their statements because they are derived from the Bible. Ultimately, our home IS in heaven and our lives should be directed by this reality. However, there are three potential dangers with this truncated thinking that must be pointed out.
First, these statements separate the universe into two unbiblical categories of sacred and secular. The Reformation taught us that all occupations, whether blacksmith or minister, are sacred to God. The Psalmist tells us that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Jesus told us that all authority has been given to Him on heaven AND on earth (Matt. 28:18-20). Furthermore, Jesus told us that His Kingdom is here and that Satan has been bound (Matt. 12:28-29). If all the earth is the Lord's, then there is no distinction between secular and sacred.
Second, these statements ignore vast portions of Scripture which deal with life in this world. If all Scripture is given for our instruction in righteousness, then we need to understand and apply the Old Testament passages that deal with law, economics, business, and government just like we understand and apply the Psalms and New Testament epistles. We need to understand and apply ALL of God's Word to ALL of our lives.
Thirdly, this kind of thinking can lead well-meaning Christians to border on a theological heresy known as gnosticism. This is the error that the Apostle Paul was warning Timothy about in 1 Timothy 6:20. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry describes Gnosticism this way:
The word "gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "knowledge." There were many groups that were Gnostic and it isn't possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines. However, generally speaking, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis). This knowledge usually dealt with the individual's relationship to the transcendent Being... The unknowable God was far too pure and perfect to have anything to do with the material universe which was considered evil. (See full description)
Actually, I believe there is a deeper problem behind this truncated view of Christianity and it is driven by the theological system known as Dispensationalism. Contrary to prophetic passages such as Isaiah 11:9, Dispensationalism teaches that we are living in the Last Days and the world will wax worse and worse. When Christians believe that we are living at the end of history, the importance of life on this earth begins to wane in their minds. And if the majority of Christians begin to turn the world back over to the unregenerate secularists, then we will lose all of the ground gained by our forefathers.
Christian brothers awake and arise! We have been called to subdue the earth and disciple the nations! Why has Christ left His Church here for 2,000 years? Christ has left us here for a purpose—to advance His Kingdom. Let's fight the good fight on earth and enjoy heaven when we get there. Besides, the Bible says much more about life in this world than in the next. I strongly encourage you to read Gary DeMar's book, The Debate Over Reconstruction—specifically the section on heavenly and earthly rewards.
This is a great time to announce that American Vision's ministry theme for 2007 is "Preparing the Next Generation to Capture the Future." This is also the theme of our second annual Worldview Super Conference in May. I hope you will make plans to join us for this important event in Asheville, North Carolina.