Christians, This New Year Resolve to Live in Light of Eternity

One of my favorite teachers in the history of the church, is the puritan Jonathan Edwards, considered by many to be the greatest American theologian who ever lived. Many of his works have radically changed my life, and gave me a greater and deeper love and understanding of the Scriptures. But perhaps his most influential writing on my life was not his biblical expositions or even his theological treatises, but rather a section of journal entries from when he was 18 and 19 years old. These entries have become known as the 70 resolutions of Jonathan Edwards, and you can find them online and I would argue that you should read a couple of them everyday and adopt them as your own resolutions. These resolutions reveal a person with a heart set on living everyday for the glory of his God, every moment in light of eternity. Jonathan Edwards was famous for his declaration, “God stamp eternity on our eyeballs.” Here are just a few of his resolutions:

June 25, 1723 -Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

Dec. 22, 1722 – Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

July 7, 1723 – I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age

May 27, 1723 – Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.

Jan. 12, 1723 – Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.

This was a young man who was resolved to live a life in light of eternity. And such an attitude is exactly the wisdom given by Solomon.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon argues that in order to find victory over the vanity of life, one must live with an eternal lens set upon their hearts. They must live in light of eternity.  There are four practical actions that Solomon calls us to perform in order to live in light of eternity in Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8.

I. We must Rejoice in the Life as a Gift from Above

Ecclesiastes 11:7 – 9a: Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.  Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.

In this section of verses, Solomon, who is referred to as the preacher in Ecclesiastes, calls us to rejoice in the goodness of life, even though we know that life is vanity. The preacher has not been silent on the call to joy, many times throughout the book he pierces the darkness of the vanity of this world with a call to celebrate life as a gift. And here the preacher speaks to both the young and the old and calls them both to rejoice.

And should it be shocking that the first point of joy the preacher points to is a picture of the sweetness of light, and the illuminating power of our sun. Light was the first thing made in the formation of the great world, as the eye is one of the first in the formation of the body. Watching the sun rise over the hills and piercing the darkness of the sky is one of the most beautiful, sweet, and hopeful sights in all of life under the sun. To feel the sweet kiss of its warmth on our face is one of the best feelings we can know. And everyday that you awake and you see that light of the sun, it is to remind you of one of the greatest mercies of all, you are alive! Every time that sun rises its just another call to rejoice. “I am alive this is the day the lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Every thing that we experience in our day that we often think nothing of, is given to us by God to find joy in him and his mercies. The fragrance of flowers, and of many plants and shrubs is grateful to the smell; music is sweet to the ear; the whispering of the gentle breeze, and the murmuring of the purling stream, are soft and soothing to the soul; the sweet commotion of our children at play, the conversation of our friends, the delightful shock of our tastebuds sending blissful responses to our brain over the savory and sweet foods we enjoy, the peaks of mountains, the grassy hills, the colors of exotic birds, the birth of new life. Every single one of these things and a countless number of others that are beheld in this life are reason to rejoice in not only the experience of them, but in the recognition of the one who made it all. The heavens and the earth and you, image bearers, declare the glory of God. And so the preacher says in verse 8 if a person is to live many years let him rejoice in them all.Beloved older brother and sisters rejoice in the fact that you have today to live, his mercies are new every morning. Every morning that your eyes awake is product of new mercy.

Now the preacher is no poet, he isn’t naive, he is a realist, so he immediately follows this up with a reality check. He states, “Let him remember that the days of darkness will be many, all that comes is vanity.” Some commentators think the Preacher is confused here, that he is “giving the contradictory advice that his reader should both enjoy life but also remember that he is going to die.”  This is not confusion but clarity. Ecclesiastes gives us a realistic view of life that is joyful about its happy pleasures while at the same time sober about its many sorrows.  The book steadfastly refuses to show us anything less than the whole of life as it actually is. When the Preacher tells us that we will have many dark days, he is not being cynical or trying to rob us of all our joy. Instead he is telling us to enjoy life as much as we can for as long as we can.  “The days of darkness” qualify what he says about rejoicing in the light, but they do not negate it. To the end of our days there is sweetness in the world, and therefore we are called to rejoice.

So Solomon tells the young people who often think nothing of death, who think themselves invincible to the heartbreak and frailties of this vain world especially death. And the preacher calls them to rejoice, be cheerful happy, thankful, joyful people who love life as a gift to be celebrated. Young people don’t waste your life in the angry and anxious rhetoric of this world, there will always be problems always be issues to fret over, but I believe with every ounce of my being that there are always more reasons to rejoice then to despair. However, only if you have eternal perspective.

If all there is is life under the sun, and then its over and done, then you have infinite reason to despair. Cause everything you are doing, everyone you love are nothing more than distractions that will disappear one day. But beloved there is more than just what’s under the sun, and there is only one way to find joy in this life in spite of suffering, in spite of sickness, in spite of darkness, and that is to personally know the light which no darkness has or will ever overcome. The light of the world Jesus Christ.

How sweet is the light of Jesus Christ, how pleasant for the eyes to behold the SON. For true joy can only be found when you know that this is not where the road ends, and when you see every thing as a precious gift of grace, not a product of mindless chance. You will only know joy, everlasting joy when you know the one who is from everlasting to everlasting. Live with an eternal perspective by rejoicing over life as a gift from above.

II. We Must Remember the Coming Judgment

Ecclesiastes 11:9b – But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 

In the previous verses, the preacher had said something that seems very counterintuitive to biblical wisdom. What he says about following one’s heart might lead some people to think they can do whatever they please, which frankly is the way many young people operate. And what we need to realize is that few things will rob you of joy faster than to live how you want, rather than to live by what God wills.

So not only does joy come from an eternal perspective, but it is also preserved by an eternal perspective. And here that eternal perspective is the reality of the coming judgment. The reminder that everything you do and the decisions you make you will be accountable to a Holy Judge.

Therefore, you are called to walk and live by holiness in light of the reality that you will stand before God. The word “judgment” at the end of verse 9 is literally “the judgment,” and thus it refers to the last of all judgments — the great day when “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). Some people see this day as far off, and therefore it fades out the mind, but beloved whether the day of judgment is far off or very near, the judge is always present.

God “looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens” (Job 28:24). This means that everything we do and everything we decide matters for eternity.  How we spend our money, what we do with our bodies, the way we use our time, what we decide about our future, how we handle our relationships — what we touch, taste, hear, and see — all of this matters to our Judge and therefore ought to matter to us as well.

As we read in Mark 8, “what does it profit man to gain the world and forfeit his soul.” In other words, rejoice responsibly.  Enjoy life’s pleasures, but not in sinful ways.  Young people celebrate the gift of youth, but at the same time follow God’s command to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Beloved if you live with an eternal perspective remembering the judgment that comes, you will live through the lens of Christ, the one who bought you Yes there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but let us remember Pauls admonition that may we never think that we can sin freely because of the beautiful reality of the grace found in Christ’s redemption. Grace does not free us for sinful living, it frees us for sanctified living.

So I say to you follow your heart, but let your heart beat in pace with the heart of God desire what God desires, love what God loves, rejoice over what God rejoices over,  Pray to him “God give me the eyes to see what you see and what is pleasurable to you that your kingdom come and your will be done through my actions.”

If you are not a Christian I plead with you the reality of the judgment and no-one will stand that day that is not found in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe in him that you may stand on what will be a terrible day for so many. And Christian I say to you remember the judgment not as a day of terror or condemnation, but as the day that you will stand before your father and that you want nothing more than for him to joyfully sing over you how he was glorified through your life over and over again. We are called to be set apart, remember the judgment to come and live a life that reflects the only One who could save us from it, Christ.

III. We Must Remove all Hindrances

Ecclesiastes 11:10 –  Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

After his call for old people and young people to rejoice over life and to remember the coming judgment, Solomon gives a call to remove all hindrances. With these words, he advises us to eliminate the bad things in life that trouble our bodies and our souls. A “vexation” is any problem that causes us worry and concern, that “angers, grieves or irritates.” It is “the bitterness provoked by a hard and disappointing world.”

Now that word pain is the Hebrew word Ra’ah, which is actually the Hebrew word for evil. So this is not talking about physical pain, but evil. This passage is calling us to remove every thing that vexes us or weighs us down and is evil in our lives. There is another passage in the Bible that almost exactly parallels this same message and its found in the book of Hebrews chapter 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

Now what is so significant about these two passages is that they tells us there are things that are not inherently evil that still need to be removed from our life because they hinder our walk with God. The decisive factor of decision making in your life should be does it glorify God, and if it doesn’t its need to be removed because in the long run it will only cause you pain.

A temporal perspective looks at things in life and asks “how will this affect me,” an eternal perspective asks “will this glorify God,” and if it doesn’t it has no place in our lives Christians. And the question we must ask ourselves is how are we to do such a task? How are we to remove these hindrances that keep us from running the race set before us?

The writer of hebrews tells us,  in the rest of Hebrews 12 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Beloved the finish line determines how you run the race. Christ is our finish line, he is both the one to whose arms we will run into, and whose image we are being conformed to. Set your eyes on him above, who sits at the right hand of the Father day and night making intercession for his people, after having endured the cross joyously for their sake. And Ecclesiastes calls especially for the young people to waste no time in doing this he says “youth and dawn of life are vanity.” Not that they are bad, but they are fleeting. You won’t be young forever, and you have no idea when your life will end so don’t put off removing what’s hindering you from living for Christ.

There are three primary ways that God has given us to help in removing the vexation and evil that hinders our ability to live for God rightly. The first is the Word of God. How do you behold Christ face? You open your word, and in its pages you will see Christ. And that’s what James means when he calls the scriptures a mirror (Jam. 1:23). We go and look in this mirror called the Bible not to see how much better we look than before, but how much we look like Christ, or don’t look like him.

Secondly, God has given us prayer. Oh what greater way to remove the hindrance of anxiety and depression and fear than to cast them upon the Lord. “Do not be anxious about anything” — or vexed about anything, we might say — “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This command is then followed by a promise: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Oh what a wonderful God we serve who calls us to take our problems and freely lay them at his feet.

Lastly God has given us brothers and sisters to lovingly hold us accountable. “As Iron sharpens iron, so one man does another” (Prov. 27:17). The church is no arbitrary thing, God gave us this family that we might protect, love and help remove the hindrances that weigh down one another.

What a difference life makes when death is no longer the finish line. Live with an eternal perspective, by removing any hindrance that seeks to cause you to stumble in your path to Christ.

IV. We Must Remember our Creator

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8: 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. Vanityof vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

This admonition is the key to all the other things that Solomon has called us to do in this passage.  The reason we are able to rejoice in our long years of life or else in our youth and strength is because every day is a gift from our Creator God. The reason we need to walk in holy ways is because our Maker is also our Judge. The best remedy for removing vexation and evil is to cast our care upon the God who made us and knows all about us. Everything that the Preacher says in this passage assumes and requires a perspective that is fixed upon God.

To remember God is to live our whole lives for him. It is set him as the first thought of everyday, it is to make him the deciding factor in all decisions, it is to make him the governing force behind our entire being. Remember your creator, and the preacher says there is no such thing as doing this too early. Right now young people, I plead with you remember your creator, let him be the filter by which all of your life is lived through.

The best time in life to do this is when we are still young enough to give a whole lifetime to God’s service. Do not wait until you are so old that you do not have much desire to do anything because life has lost its pleasure. Rather, give your life to God now, while you still have enough passion to make a difference in the world.  Remember God when at home and at school. Remember him when outside in his creation or indoors in the kitchen or the bedroom. Remember him at work and at play — playing baseball or playing the violin. Do not forget about God, but remember him in everything you do.

In verses 2-7, the preacher gives us a picture of growing old and death, and the preacher calls us to remember our creator before all of this happens. One thinks of old Barzillai’s lament when King David invited him to the royal palace in Jerusalem: “I am this day eighty years old. Can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women?” (2 Samuel 19:35).

“Death is like the snapping of a silver cord and the shattering of a golden bowl.” This may refer to a golden lamp suspended by a silver chain (in which case the light of life has been snuffed out). But in any case something precious and beautiful is broken. To change the metaphor, death is like a wheel broken and a jar shattered at a well for drawing water. The apparatus is destroyed beyond repair, and thus it is useless for drawing any life-giving water.

To die is to return to the dust — the curse that God pronounced on Adam and all our sin (see Genesis 3:19). One day our bodies will go into the ground, and our souls will return to their Maker. These are the sober realities of life and death that everyone has to face in a fallen world. The call of the Preacher is to remember our Creator now, before all of these things happen to us.

But because of the lack of assurance of his standing with God, the preacher sees death as the most horrifying reality of this life under the sun, as it is the thing that ultimately reveals life of all of its vanity. And that is why the preacher after outlining the tragic reality of the aging cycle in the picture of death immediately cries out the message he began with.

The preacher has a fixation with death, because though he is certain there is a God, and that there is a judgment after death, he does not know how that’s going to go, so all he can do is call us to remember our creator and live for him fully. But what’s so fascinating about this is that the preacher’s motto in many ways has been “to live is God to die is vanity,” but in the New Testament we see a similar but different motto, and it is found in Philippians 1:21, where Paul writes “to live is Christ, and to die is Gain.” What’s the difference between the two, and the answer is one lives on the other side of calvary and the resurrection of Christ. Paul could echo the preacher in saying remember your creator, live for Christ, but unlike the preacher he is not unaware, he is not lacking in assurance,  because he has personally experienced the risen Savior.

So I say to you today because of the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world, remember your Creator, and remember that he is risen Set your eyes on eternity and know that by faith in him alone you will live forever, and though your body may be separated for a time, you will experience a resurrection of not only your spirit but also your body as perfectly glorified in the presence of your creator.

Remember God now, while you still have your wits about you. Remember God now, while you are still charting your course in life and making important decisions about what to do with your talents.  Remember your Creator now, before you forget the God who made you and make a lot of bad decisions that you will regret later. Remember God now, while you still have a whole lifetime to live for his glory.As Charles Bridges once said, “Many have remembered too late — none too soon.”

Be encouraged by this as well: your Creator remembers you, even if you do not always remember him. The security of our salvation does not depend on our perfect remembrance of God, but on his perfect promise to remember us his children by grace through faith in Christ. So the psalmist prayed, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me” (Psalm 71:17–18).

Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39–40).  Jesus has promised to remember us from now until the last of all days, when he will raise us up to everlasting life.

Live your life in light of eternity beloved, live not with concern of your tomorrow, but with concern to your forever. Surety is found alone in the author and finisher of faith Jesus Christ. Rejoice over life as a gift from above, remember that you will stand before the Holy Judge of Heaven one day, Remove all hindrances that stand in the way of your path to Christ, and remember your Creator. This is what means to live in light of eternity. Let that be your resolution this year Christians.

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