Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

The God of order

The Bible reveals God’s many wonderful attributes. It speaks of his love, his power, his eternity. In 1 Corinthians 14:33 Paul tells us that God is not a God of confusion but of peace. This comes out, for example, in what the Bible says of creation. Chaos becomes order. In the Trinity, although the three persons are equal, there is definite order in the Godhead. All around us there is evidence of a marvellous orderliness from God. That is why even in a Jackson Pollock painting some order may be discerned!
In 1 Corinthians 14:40 Paul draws a practical conclusion from this fact. In meetings for worship, everything should be done in a fitting, dignified, decent way. The application is not limited to meetings. It applies to the whole of life. All the great advances in science and civilisation have come in the train of organisation and order. Of course, great things are sometimes discovered by accident, but it is the methodical, orderly person who sees their importance.
This is an appropriate thought for the beginning of a new year. It is true that there is something slightly artificial about marking a new year but it is a fact that God made this world to orbit the Sun every 365 ¼ days. He gave it a moon that takes 28 days to orbit. He makes the earth revolve on its axis every 24 hours. These are not accidents. The stars were given to mark the passing seasons. Further by direct command God has ordained that there should be seven days in one week and that one day should be different to the other six and kept special in his honour. Part of the indignity of drunkenness, serious illness and sometimes old age is befuddlement as to the passage of time. All this leads us to stress certain important practical truths which should always be remembered.
1. Take note of the passing years. It is right and Christian to mark the change from 1995 to 1996. It is true that it is not exactly 1996 years since the Lord’s coming nor is there a command from God to keep track of how much time has elapsed since his coming. It is surely laudable, however, to write 1996 AD (not 1996 CE as some would have it). Better still The year of God’s grace 1996. We affirm that history is linear not circular, finite not infinite.
2. Take note of the passing months. Under the Law, the Israelites were encouraged not only to count the years (Jubilee, etc.) but months were also marked by new moon festivals and other seasonal feasts. We are no longer under such laws but it is good to see each new month as a mark of God’s favour and a fresh opportunity to serve him.
3. Remember the Lord’s Day. Again, although believers are not obliged to keep Old Testament Sabbaths, all orthodox Christians recognise the need to keep one day in seven special. We may disagree on details but we all recognise that the Lord’s Day is a special day to be kept, as far as we can, separate to God. It is sad to see many Christians today failing to make progress, largely because they fail to take advantage of this means of grace.
4. Live one day at a time. In Psalm 90 Moses prays that the Lord will teach us to number our days aright. Some people today live such chaotic lives they can hardly distinguish one day from another. Night and day merge in a single stream. Genesis 1 teaches us that there is a distinction between day and night. This is best observed by sleeping at night and working for God’s glory by day. That is not the regular privilege of some who may read this. We will all experience sleepless nights at some stage in life. However, let us not forget the norm. Further, take one day at a time and leave the next to worry about itself. Fill each day not with idle day dreaming but with living for the Lord. Daniel was a busy man but three times in the day were marked off for prayer to the Lord. The psalmist prayed seven times a day! Let us at least begin with prayer and the Word. The Jews divided their day into three watches of four hours; sunrise, the heat of the day and the cool of the day. We think more of morning, afternoon and evening. Organise each day carefully and use each part to God’s glory.
One period where a lot of time can be wasted for some is between 4 pm and 7 pm which may not fit firmly into afternoon or evening. Watch out! Plan ahead yet be flexible. Study the way our Lord conducted himself.
In conclusion, let me mention some more general principles.
  • Be alert to the providence of God.
  • Look to the Lord for guidance.
  • Get your priorities right.
  • Do not fall under the tyranny of the urgent.
  • Be like Mary not like Martha and make the most of every opportunity.
Ecclesiastes 8:5,6 informs us that everything has its proper procedure. This is true of everything from painting a door, doing the laundry or shaving your face right through to preparing and preaching a sermon, comforting the bereaved and praying to God. Much time and effort will be saved when we learn and practice such procedures.
Finally, do not forget to do all you do in a dignified and beautiful way. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe on his desert island not only kept a careful note of the date but also dressed for dinner. This was not eccentricity but an awareness of the God of peace and order. May we be aware of him too throughout this coming year.
This article first appeared many years ago in Grace. 

No comments: