Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Vanity of Earthly Pleasures - Elder James Oliphant


"Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities. All is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1:2)


Solomon knew how deceptive all earthly pleasures are. Riches and all that wealth can buy. Its pleasures are transient and soon fade away. "Naked came out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither." (Job 1:21) This is just as true of the rich as of the poor. Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud riches will take to itself wings and fly. The beauty and strength of youth will soon pass away. The world heaps honors on a man today and tomorrow curses him. Now men go up with public favor and soon sink into infamy. The oldest men that ever lived have died and turned to dust. The patriarchs with all their wealth and greatness have long since turned to dust. Kingdoms have crumbled and kings have been carried to their tombs. They fought and struggled for power and place but all is vanity. In our own experiences we have been disappointed. We have seen our hopes turn to baubles. We remember the home of our father and mother. How sweet was that company. We remember mother's words, and tone, and smiles, and her tender love, and father too was dear and kind. But all that has gone away forever. Our parents one or both are gone. The home is in other hands. Another group now gathers around that hearth. The brothers and sisters are scattered. Some gone to distant states or maybe wretchedness. And all are hastening on to the great beyond. This comes to all the families in the world. We have no continuing city here. We may think ourselves secure that our nest is well built and well feathered, health and the bank account good, but how soon may all this be changed. Rich men have become beggars and tyrants have become slaves and servants to others. Set not your affections on things below.  The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches will at last be understood aright by us.

Churches disappoint us. We toil for their growth and see them prosper. Oh how many ways there are to bring them down. Death pursues every member and how often we take up our march to the grave in long processions. Time lays its hand heavily upon all. Strife and division blast our hopes and when we grow old we see our labors come to nothing and realize that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Oh how sad to see a church die and its light go out as a candle. But this too occurs. There is nothing in all the earth to lean on that is permanent. Let a man be favored with youth and health and wealth and great learning and all the honors earth can give and all these props will give way at last. "But blessed is the man whose hope the Lord is." (Jeremiah 17:7)

The words "all is vanity" does not include our Lord and Savior who said, "You believe in God believe also in me." (John 14:1) There is no disappointment here but all our hopes in him will prove to be as an anchor sure and steadfast. "I go to prepare a place for you... that where I am you may be also." (John 14:2-3) Happy is the man who names the Savior in the list of his needs. It seems too good to be true, he is ours, that heaven will at last be our home and that all tears shall be wiped away and there shall be no more death. Let us wear the world as a loose garment. We may soon be called upon to put it off at once. Our thought should be much of heaven and our eternal home. If we often think of death and of our Savior,  we will not be so much alarmed when the summons comes. Let us seek the Lord and His presence. If we keep His commandments. We shall abide in his love.

We should hasten to leave off strife. It serves no good purpose. It spoils all our joys. It all is vanity. How honorable it is and sensible to let your opponent have the last word and the severest and the strongest word. Whatever is done in the spirit of strife will do no good for anyone. It is said that Elder Respess would not talk back to those who assailed him. He let them have the last word and all the bitter words. Let us pray the Lord to enable us all to follow his example. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." (Proverbs 15:1) It is Christianity to do this. May the Lord bless all our elders in all this land with the same spirit. What a blessing it would be to our cause.

Special thanks to Elder David Montgomery for his labors in compiling the excellent two volume set of Oliphant's works. 

6 comments:

  1. What does it mean not to love anything more than God? I mean if I love bodybuilding, I would be thinking about. So if I think about it, does that mean it became an idol? What does it mean not to love the world and the things of the world? (1 John 2:15)

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  2. ANON: What does it mean not to love anything more than God?

    TETH: That statement seems pretty self explanatory. I think where we struggle is not so much with definition as with compliance. At least that's true for me.

    ANON: I mean if I love bodybuilding, I would be thinking about. So if I think about it, does that mean it became an idol?

    TETH: No.

    ANON: What does it mean not to love the world and the things of the world? (1 John 2:15)

    TETH: It means becoming enamored of the BLESSINGS in a way that causes one to lose sight of the BLESSOR. The good things of this world that we enjoy come from God (James 1:17) and like Israel of old we are prone to enjoying the Father's gifts in such a way that makes us lose sight of the greater blessing of having a good and loving Father.

    God bless,
    TETH

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  3. Can you explain to me also what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross amd follow Jesus? Many say deny youself means the end of self-will and to surrender yourself completely to God. What does submitting completely mean? Does that mean I can't choose when to eat or drink or exercise or listen to music?

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  4. ANON: Can you explain to me also what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus?

    TETH: It means to follow the Lord in obedient discipleship (John 14:15) and to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1b).

    ANON: Many say deny yourself means the end of self-will and to surrender yourself completely to God.

    TETH: None of us will ever reach the "end of self-will" during our natural lives. While someone may set that out as a goal to strive for with the objective of doing the best toward that lofty standard that one can, it is absolutely ridiculous and unscriptural to assert that any man will come to the "end of self-will" during his natural life. As for "surrender yourself completely to God" the biblical FACT of remaining sin (I John 1:8) is proof positive that no one ever achieves complete surrender to God, because every instance of sin is likewise proof of a lack of surrender to the precepts of God. So this too is an unachievable state, though it is a noble goal. We do well to recognize that distinction because if we don't we'll be end up pressing false doctrine upon others which will result in either delusional Pharisaism for those who falsely believe they have reached the end of self-will and a state of total surrender or depressing despair for those who have enough spiritual sensibility to know that they have not.

    ANON: What does submitting completely mean?

    TETH: Submitting "completely" would be sinless perfection. In contrast, STRIVING to submit completely means you're fighting the flesh and trying to follow the Lord as an obedient disciple (Romans 6:12-14).

    ANON: Does that mean I can't choose when to eat or drink or exercise or listen to music?

    TETH: No. It doesn't mean that.

    God bless,
    TETH

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  5. What about "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life will save it."? Is this referring to salvation? I don't think so, because I believe salvation cannot be lost. Is this saying surrendering oneself to God?

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  6. ANON: What about "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life will save it."?

    TETH: Let's look at that verse...

    "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour." (John 12:25-26)

    ANON: Is this referring to salvation?

    TETH: Well it certainly references life eternal. But I don't think this is establishing that one's works of self-denial are in the critical path to obtaining eternal salvation (as some would insist) because that would be works-based salvation. I believe this is describing how God's people can experience the blessings of the kingdom of God RIGHT NOW through self-denial and through selfless service to the Lord's kingdom. It's an exhortation to be like Daniel rather than like Lot.

    ANON: I don't think so, because I believe salvation cannot be lost.

    TETH: I agree.

    ANON: Is this saying surrendering oneself to God?

    TETH: I believe it is. It is an exhortation to serve God in this life rather than chasing after the vanities of this world. But it is important to recognize that there is a distinction between making a valid exhortation to good works and insisting that good works are a requirement for eternal salvation. The moment we conjoin those to concepts we are teaching a works-based system of salvation and undermining the matter of salvation by grace to the detriment of our understanding.

    God bless,
    TETH

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