Skip to comments."Hold Lightly to the Things of This World" (Sermon on 1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Posted on 01/20/2018 7:12:07 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Hold Lightly to the Things of This World (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Are you married? Some of you are, some of you arent. OK, so lets broaden the field. How about these questions: Are there times when you mourn? Are there times when you rejoice? Or how about these: Do you ever buy goods? Do you ever have dealings with the world? OK, now I think Ive got everybody covered. Well, heres what I want you to do today. Two words: Stop it. Thats it: Stop it. Stop doing those things! Live like youre not married. Stop mourning. Stop rejoicing. Live like you have no goods. Live like you have no dealings with the world. Just: Stop it. Why? Because the time is short. This world is passing away.
Alright, lest you think Ive gone off the deep end, let me explain. What I just told you is a somewhat simplified version of todays Epistle reading, from 1 Corinthians 7. So if youre going to send me to the funny farm, youll have to send St. Paul too. Hes the one who said it. But the reality is, this is Gods word were hearing today. And today God is encouraging us to Hold Lightly to the Things of This World.
Hold lightly to the things of this world. Listen to our text again. St. Paul writes: This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Now lets take that a piece at a time. First, to you married men: Live as though you have no wife. Now some of you wives are saying to yourselves, Hey, he already does that! But thats not the point. The point is, Paul is saying to both husbands and wives, Live as though youre not married. Huh? That sounds odd, if this is the word of the Lord. Oh, wait, this is coming from Paul, right? Paul, the unmarried guy, the one who doesnt understand marriage. Right? Wrong. This is coming from the same Paul who writes in Ephesians, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and let each one of you love his wife as himself. But here in Corinthians, he says, Let those who have wives live as though they had none. What gives? This sounds like two contradictory ideas.
Then theres this bit about not mourning or rejoicing: Let those who mourn live as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing. But again, Paul seems to be contradicting himself. For in Romans he writes, Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Or even right here in 1 Corinthians, a couple chapters later, Paul says about the church, If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. But now hes saying, Dont mourn or rejoice at all.
And then theres this business about not buying goods or having dealings with the world: Let those who buy live as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. What are you thinking, Paul? Are you a hippie or something, dropping out of society, living off the grid? No, that cant be. In fact, Paul himself worked as a tentmaker when he had to support himself. And elsewhere Paul encourages hard work and honest labor by Christians. But here he says, Live like you have no goods to buy, no dealings to transact with the world.
So whats the point? Its this, in what Paul says both at the start and at the end of this passage. He says in verse 29, The appointed time has grown very short. And in verse 31, the present form of this world is passing away. You see, we live in a time that is growing shorter and shorter. We live in a world thats passing away. So dont get caught up in clinging to the things of this world. Theyre not going to last. This world is not going to last. Therefore, keep a light hold on the things of this world. And instead, take a firm hold, keep a firm grasp, on that which will endure for eternity.
Having a sense of the big picture of things will change our perspective. It will change our priorities. It will change how we live in a world that is passing away and in this time that is growing short. Thats the point that Paul is making.
Paul says it in very strong and dramatic terms, in order to make the point. Elsewhere, he can just as easily talk about fulfilling our various vocations in life, about living responsibly--in marriage, in mourning and rejoicing, in our work and our business dealings. But here hes making a different point. Here hes giving us the big picture. Hes saying, Dont get so caught up in the things of this world, in the affairs of this life, that you lose sight of eternity.
That is a point we all need to be reminded of. I know I need to hear it. Its a struggle for me not to get caught up with money and relationships and work and planning for the future. All the things of this life, however good they may be--its so easy to let them take over your life. And so you lose sight of the big picture, which is that this life is not going to last. This world is passing away. Set your sights on what will last for eternity, and adjust your life accordingly.
Notice, by the way, that none of the activities Paul mentions here--being married, mourning, rejoicing, buying goods, dealing with the world--none of these things is wrong or sinful in itself. No, these are good and normal activities. But any good gift from God, if it takes the place of God in our lives, becomes an idol. These things become a problem when we get overly caught up with them. When they get in the way of, or squeeze out, our devotion to the Lord, our listening to his word, our following him in faith. Its like what Jesus said about the seed that fell among thorns: that the cares of the world choke out the word.
How does that show up in your life? Examine yourself. What is getting in the way of your discipleship? What is taking the place of God in your life? What is taking up your field of vision, so that you lose sight of the big picture, the perspective of eternity? Thats how this text is addressing us today. Take a light hold on the things of this world. At the same time, you can and should fulfill your responsibilities in life. But realize that the things of this world, even the good things--marriage, joys and sorrows, our work life, retirement--all this stuff is not going to last forever. The appointed time has grown very short. The present form of this world is passing away. We live in a world that is passing away. So dont become too attached to it.
The appointed time has grown very short, Paul says. Well, if it was short then, its even shorter now. The time hes talking about is the time left until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead--that, we know. But we dont know when. No man knows the day or hour. But we do know that he is coming, and it could be any day now. We also dont know how many days each one of us will have in our own individual lifespan. So the time of this age, and our own time in this life--its like a drop in the bucket, compared to the unending days of the age to come. That puts everything into perspective.
This world is passing away. Actually, Paul says, the present form of this world is passing away. The world as we know it will take on a new form. It will be transformed when Christ returns. All things will be made new. New heavens and a new earth. But for now we still live and we still groan in the old world, this world subject to death and decay. The present form of this world has been corrupted by sin. Therefore we dare not become too attached to our life in this world. Remember Lots wife, who looked back in longing when the fire and brimstone were falling. As the writer to the Hebrews says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. This world is passing away. A new world is coming.
So where do we find our stability, where do we find our security, in a world that is passing away? In one place only: In God. Today we say with the psalmist: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Yes, here is the rock that will keep your feet firmly planted. Here is the refuge that will shelter you from the storm: The Lord God Almighty. In him and in his word, you can trust. In him you can live confidently and valiantly in a shaky, insecure world. In him, in the Lord our God, you can venture out into paths unknown, knowing that he will take you by the hand and lead you. He is your security. His word is your promise and your guide. His heaven is your hope everlasting. This, my friends--this will change your perspective in life! For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
What has God done, what has God promised, to give you such confidence and boldness? Look to Jesus. Listen to him, and you will get your answer. Jesus is saying to you today, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. You see, you can handle the time being short, because the time has been fulfilled! Jesus has fulfilled it. He has filled it full with his grace and salvation. Jesus has done everything you need to face the appointed time. He has taken the judgment for you. By his death on the cross, Jesus suffered the punishment you deserve, so that you no longer need fear that day. The Son of God died for all your sins, all your idolatry, all the ways you let other things take the place of God. You and I earned death by our idolatry; we earned hell and damnation. But God in his great mercy sent Christ to bear that judgment for you.
Therefore turn from your sins and live! Repent and believe the gospel! Here is the gospel of God: You have a Savior who forgives your sins. You have a Redeemer who has risen from the grave and who will return to raise you up also. His eternal life, his perfect righteousness, his abundant joy, he gives you as a free gift. In Christ you have enough security to last a thousand lifetimes! You have a sure and certain hope in Christ Jesus your Savior!
Now you can treat the things of this world with a lighter grip. Oh, hold on to Christ, cling to his cross. Hold on to these with the firm grasp of faith. But those other things--lighten up a bit. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. He cares for you, he clothes you, he feeds you. Most of all, he has provided you with a new life, a clean slate on Judgment Day, and a joyful eternity. So now when Jesus calls you and says, Follow me, you are free to leave your nets behind and go where he leads. You are free to let go of the stuff. You are free to love others, to forgive them, to serve your neighbor, because you are sure of your standing in Christ. That is security. That is faith. That is freedom. And that is what God gives you.
This is what I mean, brothers: The time is short. But eternity is, well, eternal. This world is passing away. But your hope is built on the word of the Lord, and that will never pass away. So hold lightly to the things of this world. And cling tightly to the things of God.
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Such an important message to us all.
Just because I’m in a rather foul mood, I will add that read the article / sermon, and I went to St Matthew Lutheran Church website. And once again became annoyed with the glib, smart aleck, and sarcastic style of preaching that has overtaken the LCMS. I find it offensive and disrespectful. Even though I was born and raised in the LCMS and my ancestors were Lutheran since Luther, and I totally agree with orthodox Lutheran theology, I am not going back until this popular culture nonsense ends.
Eternity is not 'infinitely long time.' It's 'no time' and therefore no spans of time, nor a lack of time.
And yet, when all that illusion is seen for what it is - a sign without a location pointed at - and so the illusion is put down, there is still something that remains. What is this something?
God can not be found in time, and therefore can not be found within a story. One has to be able to exit the story, exit time, to find God. There is no place to look once one has exited. The exiting is itself God.
In the 'world', to enter a room, you must open a door, exit the outside, and then walk into the room.
With God, the opening of the door is itself the room. The outside is 'the world.'
To exit the story ... which is untrue if one believes it to be true, and if one knows it to be untrue and not some other thing, then it is what it is, and is in itself God ... the world must be abandoned. But where can one go to abandon it if there is 'no place' and 'no time?'
That is why Heaven is already here and one is already always in it, he just doesn't know. One can go to noplace and notime wherever he is in any given moment, all he must bring with him is no place and no time and no-thing.
Things sometimes look different in print than they are communicated in person. Irony might come over poorly, as one example. Be careful that the set of presumptions acquired from life scenario A is not carried over unexamined to scenario B — that your own unspoken answers are not themselves the glib or inappropriate thing. That’s one way Satan deceives the brethren. Truth or falsity does not consist in the style which clothes it.
I’ve seen this problem in the Baptist world. I’d not be at all surprised that the same devil with the same tricks attacks the Lutheran one. All believers are being tested for sincerity over superficiality. It’s not easy for me to release the superficial. It looks like the important thing. But that’s just how decades of satanic lies got me, in my fallenness, to think. And those lies were grievous and give us occasion to mourn before the Lord. Being tricked isn’t a happy experience. It’s a grievous one.
Maybe another lcms church around you has better sermomns.
No one who is bound with the desires and pleasures of the flesh is worthy to approach or draw nigh or to serve thee, O King of Glory: for to serve thee is a great and terrible thing even to the Heavenly Powers. Nevertheless, through thine unspeakable and boundless love toward mankind thou didst become man, yet without change or alteration, and as Lord of all didst take the name of our High Priest, and deliver unto us the ministry of this liturgic and unbloody sacrifice. For thou alone, O Lord our God, rulest over those in heaven and on earth; who art borne on the throne of the Cherubim; who art Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, who alone art holy and restest in thy Holy Place.
Wherefore I implore thee who alone art good and art ready to listen: Look down upon me, a sinner, and thine unprofitable servant, and cleanse my soul and my heart from an evil conscience; and by the power of thy Holy Spirit enable me, who am endued with the grace of the priesthood, to stand before this thy Holy Table, and perform the sacred Mystery of thy holy and immaculate Body and precious Blood. For I draw near unto thee, and bowing my neck I pray thee: turn not thy face from me, neither cast me out from among thy servants; but vouchsafe that these gifts may be offered unto thee by me, thy sinful and unworthy servant: for thou thyself are he that offers and is offered, that accepts and is distributed, O Christ our God: and unto thee we ascribe glory, together with thy Father who is from everlasting, and thine all-holy, and good, and life-giving Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
We who mystically represent the Cherubim, and sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn, let us now lay aside all earthly care: that we may receive the King of all, who comes invisibly upborne by the Angelic Hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
And the lord of this world wants us to see none of this and will apply any trick to that end, any kind of misrepresentation or distortions or truncation.
A sermon isn’t even a whole worship service. There’s a reason for having music in it. What the preacher doesn’t preach, the music may. Cults of preaching are treacherous. For they look at only a part of the picture of worship.
The final portion of the prayer has been set to music by some of the greatest composers of all time, including Tschaikovsy, Rachmaninoff, and Bortianovsky.
In typical Orthodox practice the choir sings one of these magnificent compositions while the Priest softly prays the entire prayer, the congregation sometimes following along in a service book or simply swept up in the grandeur of the music.
As a currently frustrated musician due to circumstance, I see the world and its presumptions pressing in without much pressing the other way. Maybe the world looks so big because my view of the Lord has gotten so small. But the glory of the Lord puts the boastings of the world to shame.
Check your FReepmail for an antidote to your frustrations.
I busted my @zz over fifty years laboring to attain what I have now - a secure retirement, a wife who loves me as I love her, and the joy of Sabbath worship together for as long as we shall live.
Don’t tell me it’s all meaningless in the sweet bye-and-bye. The bills still have to be paid and until then, Heaven can wait.
Not aimed at you, but at this thread in general. I say “Thank you, Lord!” several times a day for good reason.
Till you die then they bill your earthly estate. They cannot bill your heavenly treasure.
The sweet bye and bye puts it all to shame.
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