Just last Saturday I had breakfast with a member of our church, Joseph Ribero. As we ate our food and fellowshipped, loads of wisdom was poured out on me. The central theme of our conversation seemed to be defining what is temporary and what is eternal. As we talked I realized just how much of our lives are temporary, even some of the religious things like ministry! As I shoved down my food to focus all my attention on the conversation he said, “Jacob, the things that are eternal transform us, and when we walk in that by dying to ourselves, God begins to use us in transforming others. Its called walking in the spirit.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us how seasons come and go. Things pass-away and things come to life. This passage of scripture reveals to us that things, whether material or spiritual, are temporary. Here are 3 reasons that we as Kingdom citizens must separate the temporary from the eternal.
The Temporary shifts our focus away from the Eternal
When Joseph told me that somethings like ministry are temporal my mind was blown. I said to myself and to Joseph, “Why?” Why is something that is so beneficial to the kingdom and those involved a temporary thing? Our answer is in 1 Corinthians 13.
“As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
The Bible is clear. Ministry, prophecy, knowledge, it will all pass-away when “the perfect comes.” If we focus on the temporary things of Christ then our eyes are shifted away from the eternal things of Christ. I find this true in my own life. I am a young youth pastor and a tad bit new to ministry. I love ministry, but sometimes the problem is just that. Sometimes I love ministry more than I love Jesus. We trap ourselves in God’s work instead of in God himself and when we are deep in it, it becomes deadly. We begin to become heartless machines instead of compassionate believers. Focusing on the temporal things in life, even things of God, can and will lead our attention away from God. Away from eternity.
Temporary emphasizes man, Eternal emphasizes God
Since the breakfast I have pondered a lot on what is eternal. When I boil it all down I know three things that are eternal without a doubt. God (as in the trinity), The Word of God, and Salvation. Notice anything about these three things? They are all works of God, and/or God himself.
Joseph told my while we were eating, “You are as ‘spiritual’ as you’ll ever be. The spirit that is in you now is the same one that will be in you 40 years from now. It wont be in any better condition and it wont be any worse. You are as spiritual as you’ll ever be.” That hit me. We focus on the temporal when we try to make ourselves more “spiritual”. What I mean by spiritual is spiritual maturity. When we focus on making ourselves more spiritual we forget that by the grace of God and by the blood of His Son we have been made eternally righteous.
It seems that we become more spiritual with age but it’s not the spirit that is undergoing change, it’s the flesh. We do not become spiritually mature because our spirit has grown up, but rather because our flesh has died off. We become spiritually mature because we have learned to separate what is temporary from what is eternal.
Separating what is Temporary and what is Eternal allows us to walk in the Spirit
The third thing that stuck with me from my breakfast with Joseph was this: that which is temporary is flesh. Joseph began to explain to me that all things temporary are all things of the flesh. This goes down to our very thoughts! I was inspired and encouraged when he told me he is working on thinking only eternal thoughts. He said, “When I have a thought I ask myself, ‘Is this thought to God’s glory or is it to man’s glory?’ If its to man’s then it is temporary, and if its temporary, then I get rid of it!”
When we depart from what is temporary we become freed to walk in the flesh. Paul speaks of this in Galatians 5.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
The Christian life is not about growing your inward spirit, for your inward spirit is already grown. The Christian life is about tearing away the flesh to set the spirit free*.
So I challenge you, reader, to do the task Joseph asked me to do. Get out a piece of paper, make a list of what is temporary (of the flesh) and what is eternal (of the spirit). Meditate on these things. Strip away the flesh and walk in spirit.