Christian beware: you can waste your life. Paul is unequivocal about this (I Cor. 3:13-15). He warns that the life choices of some Christians amount to the long-term worth of a pile of sticks thrown on the fire. But the reverse side of the warning is an encouragement. If Christians can waste their lives, so they can invest them. Paul preaches a liberating message that one’s life need not be a sandcastle destined to be swept away by the tide of divine judgment. One’s life has the spiritual potential to be a permanent addition to the temple of the Lord, a structure that will endure not only the present, passing age, but the future, eternal one yet to be unveiled. Therefore, Christians ought to be nagging ministers to answer a critical question, how do we live lives of permanent value? For those unsure of the answer, here are five thoughts to get you started.
1 – You need to understand what God’s building project is
God is building a temple. This is a basic theme of the Bible. However, God is using unusual material to construct the building. God’s temple is not a building of bricks and mortar, but a community of human beings cemented together by spiritual love and a thirst for divine glory. Put another way, the temple of God is the people of God. Understanding this is essential for living a life of permanent value.
2 – You need be familiar with the blueprints of temple
How do you contribute to a building project? The answer is by studying the blueprints. So it is with the temple of God. Anything not constructed according to the plans of God, by necessity, will require being undone and redone. Conversely, anything done in accordance with the blueprints will result in a permanent contribution.
Now if the temple of God is the people of God, in order to add something to the temple one must answer the following question, what kind of community does God desire to bring into existence? Three terms distil the answer: active love, missional holiness, and whole-life worship. God wants to see people caring for one another; He wants to see purity being maintained and progressed, not for the sake of self-interest, but mission; He wants to see a community reclaiming the whole of life for the glory of His name. These are the guidelines for the community in which God desires to dwell.
3 – You need to see everything in your life as building material for the temple of God
Once a person understands the basic outline of the building project of God, she can begin to see how to contribute to the project with her own life. Step one is appreciating that God wants to use everything in life, except sin, as building material for His temple. He wants to redeem our marriages, our occupations, our creativity, our speech, our personalities, our money, our time, our talents, our interests, our experience and so on to build up a community of faith. Therefore, the divide between what is perishable and imperishable – what has abiding worth and what is wasted – is not the traditional line between sacred and secular, but the spiritual line between self-interest and love, the line between sin and holiness. Anything done in the name of Christ, according to the values of Christ, has permanent value. Anything done in the name of self, according to the values of sin, will perish.
4 – You need to forge a life of Christian love
But still the question requires further clarification. How does one concretely live out a life of permanent value? The answer is by forging a life of Christian love. Love is what endures (I Cor. 13). Therefore the calling of a Christian is to live a life of love here and now that is worthy of the kingdom of God then and there. Now what is Christian love? Christian love is, first, a set of inner dispositions like patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, meekness, and faithfulness. However, Christian love cannot remain inside a person. Love requires expression. Therefore, Christian love is also a set of activities: helping, serving, visiting, hospitality, praying, sharing, giving, and so on. These activities are rooted in an appreciation of the love of God revealed in the incarnation and death of Jesus. Christian love is the desire to feel toward others, and do toward others, what Christ felt and did for me. Such love is esteemed and rewarded by God. Thus the challenge of living a life of permanent value is the challenge of forging a cruciform live. Only a cross-shaped life can contribute eternally to the building project of God.
5 – You need to anticipate the inspection date
The human mind naturally loses focus. Often our self-indulgent lifestyles are not a product of intention but negligence. We simply forget, or lose sight of, our hope. Our hope is that Christ will return and that, when he does, he will judge each person’s work (I Cor. 3:13). Believing this is crucial for living a life of permanent value. Godliness often requires sacrifice, and the motivation to make a sacrifice will sometimes comes from the conviction that a felt-loss is a future-gain. Therefore, anticipating the Day of Judgment is an important factor to staying motivated to choose a life of love over a life of indulgent comfort, short-term pleasure, and self-fulfilment.