Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Wisdom: When Wisdom Surrenders to Hedonism

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wisdom: When Wisdom Surrenders to Hedonism

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? 4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. 6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. 8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. 12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-18).

“Life is meaningless; totally meaningless.” This would appear to be Solomon’s wise summation of life. Life does appear to be an operation in futility when one’s quest for purpose is viewed hedonistically from a this life only (“under the sun;” 1:3) perspective. This is known as Cynicism and it is often fatally destructive to those it has infected. Becoming cynical about life is the natural outcome of the constant pursuit of pleasure. Eventually every avenue where pleasure is the objective will become mundane and empty. Our carnal nature will demand more extreme measures and a constant menu of new thrills (1:9-10) until we have experienced everything and everything we experience finally becomes boring.

Wisdom seeks spiritual fulfillment, rightness with God and the pursuit of a lifestyle that brings glory to God. Hedonism seeks pleasure in everything and, if anything does not give some entertainment or make us feel good, that thing is immediately abandoned for something that does. This is the attitude of life with which modern Christianity seems to think it needs to compete. If we can provide church services that entertain and tickle people’s fancies, then people will attend with eager anticipation. In doing so, we have just made the church Man-centered (anthropocentric) rather than God-centered (Theocentric).

We have also made the church a temple of Hedonism, which is doomed to the same destiny of spiritual cynicism that Solomon cultivated from his life of the similar pursuits. Many Christians seem to have forgotten that the purpose of man is not his own entertainment, but to bring glory to God.

1 O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. 4 For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. 7 Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. 8 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. 9 O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1-9).

Hedonism has slithered into the Church through the backdoor of accommodation. In fact, there are Christian leaders today promoting what they call Christian Hedonism. The “new song” that much of Christianity is singing in their churches is the world’s song and they sing it for man’s entertainment, not for God’s glory. They know it is the world’s song. They have rationally convinced themselves that what they are doing is acceptable to God. Here is an example where we see the radical difference between rationalism and wisdom. Theological rationalism is almost always used to lead people away from the center of God’s will to their spiritual detriment. Wisdom always leads people to the center of God’s will to their spiritual benefit and to God’s glory.

Initially, when the world’s music was brought into the Church, spiritual people felt uncomfortable with the music being played, but eventually they got used to it. Why do they get used to it? They get used to it because their carnal natures like it and because their consciences become seared (I Timothy 4:2) and scarred over so those consciences do not work any longer. As Bible believing Christians, we understand human depravity. We know that within our fallen natures there is no good thing and that even our desires are corrupted. We know the difference between worldly and spiritual. When worldly and spiritual things are confused, the Spirit of God initially inflames our consciences. Yet, in complete contradiction to God’s commands, we love the world and are willing to accommodate the things of the world in our lives.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

This is exactly what happened to Solomon in his spiritual declension from the time of his dedication of the Temple in I Kings chapter 8. He did not start out with the idolatry and licentious practices that he would later involve himself in and into which He would lead the nation of Israel. He merely started out seeking pleasure out of life. The book of Ecclesiastes is a record of what happens to ANYONE where pleasure and self-satisfaction becomes the pursuit of life.

Yes, life is an operation in futility when one’s quest for purpose is viewed hedonistically from a this life only (“under the sun;” 1:3) perspective. The same is true of any accomplishments in this life that are not able to transcend our death. It emphasizes the truth of the statement: “I have yet to see a hearse pulling a trailer behind it.” If anyone wants to find God’s eternal purpose in what he does, he must learn to look for investments that will last beyond this life.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to gain God’s perspective on the purpose of our lives. It certainly took Solomon a lifetime. We must remember that we only have one lifetime and, if we waste that lifetime finding God’s purpose for our personal existence, we will not have the time to live and fulfill God’s purpose for our existence.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14b).

For most people, the majority of their lives is consumed with accumulating wealth (Mammonism). Other than the necessities of life from an eternal perspective, this is little more than “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17). There is no thing that can really satisfy for any length of time. Things are just an empty hand promise of security in a world that could radically erupt at any moment.

For those with a “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” perspective of life, they will live their lives as if time is an endless commodity for which there is no eternal accountability. Yet, the very essence of time and the inevitability of death tell us this philosophy of life is a fool’s perspective that will one day arrive at the Throne of God with this person’s ultimate and eternal destiny already sealed. “God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). The failure to enter the God-factor into the equation of life is a fool’s decision. It is also a fool’s decision to profess belief in God and live as if accountability will never be expected.

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1a).

Ecclesiastes chapter three lists a number of things this life will naturally and normally provide a “season” for. The emphasis appears to be that there is a beginning and an end to everything that begins “under the sun.” History will advance with us and, without us and will one day return every “under the sun” person back to the dust from which man was created.

God’s perspective of time is both temporal (within the existence of creation) and eternal (outside of the creation of time/space/matter). Wisdom is getting God’s perspective on life. God has provided time (a temporal creation at its best) to test man and for man to learn timeless principles, own those timeless principles and live them to the gory of God. God has given each member of fallen mankind a lifetime, however long or short that lifetime may be, to understand his lost condition and trust in God’s sole provision for salvation in the Person and work of Jesus Christ because every soul is eternal and will spend that endless existence in one of two eternal destinies. Only when man does not take into careful consideration his own timeless existence does his existence in time become meaningless.

Any person failing to gain an eternal perspective of time will ultimately end up with a cynical view of life. This is because the emptiness of this “under the sun” existence without God’s eternal purpose in constant view is real, not imagined. Any existence without a living faith perspective of God’s eternal purpose and our role in that purpose can be little more than an Ocean in the Sea Shell experience.

The existentialist idea of “I think, therefore I am,” does not fill the vacuum of our lives with purpose. There are so many people listening to the Ocean in the Sea Shell, that they have come to believe there is actually some substance in their lives in their futile pursuit of purpose in the pleasures of this world. One day the reality of the Ocean in the Sea Shell existence will hit them like a canoe paddle in the face with cynicism and fatalism becoming the dominating perspective of their lives. Depression will become their new master leading them to self-destruction. We see this pattern over and over again in the Hollywood gurus of egotism, fame, fortune and, pleasure at any cost. Suicide becomes their only escape from the hopeless existence they call life.

10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity . . . 15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. 16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 and 15-16)?

Many people spend their lifetimes lusting after, and grabbing onto as much of what they think will fulfill them only to find that what they now own is only as satisfying as a handful of wet sand. Having gotten fame, wealth, and the emptiness of those things, they must pursue artificial stimulants in the drug culture.

Rejecting God’s eternal purpose, they turn to other forms of religious expression for fulfillment. They turn to Pantheism in its modern form; i.e. Environmentalism. They turn to relieving social oppressions by correction all social injustices through the redistribution of wealth (at least every one’s wealth but their own; Socialism). They decry moral absolutism to propagate moral relativism and promote liberty to the degree of immoral license. They propose “under the sun” band aids to problems requiring a supernatural solution. They end up only creating more social problems than they resolve.

Sadly, even many that are truly saved waste their lives listening to the Ocean in the Sea Shell. They have spent so much time in their own little religious fantasy world that they have become satisfied with their fortress Christianity that relishes in learning some new truth about God. The reality of their facade is that they never touch another life to the glory of God with those great truths they have learned. Their idea of Christianity is just to move into the Sea Shell. There is no real relationship with God in their lives. We know that with surety because a real relationship with God ALWAYS involves those with that relationship in God’s eternal purpose in touching the lives of others to His glory.

Real relationships require that we make real choices and decisions in a real world with the view of the eternal consequences of those decisions (good and bad). A real relationship with God requires that we honestly face the issue of sin in general and our own sin specifically.

“Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

The reality of a real relationship with God demands we re-establish our priorities in life and put away many things in our lives contradicting those priorities. A real relationship with God demands that we diligently search His Word for the knowledge of His will and establish every aspect of our short lives “under the sun” to bring to Him the glory He deserves.

Your servant in Christ's service,

Dr. Lance T. Ketchum

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