Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Dot and the Line

Leslie Basham: How should we view the difficult days in which we live? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Think of this present age as a dot on a line that spans all across eternity, from eternity past to eternity future.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness, for August 2, 2018.

Does it seem to you like the world is getting more and more crazy? Nancy invites you to live without fear and worry even in challenging times. She’ll show you how you can do that as she continues in the series, “Living for the Age to Come.”

Nancy: Okay. I want you to get your Bible ready today—get your Sword, as they used to say when we were kids in Sunday school. Turn to the little book of Titus, or scroll there if you’ve got your phone. Now, if you’re driving, you might want to wait to do this. (laughter) But if it’s possible for you to get to a Bible, I want you to be able to follow along today.

The book of Titus—1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews. If you’re new to the Bible, you need to use the Table of Contents to find where things are, there is no shame in that. But as you’re getting to know God’s Word, I want to encourage you to get to know where these books are—even the little ones, the hard ones, the Old Testament ones, the New Testament ones—so that you can become really familiar with God’s Truth. This is a sword, the Word of God. It’s powerful.

And so, Lord, I pray that You would open up our eyes today to see, to receive, to hear, to believe what You have to say for those of us who are living in this present age in light of the age to come. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Okay. As I mentioned yesterday, I have spent years soaking in the book of Titus, working on the Adorned book, the teaching on Titus chapter 2. I’m taking a little different direction as I’ve been living in Titus in recent months. There’s some other things that have struck me that didn’t fit into the Adorned book, so I’m sharing them this week.

There are two phrases in Titus that have been on my heart in recent months, and today and tomorrow I want to focus on those concepts and on their implications.

So we’re picking up at Titus 1, verse 1, and I want to focus first on these first couple of verses in Titus 1. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.”

Now, let me just stop there for a moment and remind you that no matter how complex and crazy this world gets . . . We talked yesterday about some of the craziness that’s going on in our world. It seems like it’s imploding out of control. But no matter what’s happening in this world, there will always be Jesus on His throne.

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.”

This is an absolute. This is a given. This is an eternal reality. Things you see on the news are not eternal realities. They’re very real today, but they’re not going to last forever. God is going to last forever. Jesus is going to last forever. He will reign and rule forever and ever, hallelujah, amen! Let’s not forget that.

There will always be servants of Jesus. When it seems like the whole world is following after this present world and following after the world’s ideologies and philosophies and theologies and ways of thinking and living, remember: there will always be those that have not bowed the knee to Baal who are servants of Jesus Christ. There may not be as many as we would like, but we really don’t know how many there are.

There are servants of Jesus Christ today who are standing faithfully for Him in dark, oppressed places of the world where we couldn’t say their name, we couldn’t take their picture or they might lose their lives for being Christians. But they’re there, and they’re serving Jesus Christ. They’re in the underground churches in the Muslim world and in China, and there are servants of Jesus Christ probably in the place where you work, in your kids’ school.

Thank the Lord there are these servant of God and of Jesus Christ. And if you are His servant, His follower, His disciple, no matter what your title—you’re not an apostle—but no matter what your position or role may be, if you’re the servant of God and of Jesus Christ, you are going to be okay. Just get that perspective. We are the servants of God in this, our day, as Paul was in his day.

So Paul says, “I’m a servant of God. I’m an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God's elect.” That’s us! Paul said, “I’m serving God for the sake of those believers on the island of Crete where Titus served, and those believers who would be sitting in Niles, Michigan thousands of years down the road who needed their faith strengthened.”

Listen, as you’re serving God today, you’re doing it for the sake of the faith of others that you may never live to see—your children and their children and their children and generations to come. You’re sowing seeds of faithfulness that will help the faith of those who live in hard times to come.

So he says, “[I’m doing this for the sake of] the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, [I want them to know the truth] which accords with godliness in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (v. 1).

That’s one phrase I want to park on in this short series: “Before the ages began.” We’ll come back to it.

But what’s Paul saying? He says he’s serving the Lord. He’s doing it for the sake of God’s elect—for their faith, for their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.

What does all those long words and long sentences mean? He’s saying, essentially, “If you don’t have godliness, then you don’t know the truth.” You can’t say, “I believe this stuff,” and then live an ungodly life. That can’t be! If you’re not living a godly life, then you don’t really know and believe the truth.

So Paul equates knowledge of the truth with godliness.

And then he says, “In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies [Remember that! When it seems like the whole world is a lie, God, who never lies] promised this eternal life before the ages began” (v. 2). Before time began. Before there was such a thing as time, God had a plan!

This will boggle your brain, but it will bless your soul, too. Before there was the creation of man, before there was sin, before there was the Fall, God devised the great plan of salvation. He planned redemption before there was a need for redemption, because in God’s providence . . . Which means He sees ahead—video ahead to see. He sees ahead, and He makes provision for what’s coming. In God’s providence, He knew exactly what we would need—that we would fall; we would sin; we would need to be redeemed.

So before the ages began, God promised this hope of eternal life, and He began to make provision for it. So that’s the first phrase: Before the ages began—eternity past.

Now, move to chapter 2, verse 11. We referenced this paragraph yesterday, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives [here’s the second phrase] in the present age.”

So before the ages began—that’s eternity past—God promised this hope of eternal life. Are you hanging in with me? And now in this present age He’s telling us how we are to live. And how are we to live? We’re to be renouncing ungodliness. We’re to be living godly lives. We’re to be, verse 13, “waiting for our blessed hope.” He already talked about the hope of eternal life. We’re to be waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, let me pull all this together. There are three what I like to call time stamps in this little epistle of Titus.

There is eternity past—that’s before the ages began. We read about that in chapter 1. Before there was any other form of life, God was. God was alive. He was well. He was thinking. He was full and complete and independent. He was planning. He was God before the ages began. That’s one time stamp: Before the ages began.

But we don’t just jump into this little piece of time that we call “here and now” out of context of what has preceded us for all of eternity past. So “before the ages began,” God was preparing, devising salvation’s plan, redemption, the hope of eternal life. Then there is “this present age.” Eternity past, “before the ages began.” Now we live in “this present age.”

That’s where we’re living right now, and that’s where these first-century believers on the island of Crete were living—“this present age.” It was true in the first century A.D., it’s true today. That’s all part of “this present age.” I know that seems like a long time, but in the light of eternity, it’s just a blip on the screen. So we have “before the ages began,” and we have “this present age.”

Think of “this present age” as a dot on a line that spans all across eternity—from eternity past to eternity future. And you see that eternity future, which is the third time stamp, hinted at in this passage in Titus 2. There is an “age yet to come.” Paul refers to it as “eternal life,” the hope of eternal life, which God has promised. Life that goes on and on and on, beyond this present age.

So there’s this whole eternal continuum that we need to be conscious of, aware of. It will impact how we live in this present age. This continuum includes “before the ages began”—eternity past. It includes “this present age.” And it includes eternity future—“the age to come.” Are you getting those three time stamps? Past. Present. Future.

We live in this present age, but there are two kinds of people in this present age, and everyone on the planet falls into one of these two categories. Every one of us in this room, everyone listening to my voice today falls into one of these two categories.

We’re all living in this present age, but the first category is those who are living for this present age. They’re not just living in it. They’re living for it. There is this whole eternal span of time, and they are living for one tiny dot on that whole span. They are living for this present age, oblivious to eternity past and eternity future. They’re living for right here and right now.

But then there are others who are also living in this present age, but they’re not living for this present age. Rather, they’re living—for what?—for the age to come. They’re living in this present age, but they’re living for the age to come.

And that perspective, which we’re going to unpack today and tomorrow—whichever one you have, whether you’re living for this present age or you’re living for the age to come—makes all the difference as to how you live. It makes all the difference about your ability to have joy and faith and confidence in the Lord when you see the world going crazy around you.

When I say around you, that may not be just the headline news. That may be right inside your own home or your own work place or your own school environment. Whether you are living for this present age or living for the age to come will determine your perspective and your practice in this present age.

So people who are living for this present age, I want to just talk about them. Titus has many words and phrases throughout this little book that describe people who are living for this present age. I’m just going to move through them quickly. If you want to follow in your Bible, you can. Otherwise, you may just want to listen.

Chapter 1, verse 7, he talks about people who are “arrogant, quick-tempered, drunkards, violent, and greedy for gain.”

In verse 10 of chapter 1, he talks about people who are “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers.”

In verse 12 of chapter 1, he quotes a popular Cretan prophet who said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” To which Paul, in the next verse, says simply, “This testimony is true.” (laughter) This is true! They are always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. You know why? Because they’re living for this present age, and all that matters to them is getting their bellies filled and having their version of truth, whether it’s true or not. They’re lazy. They’re evil. They’re liars. They’re gluttonous.

Chapter 1, verse 15, talks about people who are living for this present age. They’re defiled. They’re unbelieving. “Their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

Verse 16: “They profess to know God [they may be religious], but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

Chapter 2, verse 12, talks about “ungodliness and worldly passions.” These are characteristics. This is the appetite of people who are living for this present age.

Chapter 3, verse 3, says people who live for this present age are, “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Now, what he’s really saying right there in that context—we didn’t read the whole paragraph—is that all of us could have been described that way at one time. We didn’t have a heart for God. We didn’t have the gospel. We weren’t redeemed. So all we could live for was this present age, and that was characteristic of us. It’s still characteristic of people who are living for this present age.

Chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, he talks about those who live for this present age, how they “stir up division . . .  [they are] warped and sinful, and self-condemned.”

Now, as I’ve pondered—and I’ve just given you a real quick ride past a lot of these negative terms that are describing people who live for this present age—I’ve just kind of thought about: What are the characteristics of people who live for this present age? Three words come to mind that I think summarize the characteristics of people who live for this present age. You may think of some other words or some better words, but these are three that I’ve been thinking about.

Number one is the word: Trivial. These are people whose pursuits are trivial. They have worldly passions. They live for pleasure. They live for things that don’t really matter. They’re playing games. They’re living superficial lives.

How foolish is it to live for the dot when there is all this long line of eternity ahead of us? They’re trivial. They’re living on the surface. They may think they’re brilliant, think they’re productive, think they’re doing something really important, building all kinds of machines and equipment and businesses and empires. But you boil it all down and you take the vantage point of eternity, and their lives are trivial. They don’t matter. What they’re doing doesn’t matter. They’re consumed with careers, with sports, with money, with stuff, with politics, with games, with hobbies, with themselves. They’re playing trivial pursuits—trivial.

Here’s another word that I think characterizes those who are living for this present age, and it’s the word: Evil. First trivial, and then evil.

Paul talks here about ungodliness and worldly, sinful passions. So these are people who think they’re good, and they try to make their warped, sinful way of life look good. And they may convince a lot of people that their choices are good. They may try to force us to accept and embrace their evil way of life. But it’s not good. It’s not something we can accept or embrace. It is evil. And what makes it evil? The fact that it’s contrary to the law and the Word of a holy God.

To say that this way of life is evil, that’s not politically correct, because today, what I just said is the essence of intolerance. It’s being closed-minded, narrow-minded, bigoted. It may not be politically correct, but it’s true. Their lives are trivial, and they are evil, those who live for this present age.

And then there’s a third word. It’s the word: Hostile. You see in those list of words that I read from Titus that they have broken relationships. They’re hated by others. They hate one another. There’s bitterness. There’s hatred.

Think about relationships of some of the people you know who are living for this present age: parents and children, siblings, marriages, neighbors, broken and split churches, broken relationships. They’re living for this present age. If they don’t fix these relationships, if they don’t come in humility and repentance and try to be reconciled, there’s racial hatred, racial animosity, men vs. women, and women vs. women, and men vs. men, and black vs. white, and police vs. . . . We have all this hostility, and it’s a characteristic of people who are living in this present age. They are not pursuing reconciliation. They are not pursuing oneness. They’re trivial. They’re evil. And they’re hostile.

Now, there’s another way to live—not for this present age, but, instead, for the age to come.

Before the ages began, God set in motion the plan to send His grace and His salvation into this fallen world. That’s what Titus tells us. And right now we live in this present age. So the question is, Are we living for this present age? Or are we living for the age to come?

Titus 3 tells us, if the grace of God has appeared to you, then it has changed your life. You’re no longer living for this present age; you’re now living for the age to come.

My friend and author, Randy Alcorn, is the one who first introduced me to this concept of the dot and the line. Here’s how he said it. 

I think of our lives in terms of a dot and a line, signifying two phases. Our present life on earth is the dot. It begins, it ends. However, from the dot, a line extends that goes on forever. That line is eternity, which Christians will spend in Heaven. Right now we’re living in the dot. But what are we living for? The shortsighted person lives for the dot—this present age. The person with perspective lives for the line—the age to come.

What difference does it make to live for the age to come rather than this present age—to live for the line, rather than the dot?

We’re going to explore more of that in the book of Titus tomorrow, but as I was preparing the series, I asked some of my Facebook friends to answer this question: What difference does it make if we’re living for the line rather than the dot—if we’re living for the age to come rather than this present age? I got a lot of great answers, but let me share a few of them with you.

One woman said, “It gives us patience, even joy, in the midst of trials, because we know our afflictions are working for us a 'far more eternal weight of glory.'”

Another friend said, “Instead of whiners we can be warriors with disciplined minds and bodies, hearts of courage, and a drive that revolves around the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Another woman said, “It affects our choices, our responses, our relationships, and our priorities.”

This woman got really practical. She said, “It makes ALL the difference on my difficult homeschooling days with six children. I repeat ‘Living with eternity in mind’ over and over and over!” 

Another woman says, “It makes ALL the difference in how I spend my time, my money; how I act; how I react to difficulty, pain, and disappointment; how I treat people and what I treasure.

Laura, who’s with us here today, said, “What difference does it make if you’re living for the line rather than the dot? You live simply, hold everything loosely, and don’t bury your stakes too deep.” (Don’t get too attached to this present world.)

Another woman said, “It causes affections to rise above any offenses or frustrations I might have with my Christian brothers and sisters. It covers all the daily dealings in the redeeming blood and love of Christ.”

And could I say that would work as well in a marriage? In your marriage, if you’re living for the line instead of the dot, if you’re living for the age to come instead of this present age, then that thing your mate says to you, you’re not going to be easily offended. You’re not going to be thin-skinned and say, “Oh, that hurt me so.” Now, there are times when you need to talk about those things. My husband and I had a talk about something in a conversation within the last few days. It wasn’t an easy one. But here’s the thing: In the course of daily events, we assume the best of each other. We make allowances for each other because we’re not living for this present age. We’re living for the age to come and helping to prepare each other for that.

Another woman said, “We won’t put our focus on collecting material things. We will spend time promoting and preparing for the eternal.”

There’s a man on our staff who I’ve served with for many years, he’s been a part of this ministry, who, not long ago was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He’s been sending regular email updates, just letting us know how it’s going. Several weeks ago he learned that the cancer had returned. Here’s what he said at the end of that update, “While this is not the news we had hoped for, we know that God is still in control and that this did not take Him by surprise.”

And then yesterday this staff member sent an email to all our staff confirming that the cancer has spread and that the doctor he saw yesterday believes that this man has less than a year to live. He said at the end of this report, “We are realizing that, apart from God’s intervention, my time here on earth is running out, and we just want to make sure that we finish the race strong and glorify Him.” And he signed it, “Trusting in our Lord.”

Now, this friend is living in this present age. He’s suffering. He’s got doctors’ appointments, treatment—chemo and radiation—a lot of things going on, but he’s not living for this present age. He’s living for the age to come. He’s not living for the dot. He’s living for the line, and that makes all the difference now and for all of eternity.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth giving us hope for eternity even when the world seems to get more and more crazy. Nancy wants to end today’s program with a message from Randy Alcorn that will put an exclamation point on things.

Revive Our Hearts is able to bring you this kind of teaching because our listeners benefit and want to make the program possible.

When you support the ministry with a gift of any size, we’d like to show our thanks by sending you Nancy’s Bible study, True Woman 201. She wrote it, along with Mary Kassian, a frequent guest here on Revive Our Hearts.

In this ten-week study, you’ll explore ten important elements of redeemed womanhood found in the New Testament book of Titus. Ask for your copy when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and get the workbook.

Do you know the Bible gives us instructions for what we post on social media? Tomorrow Nancy will show you how God’s Word can guide what you post to your friends.

Now, Nancy wanted to play you a clip from speaker and author, Randy Alcorn, that wraps up today’s message.

Randy Alcorn: Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Why is He telling them, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth”? Because they’re not going to last. It’s not simply that it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s the stupid thing to do. But Jesus says, “Turn it around. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Then, if you know Me, you’re going to heaven, then every day of your life, if your treasures are in heaven, you’re getting closer to your treasures instead of moving away from your treasures. He who spends his life moving away from his treasures has reason to despair. He who spends his life moving toward his treasures has reason to rejoice.

This life is just a dot. And from that dot extends a line, and that line is going to go out forever. We all live in the dot. But if we’re smart, we’re not going to live for the dot. We’re going to live for the line with the people of God—God, who will live forever. People, who will live forever. His Word, which will live forever.

So live your life now while you’re in the dot in light of the line, investing in the line—what’s going to matter after you die.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to focus on the eternal. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.
 

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