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Jul 06, 2014

The Cosmic Plot Spoiler

The Cosmic Plot Spoiler

Passage: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: The Cosmic Plot Spoiler

Category: Old Testament, Faith, Christian Walk, Hope

Keywords: purpose, hope, faith, righteousness, solomon

Summary:

What is the purpose of life? How much responsibility do we have for making it happen?

Detail:

[Open with “what’s the purpose of life?” Video.]

That was a video that John and I put together a few years ago and we showed it at Interplayers. So after asking that question I could simply come out and say this,

Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 (NIV84)

13   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.

14   For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.

Or it’s New Testament equivalent:

Matthew 16:24–26 (NIV84)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

That could be the summary of the message today. I could throw up a pretty picture and then walk away and we could sing or go to the lake or whatever. I said last week we’d be giving the message out of the book of Ecclesiastes and that stuff is the plot spoiler. It’s the plot spoiler to the question of what is the purpose of life. To fear God and keep his commandments. There’s more to it than that though, isn’t there? We have something the author of Ecclesiastes didn’t have, and that is the revelation of Jesus Christ. I mean we kind of know as Christians that our doing that, our fearing God and keeping His commandments ultimately means denying ourselves and following Christ.

Really, I could walk away now. But I’m not. This idea of a plot spoiler has a few different meanings. One is someone else giving away the end of a story before you read the story. The other could be if you were writing a story and an editor comes in and tells you it’s no good. We can talk about that late. But normally when we’re reading a book we don’t want someone to tell us the end of the book if the story is really good. Or we don’t want them to tell us what the movie is about before we actually see it. We want to enjoy the story, we want to enjoy the movie.

Actually, there is a device of cinematic storytelling where the end is shown first. An example of this is the movie, The Next Three Days. The movie starts off with the main character breaking his wife out of prison and they are on the run from the authorities. The rest of the movie is about how they got to that point. And you find that in a lot of films in the last 10 to 15 years. You have a character who’s trying to figure out how they got to where they are. Or you’ll see it in superhero movies were they want to show you the origins like Batman Begins or the film Memento where they show you the final scene in the movie in reverse and they intersperse the storyline going backwards in black and white with scenes of the story going forward in color. It’s one of those movies you have to watch twice to really get it. There is a fascination with wanting to know why things are the way they are and rightly so. Even in Ecclesiastes he, the author, also known as the preacher, King Solomon, arguably the wisest human being in history, starts off with a plot spoiler.

Ecclesiastes 1:1–2 (NIV84)

Everything Is Meaningless

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

What did you have to say about the meaning of life King Solomon? Meaningless. King Solomon then spends the next 12 chapters telling you why life is meaningless and then comes to a better conclusion.

And don’t worry I’m not going to try to exposit the whole book of Ecclesiastes in the next 35 minutes. What I’m going to do is highlight a handful of truths and show you their New Testament parallels.

A lot of people view Ecclesiastes as depressing. I’ve found this book to actually be very liberating. I think when summertime comes it usually is characterized by a time of a little bit more of sleeping in, vacations, recreational activities, and maybe even the celebration of feats accomplished in the fiscal or school year. There is a sense of which summertime is a recharging time for the next adventure, workload, project, school year etc.

Now I’ve already told you the key verse of this book which is in the end and that is the chief end of man is to fear God and keep his commandments. Have you ever worn sunglasses? What’s the point? The point is that it dims the bright light so that you actually can see everything else. When you read this truth of ‘life is meaningless,’ it’s pretty intense and harsh, so intense it’s hard to really know what it means unless we have some ‘sunglasses’ to view it through. Those sunglasses, if you will, is the truth of fearing God and keeping His commandments or more accurately our life in Christ is the filter by which we need to look at the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Then we can see and agree that life is meaningless apart from God.

An example some little curly hair red headed girl may, “the sun will come out tomorrow!” in this really annoying strident voice. Why does it have to be annoying? Because the sun has been coming out tomorrow for eons already. So what? Maybe because you think something new is going to happen and in fact because of your limited scope of experience on earth, it just might. It’ll be new to you.

Ecclesiastes 1:5–11 (NASB95)

   5             Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;

And hastening to its place it rises there again.

   6             Blowing toward the south,

Then turning toward the north,

The wind continues swirling along;

And on its circular courses the wind returns.

   7             All the rivers flow into the sea,

Yet the sea is not full.

To the place where the rivers flow,

There they flow again.

   8             All things are wearisome;

Man is not able to tell it.

The eye is not satisfied with seeing,

Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

   9             That which has been is that which will be,

And that which has been done is that which will be done.

So there is nothing new under the sun.

10             Is there anything of which one might say,

“See this, it is new”?

Already it has existed for ages

Which were before us.

11             There is no remembrance of earlier things;

And also of the later things which will occur,

There will be for them no remembrance

Among those who will come later still.

 

Some might say, “oh Eric, you’re just being negative.” True, I’m trying to make a point though. Optimism for optimism’s sake, hope for hope’s sake is nonsense. It’s like jumping off a cliff and expecting or hoping that gravity won’t pull you down to your death. The hope or faith needs to be based on something you already know to be true—you have a parachute, there is in fact a cushion beneath you, etc.

The author is saying there is nothing new, stop searching for it. I’m reminded of two girls I overheard bickering over which of them came up with the phrase, “well, excuse moi.” Really? I remember hearing about ‘Earth Day’ for the first time when I was  21 thinking it just started that year. No, actually, it had started 21 years earlier.

To have hope or optimism there has to be something underpinning that, there has to be a reason whether seen or unseen, a reason has to be there. Even Little Orphan Annie is hoping in the written word that her parents are going to come back for her. In the story, her parents left a note saying they’d come and get her.  It’s not blind optimism. It is misplaced but anchored in something real, nonetheless. If the rising of the sun reminds of what your hope is grounded in, in the things that are secure in your life, then God bless you.

But if everything isn’t secure and there doesn’t appear to be anything to anchor optimism in, I want to stay in bed, or spend the day watching movies. This is what Solomon is referring to, he’s trying to drive you to the ultimate conclusion that apart from the source of real hope there is nothing really to hope for—eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die.

Who is he, Solomon, to say such a thing? He must not have known about pizza, snow skiing, or Downton Abbey. Solomon knew about much more interesting, fascinating earthly things than we, in this room have had access to.

King Solomon was the wisest and wealthiest man of his time, and arguably, in proportion, in history. God gave Him his wisdom because he asked for it.

1 Kings 3:9–13 (NASB95)

   9       “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

God’s Answer

10       It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.

11       God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice,

12       behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.

13       “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.

He also granted Solomon peace on all sides so Solomon had nothing better to do but to think deep thoughts and get wiser and wealthier.

1 Kings 4:31–34 (NASB95)

31       For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.

32       He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.

33       He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.

34       Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

How many of have even written a full poem let alone a song, let alone a thousand of them? Right. I wrote a few limericks that I’m not too proud of but to come up with an original proverb or three thousand is amazing.

That’s Old Testament. What would Paul in the New Testament speaking to Christians, have to say about Solomon’s grim view of creation and it’s futility:

Romans 8:18–25 (NASB95)

18       For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19       For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

20       For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

21       that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22       For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

I think Paul agrees with King Solomon and even puts the responsibility for it on God. But let us not take off our sunglasses and remember that both Solomon and Paul are pointing to a grim view of reality that is Christ-less. Paul goes on to say:

Romans 8:23–25 (NASB95)

23       And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

24       For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

25       But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Like Little Orphan Annie we wait eagerly for the Hope we cannot yet see, that is written about, that we heard about. The Son will come out tomorrow.

Back to Solomon

Ecclesiastes 1:13–18 (NASB95)

13       And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.

14       I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

15       What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16       I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.”

17       And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.

18       Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

Basically, he set out to find out all there is to know and he said, “my brain hurts.” There is so much of it all being the same and futile that it hurt. What does the Apostle Paul say?

1 Corinthians 3:19–20 (NASB95)

19       For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”;

20       and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”

1 Corinthians 1:19–22 (NASB95)

19       For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

20       Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

21       For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

22       For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;

Solomon seeks wisdom ‘til his head hurts.

So, what does someone do when they are pain, look for something that makes them not be in pain. But no amount of anesthesia is going to take away the knowledge and truth that you have acquired. The best you can do is numb it…

Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 (NASB95)

The Futility of Pleasure and Possessions

   1       I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility.

   2       I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”

   3       I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.

   4       I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself;

   5       I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees;

   6       I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees.

   7       I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.

   8       Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines.

   9       Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me.

10       All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.

11       Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

He could afford anything that he wanted as many times as he wanted it. We always think, “if I could just have such and such an experience or more of such and such a pleasure, life will be good.” But it never gets satisfied.

 After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.

Solomon found this out and Spock rephrased it thousands of years later, light years that is.

In the New Testament John writes:

1 John 2:15–17 (NASB95)

Do Not Love the World

15       Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16       For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

17       The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Solomon also speaks of all the great things he was able to accomplish in his life, the works he was able to achieve and the fruit of the work others were able to achieve and this is what he said about that.

Ecclesiastes 2:17–23 (NASB95)

17       So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.

The Futility of Labor

18       Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me.

19       And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.

20       Therefore I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun.

21       When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil.

22       For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?

23       Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.

Putting our sunglasses back on, we read James in the New Testament:

James 4:13–15 (NASB95)

13       Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”

14       Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15       Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

Earlier I said I found the book of Ecclesiastes liberating. You’re probably wondering why I said that. I’ll get to that.

I’m trying to paint a picture in layers. The first layer is the ‘well duh’ layer. The Bible teaches us that life apart from God is futile and seeking anything else but God like pleasure or even wisdom no matter how much of it you can get, it’s futile when compared to seeking God.

Solomon even goes so far as to say that pursuing righteousness to excess is futile.

Ecclesiastes 7:15–20 (NIV84)

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:

a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,

and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

16   Do not be overrighteous,

neither be overwise—

why destroy yourself?

17   Do not be overwicked,

and do not be a fool—

why die before your time?

18   It is good to grasp the one

and not let go of the other.

The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

19   Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful

than ten rulers in a city.

20   There is not a righteous man on earth

who does what is right and never sins.

These last verses are the key here. To wear yourself out to pursue the end of righteousness is futile because there are none who are righteous. And there is a clue in verse 18, the man who fears God avoids all extremes. Now as Christians we have the Revelation of Jesus Christ and we know that Christ has won righteousness for us and we also know he’s called us to live in the truth of that which is we don’t pursue wickedness, we do pursue righteousness but the wisdom that Solomon points out is that righteousness as an end is not what we’re seeking, good work as an end is not what we’re seeking, wisdom as an end is not what we are seeking, and obviously, pleasure or the pursuit of happiness, is not the end we should be seeking. We should be seeking God or as Jesus puts it,

Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

And all those things are the wisdom, the work, the righteousness, and even dare I say it, the pursuit of happiness. And again I want to emphasize that those things are not bad things to pursue that is, righteousness wisdom good work and happiness. But they are not the end in and of themselves. God needs to be the end that we pursue and specifically for us through Christ Jesus.

It’s with that context that the book of Ecclesiastes becomes a little more liberating and some of the wisdom becomes a little more accessible. Or I should say useful.

Solomon says that ultimately work for work sake is futile if you’re working for a result. Because you have no control over the result, only God does and is a gift when he gives it. The food that you eat, the days that you can enjoy, the woman whom you love, all those things are a gift from God and since they are a gift you enjoy them as such with gratitude and contentment. You don’t think of them is something you earned or deserved it, because then you’re just getting your due, it’s not special. Is it automatic that if you do the right thing, you get rewarded for it? Is it automatic that if you are faithful to your spouse that he or she will never leave you or die? These are general principles that we accept and yes they are true, but even that they play out normally is a gift from God, that he has set it up that diligence and faithfulness often bring a good return. It is a gift to God and the fruit of it is under his power.

And many of the blessings that we have our gifts for a season. Solomon writes that everything has its season.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–10 (NASB95)

A Time for Everything

   1       There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

   2             A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

   3             A time to kill and a time to heal;

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

   4             A time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

   5             A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.

   6             A time to search and a time to give up as lost;

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

   7             A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;

A time to be silent and a time to speak.

   8             A time to love and a time to hate;

A time for war and a time for peace.

   9       What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?

10       I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

It’s like the changing of the seasons God has given us various tasks for various seasons for his reasons. And some might be tempted to say if it’s all just temp work and not about the results that I can achieve than why put so much effort into it?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB95)

God Set Eternity in the Heart of Man

11       He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

God could tell us that such and such a season in our life is temporary, the beginning and the end of it. He could tell us when we are going to have cancer, he could tell us when we’re going to change jobs, he could tell us the day of our death. But he doesn’t. Why? Maybe we wouldn’t work at it with all our heart or learn to love as deeply if we knew we were going to lose that person anyway.

A friend of mine, Nina, she’s a round dance instructor. Kim and I took lessons from her this last year. She’s widowed and it’s been about a year and a half since Bill died. I asked her about that. She said that they were actually 22 years apart and when they had gotten married she’d been single for 20 years and he had been single for 12 years and many of her friends advised her against it that she was just going to be alone again. And their attitude was whether at six months or 60 years it would be worth it. And as a played out his health went downhill sooner than later and she says they had about 13 to 15 good years in the last 10 years of his life she was caring for him and he was mostly bedridden. He obviously couldn’t dance but she would still take him to the dances in the trailer and the people of the dancing community would visit. They lived through that season. And she says she wouldn’t change a thing if she had it to do it all over again. She lives a full life, she has a bad tendon in one of her legs and so as she’s teaching dance and dancing she does it with a brace on. The other week and she went to a dancing festival and she literally danced until she dropped. She danced until her leg wouldn’t take it anymore and she just fell over. But that didn’t stop her from dancing the other night. Solomon says:

Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NASB95)

Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do

10       Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

The apostle Paul echoes this in two parts:

Colossians 3:23 (NASB95)

23       Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

Ephesians 5:15–16 (NASB95)

15       Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,

16       making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

So what we do with all this? Well, this is the truth all summed up in two sentences.

Life without Christ is meaningless. I’ll say that again: Life without Christ is meaningless.

Life with Christ is meaningful. Life with Christ is meaningful.

That is there is a purpose to our life in Christ no matter what we are doing.

Romans 8:28 (NASB95)

28       And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Nothing is wasted, no season is waste. Sure we don’t always get the results were looking for but working for desired result is part of it. The result is from God, that we are working for it and making a difference is ultimately a very necessary illusion. God’s purpose in all of our tasks in all our seasons is not always what we think it is but there is a purpose for it. Nothing is wasted. Our life in Christ is meaningful.

This week I was listening to a sermon podcast, Mark Driscoll he introduced this idea of biography versus testimony. And I’ve kind of adapted it to be autobiography versus testimony. An autobiography is all about yourself, what you accomplish, your education, your resume, your marriages, your divorces, your kids, your ups and downs, etc. At the end you get to write a song called My Way. A testimony is your story about someone else. When you take the stand in court you are telling about your experience with someone else or what you saw, etc. In the Christian context a testimony is really about God through Christ what he’s done for you.

So this idea of not getting the results that you’re working for can be very depressing or very liberating depending on your point of view. It depends on whether your point of view is about having a good autobiography or having a good testimony.

Speaking of plot spoilers, I saw this movie recently called Edge Of Tomorrow, don’t worry I’m not going to spoil the plot for beyond which you would already find out in the trailer.

The premise of this film is the main character keeps living the same day over and over again. But he gets to keep on knowing about it in other words he’s conscious of repeating the day. He has control over his actions and how he affects people around him and he has full memories of his experience the day before. But nobody else in his reality does. He can only accomplish so much during the day. That’s  the day resets when he dies. So Tom Cruise’s character, Cage is his name, begins he’s a soldier who has no combat experience whose thrust in the combat and dies within five minutes of hitting the beach. But then he wakes up and he starts over again and he dies again and he wakes up again and he learns a little bit more each time. He is able to benefit each time until he dies again. His reality isn’t set on a 24 hour time limit its based on when he loses and dies. His mission is to find a way to defeat the aliens and stop this endless cycle. And he dies. Each time he gets a little bit farther and farther along the path and becomes more of the soldier he needs to be but in the process he always needs to be able to convince others to help them in a very short period of time because they don’t have the memory of an eternity of the same day like he does. There’s something really liberating about that idea. You know that as you set out on your day you’re going to fail but you are going to get the chance to succeed again and you can learn a little bit more each time. I think there’s something very liberating about that. Can you imagine a reality like that where you have an eternity to get it right? And although its appointed unto men once to die and then face the judgment, the premise of the movie is a fair analogy of our life in Christ. All the things that we strive for in in our life, all the endeavors, the pursuits of wisdom, the relationships, the sicknesses, etc. those things are tasks, seasons that God is given us to occupy under the sun, each activity under the sun is an opportunity to get it right. In  a sense there really is no pass or fail so much as it is an opportunity to become more like Christ. When we’re done, when we’ve gotten as far as HE intends us to go, He brings us home. And we know that God is writing a testimony of himself on our hearts. That testimony is of Jesus Christ his son. What a relief that is to know that God has my back and in the context of life I will never mess up so far as to lose His love or good, successful purpose for my life. I will defeat the enemy. How can I say all this? Am I really basing this on a movie?

Philippians 1:6 (NASB95)

   6       For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

That’s either true or it’s not true. No matter how YOU feel about your performance or others tell you about your performance, the Holy Spirit is perfecting you.

Philippians 2:12–13 (NASB95)

12       So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

13       for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

So for those of you who absolutely have to have a goal or result to work for like me, what we’re working out is our salvation and we’re yielding to God’s Holy Spirit so that we can build not a good autobiography but a good testimony, an effective testimony.

What does that mean practically? It means a life of yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit that lives within you in Christ. That is what is going to cause us to bear fruit, John talked about Divine Pomology. So we hear the Word of God say, “Go into all the world and make disciples of the nations.” What’s that, that’s work, that requires drive, not just sitting around.” Maybe. An actor friend of mine who lived in New York City was on a train and he was a new believer and saw a former co-worker on train and he felt a prompting to speak to this guy about Jesus. There was a language barrier though. Jimmy didn’t know the right words to say and Santiago, a cook from Central America probably wouldn’t have understood them anyway as his English was limited. Jimmy’s like, “What do I do?” He felt an impression from the Holy Spirit, just walk forward four steps and we’ll go from there. So Jimmy does. It turns out that this guy, Santiago was reading a Christian tract in Spanish. Jimmy’s act of yielding was simply greeting Santiago, asking him what he was reading and then responding, “I’m a Christian now [because he wasn’t before when he worked with Santiago] like what you’re reading there.” And then he got off the train. That was Jimmy’s testimony. Was that hard, scary?

Maybe your act of yielded-ness will be if someone tells you they need your donkey for the Lord and you give it to them. It could happen. Or maybe it is something more difficult like giving up a few weeks of your summer and coming to Japan with me, or China, or the far reaches of Second Avenue and serving a sandwich at Cup of Cool Water. My point is that it is not about driven-ness, it’s more about yielded-ness.

And this is what I mean by another layer of Plot Spoiler. Will you let God be your plot spoiler? That is will you let God throw away the manuscript you have for your life in exchange for the manuscript he has for your life? Will you let him be your Cosmic Plot Spoiler?

Matthew 16:24–26 (NIV84)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?


If that is something you’ve never done and if you think it’s time, you can do that today. You say to God, “I want you to be my plot spoiler. I give my life and all my plans for it over you.” You can turn from running things your way and except Christ as your Lord and Savior. This is the truth, that we have been sinners, going our own way. Even Solomon says there is not a righteous man on earth who never sins. We also know that Jesus, God come to earth, was righteous and He died for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that His death is enough to cover your sins. If you want that reality, his righteousness, his meaningful life, you can have that today. Today can be your independence today. Independence from what? From yourself, your sin, and all your futile plans. If you do want to make that decision today, talk to me or John, Chris or Jess during the next song today and we’ll pray with you.