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THE OUTER LIMITS: ECCLESIASTES-Book Introduction

Pastor John Weathersby  •  Transcend Church HBG Podcast
Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  51:19
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Ecclesiastes 1:1-2: The Lines of Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes 12:8 Ecclesiastes 12:13 Proverbs 1:7 Ecclesiastes 12:14 Luke 11:27-28 Matthew 28:19 The Outer Limits

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Ecclesiastes: Book Introduction The Lines of Ecclesiastes What do you believe and to what do you hang? Are you a Christian? Have you ever heard the term “Cultural Christian”? It’s someone who is a Christian because you’re supposed to be - you can say things around a cultural Christian that Christians say - the truth of the character of God is no matter because there is no worship of God there - simply a seeking of what makes me happy - I do good works, I give to the poor but it’s all a celebration of me. Are you not a Christian? Are you what the church would call secular? There is no need for God, only a seeking of pleasure and joy in this life - it’s all a celebration of me. You see both are bookends of life both are about you, the only thing you fear is displeasure and the great irony is that all this life can deliver in pursuit of joy, IS displeasure. This is why the tone of Ecclesiastes is so regarded as a negative book. But it’s reality - look at the world around you, we hate each other, while we smile at each other. We live together, but we’re not together - we’re in competition for our own joy and the only thing we fear is displeasure. We live in a world where the people we most treasure and love, die and we too will experience the same. So how are we to find joy? I told someone recently that asked what we’d start studying next - I told him Ecclesiastes and he looked at me surprised and said but that’s for mature believers and he got in his car, turned on K-Love and drove off - Church, how are we to study a book that seems to be so dark and bleak, and still be able to stand up right - that is the secret of the many strands and lines of Ecclesiastes - it’s the outer limits. I believe that the writer of Ecclesiastes’ author desires to comfort us by pitting two traps against each other secularism and Cultural Christianity and in the end he gives us the keys to pleasure in this life - when the picture he draws is stacked up together with all the lines of thought in a row we get a glimpse of pleasure in the midst of a life of chaos. Letter from a dying man - in the end what will we reflect on? What will make this life joyous, work? Leland Ryken from 10th Presbyterian says that Ecclesiastes is the most contemporary book in the Bible. It comes to us in our day as we grip and grope for equality, race relations, and work to become richer and richer in our comfort and technological age, how can this book know our complexity? As we look to understand our world, why do we live in a life split by racism and racial tension? Ecclesiastes shows us the terrible reality of life without God. How can we endure the injustice of life, the awful tension and the pitting of people against people and hatred - but more than that, life will NEVER be enough - and that’s angering, we’re always seeking for the next step of good enough, of better, but you see sports players, not with a nice car, rather looking for more - this book Ecclesiastes is written by Solomon. Ecclesiastes 1:1 1 The words of the Preacher, or the teacher - the Ecclesia the gathering, the teacher talks to those who are gathered. Maybe you’ve noticed public speakers before beginning with what they’ll tell you and ending with what they’ve told you - and explaining it all in between… Solomon was the same, he opens in: Ecclesiastes 1:1–2 (ESV) All Is Vanity 1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. Then he closes off: Ecclesiastes 12:8 (ESV) 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. He’s a poet- in trying to describe his poetry Under The Sun 29 times, life without God across the book’s 12 chapters. When you realize God is here “above the sun,” earth and life on earth is under the sun - this is the contrast of the book. The sermon could as well say, meaningless where it says Vanity. This was Solomon conclusion of a life lived without God for pleasure. Or a life lived claiming God, but ultimately still lived for personal pleasure - either way, without God it’s all vanity. Solomon lived wildly. Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Wisdom literature like Proverbs always says “fear God”. Consider this if the bookends are vanity/meaningless in 12:8 - fear God in 12:13 is the final point. Proverbs 1:7 Solomon’s wisdom says: Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) 7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. And then: Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. What if we did fear God? How would things in the world and things in our lives look different? Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV) 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. The book opens and closes declaring everything is meaningless from Ecclesiastes 1:2 - 12:8 but… when there is a God, all things, even hidden things good and bad and so, fear of God is the context of our lives having real meaning. Because we fear God and enjoy the good things from God in this fallen world. Love you family - enjoy them. Love your wife, enjoy her. Love your husband enjoy him. Love your friends enjoy them. Jesus is the wisdom of God - living out God’s own wisdom in this world, enjoying God even in the midst of circumstances that were crazy. Jesus’ life was no picture from a greeting card - it wasn’t spent in bookstores that painted the world as easy, his life didn’t give much reason for joy; seeming abandonment of God in the face of your sin, living as one his people desired to kill, living in a home where the whispers about his mother must have abound - but God, is so good wisdom is overjoyed with His father. Jesus walked into the face of cultural Christianity and in wisdom blew it up! Luke 11:27 (ESV) True Blessedness 27  As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” What did Jesus say? Amen? Did he let a cultural loose view of God go? No, rather wisdom lived in this life leaving a mark of joy in God Luke 11:28 (ESV) 28  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Wisdom said hear the word of God and keep it. Jesus feared God perfectly and as such, he lived life full of meaning. Not only did he press against cultural religion, he pressed against finding meaning in secular life, everything he did pointed to God and to meaning. Jesus was eating and drinking constantly - but not to find meaning, rather to live as one with deep enjoyment of the blessings of God IN this life, with eyes on the next - prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament talked of the mountains dripping with wine and Jesus comes in His first miracle and makes wine in the jugs which were used to ritually clean hands before worship Jesus destroys cultural religion and crashes through life apart with God - and Solomon prepares the way for us to see His truth in Ecclesiastes - the end of wisdom fearing God. When we truly fear him - like Christ we can fully enjoy Him. The book of Ecclesiastes is explained through painful study of Hebrew poetry through parallelism inclusion, chiastic structures, assonance rhythm and rhyme, all to give the contrasts like the horizontal and vertical lines from a 1960s television show. When you give control over to the contrasting lines of thought in Ecclesiastes you see a picture an ever sharpening picture of fear of God, and a sharper vision of Jesus and his obedience - then you’re ready to be the disciple you’re called to. You’re called to learn to joy in life, in the fear of God. You then have a knowledge that can withstand the pressures of this life. When we understand the driving truth of Ecclesiastes is the driving force behind Christ then and only then are we able to Go as we’re called to be disciples: Matthew 28:19 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, In this series we’ll look to all the threads of Solomon's wisdom, to find the outer limits of following after God, to see possibly more deeply than ever before - we’ll be challenged as people have said in the past of this book that it shouldn’t even be in the Bible. One said of Ecclesiastes that it’s the “low watermark of God fearing Jews in Pre-Christian times” but here in these ouster limits we’ll find real joy, not a plastic Cultural Christian world, or a Godless quest for joy - we’ll find the lasting satisfaction of Christ’s gaze, God and His glory - and then we can find joy in chaos. The Outer Limits Ecclesiastes: Book Introduction Pastor John Weathersby Transcend Church Sunday 9/25/2016
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