Chapter 1: Setting the Foundation
If you were going to climb Mount Everest, you would need to know some very important information before beginning such a challenging quest. The fact is you can’t climb a mountain unless you know how you are going to get to the top. What I want to share with you in these pages in how you can be victorious in finishing the most significant journey you will ever take-life itself! In order to accomplish this lofty goal, we must set the foundation by understanding the meaning of some specific terms that will enable us to get to the summit.
I know this is not the most exciting and stimulating way to start. Just like the mountaineer is thrilled at the prospect of a climb, we too are eager to get going. We want to get the initial, perfunctory instructions out of the way. However, it’s essential that we first understand certain key concepts if our journey is going to be a spiritual success.
The first term we must consider is humanism. To be humanistic is to live life on a one-dimensional plane of existence. In other words, to the humanist, the supernatural has no immediate or future relevance to his present life. God’s existence and claim to be the sole Creator and Master of this universe is viewed as irrelevant in the humanist’s mind. To him, life is all about the “here and now”-only that which he can feel, touch, hear, see, taste, and smell constitutes what is essential.
Furthermore, to be humanistic is to be fiercely self-reliant. God’s help, if there is a God, is seen as entirely unnecessary. “I can get by on my own ingenuity and resourcefulness, thank you very much,” is the humanist’s manifesto. Thus, a humanist lives life predominantly according to a horizontal perspective. Eternal realities have no real import and thus no impact on his daily thought patterns or behaviours. In reality, the humanist becomes his own “god.” His life is lived out according to his own self-prescribed rules of conduct. He views himself as the captain of his soul and the master of his fate. His is the final decision in everything that relates to life on this planet.
Now here’s what I want us to understand about humanism. The vast majority of living souls on planet Earth are humanists. Would it surprise you to know that even a high percentage of professing Christians live out their practical lives in humanistic ways? I know this is true because I’ve been guilty of it far too many times in my own life. I’ll expand on this in more detail in chapter 8.
The antithesis to a humanistic perspective of life is theism. A theistic approach sees God as being at the very center of one’s existence. Thus, God is seen as relevant to everything. He is the reason the universe exists. He is the reason why we’re here. He is the One who has ultimate control over history.
God is primary and we are secondary. As such, He has the right to make up the rules, and He has the right to hold us responsible if we do not follow them. As His creation, we’re absolutely dependent upon Him. Each successive breath we take is only possible because He wills to make it so.
Thus, a practicing theist lives life in the vertical, not just the horizontal, dimension. His constant orientation is toward God-consciousness. How the theist thinks and lives his life is based on the certainty of eternal realities. His life is also lived out in a total universal framework. In other words, a theist orients his life according to the realities of time, space and heaven too. King David of Old Testament times is a great example of a person who lived out his life with a universal perspective. He wrote this in Psalm 8:3,4: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that you visit him?"
David was expressing this: “When I look up into the sky on a clear, starlit night and view the indescribable beauty of God’s vast universe, I’m driven to ask the question: Why does this Creator God even think, let alone care, about me when I’m utterly insignificant in comparison to the infinity of space that encircles me.”
The reality of his minuteness in an immeasurable universe simply overwhelmed David. This caused him to exhibit sincere humbleness of heart and mind. Remember, David was a powerful monarch. His lofty position therefore made him very susceptible to pride. However, placing himself in a universal context kept him humble and prompted him to exalt God only. “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!” (Ps. 8:1, emphasis added).
Thus, the theist is a person who is marked by humility and is constantly thinking and living in two realms, not one. Most people, however, live life seldom looking heavenward. Their lives are simply transfixed and pervasively consumed by immediate, temporal realities, such as working, eating, playing, or sleeping. However, the theist, while also giving conscious thought and attention to horizontal, earthly responsibilities, always does so in the context of a greater “eternity –reality” perspective.
The famous evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “Christians can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” However, to truly live in that manner would certainly be the exception, not the rule, for most of us! The truth is we commonly struggle with living lives that are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good!
Yes, the theist strives to live life in balance between two dimensions: heaven and earth. But his primary point of reference is always heaven first. Thus, his every thought, motive, word, decision, and action is dictated by vertical, not horizontal, realities. Simply put, the theist lives life from the top down (heaven) and not the bottom up (earth).
Now here is the prime importance of all this. Every one of us lives out our conscious moments on earth either from a vertical or horizontal in our approach to life. You might be saying, "So what? Who really cares how I live? Does it really matter?" Yes! The quality of our lives now, the legacy we will leave behind us, and what awaits us in eternity is determined solely whether or not we go vertical.
There's really nothing more important in life than this. You and I must live vertically. Let's discover more closely why and how we can live life with heaven, not earth, as our primary focus. To do so we must first go to the Garden of Eden. Now that we have set the foundation, we can begin our ascent to the summit.
Summary of Terminology:
Humanism: Living life solely on a one-dimensional, earthly plane while denying the existence or relevance of anything divinely supernatural.
Living Horizontally: Depending primarily on one’s own ingenuity, abilities and resources to meet the challenges of life.
Going Vertical: Intentionally bringing God and eternity into the moments of one's earthly existence.
Universal Thinking: Viewing and processing life in terms of time and space, heaven and earth.