In our previous article we considered life in the world into which you graduated as it is evaluated by God through the inspired preacher in Ecclesiastes 1:2: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” That is life in our Twentieth Century world. From every point of view, in every sphere, life is vain. It’s empty, void of any spiritual good; it’s useless, futile, and perishing. It’s as if man is on a treadmill or going about in a vicious circle, getting nowhere except to the final destruction of hell. Man’s life of pleasure, of business, of family and home, and of art and culture is all utterly vain. There is no good in it and nothing of it shall last. This is all rather vividly (and frighteningly!) obvious today. We see crime, war, earthquake, famine, disease, riots, protests, death, and a manifestation of sin such as the world has never seen in all its corrupt past!
Into that vain world you graduate. In it you must find your vocation in factory, farm, office, nursing, teaching, preaching, or whatever. You must marry in that world and establish a Covenant home in which you must rear the children God may give you in the fear of His name. And if you take seriously what the Bible says about that world as we have tried to show you in these articles, the question that presses in your soul for an answer must be: “How am I to live in this vain world?” Maybe you even say, “What’s the use?” Is there an answer?
Yes, there is! Thank God there really is! There is a way out of this vanity that gives meaning to this earthly life. There is an answer that puts all of life in a new perspective. That answer provides strength for today, courage for each task, and a hope for not only tomorrow but for all eternity! That answer is found inEcclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” There is NOTHING VAIN in that! That is THE answer to all the problems of life. Those problems appear hopelessly complex and unbelievably many, but really they are neither. There is only one problem in all of life—it’s spelled with three letters this way: S I N! The troubles of the world all derive from sin against the living God. And, the answer to that is: “Fear God, and keep His commandments!” That is what we must DO! Yes, we must DO that: for the Lord God says in His Word we must not be hearers only, but doers of the Word (James 1).
This is not the answer the man of the world gives. There are various answers given to the question how we must live in this world of vanity. Some say that it’s all vanity, so let’s get what we can out of life. We are going to die anyway, and that’s the final end (these deny the reality of heaven and hell): so let’s eat, drink, and be merry. Do your own thing! If you feel like getting drunk, go ahead. If you enjoy sex but don’t want to get married—so what—indulge. If you do not feel like earning your bread and don’t want to work—live off others’ hard earned money and get on welfare. But what ever you do, don’t go around with a long face and don’t take things too seriously, don’t get up tight. Live as you please and get all the enjoyment you can out of life. These are the ungodly who according to Psalm 73“prosper in the world” and of whom the Scriptures speak in Phil. 3:18, 19: “For many walk (live, RD), of whom I have told you before, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” This is not the answer.
At the other extreme are well-meaning and sincere Christians who agree that everything is vain because of sin. Their answer is that the Christian’s calling is to separate from the world of sin. Withdraw, they say, from this evil world. They seclude themselves and almost hibernate in colonies all by themselves. They dress in black, homespun clothing and shun modern conveniences, and use the horse and buggy to get around. In the history of the early Church this answer came to expression in the monastic movement. But this answer is wrong, too. By separation from the world the Bible does not mean physical separation.
What are Christians to do then? What shall we do who graduated this summer? We shall do neither of the above. We shall understand first that things in themselves are not sinful. The inspired Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 5:18, 19 that there is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and enjoy the good of his labors. Eating, drinking, marriage, buying and selling, recreation, etc. are not sinful things. These are the portion which God gives; these are the gifts of God (Ecclesiastes 5:19). But as the labor and endeavor of sinful man they are corrupt. When out of hatred against God and in deliberate disobedience to the will of God expressed in the Bible man eats and drinks, works, and marries, and lives this life he is in all these wicked and thoroughly corrupt!
Still more the Bible says we MUST do these things. InEcclesiastes 9:7-10 the Preacher tells us to go our way, eat thy bread, with a merry heart, and drink thy wine! He goes on to say that we ought to live joyfully with our wives and: “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” There is not contradiction here! The Preacher is not an Epicurean, saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”! But he is most assuredly saying: labor, live, marry, have children, do your daily work, raise a family, and be joyful, But in all of this do not fail to hear the conclusion to the whole matter of life! “FEAR GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS!” We are the children of God! Loved we are from all eternity by God, and saved according to His good pleasure by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By grace though we are still IN the world, we are not OF the world. We are the covenant people of Jehovah, redeemed, sanctified saints of God. Our citizenship is in heaven, whence also we expect the Saviour who shall change our vile bodies that they may be fashioned like unto his most glorious body (Phil. 3:20, 21). As the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven which opposes and shall ultimately destroy the Kingdom of this world we arestrangers, pilgrims (forgotten terms and concepts in so much of the church today—among us too??) in this world. We are different, radically different from the crowd! We are non-conformists in the real and Biblical sense of that term! We are not earthly minded, OIM God is not our bellies, and our end is not destruction!
In this world of vanity in which we live we have but one calling and that is: “FEAR the Lord God!” That doesn’t mean that we are to be filled with trembling fright. God loves us, and in His love He is mercifully kind to us, so that we have no reason to be afraid of Him. Fearing Him means we reverence Him as GOD, we honor His Name, praise and glorify Him. And, we do that in the way of keeping His commandments. Those commandments are His Law, the expression of His will for us who belong to the company of the redeemed. That is what the whole Bible is. The Law is the summary of the Scriptures. Living within the sphere of the Law of God means we follow Christ: for He is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believes. (Romans 10:4). Christ is the way, the truth, and the life! By His grace and through the power of His Spirit we are enabled to fear God and keep His commandments.
Now you understand: this is the WHOLE duty of man! This is our only calling, and it is the only reason we are on this earth. We are not here to amass great fortunes, to gain a name for ourselves, or to indulge in sinful pleasures. Nor are we in this vain world to seclude ourselves in a monastery. We are here to labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life! Hear, then, this Word of God as you graduate from school either to embark on your life’s calling or to further your education. Do not labor for the futile, perishing things of this vain world! Come ye out from among them that hate God, and be ye separate from them by living in obedience to your God in the way of keeping His commandments. Love not the world neither the things that are in the world . . . it’s all vanity and vexation of spirit.
Fear God—that is your whole duty. In whatever you do, fear Him. Then you are living in the freedom of the sphere of God’s Law. Then your labors are not in vain—for Jesus died for you and arose again exactly so that we might abound in the work of the Lord! Your labors will reach full fruition in the glory of the new heaven and earth! That is the goal of the Christian graduate in ’71. May the Lord richly bless you and keep you to the very end!