How did Paul put it? “The world as we know it is passing away” [1 Cor7:31].
Kind of a scary thought, isn’t it? Well…not really, since it’s one of those statements that’s always going to be true, for the world and those who live in it are always undergoing change, always, in a sense, passing away. So it’s really not that radical a thought…at least not to our way of thinking today.
But for the ancients, who lived when Paul wrote these words –the Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Romans – these words were radical indeed. About the only people of that time who would have accepted this idea were Jews and Christians. You see, the Greeks and virtually all other pagan societies saw the world in cyclical terms. To their way of thinking, all of life, all of history, imitated the seasons, the movements of the heavenly bodies, always returning, constantly repeating, never moving toward any defined end.
If you think about it, this way of thinking was utterly depressing, and led to nothing but despair. It saw humanity as spending eternity on the global equivalent of a gerbil wheel, expending lots of energy but never really getting anywhere. And their pagan religions mirrored this thinking. The pagan concept of the divine came from within man and depicted the gods as man envisioned them.
But Judaism and Christianity were different…very different. You see, their concept of God -- our concept of God – comes from God Himself. It’s not so much a religion as a revelation. The pagans described their gods as they saw them, created in their image. The Jews and later the Christians received God’s revelation of Himself. They described God as He revealed Himself and His relationship with humanity. God creates us in His image.
God reveals Himself to Moses with the words, “I am who am” [Ex 3:14-15] – in other words, I am existence itself -- words no pagan, with the possible exception of Aristotle and perhaps a few other Greek philosophers, would likely have used to describe a divinity.
|"I am who I am." ...This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.|
At the center of this revelation – this self-disclosure by God – is His plan for the future of humanity. And it has an end – eternal life and the consummation of the world – an end revealed in those closing words of the book of Revelation, “Come, Lord Jesus” [Rev 22:20]. Yes, the world will be consumed, and so as Christians we must avoid getting caught up in the things of this world…always considering ourselves as poor in spirit.
For the Kingdom of God belongs only to those who experience this stark poverty. Brothers and sisters, never deny that reality. Never fail to acknowledge the hunger of your heart for God's food. If we don’t experience poverty in its realistic starkness, let us be poor in spirit and accept our own inner poverty. And let us always be oriented practically to the needs of the poor, Gods blessed ones.
And so let us pray today that we may not be conformed to the world but transformed by the Holy Spirit with the spirit of poverty.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”