It may sound inspiring to say “you can change your future,” but this raises the question. From what? To what? And how can you know that you did? There is no way to two-track it in order to compare them side by side.
In order to understand your relationship to the future, you must understand your relationship to the present. Obedience is always in the present. Disobedience is always in the present.
When setting yourself to do something good in the future (which is invisible, right?), you have to draw the lines in the present—and correct the badly drawn lines from the past. To paraphrase Augustine, the very first good work needs to be confessing all the bad ones. The past is fixed, the future is unknown, and the present is . . . present.
The old saying is true: “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” We have to therefore begin with a robust doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Now some might argue that I have Calvinism on the brain. That actually is true enough, but I still maintain that I am not being a sectarian.
The fact that God holds the future — all of it — in the palm of His hand is no trifle (Rom. 8:38). Everything depends on it. So then, if we content ourselves with doing what He says to do in the present, and avoiding what He says to avoid in the present, we are going to be in great shape. And interestingly, God tells us nothing about avoiding too many greenhouse gases.
The idea of sovereignty is inescapable. Either we will gladly acknowledge the sovereignty of God over all things, or we will be left with an attempt at exercising such sovereignty by man. It is not whether there will be sovereignty, but rather which sovereignty it will be. Using the word predestination in the popular sense, and not in Paul’s more restricted sense, we are faced with the choice of predestination by God or predestination by man. It is either “our Father in Heaven” or . . . Big Brother.
Think of it this way:
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:18-23).
There are a number of things here, but I just want to note one of them. That is the juxtaposition of the “wisdom of this world” with the believer’s possession of all things in Christ, a possession which includes the future—“things to come.” If you have Christ now, then the future is yours. If you seize the future before the time, which is precisely what Adam and Eve attempted to do, then you do not have Christ in the present.
Never forget that the future is infinitely malleable. And because the future is infinitely malleable, it is the great friend of liars and con artists. The future is the temporal equivalent of Jackson Hole in the Wild West—a great hideout for scamps, outlaws, and . . . entrepreneurs. If you do not do “this thing” right now (like change your light bulbs and flushing habits), then you are endangering the future of our planet. Whatever the future holds, the present clearly holds a palpable tyranny.
Herman Melville thought that civilization was going to end when the supply of whale oil ran out. Suppose he had had the hubris to make everybody drop everything on the basis of this mistaken notion of his?
When you live this way, people want to know what exactly you are scheming. The short answer is nothing. God put me here, and told me to keep pushing this button. I don’t know where the wires from the button go. I don’t know what they do. But I know that I am supposed to stay at my post, pushing my button. Keep it basic. Love your wife. Provide for the kids. Do your job well. Love your neighbor. Floss.
Do what God put in front of you to do. Stay at your post. Love your neighbor. John asks how we can love God, whom we have not seen, when we don’t love our neighbor, whom we have seen (1 John 4:20). Let us take that form of argument—how can you love the future, which you have not seen, unless you love the present, which you have seen? The answer is plain—you cannot.
Faithfulness in your assigned duties is connected to the grand things. Attempted faithfulness in the grand scheme of things (as you conceive them to be) is the sure road to faithlessness in the present.
The basis of a godly future is therefore the law of God. God tells us what to do, and how to live. But law is not possible for us to observe apart from the intervention of God. The basis of a godly future is therefore the grace of God in Christ. And that is apprehended by faith alone, and faith alone is now.