Fall always reminds us of the cycle of time because of the vivid colors of the trees, especially here in North Carolina, where the beauty of the mountains in all their splendor declares the glory of God. The Creator God is truly a God of beauty. Once again, I am reminded of the words of the man of wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season…God has made everything beautiful in its season” (3:1, 11). Christ’s Church has its time and seasons. Soon believers around the world will be celebrating the miracle and mystery of the incarnation during the Advent season (the word means “coming”), a season of rejoicing over the coming of Christ into the world. That joyous season will be replaced by the more somber season of Lent, a time of penitence as the followers of Jesus remember the passion of Christ, taking their place beneath His cross. Lent is followed by Easter, another season of rejoicing over the victory of Jesus over death, and the assurance of a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ. Easter is followed fifty days later by the season of Pentecost (the word means “fifty”), when the worldwide Body of Christ remembers and celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, and ministry of the Spirit, as well as the “gifts of the Spirit” for the continued ministry of Christ in His Church, and in the world. The cycle is complete.
Furthermore, beyond the Church the individuals lives of all are influenced and affected by the cycle of time. days. weeks, months, years – even seconds, minutes, hours, day and night. I love the Book of Psalms, and I am remembering the words of the psalmist in Psalm 90, “Lord…teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom…Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days…and for as many years as we have” (vs. 12-140 and Psalm 5:3, “O Lord, in the morning I plead my case to you.” There is a short verse of poetry that reminds us of the importance of beginning the day right: “I think I know the secret, learned through many a troubled way, you must seek God in the morning if you want God through the day.” But beyond our days, day and night, there are months and years, and the psalmist speaks of the transience of our lives: “For all our days pass away…our years come to an end…The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong…even then they are soon gone and we fly away“ (vs. 9-100).
The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians admonishes believers in that church, “Be careful then how you live…making the most of the time“ (or as it is translated even more literally, “redeeming the time“). Paul is referring to the ordering of our lives, the management of our time, making the most of every moment. I am now living in the latter days of my life, and I do not want to be found guilty of wasting the time God gives me. This is always one of the dangers of growing old (i.e. growing too old), no longer being alert to the opportunities God gives us to continue being useful, just going through our days rather than growing through them, being “too old” to be passionate about making the most of the rest of our lives.
That is why Paul says, perhaps speaking especially to older believers in the Church, “Be careful then how you live…making the most of the time…do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is“ (vs. 15-17). It was the incarnation, the coming of Christ into the world (the “potentate of time” as we sing in one of the great hymns of the Church, “Crown Him With Many Crowns”) that divided time as we know it into B.C and A.D. Time is God’s gift to us (i.e. “tick-tock” time, calendar time, the “times and seasons”). As I have said in previous posts, God is not a creature of time. The psalmist says, He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). Eternal, with no beginning and no end – “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past” (vs. 4). It is no accident that Christ’s Church has marked the division of time upon earth in terms of the incarnation, which is the event that split history into two periods of time (i.e. the kind of time we can measure, the days we can “number”). The coming of Christ into the world was the most important event in human history. As Ralph Sockman, one of the great preacher’s of the twentieth century said: “The hinge of history was on the Bethlehem stable.” There were those unnumbered years known as the era before the incarnation (B.C. – “before Christ”, i.e.before His coming into the world, for He had no beginning; He is the “Alpha and the Omega,” Revelation 1:8). Now we are living in the days identified by the term “anno Domini”).
The gap between time and eternity was bridged when “The Word became flesh and lived among us…the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Him we see the movement from eternity into time. In Him we also see the movement from time into eternity.The risen Christ ascended into heaven and has gone before us to prepare a place for us in His eternal kingdom, and He will come again to receive us unto Himself (John 14). It was the Eternal Christ who invaded time, who visited this planet, where He was born, where He was “crucified, dead and buried” where “He arose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven” (the Apostles’ Creed). It is by grace, through faith, by union with Jesus Christ our Lord, that we become a part of this movement from time to eternity. Through our life together in the Body of Christ we share in His glory here-and-now, and nothing in life or in death will ever be able to separate us from Him. We have died with Him, and we will be raised with Him. We “have been crucified with Christ” (the old life, the sin life, was nailed to the cross with Christ), and the life we now live, we “live by faith in the Son of God, who “loved us, and gave Himself for us,” (Galatians 2:20). Now we are living for Jesus, day by day, moment by moment, and must be diligent about redeeming the time! Let us fill every day with a strong sense of our Lord’s abiding presence with us! Let us remember that all time is holy and belongs to God! Only one life, and it will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last!