Carpe diem is a Latin aphorism taken from the Roman poet Horace’s work Odes (23 BC), Book 1. It is usually translated as “Seize the day!” In other words, the past is irretrievably gone, the future is promised to no one, so all we have is the gift of today—of right now—which is why it is called “the present.”
You may recall that the phrase carpe diem was popularized by a character portrayed by the late Robin Williams in the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society. The film was espousing an utterly humanistic worldview, but that doesn’t mean we should discard the power contained in the Latin words. And did you know there is a cosmic carpe diem? It is found in the Psalter; my friend and spiritual father, Dr. D. James Kennedy, would use these words to open the services at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church every Sunday morning. You knew that church was about to begin when his rich, deep voice would come booming over the public address system, proclaiming the message of Psalm 118:24 —
This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Dr. Kennedy would say that he liked to quote this verse aloud when he woke up in the morning; he said it helped him focus on the only moment that is guaranteed in this life: right now!
Scripture has provided us with a word of great encouragement; I believe God is telling us to reflect on the moment at hand and seize it for the glory of God by rejoicing and being for this time that God has given us. The time to rejoice and be glad in the Lord is now . . . not tomorrow, because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
So let me ask you: How well have you been doing at “seizing the day” lately? Far too many people spend far too much time living in some unforgiven past, which paralyzes them and keeps them from seizing today . . . and robs them of any ability to rejoice and be glad in this present day.
If this describes you, here is what you need to remember: Jesus paid for your past through His sinless life, His sacrificial death, and His supernatural resurrection. You sins—no matter how awful or hurtful they may have been—have been forgiven because they have all been nailed to a cross. As Paul wrote to the Christians at Colosse:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
All our violations of God’s perfect, holy, and righteous law have been paid for—paid in full—by our loving Lord, who has fully redeemed us from our past transgressions. Psalm 118:24 is a glorious reminder of this truth.
The flip side of living in some unforgiven past is living in some anxiously anticipated future. This too will keep you from rejoicing and being glad in the present moment. If this describes you, here is what you need to remember: Jesus paid for your future through His life, death, and resurrection. Your future has already been forgiven and nailed to cross; once again, Psalm 118:24 is a glorious reminder of this truth.
In other words, there is nothing you can do to mess up your relationship with your Redeemer! You are completely secure in your salvation, but not because of anything you have done or will ever do. You are secure in your salvation because of everything Jesus has done on your behalf. “It is finished,” He declared from Calvary’s cross. And it is! His atoning work on our behalf has been accomplished. We have been set me from our guilt and shame over the past, just as we have been set free from anything that may take place in the future. Psalm 118:24 empowers us to seize the day, regardless of the circumstances we have faced, are currently facing, or may face tomorrow.
We trust Jesus with our past and we trust Jesus with our future, so we can certainly trust Him with our present. Perhaps the best way for you to begin living out this truth is to start your day the same way Dr. Kennedy started his day: by giving voice to this cosmic carpe diem . . .
“Today IS the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!