VIEWS OF LIFE
T PIERCE BROWN
There are at least three primary views of life. First, there are those who think of life as a period in which to satisfy every fleshly desire. Solomon tried wine, women, song and eventually declared that all is vanity. He thought at one time to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” was the proper way to look at life (Eccl.8:15). When he came to the end of life, however, his conclusion of the whole matter is found in Eccl.12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
It seems evident that the majority today thinks there is more truth in the beer commercial than in Solomon’s final conclusion. “There is only one time to go around–live life with gusto.” We might expect atheists to have this attitude, but many who do not claim to be atheists have the same materialistic, hedonistic attitude as if they were atheistic, with no belief in the hereafter. There are even those connected to the Lord’s church whose lives appear to reveal that they have no belief in the hereafter-at least not the kind of hereafter the Bible reveals.
Second, there are those who think there may be a hereafter. In order to enjoy it, they must be ascetic, stoic, or practice some form of self-immolation. They think self-denial means denying self anything that gives pleasure. The best known examples are perhaps the monks who moved into monasteries on the assumption that their spirituality and their eternal reward would be greater if they denied themselves the ordinary pleasures of life. A man named Simon even went so far as to climb up on a pole or pillars and live for 37 years. There were even those who practice flagellation, beating themselves with whips or having others do it to them in the assumption that this would make them better, or more worthy of some eternal reward. Paul indicated in Col. 2:20-23 that although those things might seem to be of some value they were not.
Most of us probably are not as aware as we should be that self-denial is not denying ourselves some of the things we want, although that may be of some value. Self-denial is denial of self. It is taking self out of the center of our lives and putting Christ there. Paul expressed it best, perhaps, when he said in Gal 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” When a person dies to self, Satan and sin and is buried with Christ, he has denied self and affirmed Christ. This is what Paul meant in 1 Cor. 6:19-20 when he said, “You are not your own; you are bought with a price.”
3. Life is a time of preparation for eternity. Self-denial does not mean denying yourself any THING at all, but denying yourself YOURSELF. That is, you belong to God, not yourself. “You are not your own; you are bought with a price” (1 Cor.6:19-20). Crucify flesh with the lusts and passions thereof (Gal.5:24) does not mean for us what it means to the ascetic, stoic or puritan. It means using all the proper desires of the flesh to glorify God and holding in check or “killing” all those that lead to sin.
Let us summarize and clarify what we have been saying. The first group includes the hedonist who eats and drinks purely to satisfy self and the appetites of the flesh. The center of his life is “I”–the center of sIn. The second group thinks they cannot properly do anything that gives fleshly pleasure or satisfaction, for they think the flesh is inherently evil. The third group can eat and drink just as much as the first, but must do it (and must want to do it) in such a way as to glorify God. That means there are some things they will not eat under some circumstances, and there are some things they certainly will not drink. They know they have a right to enjoy life, and so with zest and gusto. They do not allow themselves to be pulled either to the left or right by living to satisfy the lusts of the flesh or by denying themselves the legitimate and God-ordained pleasures of this life.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.