God has set eternity in the hearts of men. – King Solomon
During a recent Public Television broadcast, the program director stated that at any given time about half of all American women are on some kind of diet. For the next two hours, this program focused on why American women believe they must diet. Little was left out as they examined the question. The program included experts from various fields who gave their views on the seeming obsession with dieting.
One member of the panel detailed the weight history of the Miss America Pageant over the past twenty years. During that time, she said, the average weight of the winning contestant had dropped by twenty pounds while the height had remained the same. One segment of the program included an interview with the head of a nationally known modeling agency. She talked about a contest her agency had conducted that was to conclude by offering winning young women jobs as models.
Then came the surprising result of this agency’s weeks of weeding and sorting of applicants. Out of a total of 40,000 women who participated, the agency head stated that four of the women might have a chance to be successful as models.
This extensive search, the executive continued, demonstrated that very few women have the kind of shape, weight and height to make it in modeling. But, she said, the fashion industry needs that certain kind of look in order to market styles and sell clothes to American women.
This book is not about fashion. But what is fashionable often seduces us away from true reality. The example we have given is just that—one example of many. Using these rare fashion model types, advertising surrounds the American female and their worldwide devotees with glimpses of the perfect body. Advertising through television, magazines and newspapers all invade the minds of women with pictures of what they ought to look like. Even the brief stop at the checkout stand in the local supermarket with just a glance at the magazine covers reminds women of the image they can’t seem to develop. Any effort is usually temporary. Life is full of secretive starts and stops on any number of diets.
The saturation by the media of the same ideal features has produced in women a powerful impression and belief as to what they should look like. In an effort to mold themselves into that image, women recruit diets, facials, cosmetic surgery, hairstyle changes and the latest in clothing fashions. As they try to achieve the right look, they are fully funding the fashion industry.
As the television program was wrapping up, it alerted women of some very real dangers. The perception of what one ought to look like can lead to women developing anorexia, so severe that hospitalization is required to pre-vent serious physical harm or even death itself. Most disturbing is that fashion images are fleeting. Styles change quickly. “In” today may be “out” tomorrow. So women find themselves on a treadmill to which they become enslaved.
The program ended with the interviewer making an appeal for women to be themselves. Each person is born with certain physical features and characteristics. To live moderately within those limits, she said, is to live in physical, mental and psychological health. Women were reminded of two things: There is a real world for them and, secondly, an unreal world that is constantly being imposed on them through the media. The program’s purpose, she said, was to convince women to accept the real world as the healthy alternative, to live within the limits of your body, not in the fantasy world created by fashion.
Why this story on today’s fashions? It is a compelling parable to living in eternity. Men as well as women can see in it an analogy that shows the difference between the reality of our day and that of eternity. One may be fashionable, but the other is reality. That is the vital point made by the television program. Styles of fashion are fickle. Your body was made in a certain way and one ought to be satisfied to live within the general framework of that body. There is a more important “you” that needs to be nourished and satisfied that outlives any whim or fad or fashion of a particular time. It is on that principle that we hear God’s call to live in eternity, right now! The eternal God has given us the way and provided the map to live in eternity.
Out of eternity, Jesus came to reveal the truth of God’s Kingdom and expose the deceptive veneer that disguises the fashionable and false. Jesus explained why He came in words and actions that could not be refuted: “I have come,” He said, “that you may have life and that you have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
Just remember that both the religious and the political worlds joined together to silence His voice. While the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate and King Herod carried out Jesus’ crucifixion, it was the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law who supplied the angry demonstrators with religious venom. The mob was following the leaders of contemporary fashion of their day. Some did not participate, but the majority prevailed on that day. As is often true, the majority was wrong. And Jesus said, “Beware of whom you follow!” (Matthew 5:19, 20).
God has been communicating this truth to the human race since the time of Eve and Adam. Jesus said He was about the business of giving life. In the Garden of Eden, Satan distorted God’s truth. The change to the truth was just enough to have Eve and Adam believe that disobeying God’s command would lead them into a world of supernatural insight and life. Rather than insight, it brought them judgment; rather than life, it brought death. “So the Lord God banished (them) from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which (they) had been taken.” (Genesis 3:23).
From the moment that Eve and Adam said to God, “We’ll do it our way,” every generation has had its “rulers” of their time—those who challenge and change God’s truth. At every stage of history, there have been those who modi-fied what He said just enough to turn it into a falsehood. They surround themselves with those who agree with them. In describing this pattern of behavior, the Apostle Paul wrote, “…to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” II Timothy 4:3, 4).
Like one well-known seminary professor confided to a friend, “I don’t care anymore if I’m right or not. There are enough people who believe I’m right that I’m satisfied.” Right there are the seeds of heresy that lead to deadly consequences. Do you see any difference in that from the Garden of Eden? As we will shortly observe in Matthew 23, the people of Israel had a long history of rejecting God’s eternal truth, preferring the product of human effort. There is something sweet to the ego to be able to sing out to the world, “I did it my way!”
It was Jesus who cautioned His listeners, followers and disciples: Beware! Two roads exist—one broad and well traveled, the other narrow with few people. Take heed to stay away from the popular, easy, comfortable road on which the many travel. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
For those who have chosen the narrow road, life’s critical issues are already resolved. Living in eternity enables you to achieve life’s highest and ultimate goal—relationship with God. Once you take up God’s agenda and purposes, it brings all of life’s other goals, ambitions and dreams into proper focus and priority. You are relieved from the anxieties of daily life. You have absolute stability even as the insecurity of modern existence whirls around you. You are empowered to separate out and ignore those voices that would divert you from the truth. You are equipped with an eternal beacon that will guide you home. Jesus invited you: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Think back to the example of the 40,000 young women who didn’t make the cut for the modeling jobs. Think of the stress that people bring upon themselves by trying to be someone they aren’t. You see, living in eternity delivers us from the tyranny of the times in which we live. Can you see how happy you would be if you honestly lived life within the structure of what the Creator has given you? Instead, we insist in enslaving ourselves to the expectations of others and of our culture. Solomon, that great and wise king of ancient Israel, spoke of the utter futility of human endeavor apart from God. He said it’s like “chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
But King Solomon also reminded us that God has a better plan for humanity. He planted eternity in our hearts: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live… I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14).
Do you see how God intends us to live? God has given us a superior way that cannot be improved upon. He not only invites us to live in eternity, He provides the way. He asks us to “do it His way.” It’s the way He designed for us. As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, 7).
Due to the unrelenting secular influence in our culture, we are often blinded to the truth of Jesus’ declaration. He is revealing to us a new way of living that may appear strange to our thinking. Don’t be surprised. Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world!