The Path of Life: “Substitutes’

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Worship: The Real Thing


In a TV interview, a contemporary film maker revealed that he did not grow up in a religious home. Film was their religion and the movie house was their church. To my mind cinema is a poor substitute for a loving, covenantal relationship with my Creator.

Life is an exchange.

Through no effort of our own we are given life—energy, intelligence, strength—all bundled up in passions, fears, ambitions and deep-seated needs. And, we are given time. None of us knows how much time, but we have a backpack full of memories of yesterday, a toolkit full of skills for today, and a hatful of dreams for tomorrow—if it comes.

Living is the process of exchanging these gifts for the rewards they might bring.

“Time is money.” It is true, in a sense, and it is a lie in another sense. It is true in the sense of the exchange—we work by the hour or on commission or on salary, trading our time and skills for a living wage (and hopefully a little more.)

The statement is a lie in its incredible miscalculation. Time is much more than money.

  • It is the relentless retreat of life itself, a strategic withdrawal of our life-force that we cannot stem.
  • It is the diminution of opportunities and the accumulation of results, good or bad.
  • It is the inevitable passing of the planting and the unstoppable reaping and storing of the harvest.

So time can be money or it can be poverty. It all depends on the exchange.

  • Do we seek out the real or the substitute?
  • Do we mine for gold, or settle for fool’s gold?
  • Do we purchase the real diamond or the fake one?
  • Do we choose a sandy beach for the foundation of our lives or find the Solid Rock?
  • Do we choose false religion based on lies instead of worship in spirit and truth?
  • Have we substituted sports or film or music or money or fashion or pleasure for church?

The Jesus Question

Words spoken so long ago to anonymous crowds by an itinerant preacher still stir those who hear or read them today. Questions Jesus asked then, ring in our hearts today. One of them concerns substitutes.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

The world offers so many scams, so many bad deals, so many ways to waste our precious lives. The Lord Jesus offers so many promises, so many amazing exchanges of grace for whatever we hold in our hands and hearts, so many ways to plant good seed in words and deeds that will doubtless bring an eternal harvest, even when we sow in tears.

  • Why settle for saccharin when we can have honey?
  • Why settle sell our lives for the paper money of empty promises when pure gold is the option?
  • Why devalue life but equating it with temporal wealth when there are heavenly storehouse to fill where there is no thief to steel, no moth to devour, and no corruption of time?

Jesus offers true life—accept no substitutes.

Matthew 6:19-21; 16:24-28
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Isaiah 60:16-19 NIV
Then you will know that I, the Lord , am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Romans 1:21-25 NIV
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen

Revelation 3:16
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Song of Warning
Wasted Years
Composer: Wally Fowler

1. Have you wondered alone on life’s pathway,
Have you lived without love a life of tears,
Have you searched for the gray hidden meaning,
Or is your life filled with long wasted years.

Wasted years wasted years oh how foolish,
As you walk all in darkness and fears,
Turn around, turn around God is calling,
He’s calling you from a life of wasted years.

2. Search for wisdom and seek understanding,
There is someone who knows and always hears,
Give it up, give it up the load you are bearing,
You can’t go on in a life of wasted years.


3. Don’t you know Jesus died for all sinners,
He loves you and your guilt he gladly bears,
Come to Him, Come to Him your sin confessing,
You can go on with a life of fruitful years.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

The Path of Life: "Substitutes'

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