In my sermon this week, we saw a picture of the way Jesus comes and changes water into wine. This sign points to the way he comes and brings about the joy and blessing of the New Covenant in his blood. This covenant at its essence is the gospel; Christ came and died on the cross so that sinners who repent and believe can be reconciled to God.
But what is the ultimate good of the Gospel? Is it a freedom from punishment? Eternal comfort for ourselves? Being reunited with Christian family and friends when we get to heaven? These things are blessings of the gospel but they are secondary and can steal from the ultimate good of the Gospel which is God himself. Here are some passages of Scripture that may help you understand.
Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
Philippians 1:23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
Isaiah 40:9 O Jerusalem, messenger of good news (Gospel); lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
The sin that Jesus paid for on the cross allows you to be in the presence of God forever. As believers in Jesus, we can see and savor the Lord now and forever. This is the good wine of the New Covenant that Jesus brings.
John Piper says this “If God is not treasured as the ultimate gift of the gospel; none of his gifts will be gospel (good news).”
In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul exhorts Christians to put on the character of Jesus and exemplify Christ likeness in the church. Why is it important for the church to exemplify the character of Christ? The answer is quite simple, to put the gospel on display.
Matthew 5:13–16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
The mission of the church is to put the gospel on display. When Faith Baptist Church lives in harmony with one another, putting on love while bearing with one another in humility, meekness, and patience, those outside the church will notice. Those who do not know Jesus will see the harmony that we have, and be amazed. With Paul, I exhort you to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” so that it overflows into the community, bringing many people to faith in Jesus through your actions, and through your faithfulness in sharing the gospel with them.
A scientist from Illinois, William Walsh, had in his laboratory, some strands of hair from the famous classical composer, Ludwig Von Beethoven. He has trying to ascertain the cause of Beethoven’s death in his experiments. And in his findings he found that Beethoven’s body had 100 times the normal amount of lead in it. He came to the shocking conclusion that Beethoven may have poisoned himself. Yet, that was never Beethoven’s intention. You see, Beethoven’s lead poisoning may have been due to the mineral spa that he went to for relaxation. The very thing he thought was bringing his relief and healing slowly poisoned him to death.
That’s what life is like for those who make wisdom, or self-indulgence, or toil their singular pursuit: they’re slowly poisoning themselves with the very things they are looking for hope and meaning in. Solomon had more wisdom and self-indulgence and possessions, and more to show for all of the work he either did or had done, and he comes to the conclusion that all is vanity … under the sun. So where do we turn? We’ve asked is there meaning in this life. We’ve looked for it in wisdom and the philosophers of the age; we’ve looked for it in self-indulgence and the entertainers and worldly goods; we’ve looked for it in our work and possessions, to no avail. Finding life’s meaning has thus far eluded us. Maybe we’re making it more complicated than it really is. Maybe it’s not what we’re doing as much as it is: Whom we are doing it for.
Solomon goes on to say this in Ecclesiastes 2:24-25: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment.” What it comes down is the most simplest of things: don’t try to find meaning in the pursuit of wisdom, self-indulgence, or anything else under the sun. Don’t amass all of those things for yourself, for some future use, for all of us will die and be forgotten. Rather, we are to find our satisfaction in God—end of v.25—and do what he created us to do: eat, drink, work, and glorify Him in the process.
This week we begin our study of Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 1 we find that all is vanity, under then sun (vv.2-3), and that nothing is new under the sun (v.9). If all there was, was under the sun—if there was nothing above it, then you and I would have to subscribe to the philosophy of nihilism. Nihilism, in its essence is a belief that life is meaningless. Nothing has meaning. Now if the preacher’s sermon ended here, we would deduce that he was no better than our modern-day nihilists: the philosopher Nietzsche, the author Franz Kafka, the playwright Samuel Beckett, and the satirist Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He would be no better than they. But the preacher’s sermon doesn’t end here. Hang on to the phrase ‘under the sun,’ for now. The Preacher wants you to know what life is under the sun, apart from whatever might be above it. He’s chipping away at our self-reliance—at our earthly reliance—until we come to the end of ourselves and of this world.
When will we come to that end and see that life under the sun has no real meaning? We tend to look at life as “What’s in it for me?” “There’s got to be a payoff or I’m out.” One commentator says, “Without exception, all people who live merely to gain earthly goods will find that those goods are ultimately meaningless. And when goods are the sole object of one’s toil, the toil itself becomes equally meaningless. While humankind dwells on human efforts, Scripture tells us to ponder what God has done. While the sinner looks for value in what he can get, his gracious Lord sees value in giving himself for and to the sinner.” The only toil that was not in vain was that of our Lord. Christ died and rose again to give you and I new life—a life infused with meaning and purpose. And when our identity is hidden in Christ, then our toil under the sun also has meaning, for it is done for One above the sun: Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” You’ve got to do it for the One above the sun, if it’s going to have any meaning here under the sun.