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  • Featured Image Forever Young

    Forever young
    I want to be forever young
    Do you really want to live forever?
    Forever, and ever

    Hello.  My name is Jeff.  And I like 80’s music.  And Napoleon Dynamite. And I may be treating this song with too much seriousness, but the sentiment is strong today – many people are living in the past.

    After rewatching Napoleon Dynamite for perhaps the 15th time, I remembered how much I liked this song – “Forever Young” by the not-well-known-here band Alphaville.  It was a reminder to me of high school, and all the fun I had there.  For me high school was not the terror filled, anxiety ridden, roller coaster that it is for many.  I had good friends, real friends.  I had no enemies.  I got along with nearly everybody.  In many ways, I was atypical.

    But I also screwed up.  I was not as nice to some as I should have been.  I went with the crowd sometimes, and laughed at people I should have been befriending instead.  So, even while I was atypical, in many ways, I was also typical.

    Songs like “Forever Young” are a call back to simpler times, to times where we felt as if we had the world on a string and could enjoy life for everything it offered.  No worries.  No deadlines.  No expectations.  No responsibilities.

    All fun.  For the most part.  A time I would be happy to revisit.

    But I’d never stay.

    I would have to give up so much that I have gained to relive those times.  I do not want to be forever young.  Not in a million years.  You have no idea how much better I have it now than I did at any time in my history.  Even my yesterday is not as good as today.

    Why?  Because my wife told me “I love you” today.  Because I got to be with my children and watch them care for little kids at church.  Because I am seeing my children mature into responsible kids (and adults).  Because I got to talk to my oldest daughter who is away at the moment.  Because I got to sing the praises of my Savior, who rescued me from the ignorance of my youth, who saved me from my sin and myself.  Because I got to do that with my kids.  Because every day, I am growing, changing.  Every day I lose a little more of the wretch I am, and gain a little more of the Jesus who loves me gave Himself for me.

    Because every day is truly a joy, because my joy is not found in temporary things.  It is found in the God who has given (and still gives) me those temporary things to enjoy.  I reject outright the oft spoken lament – “my best years are behind me.”  The simple fact that God has redeemed me makes that statement utterly false.  My best day ever was today.  And tomorrow will be better still.  And it will all culminate in that great and glorious day when Jesus returns for His church.

    And then my forever with Him will be a reality, not a shadow.

    No, I do not want to be forever young.  Not for a million dollars a day for a million years.

    But I think that this song shines a light on how people typically see this.  Could the desire to be “forever young” stem from a fear of losing temporary happiness, as in this, the first verse …

    Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while
    Heaven can wait we’re only watching the skies
    Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
    Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

    The scene is a high school dance with your sweetheart near, dancing the night away, wishing it would never end.  Even postponing heaven – heaven can wait, I’m having too much fun here, especially if the worst happens, and she decides to break up … the bomb.  It’s not the end of the world, but you think of it as the end of yours.  The eternal bliss of heaven is weighed against the end of a fleeting relationship and guess what wins?

    Heaven can wait.

    But why would you want to wait for this?

    Revelation 21:1-5 [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

    If you will put that on hold for the joy of a relationship in the here and now, even as you fear its end, then your problem is bigger than desiring to be “forever young.”

    Let us die young or let us live forever
    We don’t have the power, but we never say never
    Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
    The music’s for the sad man

    At least there is an admission – we don’t have the power to decide to live forever or not.  But we still fight against the inevitable – we never say never.  Even as the desire to remain young, to remain in this moment forever, holds us captive, we realize that we can’t control it – it’s a fantasy to dwell in the now – if only I could stay this way forever.  Forever young.  This verse reflects some powerful truths … one: that we do not control life …

    Acts 17:24-27 [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (ESV)

    … and two: that life is short …

    James 4:13-16 [13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (ESV)

    The words of the song here remind us that we are ultimately not in control of our lives.  Which serves to make living in the now, forever young, much more appealing.  It is comfortable, we are happy, why risk it?  Especially if risking it results in the temporary pain of a lost relationship that was never permanent to begin with.

    Ahh, the temporary bliss of young love…certainly real, but certainly not worth putting heaven on hold for.

    Can you imagine when this race is won?
    Turn our golden faces into the sun
    Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune
    The music’s played by the, the madman

    But yet even in our desire to remain forever young, there is still an excitement about the future (can you imagine?).  Since we know that we cannot remain forever young, we look forward to the end.  When the race is won, and we turn our golden faces towards the sun (or, more rightly, the  Son)…

    2 Timothy 4:6-8 [6] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (ESV)

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 [16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

    At that trumpet, we will turn our faces towards the Son and see Him in all of his glory and majesty.  And we will join Him!  He alone will be the leader we praise.

    The next couple of verses ask important questions, questions like “No matter who you are, one day, everyone will be gone, why don’t they stay young?”  “Am I growing old without a cause?  Am I perishing like a used up horse?”

    The sad admission being “I fear growing old.  I fear being used up and forgotten.  I fear being useless.”  And that fear is realized in this lyric …

    Youth’s like diamonds in the sun,
    And diamonds are forever

    Youth shines bright like a diamond.  And diamonds are forever.  Why isn’t youth?  Why can’t it be youth!!

    But after much musing about the fleeting nature of youth, the desire to stay young forever and the impossibility of it all, and about why people might want to stay young, the song finally speaks to the real truth behind why so many want to remain forever young …

    So many adventures given up today
    So many songs we forgot to play
    So many dreams swinging out of the blue
    Oh let it come true

    … it’s regret.  Look at everything I’ve lost.  Look at the things I forgot to do.  Look at the wasted opportunities.  Look at my sad life of regret.  I wish I could live it all over again – I’d do better.  I’d be better.  If I could only remain young … forever young … everything would be different.

    2 Corinthians 7:9-10 [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. [10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV)

    Living a life of regret is miserable, it leads to worldly grief and death.  You fantasize about being young forever because you hate your now.  And when you fantasize about being forever young, you begin to live a life of regret.  And that mindset rejects the growth through trial – it rejects the joy in living life for God, always being changed, always finding purpose, always being fulfilled in knowing that you are not working for “the now” – for work that will be burned up like so much wood, but work that will last for eternity, because you are investing in the lives of those who will actually live forever.

    Romans 8:28-30 [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

    Would you choose to remain as you are forever, and therefore reject God’s work in your life?

    All of this, of course, is predicated on you belonging to Jesus.  The question asked by the song …

    Forever young
    I want to be forever young
    Do you really want to live forever?
    Forever, and ever

    … is a good question, but it is incomplete.  As I mentioned, everyone will live forever – so the question is not “do you want to live forever?”, but “where will you live forever?”  Because everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will ever live, will live forever and ever.

    There is only one answer to that question.  No, you will not “cease to be” as many think.  No, not everyone will “go to heaven” as many believe, not even the “good people” are guaranteed heaven as you can never outgood your bad.  Never.

    You will either be with God forever (in heaven) or apart from God forever (in hell).  But even that’s not strong enough.  This is perhaps better:

    You will either enjoy all of the benefits befitting a child of the King of the universe, all of His love, all of His splendor, all of His goodness, all of the riches of His majesty, and enjoy it forever because you have been redeemed, forgiven, and adopted into His family, with all of the blessing that befit an heir of infinity.

    Or you will suffer an eternity of paying a debt that you cannot ever hope to pay, of incarceration for your crimes against an infinitely holy God whose rules you have willfully broken over and over again throughout your entire life.  You will never experience the joy promised in Revelation 21 because you have chosen to say “Heaven can wait.  I’m happy right here.”

    Being forever young.

    Like the fool…

    Luke 12:13-21 [13] Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” [14] But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” [15] And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” [16] And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, [17] and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ [18] And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ [20] But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [21] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (ESV)

    … rather than forever His.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 [19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

    1 Corinthians 15:53-58 [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” [55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    [58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

    Do you still want to be forever young?

    I don’t.  I’d lose far too much.