If God made a good world, then why is there so much bad stuff in the world? Why are there wars, and pandemics, and break-ups, and death? Why is my life in such a mess? In the second part of the What is Christianity? course we look at where it all went wrong – the cause of every bad thing in the world. Here we explore Genesis chapter 3, which explains how evil entered into the world.
Why is it important that Jesus died and was buried – and how do we benefit from it? This session of the Heidelberg Catechism looks at five questions:
- Why was it necessary for Jesus to die?
- Why was he buried?
- If Christ died for us, why do we still have to die?
- What further benefits do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?
- Why does the creed add “He descended into hell”?
As I hope you’ve gathered by now, Jesus’ death and resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. Understanding what it means is key to understanding Christianity. If you want to gain a good understanding of the faith, you need to explore deeply questions like these – why Jesus died and was buried!
If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.
A sermon on Ecclesiastes 9:1-12, part of a sermon series on Ecclesiastes preached at our church.
Death, according to The Teacher in Ecclesiastes, can make us mad. This madness can show itself in one of two ways:
- We want to build empires, gain possessions, squeeze everything we can from this life – to distract ourselves from the reality of death;
- We try to do all that we can to avoid death, fearing it, and trying to be as safe as we can.
Ecclesiastes says that both of these approaches are wrong. Ecclesiastes teaches us that we should accept life as a gift and live it gratefully and joyfully. Find out more in this sermon on Ecclesiastes 9:1-12.
Read the passage online via Bible Gateway.
A sermon on Ecclesiastes 3:1-22. This is the sermon which inspired my post yesterday about how death teaches us the meaning of life.
How do we make sense of the world when it seems so confusing? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people? How do make sense of the chaos that seems to happen to all of us?
Ecclesiastes is a book which does not dodge the big questions – in fact, it takes them square on.
Read the passage online here.
See the previous one in the series here.
A short reflection on how death teaches us the meaning of life, from Ecclesiastes chapter three.
The last few months have caused many of us to reflect on the deeper questions of life. The daily press briefings giving an account of the number of people who have died from covid have made us all reflect on our own mortality. Perhaps you have been thinking about these questions. Perhaps you’ve been wondering what it all means. Why do we have to die? Why is that people’s lives are cut short? Why is it that we seem to desire more from life?
What Ecclesiastes teaches about life and death
In our church’s midweek service, we have started studying a book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes. One of the things I value about Ecclesiastes is that it doesn’t shrink back from the big questions. Ecclesiastes is a book which is refreshingly honest about death. For example, consider these words from Ecclesiastes 3:19-20:
Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, who calls himself the Teacher, says that human beings and animals share equally in death. And so, he says, we have no advantage over animals.
And he’s absolutely right, isn’t he – it is our fate regardless of what happens in life. Whether we’ve been rich or poor, a somebody or a nobody, hard working or lazy, we’re all going to end up in a box six feet under. That is the common fate of humanity: whether you die of covid, or whether you die young or old – it doesn’t matter. The word the Teacher uses is “meaningless”.
When we really consider death and all that it means, it makes us feel uncomfortable. It seems so unfair, so arbitrary, so meaningless. How can human life be so wonderful and at the same time so short? We never seem to get all that we want out of life!
Looking for the deeper truth
This is where it’s important to listen further to Ecclesiastes. The Teacher isn’t trying to make us depressed in thinking about death – he is trying to teach us a deeper truth. That is, death should actually teach us the meaning of life. Earlier on in Eccl 3, the Teacher says God “set eternity in the human heart”. All human beings have an understanding of eternity. We yearn for that which is beyond our current experience.
On June 8th 1941, C.S. Lewis preached a sermon called The Weight of Glory, in my opinion one of his most insightful pieces. He talks about the fact that we all have a desire for “something that has never actually appeared in our experience”. We sometimes catch a glimpse of it in a book, or music, or a good meal, or friends or family, but they never seem to satisfy in the way that they should. He says:
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
He goes on to say that the desire that we have is actually a desire for the greater, eternal things that mankind was created for – for God and his glory.
Where to find true happiness
This is the point that C.S. Lewis, and Ecclesiastes, are making: if we see this life as everything there is, and all our happiness is to be found here, we will never be happy. Death should teach us that the things of this life are not ultimate. The pleasures of this life are fleeting and temporary. Rather than seeking them as an end in themselves, we should look instead to the giver of these gifts, the God who gives meaning to our lives.
It is only in him and through him that our lives begin to find meaning. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. When we seek him, and submit our lives to him, our lives start to take on the meaning we are seeking. And we can trust that the one who defeated death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel will raise us up to eternal life.
So let us pray, as Moses did in the words of Psalm 90:
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
This was a short Thought for the Week I wrote and recorded for our local ‘Talking Times’, an audio newspaper for those who are visually impaired.
Want more? You can see all posts on Ecclesiastes here.
We live in a society that doesn’t want to talk about death. And yet, death should actually be our teacher. This is what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about.
This is the first part of a new series on the book of Ecclesiastes. I’ve basically followed the pattern from Living Life Backwards. We’ll be looking at it over the coming weeks up until Christmas. It’s a fascinating book which I think many Christians don’t spend very much time studying – so I hope we’ll all learn something new.