Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Eternal Kingdom

As some of you may know, this past year I went on a trip to Europe with my Comparative Civilizations class.  Through the trip and the lectures, I was able to see history in more than a surface context, as a manifestation of the human heart, over-arched by God's powerful sub-story. 
I was able to gaze upon the ruins, artifacts and masterpieces that each empire had left behind.  Reviewing the rise and fall of each empire, I was impressed with a sense of futility and fatality.  Most of the world looks at kingdoms such as the Roman Empire and are lost in awe.  I myself have the same feeling when I see the beautiful things people have created by their hands.  We can so easily latch onto this feeling of awe, allowing it to be our sole pusuit.  We long to worship something larger than ourselves, but only when it feeds into the sense that we can somehow attain to the level of what we worship.  No matter how great the object we behold is, we manage to bring ourselves to the center of gratification once again.  We are our own black hole, grasping to other things to feed us and fill us, but in the end, we are still empty.  We feed off the mighty empires of the world, gaining security while acting for our own interests.  Man has accomplished great things on this earth, but at some point we must realize the worthlessness of these accomplishments.

Even the most selfish person realizes that there must be some greater cause, some "greater good" that supersedes themselves.  Nonetheless, people set up elaborate stories for themselves to explain their existence. Darwinian evolution is one of the most powerful stories that has been set up in the past century to explain human life.  I had to laugh when I heard atheistic evolutionists describing the amazing structures and functions of a giraffe, and accidentally saying it has been "amazingly designed"! "Designed"?  The evolutionists laughed at the comment, but clearly, we are endowed with a conscience that we have made every attempt to sear.  We know something that we won't let ourselves believe.  We have a Creator, but if we were to acknowledge Him, we believe we would somehow become less.  Less in our own eyes, yes, but in reality, humility is of great worth in the eyes of the Lord.  Our greatest fear is to have our self-built kingdom torn down around us, because this is where we have invested our thoughts, time, money, and energy.  Yet, the thing we need most of all is to be stripped of our corrupt palace and have our eyes opened to the Eternal Kingdom.
There are few great kingdom on earth that have given glory to God.  Even those who honoured Him in name displayed their true object of worship by their actions.  Always, it comes down to self.  People invest into a society or an ideal because they believe it will fill them.  They believe that it will help them ascend to a new level of excellence, comfort, or whatever it is that they are seeking.  Solomon, the wisest and richest man in history, poignantly exposed the lie that meaning can be found in any human pursuit.  The book of Ecclesiastes begins with the assertion that toil produces nothing of meaning.  In verse 14 or the first chapter he declares that everything done under the sun is "meaningless, a chasing after the wind".  As the intellectuals of Greece, Solomon chased after knowledge and wisdom.  He saw that it gained him nothing, so he turned to wine, pleasure, and folly, in an attempt to drown the meaninglessness of life.  Reflecting on his failure to fill his emptiness, Solomon observed that no matter what one did in life, all experience the same fate- all would die.  Mortality is a key theme in Solomon's treatise.  We cannot bring earthly treasures with us after death.  Throughout Solomon's philosophical discourse, he comes back again and again to the authority and power of God.  Apart from this sovereign Creator, how could the works of any man account to anything?  Truly, they cannot.  The poverty of a man who is reverent before God is more valuable than the riches of a man who oppresses his neighbor and mocks the Lord.

This is the story that I saw woven throughout my study of civilizations and peoples throughout history.  We can so often look with blind admiration on human accomplishments, but they have all failed.  The promise is empty.  The bread of Egypt and Rome has turned to dust.  The great towers have crumbled, and what remains serves to memorialize failure.  The Parthenon and the Coliseum are great boasts, but the empires that were founded upon them have been washed away.  Kingdoms rise and fall.  All of them will fall.  What then can stand, and upon what can we place our hope?  Hope is found in humility. True hope is founded upon the destruction of false hope.  We must abandon our trust in ourselves and in human institutions.  False idoles must be torn down, and with humble hearts we can then turn to a Saviour who will deliver us from ourselves.  He will lift us up on wings like eagles to walk and not faint.  He will establish the work of our hands when it is done in the strenght of the Lord and for His glory.  This is catacomb Christianity - a perfect trust that puts everything in the arms of the good Shepherd.  Hope is not in what is seen, but what is unseen.  It is not nullified by death, but fulfilled!
I pray that through looking at the failed glory stories of countless kingdoms of the world, we would be able to see them pale in comparison with the glory that will never fade.  I pray that we would relinquish the throne of death and be drawn to the true King.  My hope is that while we can enjoy the beauty of man-made things as a reflection of the insurmountable beauty of God, we will be able to look beyond history to the heart of humankind.  The truth is that all hearts are dead and rotting without the resurrection of Christ.  For those who will look to the Author of history, there is new life.  A life rooted in the true vine will be a life free of striving and servitude to self.  As a child of the true King of Creation there is freedom and peace and lasting joy.  May this marvelous King come to dethrone and free the hearts of all who live in bondage to self.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13-14

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