Jan 27, 2013
I have been thinking lately of insights that my wife shared during her period of ministry. Some I have “swiped” and used in my blogs and other writing; just as any Christian wisdom we all gain has been similarly swiped from the Holy Spirit, after all. One of the Holy Ghost’s job descriptions is to guide us in all ways spiritual.
She once observed that the devil doesn’t hate us for ourselves – he doesn’t give a fig for us – but hates the Jesus in us. And that hatred is in direct proportion to the amount of Jesus we have invited into our hearts; that is, the Christ who lives in our lives, and we display and exercise. Just so. This is why Jesus warned that believers would have trouble in this world, and face persecution from all sources, even from family.
She also once observed that before every major event in Jesus’s life and ministry that is recorded in scripture, He went aside to pray. Here was the Son of God – the Incarnate God, in that great mystery – who nevertheless needed to pray. He prayed in private; He prayed long; He prayed often; and He prayed fervently. Surely an example we must not ignore.
And then, Christ’s many references to Heaven. He did good works, and He encouraged others to do good works; certainly. But He focused on Heaven. It should be our goal. It is our natural home. It is where we will find peace… where we will receive treasures… where we will dwell with the Most High. But Jesus did not try to bribe His followers with glimpses of a dreamy theme park: eternal life should be our goal. It is gained by believing that Jesus is the Son of God, in your heart, and confessing this Truth by your words.
There is a movement in contemporary church circles to denigrate the place of Heaven. A gaggle of propositions is maintained chiefly by the “emergent” church, who merely comprise the shock troops; philosophies have also infected mainstream and many evangelical churches. The simple Gospel message is too, well, simple, in their eyes.
It amuses me that the vocabulary of the movement invests it with a secret-society entre-nous aura that is the spiritual equivalence of certain door-knocks to enter speakeasies or secret handshakes in fraternal societies. Let’s see: it is not a church; it is a “conversation.” They are not Christians; they are “Christ-followers.” It is not about answers; it is about “questions” (many of the proponents deny Absolute Truth). It is not about the destination, but about the “journey.”
When the destination is Heaven, this last emergent commandment stubs its spiritual toe. Recent emergent cardinals or popes have dismissed the relevance of Heaven, and some reject the existence of Heaven and/or hell. The real importance, if I can apply a generous patina to their reasoning, is to do Heaven’s work on earth. That is, charity, caring, assistance, and service to others. It is what Jesus would do if He were now, we are told.
Yes, He would. Yes, He did. But He never missed the opportunity to be up-front about a person’s heart, faith, and eternal life. Salvation. Heaven. The place Jesus talked about, and pointed us towards. It was His priority, to be every person’s priority.
It is simple, really – Christ’s concern was our own salvation, one by one, so that after our standing is sure, we might properly serve others. And for the proper reasons. It is ironic that after 500 years, the “works doctrine” asserts itself again. The same with this modern version of relativism, which has polluted the church for 2000 years. If good deeds earn us eternal life, be prepared to meet a lot of government bureaucrats who otherwise despise the Bible, and Communist commissars who dictate food allotments but who shut down churches.
Our righteousness – the “good deeds” we do, our pumped-up conceits of the works we perform – are as dirty rags to God. The Bible tells me so. Practically speaking, these acts might be worthless, and are surely worth less, in God’s eyes, if we neglect our own salvation and do not preach it to others.
The sixth chapter of Matthew has words about these things. It is one of the Bible’s chapters that fairly overflows with elemental wisdom. The Lord’s Prayer; not letting your left hand know what the right does; the lilies of the field; today’s troubles being sufficient to themselves. And “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” Read it when you have a chance. Here are some excerpts:
Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing….
And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! …why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously….
All pointing to Heaven. To earnestly desire Heaven, we will, as our hearts overflow with godliness, serve others. To do service work as a way of earning Heaven – or, worse, to not care whether we will have eternal life with God or not – is the abrogation of faith, of love, and of obedience.
As we think of Heaven – as I believe Jesus wants us to do, continuously – we also look forward to experiencing the joy of fellowship with the saints, communion with God, friendship with Jesus; and the grandest of all reunions. What a meeting in the air!
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Click: What a Meeting In the Air