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Living a Good Life: Ecclesiastes, Part 3

Delight in Grace / Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
The Truth Network Radio
January 17, 2024 10:00 am

Living a Good Life: Ecclesiastes, Part 3

Delight in Grace / Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell

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January 17, 2024 10:00 am

The first eleven verses of Ecclesiastes are anything but encouraging, pointing out life’s brevity and boredom, its instability and inability to satisfy.  This is a picture of life under the sun-life when we seek purpose without Christ.

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Welcome to Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. Today is the first message in a series on the book of Ecclesiastes titled, Living a Good Life, Making Sense of the Journey. In his latter years, King Solomon reflects on the meaninglessness of life under the sun. The first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes are anything but encouraging, pointing out life's brevity and boredom, its instability and inability to satisfy. This is a picture of life under the sun, life when we seek purpose without Christ. Let's listen in. This is the third part of a study in Ecclesiastes 1, 1 through 11.

It was first preached on February 18th, 2018 at Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. So what is this meaning? The meaning of this word, this phrase vanity of vanities, all is vanity. It is the futility of life. We need to be honest about that. The futility of life. Let's dig into this here for a moment.

Verse 3 encapsulates the meaning of that phrase, vanity of vanities. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? There's two key phrases there. Number one key phrase, what does man gain?

The key word there is gain. It's that sense of permanence, mastering, having that sense of permanence. In other words, having something that is truly lasting. That's not going to fade away. It's going to stay.

We all desire that at the core. Something that's going to stay. That's not going to go away. It's not going to wither.

It's not going to grow corrupt. But here's the thing about it. All the stuff of life. When it says all is vanity, he says none of it can be mastered. What does man gain? It means none of it can be mastered. You cannot master the stuff of life.

You are grasping vapor. And that's why he says, if you look at verse 13 with me, very, very interesting verse. He says, and I applied my heart to seek and to search out wisdom, all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of men to be busy with.

Wow, that's a fascinating verse. An unhappy business. Now the ESV translates that uniquely here. Other words for that are burdensome or grievous. It is a grievous business.

Very, very interesting. This is a word that means evil. And if you were to look at Genesis chapter two, verse nine, when God said in the day that you eat of that fruit, you will, the tempter said, the tempter said, you will know good and evil. You will be like God knowing good and evil. You know what he was telling them? You're going to know good and you're going to know that which is good and fulfilling. And he hid it in a word. He says, you're also going to know what's frustrating.

You're going to know the futility and the emptiness of life. That's what he was telling them. And they didn't even recognize it as man became self-preeminent. And we see that's what we see in Genesis three. Man became self-preeminent because he walked away from God thinking he knew better. He became unfulfilled because he lost any foundation upon which to build meaning, satisfaction or an answer to the question, why?

There is no answer apart from the one who is your creator. That's the idea of what does man gain by all the stuff of life. Next phrase, under the sun. That's a key phrase in this book. That means that this perspective is limited in its scope, that there is a perspective beyond this. But when you're limiting it to under the sun, that phrase under the sun means this temporary existence. It is time, space and matter under the sun.

And then figuratively, it refers to earthbound thinking, earthbound thinking. In other words, there is the physical and there is the emotional, what I feel and what I sense. There's those things, but you pay no attention to the spiritual. There's no concept of the spiritual. You think only on the level of physical and emotional, but no concept of the spiritual. And so we become practical materialists. And this perspective under the sun is a materialist perspective. Asaph said in Psalm 73, I was like a beast towards you.

Meaning what? A beast has no concept of communion with the creator. A beast has no concept of spiritual realities. Because a beast is just a thing, but you and I are not.

We are created in the image of God. And so a beast is all about two things, survival and indulgence. And when you and I limit ourselves to earthbound thinking, then our lives become preoccupied with those two things, survival and indulgence.

And we think that's where we find our meaning, in somehow surviving and indulging ourselves. And so with earthbound thinking, that is knowledge purely at the material level, you cannot arrive at a definition of meaning and purpose. That is the limits of science.

You know that. Science cannot help us find meaning and purpose. It has to be revealed. It has to be revealed by the intelligent designer. So with earthbound thinking, knowledge purely at a material level, there's only three things you can do. Number one, you can conclude that it exists, meaning and purpose. You can conclude that it exists, but cannot be known.

Or number two, you can conclude that it does not exist. And there are many who are in that camp today. Blind, pitiless indifference. That's what the universe is all about. That's the mantra of the new atheism.

Blind, pitiless indifference. Meaning does not exist. Or number three, with earthbound thinking, you can create your own meaning and purpose. And that's, again, where many people think they are. I create my own meaning and purpose.

That's all I can depend on. There is no meaning and purpose that comes to me outside of myself. Some examples of that. Late film director Stanley Kubrick, very meaningless of life, forces man to create his own meaning. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it's hostile, but it is indifferent. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Those are influential celebrities. Let's move to the arena of politicians. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg confessed that his mortality has started dawning on him. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin, I'm telling you, if there is a God when I get to heaven, I'm not stopping to be interviewed.

I'm heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close. He's creating his own reality. You see, he's living in a fantasy. He's treating this as if it's all just a myth. That's what happens when you live according to earthbound thinking.

You think only at the level of material emotional. That's under the sun. And what does man gain under the sun? Thankfully, there are glimpses of meaning even in this chapter. The first one is back to that phrase, under the sun.

Now, some people could miss that easily. But if there is under the sun, then there is also what? Beyond the sun. Beyond the material created order. There is reality beyond that. In other words, what the writer is telling us, and I believe it is Solomon, what the writer is telling us is that this, listen, listen, Christians, this is not all there is.

And yet how many people live like it is? This is not all there is. In other words, you don't need to chase the wind.

Good news. You don't need to chase the wind because you're not going to find your meaning and purpose here. And the second phrase that gives us a glimpse of meaning and purpose is the phrase in verse 13, God has given. God has given. That implies origin. It implies design. It implies purpose. God has given also implies revelation. That there is a divine being who has made himself known by giving something to us. It also implies that there is a future beyond the here and now. It also implies that there is a higher purpose. It also implies that there is a higher purpose than just the material emotional world. And so Solomon says, I applied my heart.

I applied my heart to know. Are you earthbound in your thinking? Maybe you're sensing the fleeting and the frustrating characters of life.

Maybe your thinking is limited to under the sun. Are we truthful about the realities of life or are we simply living in this dream of ours? Where we're not even thinking about what comes next. What comes next in terms of after I die. And you know you don't have tomorrow guaranteed, do you?

After I die. If you don't give any thought to that, then you are living by earthbound thinking. Sometimes if we're simply living by earthbound thinking, we're terrified by that thought about what comes next. But listen folks, what are we all about here? God's self-disclosure sets the agenda.

And I have a question for you this morning. Does God's self-disclosure set the agenda for your life? Or is your agenda set by simply earthbound thinking? Earthbound thinking also believes that this whole God stuff is simply a projection of the human mind. That's earthbound thinking.

That's under the sun. Is there anything about your life, your walk of faith that reflects earthbound thinking? I challenge you with that this morning. Because if it is, that's why you're experiencing a fleeting, frustrating life. Because you're looking for your meaning and your satisfaction in all the wrong places. Father, once again, we are so grateful that you have made yourself known to us. You have shown the light into our darkness.

You have not left us up to our own delusions, our own imagination. Because Father, those things can only lead us to despair. But Father, I pray that indeed your self-disclosure will be what sets the agenda for our lives. Because there is meaning. There is a higher purpose.

There is a future full of hope. So Father, I pray that you would challenge us this morning. Challenge our hearts and our minds by your self-disclosure through your Holy Spirit, Father.

Do that work in us that you desire to do. In helping us see the big picture and not be earthbound in our thinking. I pray these things in Jesus' name.

Amen. We're so glad you've joined us for Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, Pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. You can hear this message and others anytime by visiting our website, www.delightingrace.com. You can also check out Pastor Rich's book, 7 Words That Can Change Your Life, where he unpacks from God's Word the very purpose for which you were designed. 7 Words That Can Change Your Life is available wherever books are sold. As always, tune in to Delight in Grace weekdays at 10 a.m.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-17 12:25:55 / 2024-01-17 12:30:47 / 5

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