Heaven is not the goal.

Heaven

Are you an evangelist?  Do you feel the conviction to share the Gospel with those around you, and long to see your friends and family members “saved”?  Are you afraid of eternity – both for yourself and for your community?  Do you want to go to Heaven?

It would be a very disturbed person who truly longs in his heart to not go to Heaven.  Almost every culture and worldview has some form of paradise as a goal destination in the afterlife and they utilize this as a reward for moral or ethical living during their lifetime on Earth.  As the old bluegrass hymn states, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die”.

Often times when we share the Gospel and when we think of our own personal fear of eternity, we are driven to tell people how to not go to Hell, or how to get to Heaven.  God becomes merely the guard of eternal bliss and we need to do whatever it takes to make Him happy and appease Him so that we can get through the gate.  Jesus, however, teaches us that He came to the Earth so that we might know and love God and spend eternity with God.  Yes, He spoke often and terrifyingly about Hell, but when He discussed His mission and purpose, He said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

– John 10.10

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

– Luke 19.10

Consider the story of Lazarus.  It might seem a strange choice in discussing this topic, but read carefully (I recommend reading the entire narrative of John 11):

“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was…So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’  So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days…When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’.”

– John 11.1-45

Jesus had some friends whom He loved and who were all siblings:  Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  He received word that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus knew that it was the will and plan of God to exemplify His glory by raising him from the dead.  Thus we see in verse 6 the conjunction “so” or “therefore”.  Verse four states that the sickness is intentional for the glory of God, so when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick he remained where he was – in order that Lazarus would die.  By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days.  There was no doubt he was dead.  But Jesus had a plan and He raised Lazarus from the dead.

Notice here that absolutely nothing is said about Heaven, Hell or the afterlife.  Not one thing.  We are infatuated with the afterlife, and anytime someone dies momentarily and is resuscitated we immediately ask them what they saw and experienced.  People have written books and made millions of dollars by declaring that they have been to Heaven and seen loved ones.  Doctors tell horror stories of people who have died and come back talking about spiders and demons and dark places.  But in the Bible, the man who was dead and buried for four days is offered no platform for testimony about his experience.

SAY WHAT?!

Are you not so curious about his experience?  I am too.  I want to know where he went, who he saw, if he interacted with God the Father, all of it.  But Jesus’ intention was to prove  His love for the family, His power to raise even the dead, and His identity as the final resurrection.  Everyone eventually will rise again at the end of the age – just like Lazarus, and therefore his resurrection was so insignificant that no mention is made of Lazarus’ experience.  Jesus wants us to look at God and His glory, not at the experience of a man.

It is extremely dangerous to build a theology on the silence of Scripture, but it is right and good to build our doctrines and beliefs on what the Scripture actually says.  Jesus did  come to save us from Hell, but He came so that we might have abundant life and a relationship with God and saving us from Hell is merely a consequence of being right with God.  You can read more about the new birth here.  He is primarily concerned that we know and love God:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’  And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul’.”

– Matt 22.35-37

This is the foundation on which the Old Testament Law is written and on which the New Testament covenant of grace is established.  Loving God with everything we have.  God gives us Spiritual life through the salvation experience so that we can love Him.  Sin is the barrier between us and God, not us and Heaven.

This is why Jesus prays for the disciples and for the Church that we would be united with Him the same way that Jesus and God are united:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.  The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

– John 17.19-25

It has been said that we can test our hearts and our salvation by asking the simple question:  Would you want to go to Heaven if God (or Jesus) were not there?  It is, in part, a trick question because when paired up against the other option – of course no one wants to go to Hell.  However.  If your end goal is Heaven, if your desire is to see deceased relatives, if you just want to get to that place where there is no more sorrow and pain, then you have missed the boat and probably do not know God.  You desire only His benefits and not Him.  You love His blessings, but not Him.  And the greatest commandment and foundation for our salvation is loving God.

What is your end goal?  Do you love God?  Or are you just looking for a pain-free and comfortable eternity?

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A few things to remember this election season.

candidates

This week, Indiana voted and it appears as though Donald Trump will be the next presidential candidate for the Republican Party.  Hillary and Bernie are still in the race, but the overwhelming sentiment I am hearing on the news, in my circles and on the streets is that all of the candidates are terrible.  People are arguing how to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, or hoping that the Independent party will miraculously gain a standing.  As with every election season, the devout Christians are bemoaning the changing of culture and wondering if the next president will be the one to lead us to our demise and begin the End Times…”America will fall”, “We must return to God”, “We are no longer a Christian nation” echo through churches and on the street corners.

It is indeed a monumental occasion that we will choose our political leader for the next four years during the upcoming months.  And we as Christians need to be intentional about our hearts, thoughts and actions as we each play our unique role in this event.  In order to do so, there are a few things that we must keep in mind moving forward:

 1.  God is still sovereign and in control.  God created the entire universe and wrote redemption’s story which began at creation and will be fulfilled at the end of time.  Nothing is outside of His command, nothing surprises Him and nothing will thwart His righteous plan.  This plan perfectly included all of the great empires and nations which have reigned and all of the small, seemingly insignificant ones as well.  The British, Roman, Ottoman Empires and Han Dynasty were all established and fell by God’s hand, as well as the nomadic peoples of North Africa and East Asia – of whom no one has ever heard.

“For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”

– Rom 13.1b

“It is [God] who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.”

– Dan 2.21

Of all the peoples and nations which have ever existed (and still do exist), the only one to whom God has promised land and national prosperity through obedience is Israel.  The United States is not God’s chosen people by nationality and He has not promised us this land.  We cannot guarantee our future as a nation by encouraging people to “return to God”.  That being said, we can rest confidently and assured that God is sovereign over the United States and the next leader, and He has promised that He will work all things together for the spiritual and eternal good of those who love Him (Rom 8.28).

2.  We must submit to and honor our leaders, even if we disagree with them.  This one is difficult to apply and stomach in a land where we have granted ourselves the freedom of speech and have checks and balances to keep our leaders accountable.  Scripture is crystal clear, however:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves…Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

– Rom 13.1-2, 7

God places every authority in power.  He also removes every authority which falls or fulfills a term.  He is sovereign.  Therefore, we must respect and honor  (and pay taxes) to those who rule over us.  Keep in mind that this instruction was written by Paul to the church at Rome – those believers who were being taxed beyond what they could afford, discriminated against because of their nationality and  murdered for their faith.  They were in a much more hostile and difficult situation than we, and Paul instructs them to submit, honor and obey.

Scripture clearly teaches us that God is our king and ultimate authority, and whenever the governing power of the day commands us to sin – either by commission or omission – then we must choose to submit to God and not man (Acts 5.29).  Paul is not instructing Christians to sin by way of obedience to authorities, but he is teaching us that since God has established governments, we must respect the office.  We may not like the man, but we must respect and follow the morally neutral laws in practice.

Living in a democracy where we have the ability to vote and to change law, it is good and right for us to be active in the political world – to the best of our abilities – to see that no laws are written or enforced which would go against God’s commandments.  Having the freedom of speech and the ability to affect our political world, we as Christians should be vocal and we should be involved.  This is a gift from God that many nations never had.  However, we should always exemplify the fruit of the Spirit and kindness of God in our words and in our actions.  We may hate the laws, systems and morality for which Obama or Trump stand – but we can still disagree with them respectfully and honor the office of president or presidential candidate.

3.  We must be mindful of our witness in our political conversations.  It is considered taboo to discuss religion and politics in public.  These are things about which people are passionate and that most consider personal.  If you want to have a cordial dinner party, it is best to leave those topics at home.  We, as Christians, however have been commanded to make disciples of all nations.  And when we have met Jesus and He has transformed our lives from the inside out, we will not be able to keep from talking about Him.  It is impossible to not discuss those things you love.

We cannot, however, be a witness for Jesus Christ while at the same time cursing our leaders and our political system.

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.  Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

– James 3.8-13

We certainly can disagree and seek for change and hope for better for our nation without slandering, name calling, disrespecting and hating people or circumstances.  And if we give in to our political passions and ruin our Christian witness, then we will lose our platform and ability to speak the truth of the Gospel into people’s lives.

4.  Even if the next president brings about the End Times, it is going to be all right.  One of the best tactics in fighting the sin of fear is to ask the question, “What is the worst that could happen?”  If the plane crashes, if the dog bites, if cancer attacks – what is the worst that could happen?  Death.  Ultimately we are afraid of death.  And while it is true that the event of death could be terrible and tragic, when we are freed from our bodies then we will be present with the Lord.  Death is our entryway to eternity with God.  We ultimately have nothing to fear.

Sure, we might fear loosing our jobs, being severely mangled or paralyzed or any other host of afflictions – but in these situations we have watched others faithfully walk and flourish through those circumstances and we can trust that God is working our circumstances out for our eternal good.  But He is also working our death for our eternal good.  Every person will die, and it will be through that experience that we finally get to meet Jesus face to face.

So what, then, if the next president takes us to new depths of depravity, the world is united under the leadership of the antichrist and the tribulation begins?  What do we have to fear?  Yes – there will be unthinkable atrocities that happen during that time, but ultimately we know how it will end:  we will be with Jesus.  And we can confidently and boldly proclaim that death has lost its sting:

“Oh death, where is your victory?  Oh death, where is your sting?”

– 1 Cor 15.55

In summary:  God is in control of our circumstances and our nation.  He will place into power the person He has already chosen as the next president of the United States and we can trust God to be working all things together for the spiritual well being of those who love Him.  Therefore, we should be respectable and honorable citizens, while taking full advantage of the political system under which we submit to fight for change in a God-honoring way.  We must, through all of this, remember that our greatest goal is to make disciples and not affect policy.  If we see Biblical laws enforced but no one has had a life-changing encounter with God, then we have done no eternal good.  Therefore we should be mindful of our witness in how we speak, in how we act and the battles we choose:  Let us seek to honor God first, make disciples second, and affect policy third.

How Will You Die?

graveyard

Death is unavoidable.  We all know that in 100 or so years, everyone we know will be dead.  Death is the end of life, the eternal closure to our fleeting years on this planet.  The progress of medicine and cultural shift towards entertainment and self gratification have sheltered – or distracted – us from this reality, and we typically only contemplate death and eternity when a loved one dies but we all know death is our destiny.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

– Heb 9.27-28

Scripture is unashamed about that fact that all mankind will die, and that by appointment of God.  After death we will all be judged according to the life we lived while on the Earth.  It has been a popular evangelism tool to ask the question, “If you were to die today and God were to ask you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?”  This question reveals a person’s understanding of the Gospel:  that there is nothing we can do to earn or merit our entrance into Heaven because God’s standard is perfection and we have all sinned – but Jesus died in our place and paid our debt of punishment so that we can be forgiven.

This question, however, reveals much about our personal faith and worldview.  If we approach a stranger or loved one with this question the likelihood is that we are considering salvation our escape from Hell, and that alone.  Jesus is for our eternity, He is for after we finish our life here on Earth.  Yes, it addresses our greatest need – but only in a superficial way – essentially saying, “one day we are going to die, then what?”

Jesus did not come to the world to take care of what happens after death, only.  Jesus came to the world to take care of what happens before death.  We cannot get a passport to Heaven, lock it in the drawer and count on it to gain us entrance into Heaven when we die – all the while continuing in life just as we did before.  Jesus came to give us new life which begins at the New Birth, our Spiritual birth, and never ends.  Our physical birth ends in our physical death, but our Spiritual life never ends.  You can read more about that here.

The New Birth required for salvation is when we are born Spiritually:  given Spiritual life (John 3).  This is the life that will continue beyond our death and will enter into eternity with Christ.  This life is birthed by the gift of faith by grace and results in our deep and unfaltering love for God and Jesus Christ (Eph 2.8-9).  God is love.  Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  If we do not love God and one another, we do not know God (1 John 4.7-8).  Loving Jesus and God means “abiding” in Him – or remaining in Him (John 15.4-7).  This means that our love for Jesus draws us continually to prayer (talking with Him), reading Scripture (to learn from Him and understand what He expects from us) and drawing strength from Him (relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us throughout the day).

In short, salvation necessarily results in our love for God.  Everything that we do, therefore, should be in response to that love for God.  Thus we have commandments like:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

– Col 3.17

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Cor 10.31

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

– Col 3.23-24

Scripture is indeed full of commandments.  If defines and condemns sin, it outlines how we should love, respect and care for the Church and for the world, it even teaches us how to worship God.  And while we take great care and make every effort to obey those commandments, it is not out of duty but out of love for God because of the love He has for us and the salvation He has given us through our new life.

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– Luke 7.47

And conversely, he who is forgiven much loves much.  Therefore, those who love Jesus will talk about Jesus continually.  They will recount the story of how He saved them, how He changed them, how He has given them Spiritual life.  They will talk about how much the love Him and what He is doing in their lives.  Their evangelism will not be, “Are you prepared to meet Jesus when you die” but rather, “May I introduce you to Jesus now?”  If Jesus is not transforming our lives now, we should seriously step back and examine our so called salvation – and see if we truly have Spiritual life.

I personally am more concerned about meeting Jesus and giving an account for my obedience to His commands.  He clearly taught us to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation (Matt 28.18-20).  He clearly taught us to love our neighbor in the same way that we love ourselves (Matt 22.39).  He clearly taught us to bear much fruit – growing in Spiritual maturity and teaching others to do the same (John 15.8).  We are promised that we have everything that we need for life and godliness in the Scriptures alone (2 Peter 1.3).  Can you imagine meeting Jesus face to face and admitting that you barely read or knew the Scriptures – His story and instructions for us?  Can you imagine meeting Him face to face and explaining why you did not go?  Why you did not make disciples?  Why you never met your neighbors, never gave to the Church or met other people’s needs?  Why you wasted all of your money on a house, car, entertainment and retirement?

Everything in the Earth is God’s (Ps 24.1).  We have been granted use of the Earth, the gifts and the finances that He deems fit.  We are stewards of His possessions.  Thus Paul says,

“For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

– 1 Cor 4.7

Jesus came to give us new life, which starts while we are alive physically.  He commanded us to be a part of Him bringing new life to others by going into all the world.  He is not primarily concerned about what happens after we die – even though we all will die.  He is primarily concerned about our love for Him that drives us to obedience of Him.  In this same vein John Piper said,

“The question, brothers, is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit.”

How will you die?

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

church2

I was raised in the non-denominational, evangelical system.  When I started High School, my family began attending a large Southern Baptist Church which fulfilled exactly zero of the normal stereotypes of the SBC.  It had a contemporary sanctuary, a full band (including drums) on stage, and thrived on evangelistic events which drew people in the doors, yet never preached Hell, fire and brimstone.  It was big, it was upbeat, it was cool.  Many evangelical churches in the 90’s and 2000’s moved away from a traditional sanctuary feel, and build modern spaces with state of the art lighting and contemporary sound.  Church became a performance and concert, all with the intention of winning people to Jesus.

With the advent of the hipster, however, it has been particularly interesting to watch a large number of my peers move away from this contemporary structure and begin to long for the traditions and liturgy of the High Church.  They do not abandon the Gospel, but find deep truth and meaning in creeds, reflection and reverence.  The Millennials are beginning to say that they would prefer their church to feel like a church – stained glass windows, an established sanctuary, and a reverent and respectful service that focuses on God instead of entertainment.  Those of us who were raised on strobe lights and fog machines are over it, by-in-large.  In short, we want to know that God is real.  The Church cannot entertain us the way a concert or secular performance can, but we are not looking for it to do so.

This, of course, does not envelope the complete experience of the Millenial.  Many who were raised in the High Church are looking for a release and find freedom in the modern approach of the Evangelical Church, and many who had no exposure to the Church in childhood enjoy the mega church that has a state of the art sound system and rock concert feel, wrapped up by a motivational speaker.  Perhaps this goes to show that we as humans are never satisfied and long for what we do not have?

We have also seen that Church is becoming less and less a normal part of society.  Most Baby Boomers were raised going to church every Sunday.  It was a part of the culture, everyone went.  Nowadays, there is neither an expectation nor condemnation contingent upon Church attendance.  With that, the general understanding of the tenants of the Church and individual denominations is waning, and thus we are regularly seeing people drift from denomination to denomination.  That same Southern Baptist Church gained people from and lost people to the Christian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Nazarine Church and even the Catholic Church and many others.  With this level of intermingling, we see interesting variations of traditions and beliefs practiced in many Churches.

All of that is to say, it is becoming much more common to see people embracing traditions from long ago amongst the Evangelical community, which by-in-large had been abandoned.  For instance, the season of Lent.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  It exists to honor the forty days of fasting that Jesus kept in the wilderness as He was beginning His Earthly ministry, and thus the adherent fasts for forty days, traditionally preparing himself for the celebration of Easter (and the Holy Week) through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self denial.  Many who keep the season choose one particular indulgence which they deem a distraction from which to fast and give the time saved to prayer, and the money saved to the poor – thus we see people giving up social media, a daily Starbucks habit, or something of the like.  Most who keep Lent will attend a service during which they receive the mark of the cross on their foreheads in Ash, and are charged, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” and “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”.

I am neither advocating for or against the keeping of Lent for the next six weeks, but I think that its motivation it is worth our consideration today.  First of all, the focus behind it is eternal:  We were made from dust and we will return to dust.  Therefore, since you will die and you can take nothing with you which you have obtained on this Earth, repent from your sins and believe in the Gospel!  It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that will come the judgment (Heb 9.27).  We know not the day nor the hour that our lives will be expected of us, and thus we must be prepared to meet Jesus face to face – having already met Him through repentance and salvation while alive (Matt 24.36).

Secondly, the focus is Spiritual:  if we can take nothing with us when we die, then we should busy ourselves with making an eternal impact with our finances, time, gifts and energy (Matt 6.19-20).  That boat might make you happy on beautiful days when you can get outside, but it will break down, take up space, and be useless most days of the year.  However, if you use your money to develop a house that keeps and trains people with basic work skills while preaching the Gospel, you will be a part of the salvation process for many, and make an eternal impact by multiplying believers and serving the poor.

Thirdly, the focus is internal:  Jesus commanded us to repent from our sins (Matt 4.17).  It is easy to gloss over our sinful tendencies and habits and assume that Jesus will forgive us, but Scripture plainly teaches us that friendship with the world and peace with sin is enmity with God (James 4.4).  The Christian life is marked by the believer waging war on his sins to glory of God.  This is done through prayer, meditation on Scripture, and life adjustment according to the Word of God.

Lastly, the focus is external:  the intentional sacrificing of money for the poor and to give to the church.  We are commanded throughout Scripture to give the first 10% of our income to God via the Church.  Without this basic tithe, our churches would have no finances to support pastors, ministries or maintain facilities – apart from God’s intervention.  This command is so poignant, in fact, that Scripture tells us if we do not tithe, we are stealing from God (Mal 3.8-10).  But the voluntary giving of alms speaks to the special gifts and sacrifices that we make to help brothers and sisters in Christ, to feed and clothe the poor, and to serve ministries beyond that initial gift.  It has been said that if you want to know what you love, just thumb through your checkbook.  Do you love the poor?

Whether or not you intend to fast and keep the next six weeks of remembrance, remember this:  “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Life with expectancy

return

The closing question for my small group’s discussion last night was, “How would your life be different (practically and specifically) if you lived each day with a continual expectancy of Christ’s return?”  It is a convicting question, to be sure.  We could get into the Biblical truths around the topic, like the fact that the Gospel has not yet gone to every tribe, and we have not yet seen the tribulation and Anti Christ – therefore we know that Christ’s return will not be today…but the temptation is to let that be an excuse to live without urgency.  What if our attitude, instead of complacency, was that nothing in this world satisfies – netflix, movies, music, money – and we are all headed into eternity at an alarming rate, and Jesus gives us abundant life both here and eternally?  What if we considered ourselves part of the task force that was completing the Great Commission to see the Gospel taken to even tribe, tongue and nation – so that the end can come?  What if we loved God and took Him seriously?

We all know in our hearts and spirits that the pleasures and treasures of this world do not satisfy, yet we continually turn back to them.  What if we set out to fight those temptations and natural desires?  What if we feed our Spirits a steady diet of intimate time with God, receiving true pleasure and peace, and allowing Him to guide us throughout our days?  Isaac Watts is one of my favorite hymnist, and he penned these beautiful words:

“Early my God, without delay, I haste to seek your face.
My thirsty spirit fades away without your cheering grace.
My spirit toils with this life’s gloom and fights to stay the course.
Remind me of that Heavenly hour when you first called me yours.

Early my God, without delay, before tomorrow’s dawn,
Let trumpets sound the vict’ry tune because you have returned.
Not life itself with all her joys will tempt my spirit move,
My maker and my helping hand, all I need is you.”

 – Isaac Watts

Do you wake up thirsty for God, and turn to Him immediately when you wake up?  Do you find pleasure in being reminded of your conversion experience?  Does He sustain you through life’s gloom and trials?  Is He all you need?

Let’s live for something bigger and greater than momentary pleasure.  Let’s live for Christ’s return.  Let’s know Him, let’s love Him, let’s proclaim the gospel so that others can come to know and love Him too – while there is still time.  And let us long for the day that He returns.  Not only to receive the benefit of entering into eternity, but to finally be in the presence of Jesus, our Savior.

To know the unknowable

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Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the vast amount of information, history, promises and truths within the Bible?  It was not uncommon for people in the early church to have entire books of the Bible memorized, but even rote memorization does not immediately enlighten us to the countless truths found therein.

We know that God, the author of Scripture, is so vast that we cannot comprehend or know everything about Him.  He is infinite.  This is part of the reason we will exist eternally after death, so as to continue to learn and love more about Him.  At our moment of glorification, we will have a level of perfected knowledge:  we will understand why things happened and how they all orchestrated to God’s glory:

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

 – 1 Cor 13.9-10

God has revealed to us everything that we need for this life and for Godliness.  And to that end, there is a very real expectation that we know what He has revealed to us to know!

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

 – 2 Peter 1.2-3

And did you know that Paul prayed for the Ephesian Church, that they would know the love of Christ “which surpasses knowledge”?  He prays that believers would know that which is beyond knowing!

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

– Eph 3.14-19

Our Spiritual life is not just an attribute of our personality.  Our salvation is not just fire insurance from Hell.  Our walk with God is not an inoculation that keeps us spiritually healthy.  God has revealed Himself to us, to a measure, and wants us to know Him!  He already knows everything about us, there is nothing more that He can learn – He created, ordained and orchestrated everything about us.  But we can always learn more about Him.

Do you want to get to judgment day and confess that you never read the book He wrote for you?  Do you want to claim ignorance as your excuse?  Let us press into God.  There is no greater joy.  Let us pray for one another, that we would love and know Him in that great measure, “beyond knowledge”.  Let us spend time with Him, be transformed by Him, and love Him with everything we have.

Life is but a vapor

This week my small group was studying the end of James 4,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

– James 4.13-17

And while the instruction is a reprimand towards the arrogant who seek to make their success and livelihood here on Earth without considering God and eternity, there is a very real application to all of us in our daily lifestyles and choices.  Less than twenty four hours later an accident was reported of a couple with whom I went to seminary.  They were on furlough and preparing to go back to Rome for their third term, and a semi truck hit them and killed the wife and mother of three.  She was thirty one years old.

Our life is but a vapor.  

Whenever someone passes away, it is natural for the community to consider the realities of life and death.  And when someone so young is taken, many are left asking the question that we all need to ask before we die:  “Why”?  What is the meaning of life?   What happens next?

Kyra knew the Lord.  She understood her sin, she confessed her sin and asked Jesus for forgiveness and found refuge in His righteousness that He provided by living a perfect life on Earth, dying in our place and raising again to conquer death.  She and her husband gave their lives in order to go and share this Gospel with the people of Italy.  And now she is resting in the presence of Jesus Christ, having begun the rest of eternity which we all aim to find.

While this feels like a tragedy, having been taken at such a young age and leaving her husband and three young children behind, we can take comfort and peace in the fact that she is now with the Lord and that she gave her life to things that will matter in eternity.  She invested in the treasures that moth and rust will not destroy.

James teaches us that God is in sovereign control over our lives.  He teaches us that every plan we make should be established with the mindset,

“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

If the Lord wills, we will live.  Jesus reprimanded the Hebrew people for the same attitude and used this statement to declare the brevity of life:

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”

– Luke 12.20

He was using the illustration of a wealthy man who was building barns and storing up treasures for himself.  Yet God says, “This very night your soul is required of you”.  God allows us to live and takes us when it is His sovereign plan for us to enter into eternity.  Some will go when they are four, some when they are twenty four and some when they are ninety four.  God is in control of it all.

Therefore, we should be diligent to live unto God and prepare for eternity.  Jesus says,

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

– Luke 12.22-23

He also instructs us,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.19-21

The meaning of life, the “chief end of man” as catechisms phrase it, is to know God and to enjoy Him forever.  Kyra was a beautiful example of this.  She knew God, she enjoyed Him, and now she is enjoying Him face to face.  She invested in the treasures of eternity and is receiving her reward as we speak.  And Jesus taught His disciples,

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!  And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!  And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

– Luke 12.25-31

We will probably never know why Kyra’s life was so short here on Earth, but we can be confident that God will take care of Reid, her husband and her children.  He has promised to.  And He is grieving with them.  God is our comforter, and he takes every tear and keeps them.

“You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?”

– Ps 56.8

Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one, and are considering the meaning of life.  Perhaps you are exhausted of living for the world and are looking for an eternal purpose.  Perhaps you simply are considering what happens after death.  God has offered us a hope and a provision for our eternity.  Because all of us have sinned, we all deserve an eternity separated from God in Hell.  The punishment for any and all sin is eternal death.  But God loved us so much that He offered His son as the perfect sacrifice to take our place.  Jesus died so that we might be forgiven.  He took our punishment, and after three days in the grave He rose to conquer death.  If we confess our sins, and proclaim Jesus as Lord over our lives, we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him.

Meet Jesus today.  Live for the things that will matter in eternity.  Store up treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy.  Because life is a vapor, and we might not be here tomorrow.

kyra