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ON RESOLVING A MEANINGLESS EXISTENCE UNDER THE SUN By Bradley A Berkemeier [1/5/2014] Christ alone is solid rock; everything else

is sinking sand. Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. As we begin a new calendar year, it is customary for us to make “resolutions.” Have you made any? Never mind that, let me ask you this: do you know—I mean, really know—what they are…or at least what they’re supposed to be? I want to get this out of the way first, because you are NOT going to sit there and listen to me talk for 20 minutes about “New Year’s Resolutions”. You know the type I’m talking about, don’t you? -Lose a few pounds. -Exercise more. -Make more money…save more…spend less. -Spend more time doing this, or less time doing that. Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. To resolve, after all, is “to come to a definite or earnest decision about; to determine; to make up one’s mind.” As a noun, resolve is “firmness of purpose or intent.” (!) Or, here’s a favorite of mine, and I’ll bet my musician friends will like it, too. In music, to resolve is “to progress from a dissonance to a consonance” (a bad sound to a good sound). You see, it is not dif ficult to resolve to do something, and it is not impossible to have resolve about something, but neither of those is terribly important, either. I’m sure that Tanya (Vanosdol) or MaryLou (Veatch) could very easily sit down at the piano here and strike some keys that sound awfully dissonant together, and then strike some keys that sound beautifully consonant together, but outside of a musical composition of some sort —like a song—the two events alone would have very little meaning, if any. You see, what is vitally more important about resolve and resolutions are their context. Upon what is your resolve based? What is the basis of your resolution? Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. No, instead of subjecting you to another message about making “New Year’s Resolutions,” I want to invite you on a journey through the Book of Ecclesiastes, and I want you to know —for what it’s worth—that I am taking this journey with you. I am not simply delivering a message to you; I am experiencing it with you. Though I am far from an expert, I have spent time over the past few months reading Ecclesiastes, studying it, and meditating on it. I have learned many valuable lessons, and I still have many more to learn from it. I hope you will come with me for the next few minutes! I resolve to make it worth your while! If you have read the Book of Ecclesiastes—once or a hundred times—I would not be surprised if you doubted its potential as “an inspiring Book to kick off the New Year”! Let’s read the opening:

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ Says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and … sets … . The wind blows round and round … . …To the place the str eams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” “‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly set me on fire! There’s a lot more awfully bad dissonance here than beautifully good consonance. Do you want the bad news or the good news? Well, the bad news with Ecclesiastes is, there is plenty more where that came from! And we do have to spend some time unpacking the “bad”, but the good news is that we will experience a resolve in the end…so stick with me, okay? Solomon’s words sound awfully dooming through most of Ecclesiastes—without the right perspective. What led him to conclude that everything is meaningless? After all, Solomon was the wisest earthly king ever; if anyone would know, it would be him, right? Let’s read on: “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. …I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Solomon was no slouch! We’re not talking about some 1960’s era bandanna -wearin’ free-loving “peace, love, dope” hippie who’s trapped inside his own drug-induced coma, saying “It’s all pointless, man! Life has no meaning!” From what I have heard, there was a lot of “experimenting” that occurred in the 1960’s (If you have stories, you may keep them to yourself, for they are meaningless within this message!) You may call what Solomon details in Ecclesiastes “experimenting,” but you cannot writ e it off as the misdirected ramblings or unguided pursuits of a lost soul. Look at verse 13 again: “he devoted himself… to explore all that is done under heaven.” Verse 17 says “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly.” Read on into the Book, and you’ll discover that Solomon spares no expense “applying” himself. He tries worldly pleasures of all shapes and sizes—not unlike what folks still try today: -In chapter 2, there is alcohol and partying, buying and improving real estate and tending land, having people who work for you, owning livestock, amassing financial fortunes, and enjoying various forms of “entertainment,” like music and sex. And then there is learning things, and thinking about things. -In chapter 4, Solomon considers social justice—those who are oppressed and those who do the oppressing—and whether or not there is anything he can or should do about it the “fairness” of life. And he considers that maybe friends and family give life its meaning. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a good job and career achievements—climbing the ladder of success! -Here and there throughout the Book, Solomon measures the importance of leaving a legacy. Perhaps life is about working while you’re here to leave something meaningful behind.

Solomon deeply considers and/or immerses himself in all these, and he is not fully satisfied with any of them. Chapter 6 verse 12: “For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?” Chapter 9 verse 2: “All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad.” And, finally, the last two verses of the Book: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Yep, you heard right. Solomon concludes that life is ultimately about fear and judgment. But—at best—that’s only half the story! Because, you see, as wise as Solomon was, he was wise “under the sun.” (Twenty-nine times that phrase appears in Ecclesiastes, in case you want to keep a tally.) Though he does finally resolve from talking about life under the sun (absent God) to life that is given to us (by our Creator God), he is still without the eternal knowledge and hopeful promise of Christ. This is where the bad news ends, and the good news begins! Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. Before I cross that bridge, though, let me make sure we understand this about the “sinking sand.” The pursuits made by Solomon in his quest for life’s meaning—money, possessions, friends and family, education, social justice, career and work, leaving a legacy—they are NOT bad pursuits. They’re just bad foundations for life. Do you see the difference? Solomon does! Ecclesiastes 2:24-25: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This, too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Chapter 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. …*God+ has made everything beautiful in its time. …I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil —this is the gift of God.” You needn’t feel guilty about having worldly things, but neither God—nor Solomon—encourages you to be prideful about them either. Also, do not think that Solomon is encouraging a life “under the sun” of apathetic mediocrity. Look at Chapter 11: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. …Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. …You cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. [Still] Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed.” If you’ll pan well enough, amidst the talk of life’s meaninglessness in Ecclesiastes, you will find some gold nuggets. Search those out in your own study of God’s Word; you’ll be glad you did! For now, let’s cross that bridge to experience that eternal “good news” perspective I hinted at earlier.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians builds the bridge very well. Solomon’s conclusion of the meaning of life— fear and judgment—was centered on God’s “Old Testament”, or Mosaic, Law. Solomon is without the eternal knowledge and hopeful promise of Christ. Throughout Ecclesiastes, you will hear him talk of what man can and cannot know, and what man should and should not do; you will NOT read anything about faith. And that is the good news that is missing from Solomon’s perspective! Galatians 3:21-24: “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” It isn’t that the Law is no longer important, it’s just that it’s no longer the solid rock; Christ is! Having faith in Christ means that God no longer calls us to uphold the law or face judgment. He calls us to believe that His Son Jesus Christ is who The Bible says he is, and he invites us to claim the promise of eternal life with Him through His Son. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus Christ says, “Do not worry about your life, …but seek first his *God’s+ kingdom and his righteousness, and *life’s+ things will be given to you as well.” In John’s gospel Jesus Christ declares “I am the bread of life. He who com es to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty, …*and+ he who believes has everlasting life.” You see, without Christ as the solid rock, the firm foundation for your life, you will never be able to experience anything but dissonance, try as you may. Without Christ, you may try to resolve your life — or pieces of your life maybe—from bad to good, but you will end up with nothing but meaningless sinking sand. Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. If you will first determine—make up your mind—to make Christ the firm foundation for your life, you will experience resolve, like you cannot imagine: from utterly meaningless under the sun dissonance to fully purpose-filled heavenly consonance. Think “Christ Arose!” Can you hear it? First, those soft, hauntingly empty sounding verses? Lo, in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior…Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord. Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior…Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord. Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior…He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord. But then can you hear that full, hearty, triumphant chorus that follows? Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes, He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever , with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

That, my friends, is resolve! Jesus Christ came from heaven to live here on earth “under the sun”. And under the sun, he suffered and died a terrible death on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Under the sun, he was sealed in a tomb and left for dead, while a lost world celebrated his defeat. And under the sun, death prematurely claimed a stinging victory that was not hers. But not all is as it appears to us here, under the sun. Because with heavenly resolve, Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth knowing full well what His job was. Jesus Christ knew that He came to experience “under the sun” suffering, but he also knew—with a knowledge that looks not at the outside but the inside—the greater purpose of that suffering: to show a world that was lost “under the sun” the Way to heaven, the Truth about God, and the Life they were meant to live. That, my friends, is resolve: - From meaninglessness to purpose -From here-and-there wandering to a focused walk -From blurred vision to tunnel vision -From dissonance to consonance…ugliness to beauty -From death to LIFE! The invitation for you is clear. Choose now to make fearing God and keeping His commandments a resolution. But also decide that “In Christ Jesus, …the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” *Galatians 5:6+. Christ alone is solid rock; everything else is sinking sand. For you that may mean deciding to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, make the Great Confession, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins…to experience that glorious transformation from “under the sun” death away from God into the promise of an et ernal heavenly life with Him. Or for you it may mean resolving to repent and re-commit your life to following Jesus Christ…to spending more time learning from His Word, or praying to Him from your knees, or sharing His saving message with a dying world. Perhaps you need a church to call home. You are welcome to make any of these decisions privately now, but if you need to make a decision publicly, I invite you to do it now, as we stand, with eternal purpose, and sing our song of decision #526 “The Solid Rock”. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand… All other ground is sinking sand… All other ground is sinking sand.