Hear again these words from our Second Reading, 1 Timothy 6: Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. … As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. Thus far our text.

This is our second in a short series of sermons in which we are giving consideration to the big life questions, such as: “Are we living the good life?” and “Is there more to life than this?” This is based on the content of a video that was part of the Alpha series that our Tuesday night Bible Study group did last spring with guys from Harvest Farm.
Let’s hear again three of the quotes shared last Sunday: First, from Bernard Levin, a British columnist from the last century: “Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it…it aches.” The second similar quote is from Russell Brand, a British comedian, actor, and author: “Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Reality is my problem; drugs and alcohol are my solution to fill up the hole that is inside me.” And finally, this quote from Thomas Merton, a Christian contemplative/Roman Catholic Trappist Monk: “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” 
So our starting premise is that there are a lot of people—including us at times-- who are asking the question: Is there more to life than this?, and who are experiencing a nagging realization that something’s missing. Let’s add two new quotes. First, from the actor Jim Carrey, who once said, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of… so that they would know that’s not the answer.” And from the late, Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the rock group “Queen”: “You can have everything in the world—and still be the loneliest man. And that’s the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolization and millions of dollars, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need: a loving, ongoing relationship.” 
Okay, enough of what people have said or are saying. What do we say? Where do we look for answers? What does it mean to live the good life? 
Our text from Paul’s letter to Timothy has a lot to say about this, doesn’t it? There is a lot more to life than pursuing riches. As a matter of fact, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And yet, as clear as this text is-- as clear as this message is throughout the Scriptures-- I wonder if we are really convinced. Even though we know that we’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse, it seems like we still spend a lot of time and energy accumulating stuff.
Last week we talked briefly about going back to the very beginning in order to try to understand what we were created to be. Hear these words from the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1: Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." 
First of all, what does it mean to say that God created humankind in His image? As you have heard before, I have been led to believe that it means—at least in part—that we were created to be outwardly focused. We see evidence for this in chapters 2 and 3. The second account of creation in chapter 2 ends with this verse: And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. But what is the first thing that happens after sin breaks into the created order, after the woman and the man eat the fruit of the forbidden tree? Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 
With the entrance of sin our focus shifted from being outward—focused on loving and serving God and others—to being inward, focused on serving ourselves. That’s what messed everything up. And that’s what still messes everything up. That’s what messes up people’s lives! That’s what messes up creation. That’s what is destroying the world! People live for themselves… and that is deadly. With sin comes death.
The truth of the Gospel, the truth that has the power to change everything and everyone, is that God determined right from the first entrance of sin into the world that He would send a “seed” from Adam and Eve who would crush evil, who would overcome sin, and who would destroy death. And that is exactly what Jesus did! Jesus brought the cure to the disease of sin: and that cure is what we call grace. Grace has the power to change everything. Does anyone remember the two outcomes of grace as a change agent? … The first outcome is that grace changes our status with God: we are changed from enemies of God into children of God.
But grace doesn’t stop there, does it? What does grace continue to do? Continues to change us. Paul goes so far as to say that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Grace has the power to transform us back into what we were created to be… outwardly focused. We are restored—albeit imperfectly—back into people who are increasingly focused on loving and serving God and others. 
This is what Paul describes in our text as taking hold of the life that really is life, of learning to not set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, of understanding that we are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. There is much more to life than what we experience when we buy into the deceiver’s lie that it’s all about me, about prosperity and power and popularity. Pursuing such things brings death, not life! 
Taking hold of the life that really is life is understanding that we are profoundly loved by our Creator Father, who in the grace that came—and comes—through Jesus, has restored us as His children, and stands ready to empower us through His Holy Spirit to live the truly good life, the life of loving service, lives that are blessed to be blessings to others, lives that change the world. 
Next week, in our final sermon in this series, we will ask this question: Why should we believe this? Why should we trust these answers to life’s big questions? That’s it for today. Amen.

   November 2018   
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