January 24, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Before you see any of the animals at the Dallas Zoo, you see the merry-go-round. It’s not easy to walk past the merry-go-round for kids and for adults, and time quickly flies while you spin round and round on it. The merry-go-round is fun, but very soon the dizzy feeling you have reminds you that it is time to get off of the fake animals and get down the path to see the real ones. Your time on earth is temporary like the time you spend on a merry-go-round at the Dallas Zoo before going to see the animals.
We need to be reminded that our time in the world is temporary like staying at an Airbnb. People stay at an Airbnb for both business and recreation. They are popular because they feel more at home than a hotel room, but it still is not your home; you can’t stay there no matter how cozy it feels or what amenities are offered. People stay at an Airbnb for a purpose, then they go back to their permanent home. And the same is true of your time on earth, you are here for a short time and you are here for a purpose.
It is easy to forget your eternal purpose when surrounded by temporary things. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians addressed many of the temporary things in life that distract believers from their eternal calling. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addressed some of the questions from the believers in Corinth regarding marriage. The small section we are meditating on this morning comes in the middle of the marriage section where Paul gets at the heart of questions believers have when they are trying to balance being in this world, but not of the world, which is the way Jesus described believers in John 17. These are verses 29 to 31 of Paul’s God-inspired answer to the Corinthians, 29 … “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” And just taking those verses out of context it would be easy to draw some false conclusions about the way you are to live as a believer, but these words are sandwiched in between these two sentences, 29 “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short… 31 … For this world in its present form is passing away.”
The truth the Corinthians and all believers need to understand is that time in this world is temporary, so the temptation we face is living as if the relationships and things we have now are all we have to live for. The point Paul was driving home was not to abandon your responsibilities to your spouse and family, to abandon grief or sorrow when you lose someone, to never take any enjoyment in the world, and never buy or own any material possessions. Instead, this portion of God’s Word serves to open your eyes to the fact that the temporary, broken, sinful world threatens to dull your senses and make your purpose attached to temporary, broken, sinful worldly causes. When your faith stops playing a role in all you do, then you stop serving God and you begin serving other things. The danger in serving, doing, having anything without God is that you fall down a slippery slope ending up without God in all aspects of your life, which ends with your death without God and eternity without God in hell.
You were not called to a temporary, broken, sinful, worldly life that ends in death and hell. You were called by God to be in his eternal kingdom. In our reading from Mark 1, Jesus said, 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” God called you to repent of your sins and to trust in Jesus for forgiveness. You are now part of his kingdom. You now have an answer to why you are alive. You are alive because God wanted you to have life. He wanted you to exist to give him thanks and live for him. At one time in your life, you did not live for him, but for yourself. God saved you from that empty way of life. Your life is now connected to him for eternity.
Answers for how to live in the world come from your connection to Christ. You no longer need to question whether or not you will be in heaven after you die, whether your sins are forgiven or whether God loves you. Those big questions have been answered for you in Jesus. The questions for your daily life are also answered by your connection to Christ.
Whatever you are doing as a believer can be bad, good or better. An example of this is found in 1 Kings 19, where the prophet Elijah called Elisha to be his servant, and eventually the next prophet for Israel. When Elijah went to Elisha, Elisha could have told Elijah that serving God as prophet is a foolish and pointless thing to do, which would have been bad because it would be going against God’s will. Now, when Elijah came to Elisha to call him as his servant and the next prophet of Israel, Elisha was plowing a field with some oxen, and Elisha could have left the oxen and gone to follow Elijah, which would have been good, but there was a better way. When Elijah went to call Elisha to follow him, he did the better thing by slaughtering his oxen and burning the plow equipment to cook the meat, which he then gave to the people to eat and then he set out to follow Elijah. This was the better way because Elisha went to serve God wholeheartedly and completely cut ties with his former way of living. Elisha did the better thing because he was filled with love and trust in God to be with him in his new calling.
With the same love and trust for God as Elisha, you are called to serve God with an eternal purpose in the temporary things of your life. We can now go through Paul’s list and see how each phrase applies to your life. First, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not.” It is bad for you to live so consumed by your marriage that you abandon your faith in God to only make one another happy. It is good to live as two believers who happen to be married. It is better to live as two believers who read, study, pray, worship and go to Bible Study together and are married. Second, 30 “those who mourn, as if they did not.” It is bad for you to ignore the sadness of death. It is good to mourn for those who die because God never wanted death in the world, and it is only here as a punishment for sin. It is better to mourn for those you have lost, but also take comfort in the fact that death was overcome by Jesus’ resurrection and eternal life, and so eternal life is his gift to all who believe. Third, “those who are happy, as if they were not.” It is bad to spend all your energy seeking to find happiness in things that will not last. It is good to thank God for the good moments in your life. It is better to see the happy moments of this life as glimpses of what will be a constant feeling in heaven and live with anticipation of the true joy of heaven. Fourth, “those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep.” It is bad to hoard your material possessions. It is good to thank God for what you have. It is better to give to those in need. Fifth, “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” It is bad to dwell on your situation in the world because you will never be completely satisfied by anything in the world. It is good to contribute to society. It is better to have your mind set on using your time here to build God’s kingdom by showing love and openly speaking about your faith in Jesus in all your daily activities.
The list here in Corinthians is not meant to be all inclusive, but it gets at the heart of many believers’ questions regarding their purpose in life. Each of you has a different set of circumstances, but you are all able to serve God with your life. And both the loving desire to serve God and the guidance to serve him all come from being in the Bible.
The merry-go-round at the entrance to the Dallas Zoo serves multiple purposes. It can be a fun stop on your way to the animals, or it can derail your whole trip if you get stuck riding on it. God blessed you with many things in this world, yet they are all fading away. But you do not have to fear that the time is short or live disconnected from society. By faith, you look forward to your time here ending and going to heaven, and you see your time in this world as time to serve God and others. Knowing the time is short sharpens your senses and focuses you. The world threatens to dull your senses, so do not listen to what the world expects, demands, values and worships. Your strongest relationship, your deepest need, your highest priority, your most valuable possession is your Savior Jesus, and all your God has given to you through him, and the love and wisdom from having all of that from God is with you in all you do. The world is passing away, but you were called for eternity. Amen.