Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Preciousness of Time


This message was originally delivered during a friend's 18th birthday. It's June 5, and as I've always celebrated the day I first attended the church (today's the 12th year), I'm posting this. God alone be glorified.

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March 12, 2016

The message I will be delivering is about the Preciousness of Time.
We’re gonna begin discussing about the Preciousness of Time by considering just three points for today. We will look at how precious time is (1) In relation to its Creator, (2) In relation to Us the creation, and (3) In relation to Christ the Redeemer.
Before that though, let us define what time is. “Time”, both in scripture and in common language, could simply be defined as a “measurable period”. And when we say measurable, then we are saying that it has a definite beginning and a definite end. Sometimes it’s about computation of years (Gen. 15:3), months (1 Chr. 27:1), weeks (Dan. 10:2), or days (Gen. 8:3).  Sometimes it refers to specific events such as succession of families (Gen. 5:1-32), lives of great men (Gen. 7:6,11), succession of kings (1 Kin. 11:42,43) or earthquakes (Amos 1:1). And sometimes it's about long periods of years such Israel’s the bondage in Egypt (Acts 7:8), Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness (Deut. 1:3), times of the judges (Judg. 11:26) or Daniel’s 70 weeks (or 490 years). 

I. Time and Its Creator

God’s relation to time has been a controversial subject among philosophers and theologians for centuries. I will skip the technical details but the biblical position is that God created time, and is not essentially “in” time but nevertheless could see and relate “in” time. This paradoxical truths is often termed as God’s transcendence (or his supremacy and separateness from creation) and God’s immanence (or his nearness to his creation). Biblically God is both transcendent and immanent.
To better understand this, picture a big arc. Above that arc is the timeless Creator, below that arc is the time-bound creation. All of the creation below that arc dwell in time and space. That includes us. God is above and separate from us and, therefore, not subject to time. That’s what it means to be Transcendent.

However, if we only have a transcendent God, a God who is just far above and away from us, that would be deism – which is a belief that God created everything and then just left it on its own motion, like a parent abandoning his children. But that is not the God of the Bible. The transcendent Creator in the Bible is the same Creator who drew near to his creation, communing with them and guiding them in time. He made our father Adam and had fellowship with him, even caring for him after the tragic fall which plunged all mankind into sin and death (Rom. 5:17-19). We see him caring still during the time of Noah even though the number of righteous people in the world that time is just eight (1 Pet. 3:20). We still see him caring for Abraham, for Job, for Israel even though that nation rebel against him from time to time.
I hope we will not take this lightly. We as time-bound creatures could never reach and comprehend God in His timeless nature on our own. Yet He decided to reach us below the arc while still remaining above the arc, he decided to reach his creation without becoming part of the creation.
So when you think about the Preciousness of Time, consider this: God is above the arc. He does not need us, he does not need time. Acts 17:25 says "he is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." He is infinitely self-sufficient in His nature. He does not need us or our time… and yet he cares! He cares about our time which is evident when he disposes several, undeserved providential blessings to his creation “in” time. He gave us life, family, food, strength, revelations, wisdom and everything we have in time! Even though He is above time. That alone is amazing, and humbling.
The Psalmist in Psalm 8 expressed the same wonder after meditating about God the Creator and the creation’s wonders, he said “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (v.4)
So think about this: If God who is timeless values our time, who are we to depreciate time when we are all time-bound? If He who is above the arc values the time of those who are below the arc, who are we to live as if we do not value the very limited time we have? Time is precious because the transcendent God did not just create time but governs time and uses time to relate to his creation. Not to value time is not to value the Creator and Governor of time.
Secondly, let us consider the preciousness of time in its relation to creation.

II. Time and Us – the Creation

And here, I want to hide myself behind Jonathan Edwards as he hid himself behind Christ. Edwards mentioned four reasons why time should be precious to us. The first reason he mentioned is because time is...

A. Determinant of Eternity

Edwards said "[T]ime is so exceedingly precious, because by it we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery, and of obtaining everlasting blessedness and glory. On this depends our escape from an infinite evil, and our attainment of an infinite good." We will elaborate this more on the third point but, for now, it is good to be reminded of Hebrews 9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. Your eternal destiny – heaven or hell – is in a sense determined by how you spend your time here on earth. Edwards wisely compared time to gold or silver. The reason gold is so precious is because gold has several purposes. It could enhance beauty, demonstrate fame, or you can accumulation riches through it. In the same way, time is so precious because through our use of time – we could suffer the greatest danger (which is hell) or get the greatest good (which is heaven or eternal fellowship with God).

B. Shortness of Time

The second reason Edwards mentioned why time is precious is because it is very short. Economics teaches us that whenever there is a shortage of a commodity it becomes very costly. Guess what? Your time never has an excess of supply. It is very short.
Job 16:22 – “For when a few years have come I shall go the way from which I shall not return.
Job 9:25 – “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away; they see no good.
Psalm 89:47 – “Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!”
James 4:14 – “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
This shortness of time, logically, should make us more zealous and more diligent than we are. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to live in self-indulgent ignorance. And whenever we do so, you know what, whenever we are indifferent to the shortness of our time, Satan shows himself more diligent than us. Revelation 12:12 says “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Satan knows that his time is short and therefore launched so many urgent strategies to destroy Christ and the community of faith as is evident in the very next verse "And when the dragon [i.e., Satan] saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child." Jumping to verse 17 "Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea."

And so, all of Satan’s diligent strategies in history to destroy the Messiah and the Messiah’s community of faith, according to the text, sprung from his understanding of the shortness of his time. Yes, all of Satan’s actions are evil. But the urgency he feels in making the most of his time should make us evaluate our treatment of our time. Do we have that urgency, or do we love to waste our time?

But for those who want to take their time, time will come when time will take your life. Those who love to waste time, the truth of the matter is time is wasting your life away. Those who love to kill time, the truth of the matter is time is killing you.

C. Uncertain of its Continuance

Thirdly, Edwards said, time is precious not only because “it is very short, but [also because] we know not how short” it is. Who among us here knows how many years, months, weeks or days he/she still has left? Who among us here can be absolutely certain that he will still be able to complete this day? None of us. And even in every minute that we’re here, the time of some people in this world is expiring. Majority of the people in this world live healthily, with no sign of approaching death. Yet many of them are about to die few months from now, or next month, or tomorrow, or probably today. The reality of the uncertainty of our time hinges upon the reality of death. This is the case of the rich fool in
Some of you are probably thinking right now that I’m such a party-pooper for talking about death in a birthday celebration. And if you feel like throwing something on me, you are free to use the cake. I’d love to die by eating cakes.
But kidding aside, birthdays should be more than just a celebration but a reminder of our finiteness. Moses in Psalm 90 reminds us:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (vv.10-12)
70 is the lifespan of a human in this world but we all know that’s just an approximation. Some of us die at 50, some at 40, some at 25, some at 15, some at 5. Sadly, thousands of Americans today die (or rather killed) during infancy. But the point is very clear: your days in this world is uncertain.
You could’ve planned your life: to finish your studies, get a job, get a car, get a beautiful wife, have kids, establish a business, get rich and spend the rest of your time enjoying your family and riches. But even if you are the most intelligent person in the world, you cannot be certain whether you can fulfill even half of your plans. This reminds us of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12, who, after producing a big crop, rebuild bigger barns to store and enjoy his goods for the rest of life. Then he said to himself in verse 19, “,'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' ” Isn’t that a familiar statement that we often make? Well, God’s reply to this man in verse 20 is this: “You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?” And the obvious answer is “Not you.” Nobody can bring his riches to the grave.
The parable concludes in verse 21: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” That’s what happen when man presumes that he knows his time and spends his time on himself instead of on the Creator.
Death is certain but you don’t know when it comes to you. Spend your time on yourself and time will spend your life in death – without informing you.

D. Irrecoverable

Finally, Edwards said time is precious because it is irrecoverable. How old are we? If in fact the average lifespan is 70, how old are we now? How many years have already gone? They can no longer be restored. You can lose and regain some precious things in this world, even though it might take great pains. You can lose money and eventually work harder to regain money. You can lose a house and eventually rebuild it. You can lose a friend and earn another one. But you can never restore time. What you have spent will be gone forever. It is irrecoverable.
Being time-bound means we are experiencing a succession of moments. One moment you have money, the next moment it’s gone. One moment you are happy, the next moment you are miserable. One moment you are strong, the next moment you are weak. One moment you are talking to a friend, the next moment she’s gone. One moment you are alive, the next moment you die. Life is being tasted in moments and when a moment terminates, it cannot be undone.
So it’s either you make the most of your time now or wait for the day that you’ll say “I wish I’ve done this a long time ago.”
So, in view of time’s relation to creation, time is precious because (1) our eternity hangs on time, (2) this eternity-determining time is too short, (3) we don’t know how short this eternity-determining time, and finally (4) this indefinite and short, eternity-determining time is irrecoverable.

III. Time and Christ

Going now to the third part of the message, we shall see that time is precious not just because of its relation to the Creator (i.e., He is transcendent over time but still governs and reaches us in time), and not only it is precious because of its relation to the creation (i.e., time is short, uncertain, irrecoverable and eternity-determining), time is precious also because of its relation to Christ the Redeemer.

I would start with the conclusion: time was ultimately created for Christ. The whole point of history and of the present and of the future is Jesus Christ. Time is precious because it points to the preciousness of Christ.
For that, let me read Acts 17:24-31

Act 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Act 17:25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
Act 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Act 17:27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Act 17:28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
Act 17:29 Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.
Act 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Act 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

In verses 24,25 we see God’s self-sufficiency by which we say that he is not in need of or constrained by our time, making him transcendent. We also see there that he is immanent “giving life and breath and everything else”. In verse 27 “he is not far from each”. That reminds us of our first point.

In verse 26 we see us – our limits in terms of time and space. That reminds us of our second point.

And in verses 29-31, we see God confronting the biggest problem in our time, namely, sin. Our time of sinning, idolatry in this specific passage, is called ignorance. Our time of living a life that isn’t lived for God is called ignorance. We have not understood who we are, and who God is and what his purposes are in time. All of those previous times of hopelessness God overlooks no more! We don’t have to drown in ignorance and sin and death anymore. God NOW commands all people everywhere to repent. Time is so precious because it is now time to turn to Christ! Time is precious because the peak of history has come since Christ came and announced his kingdom. Time is precious because Christ died and resurrected to show that He is either your Savior and Lord today, or your Judge in His second coming.

The same is said by Christ Himself in Mark 1:15: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Jesus is saying that it is now time to stop wasting your time on sin and trustingly surrender your life to Him. Let me tell you this: nothing is more grandeur in human history than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Yes, the emergence of science is great. Yes, the world wars are great. But no event in history touches even just a pinch of the greatness of the story of Jesus Christ. Remember the transcendent God – the timeless Creator – showed his immanence the most in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is why He is called “Emmanuel” God is with us. The timeless God became bounded by time by assuming human nature, walked just like us, tempted just like us, suffered death just like us, so that we could escape the greatest problem of our time – which is sin and death. Jesus Christ the Redeemer is so precious because He is God Himself rescuing sinners by becoming human, living his life in perfect obedience and dying for the sins of sinners like you and me. A great reason why time is so precious is because in time, we can turn from our sins and turn to this Precious Savior by faith.

We hear the same description about time in relation to Christ. The word “fulfilled” is also in Galatians 4:4-5:
 
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."

The context is that the Old Testament also called Mosaic Covenant and its law, is now over. Because Jesus Christ – to which the law points to – is now here.

And so we see God orchestrating history, governing every moment of His creation, for this very purpose: to display the preciousness of Christ the Redeemer.

The implications are tremendous: first, examine yourselves. Most of us here would call ourselves Christians but have truly entrusted Jesus our whole lives? Have we truly surrendered our lives to the Lordship of Jesus by faith? Look at how you spend your time everyday – Is it really for the Savior or for yourselves? And if it’s for yourselves, then, repent! Christ is the very reason why you have that time, why you have everyday, why you have today. And if we will not turn to Christ, what awaits is judgment, death and hell. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18) You need that this life you live and the time that you have is not meant to be yours – it is meant to be Christ’s. Christ is all you need and therefore you need now to surrender your life to Him by faith.

Secondly, if you’re now a believer, we are told to “[make] the best use of the time.” (Col. 4:5) It is interesting to note that this commandment is sandwiched by a command about testimony towards unbelievers (“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders”) and godly speech (“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”), implying that to make the best use of our time is to fill our minds and tongues with godliness as we spend our time with unbelievers in this world. Let us examine our daily habits. Are we showing how precious Christ is by deeming time as precious and using time wisely? Remember that whenever we quote “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) – a verse often use to say Soli Deo Gloria or God Alone Be Glorified – remember that whenever you use “whatever you do”, it’s the same as saying “whatever you spend your time on”. We cannot, therefore, rightly say “glory to God!”, “praise Jesus Christ!” and spend most of our day in front of the television, watching teleseryes, or spending the whole day in the Internet doing nothing but chat about senseless things. Soli Deo Gloria implies that every moment you have here on earth is spent for the glory of God.

Paul’s theology of time management in a nutshell is found in Titus 3:14 – “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).” To give God glory, we need to be fruitful.

To this, John Piper commented, and I will close with this:

“Fruitfulness means meeting others’ needs with “good works” — expenditures of our time, energy, and money in the service of love — which will be both proactive and reactive. Without scheduling, we will falter at the proactive; without flexibility, we’ll be unavailable for the reactive.”

So in order to make use of our time, let us plan each day and at the same time wisely react to the circumstances that providence bring us. Let us show that Christ is precious by showing that our time is precious.

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