Sunday, May 9, 2010

Eternity, the Gospel, and the Mountains...

Recently, I was blessed by the thoughts of another Christian who through his own blow laid out a great progression of thought on eternity and our need for a proper understanding of the gospel.  Given my upcoming aspirations on Denali, I thought I would convey some of his thoughts here.   They have been modified from his original posting and thus, a link to his site will be included below as well.  Thanks to RCG Ministries for this awesome perspective that should encourage us to rightly think of eternity and cling to the hope of the Gospel of Christ.  Read below-
        In this age of technology we are constantly being exposed to discoveries that test and stretch our imaginations. It’s hard to keep up with information that advancing technology is steadily giving us. As technology has become more sophisticated, we are continually rediscovering how vast our universe is and given numbers that seem limitless. My imagination was really tested lately when it was estimated that each one has enough DNA in our bodies, stretched out end to end, the total would go back and forth to the moon many times over. As incomprehensible as all these new discoveries may seem, I don’t think anything else challenges our imagination as much as the concept of eternity. It’s something most do not think about a lot other than at funerals, or when we see the victims of a mass tragedy and are reminded of our mortality and the brevity and finality of life and death.
      So how would we define ‘eternity’? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “Infinite time, duration without beginning or end, eternal existence as contrasted with mortal life, the timeless state in which the soul is believed to pass at death, a seemingly endless period of time”. Webster’s defines eternal life as lasting forever and always existing. No wonder eternity stretches our imaginations for it is opposite to life as we know it. We see life with a beginning (Birth) and an end (Death). Our whole lives are on a time schedule, seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, years into decades and so on. We live within the limits that time allows us and have probably all said “Nothing lasts forever.” Yet, eternity is described as infinite, no beginning or end, timeless and forever. Since each one’s life is numbered by a period of time, how can that be compared or measured to eternity? So let’s say that one’s lifespan was a drop of water in all the oceans or a grain of sand in all the deserts, as minute as that seems, it can still be measured whereas eternity is timeless and without end and is therefore immeasurable. John Newton, the author of one of the most familiar hymns (Amazing Grace) touched on eternity in this verse: “When we’ve been there (Heaven) 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” There it is – time has no measurable value. For me, elementary school seemed like that – like an eternity – but to my delight, it did end eventually. Even my two months off in the summer seemed to last forever – or maybe part of that was just wishful thinking. Now, over 4 decades later, time seems to be escalating as weeks seem like days, and years seem like months , and childhood flashbacks seem more like yesterday than 40 years ago; my life is racing to an end.
      Since eternity is supernatural in nature, I want to go to a supernatural source: the Holy Bible. The Bible itself tells us that even though men penned it, God is the author. It says in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God” and in 2 Peter 1:20-21 “But know this first of all, that no prophesy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophesy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The Bible tells us in James 4:14 “….What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” I’m sure anyone with a number of years behind them can identify with this verse. So if our life can be described as short as it takes for mist to vanish compared to the timeless and forever, we can conclude that the way we see time cannot be compared to eternity, but there is definitely a connection. So as we read earlier, in definition, eternity was described as something referring to the soul. Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘soul’ as the “principal of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body”. The soul is really who we are, our mind (thinker), our emotions (feeler), and our will (chooser) – enclosed and housed by our bodies. We are all aware our bodies won’t last forever and the older you are, the more you are reminded of this, but by this definition, there is a spiritual component, distinct from the physical, relating to our soul that has an eternal nature.
      The Bible states in John 4:24 that “God is Spirit” and in Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness.” God made us distinct from all other life on earth, as we are eternal in nature, through His Spirit, which He has put in each one of us. It’s plain to see man has a spiritual nature as we see much of the primitive peoples’ cultures worldwide revolve around spiritualism. Most people I have talked to believe there is something after this life, hoping for something better. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it states: “God has put eternity in the hearts of men”. Even though, as vague as it might seem, we are all embedded with the concept of eternity within us. Even though we can’t fully reason or comprehend other concepts, we do accept that reality of its truth, for example, we either believe that a creator (GOD) has always existed or that creation came by random chance through a chain of reactions. We can’t, by our own ability, reason how God has always existed except by Faith, in as much as atheists accept and believe that matter always did exist, but cannot explain its origin. Both beliefs require accepting the reality of something that cannot be totally explained or understood. Thus it is with eternity, a concept that can’t be explained in our capacity to reason and we innately know that it exists and we accept the truth of it. Even then for most, eternity is a big mystery, and because of its eternal significance, as in any unknown we are faced with, there is an element of fear that keeps us from dwelling on it. What fear is for some, for others it is their greatest hope and desire. It is the biggest reality we will face someday, for in essence we all stand on the brink of eternity. Jesus states such significance in Matthew 16:26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Each one of us is trying to find our place in the world and take a little piece with us, but Jesus is telling us our soul’s destiny is far more important than if we could have everything in the entire world. Even though I am sure most of us long for something better than this life, for this life can be very painful and unsatisfying much of the time, the reality is that for some there is something far better to look forward to, but for others, something far worse.
      We can be confident that Jesus Christ can be trusted in what He says about eternal life as written in the scriptures. Jesus is described in John 1 (Verse 1 and 14) as “God in the flesh” and in Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born (right of inheritance) of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” In Revelation 22:13, Jesus testifies, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” These verses tell us that Jesus, being eternal in nature, is a reliable source in eternal matters and He spoke about them frequently.
      In the gospel of Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus tells a parable about 2 men and insight into their eternal destinies. One was in comfort (Verse 25) and the other in torment (Verse 23). There is much more to gain from this parable, but I just want to emphasize there are two distinct eternal destinies. I would like to give you two examples, both including similar men in similar circumstances, on the edge of eternity and each one’s eternal destiny. The first one is a scenario involving two mountain climbers; the second, a Biblical account of two thieves in a most appropriate setting. In these two examples, I hope we can gain some insight into eternal matters as we “….fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

      Both men were world class mountain climbers, very well decorated for all their accomplishments. Their ever continuing appetites for success finally led them to the challenge of their lives, the most feared free climb known, where only a handful tried it and no one ever conquered it, and a few paid the ultimate price. The two climbers started out together, but separated, each choosing a different route up the sheer rock wall. We will simply refer to the climbers as Climber 1 and Climber 2 as we follow their quest. Climber 1 started out and took a more direct ascent, carefully choosing each foothold and outcrop he could cling to. He always seemed just in reach of a protrusion, jutting out from a sheer rock wall, that he could grasp and pull himself up to find a foothold, continuing on in this fashion, inch by inch. Climber 2 chose a longer route that would involve climbing in more of an indirect, angular pattern, which might be less risky but a longer climb that would jeopardize and strain his endurance over time. Climber 1 was making good time and was scaling the forbidden rock wall with surprising ease. His confidence was building as he saw a rock ledge big enough for him to stand on and rest. He made it to the ledge, still hugging the mountain wall, and gave himself the luxury of looking down and was amazed at how high he had already climbed. More than halfway there, he knew he could never go back; the victory was in sight. He allowed himself a glimpse of what this would mean and the glory that awaited him but his hard stern self discipline quickly took over, for he knew where his focus must be. He had rested enough; it was time to go on. He felt for a grip above but everything was smooth as glass, looking around he spotted a narrow ledge with a jut above it that would enable him to continue his assault on this formidable and deadly mountain wall. The only thing, this ledge was too far to simply step over. He would have to jump which always carried the risk of losing balance. He didn’t have much time to think as he felt a small piece of the ledge he was standing on give way due to his weight. All of a sudden, he sensed uneasiness, fear crept in, his confidence took a hit and doubt dominated his thoughts. Time seemed to slow down like slow motion and unfamiliar thoughts raced through his mind, with every heartbeat a different thought erupted. He even started questioning why he was so driven to succeed, to put his life in jeopardy, for what? He knew, after each climb, he had a sense of satisfaction but it didn’t last, fading away, and there always seemed a need for another climb. He found himself weakening and feeling incompetent, but he put an abrupt end to this weakness. His thoughts quickly went in the opposite direction and he found a new strength within building up. He thought, what got me here in the first place, will get me out of this predicament like it had all his life. He started rebuilding his confidence and strength by reminding himself what made him one of the best. As he looked back into his life, he just knew he couldn’t fall and took an inventory of why. He assured himself by reflecting on the knowledge he had obtained by diligently studying the lives and philosophies of the world’s best mountain climbers. “With this wisdom, I cannot fail.” I’ve gone all over the world and walked in the footprints of the best, trained to be like them, physically, mentally, emotionally, and am very disciplined in all their ways. Through them, I know I can be anything I want to believe, as long as I believe in me. I am strong, and by getting in touch with my inner strength, I can overcome any obstacle. It’s simply mind over matter. His weak moment was giving away to this resurgence of strength and looking at himself, he saw that from all his accomplishments, and the ensuing endorsements, he was able to have the best of everything. He acknowledged again his education was from the best, his training had equipped him to overcome the insurmountable, and along with the best equipment money could buy, he surmised “I’ve always beaten the odds, this time will be no different.” Just then, a fleeting thought came, reminding him where he had gotten himself into several impossible situations before, something he couldn’t explain steadied him, but reduced it to having had luck on his side and he made his own breaks. He then was suddenly brought back to reality as more of the ledge broke off, leaving him only a minute foothold. He then looked toward that very narrow ledge, only a jump away, he knew his old time confidence was brimming within and with his inner strength peaking, he knew it was now or never. As he got ready to take his leap, he sprung forth with his victory cry…..
“I will not and cannot Fall…Fall…Fall…Fall…Fall…Fall…Fall…Fall………………and it grew so dark.
      The second climber heard something but dared not think what he feared had happened as he found himself in a very precarious situation. His foothold also was slipping away and no safe abode was in sight. He felt so alone and small compared to this giant he thought he could climb and beat, and time stood still. He then sensed such futility, the mountain was not an enemy, the enemy was within. What had brought him to this predicament, he could only blame himself. Now, he even questioned if he would have mastered the mountain, so what!? Was it worth his life? A fear worse than falling gripped him like an icy cold wind, and swirled within, leaving him feeling such regret for the emptiness of his life lived with little substance or meaning. He feared, would anybody even remember him? Would his only legacy be his records on climbing? Is that all he stood for? He began to despise what his life had been all about and felt so empty, lost and alone. He recalled a few shallow relationships he had allowed until they got in the way of his climbing, and then that was that. Sure he had used people to gain his ends, but then again, some used him. That’s the way it was, a fight for top place. Sure he had success with its rewards of notoriety and wealth, but soon he was always after more, and more was never enough. Even though, with all his self discipline, he knew he had blown it several times and these occasions became so clear that the guilt, shame and regret were piercing. Suddenly, more of his foothold was lost as the weakening ledge, his lifeline, was deteriorating from his weight. A new fear gripped him, as he remembered a similar fear as a young boy when he had wandered away from his family vacation home and found himself lost in a forest. He remembered when he first realized he was lost, how everything changed. The once beautiful forest had suddenly turned dark and ominous. The graceful branches of the trees turned into spears and the forest sounds became unfamiliar and deafening. He remembered being paralyzed with fear and his only recourse was to yell “Help!” Then behind him, a branch snapped. He couldn’t look. His imagination went wild. He jumped when he felt something on his shoulder, then heard “It’s your father, you’re safe now, let’s go home.” He remembered the peace and joy at hearing these words, and how he longed for that again. As the ledge crumbled and gave way, he felt an indescribable presence beside him. He looked, and there was a hand reaching out to him. This hand seemed strangely familiar to him but he could not explain why. He remembered a few times in his climbing career when he seemed to have help outside of himself. He usually never gave it a second thought, he just kept on going. But there was a drawing within him and he reached out and took the hand, finding it so firm and yet so gentle. He now grasped it tightly but felt something rough in the centre of the hand. He lifted up the hand to see what the roughness was and he saw a hole right through the centre of the hand, about the size of a large nail. Then he remembered, as a child at an Easter service at church about this man named Jesus who was nailed to a cross to provide forgiveness of our sins and then was raised from the dead three days later. So this was the hand that had been there for him before and now had reached out to him. He took his other hand and clung to and embraced this pierced hand and heard “It’s your Father, you’re safe now, let’s go home.” And it got so bright……
      Both men cut out of the same mould, so similar in so many ways and yet total opposite endings to their lives, an infinite difference. Both climbers were in situations where their very lives were in balance, both teetering on the edge of eternity. Even though the situation for each was similar, it was their individual responses that made all the difference. Let’s see how the responses differed.
Climber 1 did have a weak moment and began to reflect on his life for what it was and had been, even times he couldn’t explain his good luck, but that always made him uneasy so he was quick to get back to the reality of the here and now and began to focus on what made him who he was. He knew his hope must be in himself, and knowing his situation seemed bleak, he recalled all the reasons why he should get through this. He studied the wisdom and philosophies of the best mountain climbers and patterned his thought processes and life accordingly. He traveled far and wide to learn from the gurus of climbing that focused on the rituals and meditation that would give him the limitless inner strength to virtually be invincible. He then gained more strength by looking back at the fame and fortune that all his accomplishments brought him. This elevated him to a surging renewal of confidence for he had the very best equipment at his disposal and had a fortune in endorsements waiting for him after this climb. After recalling all these things that had prepared him and made him who he was, he smiled in the face of adversity, for he knew he was too good to fall, and then did just exactly that.
      Do you see a bit, or maybe even a lot of yourself in the mountain climber? Aren’t we all driven by a desire to succeed and find satisfaction in our lives? Aren’t we all climbing something to gain meaning and purpose out of life and yet every time we seem to get to the top and find it, why doesn’t it last? There is seemingly always another climb ahead. Then we have moments when we stand on a ledge of hardships that make us look inward and evaluate the bigger issues of life and question what is my part in the scheme of things? As we look at the first climber again, he was very diligent in securing the best the world had to offer him and was highly esteemed for his success and yet, at the end of his life he failed the most crucial test, the same one each will face in their time, the timeless test of where you’ll spend eternity. Let’s see what Biblical scripture tells us of Climber 1’s response.
His first response was that he trusted in man’s philosophies and wisdom. 1Corinthians 1:20-21 says “Where’s the wise man? Where’s the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him...” 1Corinthians 3:19–20 further states “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight”…… “and again, the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise are futile”. This tells us that through man’s ideas alone we cannot know God and man’s wisdom will always be incomplete in this area, making it foolishness to God. There is a lot of information we can learn from others, and have throughout history, but man’s wisdom alone, ultimately, will only exalt mankind. 1 Corinthians 8:1 states that “knowledge puffs up” (makes arrogant). The climber gained valuable information but not of the one who made the mountains in the first place, which led him astray.
      The second response of the man was his trust in others who taught the spiritual component of tapping into that inner strength that could be achieved through various activities such as rituals and deep thought leading to self enlightenment. Colossians 2:8 says “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ”. This tells us that other than faith in Christ, you are being deceived about who God is, this world and life itself. The problem with these deceivers is that they are being deceived themselves as they base their ideologies and beliefs on man’s tradition, which is based on the principles of the world. 1 John 5:19 states “….the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”. (Satan) The world’s values and its belief system are under his domain and his teachers are well disguised. 2 Corinthians 11: 14-15 says “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness whose end will be according to their deeds.” The climber was misled and blinded to the truth. “In whose case the god of this world” (Satan) “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God”. (2 Corinthians 4:4) 1 John 4:1-3 states: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world”.
False religious beliefs appeal to our pride in that we, in and of ourselves, aspire to elevating self by focusing on our own merits and goodness which in the process prevents recognition of the mercy and grace we all so desperately need and is only provided through Jesus Christ.
      The next response was he trusted in his past accomplishments and his fame and fortune. His achievements and accolades bolstered his pride even more and his wealth had given him all he needed in his search to be the best. After finishing this climb, he’d be rich beyond his wildest dreams, securing the rest of his life. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”. 1Timothy 6:10 says “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” Money in itself is not evil, but when it becomes the driving focus of your life, it leads you to trust in it rather than God.
All of the above responses led up to his final thought of “I’m just too good to fall”. He was self sufficient and in his self reliance, he believed he could conquer anything he set his mind to, blinding him to any weakness or shortcomings he had. James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” God opposes the kind of pride that exalts ourselves, rather than, for example, taking pride in a job well done or pride in your children. A last and very fitting verse is in Proverbs 16:18 which says “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘haughty’ as being “disdainfully proud and arrogant”, and that was his downfall.
      Let’s now look at Climber 2 and see how his response differed from Climber 1. It’s evident he received grace so that means his response ended in humility, the opposite of pride. He started assessing his life and didn’t like what he saw, but unlike Climber 1, he stayed there. For a long time now, he had a gnawing grief towards what his life had meant and could ignore it no longer, for he knew it was an ugly truth he must face. He saw that the only investment he made was in himself, his ambitions and goals; he stood alone as the only benefactor of his self centred life. This penetrating emptiness that he was able to sidetrack until now, became centre stage and the futility of all his accomplishments over the years loomed over him. Feeling so small and insignificant, he blamed only himself. He felt so small in the larger scheme of things and knew he had missed the whole purpose for his life. He despised and hated such a waste for now it was too late, who would ever remember him? He felt ashamed over his heartless unconcern for anyone else and deserved not to be remembered other than for his now seemingly meaningless accomplishments. He reminisced about the only people who would have remembered him for who he was, his mother who he lost several years ago, and his father who passed away recently. One occasion resurfaced and reminded him of a time as a youth he had outright lied to his dad. He covered it up and held it in, avoiding his dad at all cost. A few days later, his father told him he knew he had lied to him and was disappointed at that. The guilt and shame at that moment brought him to tears and he uttered a weak and trembling “I’m sorry Dad”. Not knowing what would happen next, he readied himself for what he deserved and then saw his father kneel down, embracing him with a soft hug, and then he told him he loved him. His feeling of deep sorrow grew deeper in how he had so mistreated others, only using them for personal gain, but strangely the most painful sorrow and deepest regret is that he had betrayed the one who had given him life itself. He felt darkness surrounding him and the fear of being lost forever awakened that childhood memory of his father finding him. It was then when that strangely familiar nail pierced hand stretched out and offered him a way out. He was at his wit’s end, the end of himself, and embraced the hand with all his might. As darkness gave way to the immense light, so all his sorrows gave way to an indescribable sense of everlasting peace and joy.
      His destiny differed from that of the other climber, as much as between light and dark. As we did with Climber 1, let’s see how his response stands up in light of scripture. Both men were so similar in so many ways but differed greatly in how they ended up evaluating themselves. We tend to focus on the physical and external attributes of others, but God values what’s truly inside. 1 Samuel 16:7 states “….The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. We have already seen God opposes the proud. As we have seen, a proud heart is one that is so full of itself there is no room for God. The opposite then, is that God gives grace to the humble. A humble heart is one that becomes empty of self, leaving room for God. Climber 1, even though he was prodded at times when things weren’t working out for him, always reverted to drawing from within his own resources and relied on his own might. Anytime weakness crept in, he felt it was an assault on his character and defeated it quickly for survival was for the fittest.
Climber 2 had a pattern of this also, trying to survive in a world where weakness got in the way, but this time it was different. He felt he had bought into a lie and the only way out was the truth. At various times he knew he violated his conscience but justified it as a means to an end and the more he did it, it became easier as the conscience gradually seemed to diminish. But the shame and guilt had lingered on and followed him all his life and he was tired of it. He was finally truly assessing the futility of a life led apart from God. He now realized that the very thing that his life had stood for, his pursuits and achievements and all that went with it, was nothing more than an idol that had brought him to utter ruin. It was a true confession with genuine remorse of a wasted life and his sorrow was unbearable. As a child at that Easter service an imprint of God was etched in his heart, one that loved him so much He sent His son to be treated so cruelly, paying the penalty of all his sins so he could be made right with God and live with Him in heaven someday. He remembered being so amazed at God’s love for him at that time and now he was even more amazed that he had allowed himself to ignore that and had lived the rest of his life proving it. The deep pain and regret was so piercing, he came to the end of himself. He had always been in the habit of protecting himself from pain by suppressing it and turning inward at those times, but that cost him emotionally and spiritually. With the painful guilt of a superficial, shallow life, void of its intended purpose, he felt that he had no excuse to hide anymore. He felt so exposed, yet so alone and so lost, and surrendered himself to the verdict he deserved. He was now poor in spirit and in mourning over his ungodly life. The world looks at this as a defeated person, someone who has given in and given up, but the Bible shouts out the words of Jesus in Matthew 5: 3-4 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” It was at that moment when the hand of comfort reached out and took him to his kingdom of heaven. In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells a parable of a lost sheep. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
In Isaiah 53:6, it states “…we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” All of humanity is in a lost state to God, but only the ones who realize they’re lost, and in sorrow and repentance turn to God, will be found. Pride blinded the first climber to his lost state while humility opened the eyes of the second climber to it.
      This scenario was a fabricated illustration depicting, in essence, the two responses from which all humanity will choose; their choice will ultimately determine their corresponding eternal destinies. It may seem narrow but the reality is the way to life (salvation) is narrow and few will enter into it. Jesus states, in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to eternal life, and only a few find it.

As in this scenario with the mountain climbers, God opposed the proud and gave grace to the humble. The mocking thief was a victim of pride and victims always find excuses. Pride blinds us of our shortcomings and opens up our eyes to the faults of others. There’s always blame to be found, but not our own. Instead of taking ownership of our wrong decisions and choices, our life becomes a pattern of defending them, violating our conscience, our inherent sense of right and wrong. Our conscience is a God given gift (Romans 2:15) and is our built in moral warning system, and by ignoring and defending moral failure, our conscience becomes seared as with a hot iron (1Timothy 4:2) and each time we ignore these failures it becomes further desensitized to wrong choices. As we continually exchange the truth for a lie, we are given over to a depraved mind resulting in us becoming our own distorted moral authority. (Romans 1: 28 – 32) Even after considering this, the Bible also tells us in Romans 5:20, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.,”
Pride produces religion as it puts the focus on ourselves and relies on what we do for God, whereas humility puts the focus on God and relies on what He has done for us. Pride enslaves us within ourselves; humility gives us freedom and grace.
      There it is, salvation pure and simple, letting the light expose the darkness, agree with God of our guilt and our blame, and instead of getting what our deeds deserve, we seek His mercy and find that through His son, it has been provided. Nothing of ourselves can be added to this, and nothing by ourselves can take anything away from it. Ephesians 2: 8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
      How did the mountain climbers fare? We find the answer in the end results of their eternal destinies. The first mountain climber and the mocking thief shared in the same ending even though it was through a different way. All pride opposes God and manifests itself in many ways. Certainly the mountain climber wasn’t a criminal as he had led a lawful life in not ever being charged for any crimes or even any misdemeanors. He was admired by many for his tenacity and all his accomplishments but nothing mocks God more than the pride that takes all the credit for your life and shutting out God who is the giver of all things; “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17) The pride that masquerades in self reliance and self centeredness is self deluding and self destructing as it is a life independent of God. That defeats our whole purpose of life, for God made us for Himself to have a personal relationship with Him, and to give Him glory. He wants us to know of His loving character of compassion, tenderness, mercy and grace and displays those in and through our lives. Jeremiah 9: 23-24 states: This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight in these things”, declares the Lord. His greatest show of love leads us to Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. That’s why God hates pride for it prevents those from seeing the need for His mercy and grace displayed at the cross and in essence they are proclaiming “Christ died for nothing”. (Gal 2:21) Pride seeks any other way than the truth and the truth is only found in Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 4:16) Humility on the other side points and leads to the truth and Jesus tells us in John 8:32 “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.
Free from what you may ask? Two verses later Jesus answered in 8:34, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin”. “And the wages of sin is death (spiritual death), but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 6:23)
Ephesians 2: 4-6 says, “but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. John 6:40 states, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” These verses tell us we are spiritually dead to God because of our sins (leading to eternal death) but God being rich in mercy, because of His great love, made us alive in Christ and through believing in Him shall have eternal life. One verse summarizes this very well. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
      There has been no one like Jesus. He stands alone in so many ways. All time revolves around Him and is divided before His birth (B.C.) and after his death (A.D.). He was born of a virgin (Luke 1: 26-38), lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), performed countless miracles (John 10:38), His prophetic death on the cross was prophesied hundreds of years earlier (Isaiah 52: 13 – 53:12), and His resurrection as witnessed by many (1 Corinthians 15: 4-8). All these claims are unique to Jesus and in Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”
      As we conclude our study of eternity and eternal life, I hope some of the mystery has been cleared up. Eternal life is not a dilemma of some unknown philosophical quandary where there is a mystical perplexity and uncertainty where we can only distantly speculate any truth about it. Eternal life simply does exist and it hinges on, and is bound up in the eternal One Himself, Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:20 confirms: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life”.
      The Apostle Paul, who wrote about two thirds of the New Testament, testifies to this as stated in 1Timothy 1: 12-17, “I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of who I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.” We might not think of ourselves as the worst of sinners but the very grace and mercy that led the Apostle Paul to receiving eternal life by faith and belief in Jesus Christ is the same mercy and grace we all need as scripture tells us: “…There is no one righteous, not even one” and “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:10 and 3:23) As we have seen, it is our response to Him that will determine our eternal destination. Mountain Climber 2 received Him while Mountain Climber 1 rejected Him. You might say this is such a fine line with so much at stake; basically everything comes down to a decision, receive or reject. It is a fine line but nevertheless, it is a line that demands a decision and eternal life or eternal death lies in the balance. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” There is no neutral ground, indifference is against Him. We are either mocking Him in disbelief or trusting Him. Today we are bombarded with so many choices, more than ever before. We get used to the variety that choices offer and like to choose to suit our needs, but scripture tells us our deepest need is to have life now and everlasting with our creator and it comes down to one choice and one only. This may seem exclusive in a world that exalts choice, but again, Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through Him, and small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
      You will live forever in eternity but will not have forever to decide where that will be spent. Please consider the importance of eternity and your eternal destiny. It is where the vast majority of your life will be spent and no one will miss out on this. It is the most vital and important reality you will ever be faced with. We have no idea when our ledge of this life will crumble from beneath us and suddenly be thrust into eternity. Don’t be caught off guard. Reach out like Mountain Climber 2 and take His hand, for every day without Christ will be unfulfilling and unnecessarily uncertain, in forfeiting the assurance and peace of knowing Him and the security He provides us daily and ultimately forever.
      Are we not all, in some sense, mountain climbers and thieves? Each one of us is trying to scale this mountain called life, always edging along our way to find lasting significance and purpose and meaning in our lives. We reach plateaus and rest for a while but there always seems to be another climb ahead. When we rely only on ourselves and our pursuits, we rob God of the rightful place He has in our lives as Lord. Without saving faith in Jesus Christ, you will climb and climb, never finding and reaching the top, and will fall. If we live our lives only by our own reasoning, Proverbs 14:12 gives us a sober warning: “There’s a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”. As we have seen by the examples of the mountain climbers and the thieves, don’t let pride be your demise and fall into torment, but in all humility, with faith, put your trust in Jesus Christ, and when your ledge finally gives way, you will be standing in comfort on solid ground. As the old hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
The End
(Or maybe this is just the Beginning?)
     In our world today, we have been given so many amenities that seemingly should make our lives simpler and easier, but in actuality our lives are more complex and busier than ever. In this age of ‘busy’ness we are squeezing as much as we can out of this life and we’re driven to get the most out of it. It seems our worth is determined by how busy our lives are. It seems parental success today is evaluated by how many activities and programs the children are involved in and our jobs and careers are demanding more time and energy than ever before. Whatever free time we have is consumed by being entertained with ever increasing electronic gadgetry, or holidays and vacations with itineraries so full that there is little time for rest. We are so caught up in the here and now and seem to have little time or desire to think about or comprehend the deeper aspects of life, especially eternity. Maybe as you have read this article on exposing the reality of eternity and its utmost importance, you will give it some thought. Even though this may be unsettling to you, avoiding or denying this concept of eternity will not make it any less real or true, as we’ll all have to face the reality of eternity sooner or later. Maybe you have already felt a tug on your heart or a sense of a gripping in your soul. Has the fear of God crept in as you have seen He is in control of your eternal destiny? The fear of God and His judgment creates a healthy reverence for Him, but the fear of God goes deeper than that. It is a genuine Godly sorrow that you have sinned against Him, leading to a change of heart, desiring to turn from your sin and seek His mercy and grace and find that those have been provided through Jesus Christ. So you might be asking then, how can I respond to ensure my eternal destiny will be secure in the comfort of heaven where “…there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4) This sounds so inviting especially when we refer back to the stark contrast shown in Luke 16:24 where Jesus tells of the man who was in torment expressing he was in agony in this flame. It is as different as light is to dark, and it is forever. Mountain Climber 2 confessed a life lived apart from God with all the associated shame and guilt, and surrendered himself to the verdict he deserved. He recognized his lost state and longed to be found, and embraced the nail pierced hand. The repentant thief could only offer and bring one thing to Jesus, that being his sin and his need to be saved. He came just as he was. He didn’t bring any good works or any of his righteousness, he didn’t bring his denomination, church attendance or his knowledge of the scriptures, he didn’t bring baptism or any religious traditions or ceremonies, he only brought his sin and his desperate need for mercy. That is what we are to bring to Jesus, not excuses or anything which we take merit in ourselves, just come as you are, with all your sins, and exchange them at the cross for the righteous life of Jesus Christ. For “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor.5: 21) What a display of mercy and grace, our sins for His perfect life. God poured out the wrath you deserved on Jesus at the cross, treating Him like He committed every one of your sins, past, present and future, and treating you as if you have lived the perfect, sinless, righteous life of Christ. Then Jesus was raised on the third day, confirming God’s wrath was completely satisfied in Christ, offering us new life now and eternal life forever. This is the deal of a lifetime! If there is anything holding you back from taking it, ask yourself “what in this world could possibly be worth it?” As we read earlier, God looks at the heart and when you seek Him with all your heart you will find Him. (Jer. 29:13)                                      
There is no better time than to seek Him now. Pray and open up your heart to Him in repentance and put your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 
If you already are a believer, and you have found yourself being too focused on the temporal things of life, confess that to God and ask Him to re-prioritize your life in accordance to His eternal will and purposes.
In conclusion, I hope some light has been shed on the mystery of eternity for you, and it will become something not to dread but to be desired, and this will be the beginning of a new end.

this collection of thought was modified from its original publisher at

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