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Temporary Good, Eternal Glory

Telling them apart

by Everett Wilson
April 16, 2011

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Temporary Good, Eternal Glory




Good people do good things for other people. By the act of God, Christians are good people because God enables them to do good things and commands them to follow through by pitching in, lending a hand, and joining others who are doing the same,     without making a big deal out of it.  Do it and forget it, said Jesus; your right hand shouldn't even notice what your left hand is doing.

Christians aren't the only good people; we certainly don't have a patent on it.  C.S. Lewis gives thorough attention to this obvious fact in The Abolition of Man.  There is nothing especially remarkable about human goodness.  It is a common human bond transcending creed, politics, even battle lines.  Unfortunately, it is not the only common human bond; there are others less pleasant and more noticeable. 

We do good because it is good. Period.  It needs no other justification and no ulterior motive.  Whether it is expressed by a cup of cold water or by a wild leap in front of a locomotive to push someone else out of danger, it is good in itself.

When it is human goodness, however, it is always temporary; the giver is temporary and so is the receiver. It is of the earth and for the earth.  God has made everything beautiful in its time, says Ecclesiastes, but he also has made it unsatisfactory by putting eternity in our minds.  None of our achievements lasts forever—yet the Bible implies that something is supposed to.

Eternity is a lot more than unending time; eternity encompasses every dimension in every direction. That is why, to keep our heads straight, we must always separate  our modest earthly goals from our eternal hopes.  People of faith make the common error of confusing them.

 Ecclesiastes advises against that: "That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work" (Ecclesiastes 3:15-17).  In The Silver Chair  Puddleglum puts it  more directly to Jill and Eustace—they were  told only what to do, not what would happen. 

We do temporary good to achieve temporary goals in an uncertain world.  God may give them eternal significance, but likely not; we must be satisfied that they were good in themselves, even if temporary. 

Out of love and necessity, as a secondary mission,  the church does good in the  temporary kingdom of the world, but . Its primary mission is to pray and preach the "sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation," in order  to bring everyone willing to  come into the eternal kingdom of God. We do not build the kingdom of God by cooking enough meals, lobbying enough legislatures, spending enough grant money, and  healing all the sick. All of those together do no more than sustain this dying world on life-support:  Do good, die anyway--along with everybody else.

Yet Church history is littered with enterprises and programs that set out on the primary mission and got  stuck on a secondary one. We do not know specifically why, but I suspect  a general reason because it is a temptation of mine.: It's more attractive to do something and see the visible results than to do what God tells us and then wait upon him  for the results.  

God gives his kingdom to those who will accept it on faith as his unconditional gift.  That's when the eternal glory begins, and believers will see it when they die. As the old gospel song has it: 

I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o'erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

        --Barney E. Warren, 1900





He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.






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Bob McNaughton from Midddletown, CT writes:
April 19, 2011
Everett: in general I support what you say, except - having read it a second time, it seems to hint slightly of the Glenn Beck position of running away from the church when it spaks of justice, social structures, arrangments that seem to punish certain segments of society.

Should we not be concerned, both as citizens and as followers of Jesus, when a system of which we are a part, unfairly hurts some? Shouldn't we seek judges who are impartial and fair? Shouldn't we work to change a system which allows a giant corporation like GE, with profits in the billions, yet not only pay no income taxes, but receive 3.2 billion in tax rebates?

Changing such things doesn't bring in the Kingdom, of course, but doesn't Palm Sunday stand at the crossroads between politics and religion?

Palm Sunday was a threat to the establishment; if we are not a threat to the establishment, it must mean that we are satisfied with the status quo. God forbid!

Everett Wilson from Partial Observer writes:
May 18, 2011
Not even a hint of that, Bob, in what I wrote; you must be hearing an echo of somebody else. A whole generation ago Paul Rees called evangelism and social action "elements of an equation." While that was overspeak, Jesus slammed the door even harder on neglecting either one: 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."

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