“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time as the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
One would have to be clueless, to doubt the fact that the days are evil. The days have been evil ever since the game-changing fiasco in the garden. But Eden did not have cell phones, a worldwide internet, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and billions of people—starving, warring, and suffering unspeakable horrors. Eden’s evil was not so sophisticatedly organized, so widely and criminally justified by evil national majorities—so whitewashed to appear humanitarian, reasonable, rational, “kind to the planet” and altruistic, as the convoluted sin of these days. It took thousands of years to get here.
Those of us who prefer keeping our heads in Scripture rather than sand believe we are nearing the book of Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth to establish justice and reign in His Holy City, Jerusalem. No we are not to name the day or the hour. But YES, we are to watch for the signs prophesied by Old Testament Prophets, the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and New Testament letters culminating in Jude and Revelation.
The days are evil, and we are nearing the end of the Church Age. In the words of beloved Christian brother, Francis Schaeffer, “How do we then live?” How am I to respond or react to evil times? Am I to go high stress, slap-dashing about in a fervor of Chicken Little-ish behavior? Wrong! Am I to think about nothing else than the fact that the days are evil? Wrong again!
Am I to eschew beauty and instead fashion a drab, lackluster world around me, an environment which says nothing about creative living? How horrible is that!
So what is Right? My quest for an answer always comes back to the above quotes from Philippians and Ephesians, and countless other passages having to do with gracious, Spirit-filled living. Joyous living. God is still in charge. God has always been and will always be in charge.
Yes, we are to speak up and out whenever we can. Yes we are to pray with compassion for those who suffer all over this crazy, convoluted earth. Yet it is still God’s earth. As well as being fully God, Jesus was fully human—modeling the perfect humanity intended for people on earth, until man and woman (not in that order) blew it in the beautiful garden which God had provided for them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will return, to reign on earth for 1000 years. Scripture predicts a New Heaven and New Earth. Certainly we will not fathom details until they unfold, but nowhere in the Bible is “earth” left out of the equation. God created earth, and He loves His creation. In light of that truth I can only gather that we humans, the most valued of His creation, are to go on living and loving the life He has given us on earth.
That means gratitude rather than gloom. That means serenity rather than stress. That means pure, down-to-earth appreciation for and pleasure in His boundless gifts—people to love, gardens to plant, creative hobbies to pursue, art, music, poetry, sports, sunshine, fresh air, the list is endless. Earth gifts!
There is a pathetic “hangover” from past Christian eras and persuasions which taught that physical and soul pleasures were intrinsically evil. Hence: the monks who starved themselves or didn’t converse with each other, those Christians who wear drab clothing because anything eye-catching might lead to idolatry (or immorality), and believers who avoid the enjoyment of any pastime without blatantly “spiritual” overtones.
Asceticism is NOT BIBLICAL. It NEVER WAS BIBLICAL. Asceticism is a boring, yet potentially devastating ploy invented by the Evil One who—if he cannot get Christians to throw in the towel and quit, will instead lure them into nurturing a sense of pride in not doing this and not enjoying that.*
The paradox here is that within God’s creative, expansive and wholesome arena of “this or that”, we are to walk with joyous confidence; it is the pride inherent in asceticism which God hates, and holds us accountable for. The person who lives by asceticism may be bowing before the idol of pride!
Life on earth is to be loved, savored, celebrated, and enjoyed to the max while never losing sight of our Creator, never forgetting that He is the Creator of all things—every breath we inhale, every flower we plant and gather. With our heads full of God’s “whatsoever things”, our lives will shine out to the lost souls who desperately need to know about our Saviour. As long as God’s people remain on earth (His earth!) and continue to redeem the time, there will be some light, and some good, although the days are evil.
Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016
(First posted in “God’s Word is True”, September 25, 2015)
*THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis provides a witty and wonderful treatise on the pitfall of asceticism.