It is an interesting to watch how people in the 21st century occupy life with so much activity focused upon self-absorbed experiences that adds little lasting value to any future life. Many people pursue a life without any defined existence coupled with a belief that life will go on forever as it is today. In the culture of the church, this is most evident in the dramatic shift to blending contemporary idealism, music, and teaching. At the same time, a predominant perspective emphasizes the importance of life in the present more so than past generations. Some of the themes that characterized recent past generations are expressed in the songs people sang about heaven, eternal life, and overcoming trials in the present. The obvious theme expressed resonates that that the experience and decisions made in daily life occurrences have a real connection to eternity. The paradigm shift has resulted in a secularization of popular ideals moving life focus away from an eternal perspective to a collaboration of ideals about current existence. While the content of life today is important, there is the danger that God has been exiled to the corner of private religion and is not a consideration in the real nuts and bolts of everyday life or public dialogue. In fact, there has been a fundamental shift in the emphasis away from thinking of life in eternal terms to a life of what matters now to the experience of me in the 21st century. As a result, this radical shift in attitude demonstrates a critical change in how personal meaning relates to daily life experience.
Furthermore, there is a deeply engrained preoccupation with significance built upon the immediate value of experience to self, instant gratification, and what personal benefit is gained. The system of this world-view is focused upon a temporal advantage to the immediate, rather than the long term benefit of future value. The result demonstrates a defective understanding of life obsessed with the present coupled to feelings of entitlement. The outcome that must be coped with is emptiness and an experience of building an occurrence of life filled with circular efforts to fill the void left by abdicating a life built upon eternal values. An important point of reference is the present day high focus upon pluralism in spiritual ideals and how values are re-spun from collaboration into a collective thought that express generic view of spirituality. An example of pluralism in today’s culture can be seen through a view of life that is very much influenced by eastern philosophy. The predominant preponderance of ideas about life today has moved away from “sweet by and by” idealism to an emphasis upon the here and now. The idea seems to support the notion of being effective with as little difficulty as possible. However, in the present atmosphere the importance of the cumulative experiences of life in being who God created you to be loses its meaning and purpose when life is reduced to the present momentary conditions of existence.
Consider the impact of valuing the present without consideration of the past and future. The value that it expresses is that the measuring stick of life is the value of a present tense experience. Unfortunately, an attitude about life that is disconnected from the past and detached from the future translates into a life that measures meaning through life in the moment. Unfortunately, this particular view of life has transient, as well as, ever changing values, worth, and meaning that are never constant. For instance, a factor in this way of thinking that may not be clearly understood limits every present moment to the temporary and in a moment be the past; then in another moment is the future. Therefore, life only connected to the moment can only be measured by the value or wisdom the moment brings. It is because life in the moment has no influence from the past and the present has no concern toward the future. An example of a similar attitude is reflected upon in the writings of Buddhism, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly” (Buddha). Other common expressions expressing similar ideas like, “Live, Love, and Laugh”. The thought of this motto expresses a concern for the greatest good in present pursuit as a utopian maxim of the pleasure principle with no connection to the past with an absence of thought about an obtainable future. It is just to relax in the moment and enjoy life to the fullest as if tomorrow has no significance. The goal expressed is to produce the most pleasant existence that has vacated thoughts about the past complexities of life, what they mean in today’s experience, or what influence our life map has upon life in the future. An application of this perspective summed up in a general way deposits a belief that purports life-philosophy, which states that a healthy balance in life is achieved by measuring existence in accordance with peace/harmony in the present moment. It is through a wise and sincere way of living that is disconnected with concerns about the past, as well as, an absence of worry about the future that makes life harmonious and peaceful. However, the idea presented leaves a fundamental question about whom, how, or what determines what is wise without inclusion of a reflective process about life as a whole. The whole of life includes developmental experiences from the past and life experience today as a precursor to how life will be experienced in the future.
Considering the reality that every moment of life is a temporary assignment and life experiences are only here for a moment, it seems there is something larger that needs consideration. For instance, examining life from a Christian point of view contextualizes life events in the terminology and perspective of a God. The language and semantics of Christianity describes God as eternal, immutable, and not a momentary spiritual flash on the radar screen of time. Consequently, when Jesus spoke of life that is potentially possible, He depicted life with words like eternal to describe life.
Listen to he words that Jesus spoke to those who listen to his message and believe in God.
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life”. (John 5:24, New Living Translation)
Without a doubt, Jesus spoke of life as eternal, not just a momentary experience, or a fleeting existence. One of the questions contained in the thoughts of Jesus about life relates to who is shaping your view of existence. Therefore, the question that is important to understanding why people live in the moment instead of with an eternal perspective is: who or what will determine our view of the human experience? When we break the question down into a personal challenge, it is important to know whether we are measuring life in the moment, the experience, or the pleasure or pain of life experience. On the other hand, we need to determine if we really understand the temporal nature of life and how everything in the present will, one day be, immersed into everlasting life prepared before the foundation of the earth. It is a progression of life provided for in Christ’s redemption provided on the Cross, realized through spiritual transformation, and actualized in a life of faith through practical sanctification. The importance of the question is that it reveals a deeper issue of concern for Christians. The concern is directed toward the content of a Christian world-view and the message about the transient nature of the past, present and future life in the grander scheme of God who created us to live through eternity.
Your identity is settled in eternity, and your homeland is heaven.
The answer to who God created us to be does not lay within the temporary assignment of this life, but in the eternal purpose of God. The life that God gives in the creative act of spiritual transformation is an abundant life. Transformation through Christ provides the opportunity for a life of quality, but also, a life quantified by the eternity that God has designed. Spiritual life is a sovereign work of grace that provides the pathway to life everlasting in a relationship forged by the spiritual birth. Because life is a temporary assignment, it is difficult to find a lasting attachment or permanent identity in what is fading away every day. When we come to the place of transformation and realize that who we are is not defined by an earthly tabernacle, but that the earthly tabernacle is the dress rehearsal for an eternity that is settled by the mediation of God to prepare us for eternity.
Earthly existence is compared to a tent that will one day be folded up and put away.
“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our ‘tents again” (2 Corinthians 5:1, The Message).
The temporary will be replaced with the eternal and the permanent. In the words of Paul, there is coming a day when the identity that has been formed in a fleshly existence will evaporate in the presence of what is eternal and reveals the true identity. A new existence that will not be described by the temporary, but expressed in a descript identity revealing the person that God has uniquely prepared in a post human replacement of what we now see. What we see now is temporary and what we will realize in translation is eternal and imperishable. The point that is well taken is that our understanding of who God created us to be will be realized as we step into the existence that we earnestly groan for in our desire to be changed as we submit ourselves to the process of surrender to the true self. What we realize in the present is that all of this that we struggle with is temporary and one day it will fold up and be put away for something far better and a life that is everlasting.
Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better.
“But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own” (Philippians 3:20-21).
Much of life is consumed with the efforts to make a better life in the present, but as Paul writes,”there’s far more to life for us”. Something that is important to remember in all of the important things that we spend our time on is that this is not all there is and something far better is available. It is available to provide hope in the present and expectation for a future beyond anything we can imagine. Earthly life is only a temporary assignment and our real homeland is in the eternal purpose of God because our citizenship is in Heaven. An affirmation comes by “Realizing that life on earth is just a temporary assignment should radically alter your values [:] Eternal values, not temporal ones, should become the deciding factors for your decisions” (Warren 2002, p 50). Summing up the experience of our lives compared with earlier centuries, life has never been easier than it is today for most of the people in Western Civilization. Life is filled with constant entertainment, amusement, and activity that accommodate an immediate and felt need for gratifying pleasure. Considering all of the captivating attractions, attention-grabbing media entertainment, and pleasurable experiences available today, it is easy to forget that the pursuit of happiness is not the primary purpose for existence.
What is the primary purpose for man in existence?
A reminder from the Baptist Catechism explains man’s primary purpose in an end state for existence, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” A question that arises from man’s chief end is what does it mean to glorify God? The term, “Glorify” does not mean make glorious because God is already glorious. Rather, it means to reflect or display as glorious. Other words you could use for “end” are “goal” or “purpose”. Therefore the “end or purpose” is to live in such a way that displays God’s purpose of grace in how we express who He has created us to become.
Glorifying God also implies using the resources, which grace has dispensed into our temporary assignment in this life. In reference to this stewardship of glory and purpose, Paul gives the example of the end state of behaviors in life that is enabled by an attitude that is directed through purposeful living. He says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The point of reference is that in whatever we do, it should reflect an end, goal, or purpose reflecting an outcome elevating His purpose in how He has created us individually.
The end state gives testimony to the sovereign plan of God to reveal Himself through our purposeful existence reflecting a life of worship and reverence. Therefore, in a life of glorifying God there is satisfying pleasure of following the direction that enhances life’s purpose bringing spiritual satisfaction. The object is to enjoy God and bring pleasure through knowing that life is aligned with the purpose of God for creation, which brings harmony to existence.
Listen to the Psalmist’s words, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” ( Psalm 16:11). The object is to understand that we are God’s people and the sheep of his pasture that are created by Him. Even as Isaiah wrote, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah43:7) reminds the reader of the sovereign God who actively created and called His sheep unto Him to live beyond the temporary assignment of today in a life of glorifying and enjoying the creator in a life of worship and reverence.
The pursuit of happiness in God is the purpose for which God made us and is what life is about. The man who pursues his happiness in God will find the attractions, media, and experiences of this life clanging bangles and contemptible bobbles whose attraction grows pale in comparison to the pleasure God offers to those who seek Him.