It has been suggested here before that life, for all its apparent complexities, is at bottom very simple indeed if we could only realize it. Thank God, only a few things matter. The rest are incidental and unimportant.
Nothing that matters is new. “There is no new thing under the sun,” said Solomon, and he could hardly have meant that there had been no mechanical development or social or political changes under the sun, for he observed elsewhere that man has “sought out many inventions,” and he had himself instituted quite a number of changes in the royal routine. The city of Jerusalem he left behind him when he died was quite another city from the one he took over from his father David. External changes were numerous even in those days, but in nature and in man nothing was new; and it was of these that Solomon wrote.
Nothing is new that matters and nothing that matters can be modernized. One way to evaluate anything in the world around us is to check for possible modernization. If it can be modernized you may safely put it far down in the scale of human values. Only the unchanged and the unchanging should be accounted worthy of lasting consideration by beings made in the image of God.
Should some reader impatiently brush me off as hopelessly old-fashioned I shall not be offended. To escape the illusion of the temporal requires a free mind and a heart deeply engrossed in eternal thoughts and filled with immortal yearnings. And present-day Christianity simply does not produce that kind of mentality. Neither can we hope with Wordsworth “that mellower years will bring a riper mind and clearer insight,” for our direction is away from this and not toward it. Unless we have been enlightened deep in the Spirit of truth, the passing of time will not help us. Rather it may confirm us in our carnality. There is such a thing as spiritual senility. It is the natural result of failure over a prolonged period to live in the light of revealed truth; and any of us can slide into it unless we walk humbly and circumspectly.
Almost everything that men value today has been developed from some primitive archetype: the streamlined auto from the wheel, the skyscraper from the stone arch, the supersonic airplane from the kite, our highly complex monetary system from the cowrie shell or its equivalent, our extremely efficient methods of communication from hieroglyphics or the jungle drum. I think it would be possible to trace about 98 percent of the items that compose our modern civilized world back to their primitive originals. Yet I reassert with emphasis that nothing new matters and nothing that really matters can be modernized.
What really matters after all? My personal relation to God matters. That takes priority over everything else. A man may be born in a sanitary hospital, receive his education in progressive schools, ride in an air-conditioned car, sleep on a foam rubber mattress, wear synthetic clothing, eat vitamin-enriched food, read by fluorescent lights, speak across 12,000 miles of empty space to a friend on the other side of the world, lose his anxieties by taking tranquilizing pills, die without pain by the aid of some new drug and be laid to rest in a memorial park as lovely as a country garden; yet what will all this profit him if he must later rise to face in judgment a God who knows him not and whom he does not know? To come at last before the bar of eternal justice with no one to plead his cause and to be banished forever from the presence of the great Judge—is that man any better off than if he had died a naked savage in the hinterlands of Borneo?
No man can afford to live or die under the frowning displeasure of God. Yet, name one modem device that can save him from it. Where can a man find security? Can philosophy help him? or psychology? Or science? or “progress”? or atoms or wonder drugs or vitamins? No. Only Christ can help him, and His aid is as old as man’s sin and man’s need. The naked aborigine is as near to God (and as far from Him) as the Ph.D. Nothing new can save my soul; neither can saving grace be modernized. We must each come as Abel came, by atoning blood and faith demonstrated in repentance. No new way has been discovered. The old way is the true way and there is no new way. The Lamb of God was slain “before the foundation of the world.”
A few other things matter to be sure, but they begin there, go out from there and return there again. They are that we trust Christ completely, carry our cross daily, love God and our fellow men, walk in the light as God gives us to understand it; that we love mercy, and walk uprightly; that we fulfill our commission as ambassadors of Christ among men; that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and come at last to our end like a ripe shock of corn at harvest time.
These are the things that matter. These things are always critical, yet few recognize them as being so. It is all but impossible these days to get attention to the things that matter. Only as the servants of God veer away from these serious and eternal things to talk of politics or world events or sports or science will the nervous and distraught victims of time and space give them a hearing. Yet these eternal truths are all the Bible teaches and all we are authorized to proclaim.
—Born After Midnight