There are a lot of life rules that we learn as we grow up—or older—or both if we’re wise. Some of the most important are: 1) Don’t run with scissors; 2) Wait one hour after eating before swimming; 3) Don’t listen to your father-in-law when it comes to cars, and 4) Don’t read the final chapter of a book first. Keep these rules and you’ll have a happy life.
Today, we will focus on that last rule: Don’t read the final chapter of a book first. This is especially true of mystery novels, because knowing how it ends takes the mystery out of the novel, and usually ruins the surprise that the author has worked so hard to build up. It’s the moral equivalent of looking up the answers to a crossword puzzle before working on the puzzle.
Most rules have exceptions, and the above rule is no exception. I, as a man, have a set of rules that is ingrained in all men, or so the popular generalization goes. You’ve heard of some of them, like “Don’t ask for directions,” and its kissing cousin, “Don’t read the instructions.” Sometimes we like to try things our own way, thinking that we’re smart enough to figure things out without help. This may be true in the workaday world, but there is one place where those rules are useless, and that’s the spiritual world.
There are many self-help and self-realization religious movements in the world, and an army of self-made men and women who don’t need anyone to get them through life. After all, that’s the American way! But it’s not the spiritual way.
Any trip we take, whether a few steps or a thousand miles, begins with the question, “Where are we going?” If we don’t know that, we won’t know what steps to take or when we’ve arrived.
The same is true with the spiritual walk. If we don’t know where we’re going, we won’t know what path to take or when we’ve gotten there.
Here is where the men’s rules don’t apply. When dealing with matters regarding our eternal souls, it is grossly unwise to not ask for directions or to think we don’t need to read the instructions. It is far wiser to read the last chapter of the Book, take the mystery out of life, and get the answers to the questions that puzzle us.
To find the right answers, we need the right book, and we need to be on the same page, so to speak. God’s advice to Joshua, many millennia ago, is still pertinent today: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8, NKJV). The roadmap to success is obedience to God’s Word, the Bible.
Partial directions are of little value. There are differing opinions about what constitutes the Bible. Some include only the first five books, the books of Moses. Others only trust what is known as the Old Testament. Still others add a lot of detours called the Apocrypha. Believers accept all 66 books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. This is the complete set of Life Directions.
If we stop at the last chapter of the Old Testament, the destination is rather grim: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6). Yikes! It ends with a curse! Not a pleasant finale.
However, the New Testament’s final chapter ends with hope: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21). That’s more comforting. That sums up the Christian journey. In this case, it’s wise to read the final chapter first, to see what lies ahead for God’s people. The significance of Christ’s first and second comings is spelled out in the rest of Scripture.
The road of life leads to one of two destinations, depending upon whether or not you follow the directions. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:24, 29).
The final chapter of the Bible is not a bad place to look for answers. It shows us our destination. Everything that precedes it tells us how to get there. If we want to end up condemned, the path is easy: don’t do anything. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18). The sign to eternal life points this way: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6, NKJV).
How shall we then live? “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). How do we do this? “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9, NKJV).
Is life a mystery or an unsolved puzzle to you? Read the final chapter—and the rest of the Book!
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