Sunday, May 17, 2009

How to Enjoy Life: A Lesson on Ecclesiastes 12

Text: Ecclesiastes 12

Main Idea
: We are to use all that is within us to serve and worship God.

Outline of Ecclesiastes 12
1. Use Your Capacity to Enjoy by Worshiping God (Ecc. 12:1-8)
a. Worship the Creator Before Pleasure Fades (Ecc. 12:1)
b. Pleasure Fades In Old Age (Ecc. 12:2-5)
c. Pleasure Fades Completely at Death (Ecc. 12:6-8)
2. Use Your Capacity for Wisdom by Being Discerning (Ecc. 12:9-12)
3. Use All Your Capacities to Live a Self-Examined Life Before God (Ecc. 12:13-14)

As Christians we are often not that different from the world in understanding the meaning of life. The world sees the meaning of life is enjoying relationships, wealth or simply a good day on vacation Christians want to find meaning in life by enjoying Christian pleasure; Christian family life, Christian financial freedom, or an adventure on a missions trip. Sometimes these pleasures are more distinguished by demographic association rather than by something spiritually transcendent from God. Not always, but often we are just choosing a different set of earthly pleasures. Mention of God can be more a sign of proper connections than the fruit of being connected to the eternal God. Even so, this passage connects the worship of God to the fact that our capacities fade with years passing by. In essence, it is a variation in theme, though a significantly different one, on the concept, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” The distinction is that here it is “worship God in youth since you have the most capacity to do so”. In fact the chapter covers the idea that all our capacities; thought, enjoyment of pleasures, and all the rest should be lived in response to God. Worship and service to God is all we really have to do in life. Amazingly, this is not something we can do of our own strength.

Take Pleasure in the Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)
God did not make us to be merely minds. You and I are to use our capacity to enjoy by worshiping God. In worshiping God we can not only study his Word, but we have to sense the wonder of who he is. Like coffee or olives, it is an acquired taste. To worship God with all our heart, soul, and might requires one to feed at his table for a while. That is how we acquire the taste. Coffee and many other adult flavors are not wasted on children. The temptation for youth is to think that the acquired taste for the Lord is something for later in life. But like the appreciation for many earthly things, appreciation for the Lord himself if not acquired early in life may never get acquired. If one has spent a lifetime re-enforcing a taste for the worldly, old age will not bring a new appetite for the Lord except the Lord transform the individual.

Is youth really wasted on the wrong people?

As a broad generalization, pain increases as we progress in years. What makes one a bitter old man or a gentle and kind old man?

Be Discerning (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12)
You and I are to use our capacity for wisdom by being discerning. An open mind is like an open window. One needs to keep a screen up to keep the bugs out. If we just shut the window, our mind becomes stuffy and unable to function. If proverbially we open the window of our mind without being discerning, we ending up being led astray by every wind of doctrine. Doctrine simply means teaching. Even people who say we should not be overly concerned about doctrine are actually teaching a doctrine. Being discerning is an important part of our spiritual walk. To know Christ is to know his teachings. That can get off course into cold Pharisaic attitudes, but avoiding doctrine does not prevent one from going astray. Rather, a thoughtful and prayerful examination of teachings is what is required to be a discerning Christian.

What doctrinal concerns are actually in discussions at the popular level?

What doctrinal issues are you learning right now?

What are the keys to good doctrine?

Live a Life of Self-examination Before the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

You and I are to use all our capacities to live a self-examined life before God. Most people attempt to define the fear of the Lord by what it is not. While that can be important, we must see that living in the fear of the Lord is making decisions and taking up habits that are in line with what God has commanded us. Soldiers prepare for battle out of anticipation of what is ahead. Architects design buildings to withstand the anticipated threats of the environment. Students prepare for tests. Most farmers are preparing for future needs for food. In all these situations, the person is preparing for the future; they fear not being prepared. A wise person is one who understands that every word and deed shall be judged by God. You and I shall be examined thoroughly. Of course this sort of true self-examination will lead us to understand that you and I are in need of God's grace. True self-examination will lead us to see ourselves for who we are, dependent creatures who need God's mercy and grace.

Why is it that people see faults in us that we can not see ourselves?

Why is it that people see simple solutions to our faults?

If a young Christians asked you to help them go down the road of self-examination in order to see a more Christ-like spiritual formation in them, what would you do?

Note: Please let me know if you use this lesson in a small group or Sunday school class. Also please give credit.
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