A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
Within the Bible we have a panorama of events, eternal and temporal; a picture of God, of man in history, and of God’s eternal plan.
So far as man is concerned his primary duty is to take advantage of the love and mercy of God so that his own life, now and for eternity, may be adjusted to God’s will for him.
Because God has provided us with this view of eternity, into which there is inserted what we call time, there is nothing more important than studying, by the help of the Holy Spirit, this God-given picture wherein lies divine wisdom and human hope.
This vista begins with the revealing and awe-inspiring statement, “In the beginning God.” Here we have something every scientist should heed and every individual ponder, for within the compass of those four words man is made to see not only the origin of all that is visible but also the spiritual and philosophical background on which alone existence should be predicated.
The dilemma of the world order stems from the fact that mankind, though seeing the works of God’s creative power and experiencing his sustaining grace day by day, neither recognizes nor is concerned about Him who is sovereign over the universe.
Accustomed to look with pity or disdain on the “benighted heathen” who bow down to gods of their own making, we fail to see that we have built up, even in “Christian America,” an educational system which more and more is divorced from God and all spiritual values. In fact it is an ominous fact that most of the great institutions of learning in our country—institutions founded for the specific purpose of propagating the Christian faith—are now its most active and effective enemies, and this is because they no longer remember, “In the beginning God.”
When we read the words of the last verse in the book of Genesis, “in a coffin in Egypt” the panorama further unfolds—in the intervening years an incomparable tragedy has occurred.
Man, created by God for fellowship with himself, no longer enjoys this primal relationship because something has come between him and his Maker. Disobedience, the source of all sin, has led him to the folly of independent action and in its wake there has come death—spiritual and physical.
But God has never been willing to leave man to his own folly. Throughout the Old Testament the yearning love and mercy of God is proclaimed against the background of divine judgment. Conditioned on repentance, the forgiveness of God is continually offered. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
These words of Isaiah are echoed again and again by the prophets, men whom we are told spoke by the Spirit of God, and at his command.
But the last words of the Old Testament carry with them a picture of man’s continued rejection of the love of God “… lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
To the vineyard of his own planting, God has sent the prophets to offer forgiveness and healing. Some they have beaten, others they have ridiculed, and yet others they have stoned.
In spite of their privileges, men still rejected God, still chose their own ways, and as a result the wages of sin were exacted thus vindicating the righteousness, holiness, and justice of God.
But God had not finished with his creation. In his foreknowledge the panorama of man’s reaction to divine pleading was also known, and in the councils of eternity his Son was destined to enter the vineyard of lost humanity.
God entered into human history in the person of his Son Emmanuel, and in due time the Cross unfolded as the way of redemption. From that Cross with its shed blood and the Empty Tomb with its victory over death there emerged the way—the only way—whereby man may be reconciled to God.
In the last 19 centuries we have seen this simple but effective way of redemption preached around the world. In each generation there have been those who, faithful to their obligation, have passed on the Word of life.
Today we find the Gospel preached across America and throughout the free world, while the radio reaches even behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains. We have the witness of the Church and of individual Christians in almost every land.
Just where do we stand in the panorama of time, in that area in which we have such grave personal responsibilities?
None of us knows when the curtain of history will be pulled down by the One who is the center of all history. But our own task is not left in doubt.
Once our Lord said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
Down to this moment it is yet “day” for Christians. The opportunities for witness and service at home and abroad are still almost unlimited.
But we seem affected by a kind of stupor and indifference to the needs of the world. Or, we become enmeshed in activities which are humanitarian only, and forget that man does not live by bread alone.
This spiritual torpor has a deadening effect on our personal testimony and is reflected in the Church. Having lost any sense of perspective we live as though today is the important consideration.
Now what we do today is certainly vitally important, but only because it is a part of that great unfolding panorama of time and eternity for which we are responsible, a responsibility we cannot escape.
How then can we regain a right perspective?
There is but one way—by a re-orientation to the One who is Eternal and who lived and died that we too might share in His eternity.
Once we orient our lives to the living Christ things take their proper perspective. Through prayer and the study of God’s Word—DAILY—we gain the wisdom and understanding which alone enables us to fulfill our part in his divine plan.
To some this seems an oversimplification, but it is God’s way. It is he who provides these means of grace and it is he who has sent his spirit to clarify our thinking and direct our lives. For those who are skeptical there is one way to find out—Give God a try. Spend time DAILY in studying His Word and in prayer.
When this happens things begin to assume their rightful places, for now and for eternity.
L. NELSON BELL
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