“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)
What does he say? Here is the sum. Here is the bottom line and final conclusion. What should we do? Two things: fear God and obey his commands.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 ESV)
Remembering means not regretting
Not long ago I attended my 30-year high school reunion. 30 years. I’m here to tell you I blinked…and 30 years were gone. To the young people reading this, I remember when I was your age and I heard people that were my age now, and I sat there thinking, “OK, old guy, that’s the way it is for you, but I’m 19 years old, the world is my oyster. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. It’s going to be different for me.” No, it’s not.
Baptism – Identify with Jesus
Let’s look at a few key texts on baptism (my emphasis added).
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
- “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
- “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:38)
- “And [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:48)
- “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16, from Paul’s testimony)
There are many other passages. This is just a sampling. Especially noteworthy is Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” These are the final words of Jesus on earth as recorded by Matthew. The key phrase is “make disciples.” This includes evangelism and then the guidance and nourishment of that new disciple into maturity. This is the core of our mission. But right there in the mix is the need for new disciples to be baptized.
Why? Let’s be clear. It’s not to save them. The saving work is done by Jesus, not baptism. Salvation is by faith through grace. No religious ceremony or water can save anyone. You could be baptized in the Jordan River itself and still be lost. Personally believing in Jesus as Savior is the means by which the atoning work of Jesus on the cross is personally applied to my status before God. So baptism doesn’t save. Then what is its purpose?
“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 ESV)
God delights when we enjoy his gifts fully
This is a guide to happy Christian living. What do I mean? The first word in verse 7 is “Go.” It doesn’t say wait; be passive. “Go” is an action word. These are things we are free to pursue along with the joys they create in us. There is no guilt or shame. It doesn’t mean we are unspiritual. He delights in our joy in his gifts!
Dad: God’s Design for Generational Spiritual Influence
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV)
There are a lot of aspects to being a good dad and I can’t touch on all of them here. But here’s the reality: the most important thing a dad can do is to influence his family and children toward following Jesus. You can get them through school, and that’s important. You can give them amazing experiences growing up, and that’s great. You can prepare them to succeed in business and life; that’s wonderful. But if in the end they reject Christ, then what good is their GPA or career success?
Our primary goal as dads has to be the spiritual life and faith of our children. Dads, do you agree? Here’s why this is important: your child is either going to spend eternity in heaven or hell and God has placed you in their life as a primary means of their evangelism and discipleship. It is so easy to get distracted by a thousand good things and miss the most important one. So how do we do this? How does a dad exert fatherly spiritual influence on his children?
“But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 ESV)
As we have seen, Solomon vacillates between two perspectives on life. Most of Ecclesiastes is describing man’s search for meaning without God. As if there is no God. Man left entirely to himself. The material man. The atheistic man. Man apart from God. This he calls, life under the sun.
The other perspective is life under God. Human life lived in relationship with God. God is the end and satisfaction of man’s search for meaning.
The one means life is absurd and futile. The other means life matters and eternity does too. He describes both in this section.
Self-righteousness is No Better Than Unrighteousness
“Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16-17 ESV)
Reading this superficially, these could be your favorite verses in the Bible. Don’t try to be too righteous. Don’t be too wicked. Perfect. Just a little sin to keep from being too righteous and just a little religion to keep me out of prison. It sounds like Scripture is giving us wiggle room to be a little naughty and a little nice.
While many people haven’t read this verse, many people live that way instinctively. They think, I want my life to be right there in the middle. Not too goody-two-shoes where I seem holier than thou. Not too bad that I have to worry about going to hell. As long as I am in the middle of the pack, I must be OK with God.
Self-righteousness is no better than unrighteousness because both lead you to hell. The gospel is not that God grades on a curve or as long as I am morally a ‘C’ or better, I must be OK. The gospel says we are all getting ‘F’s. It’s pass/fail and we all fail. So what does this mean?