Sometimes it’s good to be reminded where this is all heading, and why as followers of Jesus we do what we do. Otherwise we’re left gazing at a shrunken and desperately limited horizon.
Our new home will be a real place, absent of sin, with Jesus as King. That’s what we are working and waiting for.
I hope to encourage you and motivate you with this blog, by reminding you of where this is all heading and why you are doing what you’re doing. The two are connected.
This is all heading somewhere.
And it’s good!
And we’re not left guessing where that is.
The scriptures are so clear, and the stories of the men and women within its pages model for us a life full of expectation, putting up with so much here because their vision rests on eternity. Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Sadly, I hear less and less about the afterlife as a motivation to come to Jesus and as a motivation to live faithfully for him on this journey. Years ago I attended a two week evangelism training called Evangelism Explosion (E.E.). E.E. helped me tremendously in my interaction with unbelievers. The premise, or assumption of this methodology, rested on the notion that we are eternal beings, heading for one of only two destinies.
Heaven, or hell.
The conversation-starter penetrated into what happens after death, on what is transcendent. If you were to die today, do you know for sure you would go to heaven? This diagnostic question exposes what the recipient truly believes and what I, the messenger, needs to offer from the gospel to point to the right eternal destiny through our Savior Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on the cross. And then offering an invitation to acknowledge sin, confess those sins to God and embrace what Jesus did when He took the penalty of sin for all mankind. About ten years ago, a shift took place. I attended another training, produced by the same ministry organization, but this time the underlying motivation, the focus of conversation, closed in on having purpose for this life. Here, the diagnostic question stated, On a scale of 1-10 how fulfilling is your life?The transcendent, the then and there, was replaced by immanence, the here and now. Based on the hearer’s response, I, the messenger, would offer Jesus the Savior as a gap-filler for a better life here, now.
I meet with a neighbor each Tuesday morning to discuss the Bible and pray together. Two weeks ago we talked about eternity, life after death. I can’t shake a comment he made. Mitch, the last sermon I heard on the topic of hell was 24 years ago.
I agreed with him that there is little emphasis on the afterlife in our preaching. Most of our preaching today presents Jesus, offers the gospel, that we might live a better life, and that is it. Your best-life-now does nothing more than diminish the scope and reach of hope. If this is the best it gets, we’re a sorry bunch. One Christian radio host boldly goes where few would go when he says, If this is your best life now, you’re heading to hell. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:10)
No, it’s gonna be a lot better than this, folks.
The best is yet to come, and we need to talk about it more, think about it more than we do. Yes, I want to see healthy relationship here and now, but only so that couple can live with hope that after this life they’ll enter, finally and fully into a deeper lasting relationship with Jesus. And with each other. And out of their healthy relationship they have so influenced their children to also enter that rest. What good does it do to see a healthy marriage that renders itself meaningless after this life? Sure, I want to see the hungry fed, and poor clothed, but fed and clothed with a longing that one day they will be fully wrapped by the righteous garments of Jesus. No, of course I don’t want to see families struggle financially, but I long more for them to prosper eternally, having placed their hope in an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you ..(1 Peter 1:4)
The gospel offers life now and for eternity. To present the gospel only for this life is like offering life insurance to a dead man. It’s meaningless.
Here’s the irony, or paradox. Talking and thinking about eternity makes life purposeful now. Yes, the way to be of earthly good is to be heavenly minded. You want purpose and fulfillment? Think of tomorrow, about heaven, and eternity and being with Jesus forever. That puts pain into perspective. It’s a motivation to say no to sin and avoid the mess that comes with it. It provides value to patient suffering. It’s a motivation to work on your marriage, to know that one day you’ll stand before God, and he’ll say well done good and faithful servant, you hung in there when it was tough. You did not give in. You thought about me, and how being faithful would one day be rewarded. You put the other as more important than yourself because you knew one day you would be standing here before me. And I would be pleased. And I am pleased.
Pastors, preach about heaven and hell. It’s the best news ever. No one ever has to go to hell because Jesus came and took the punishment for us. How will people ever know if you don’t tell them?
Heresy is not just preaching what is false, it’s also withholding what is true, even if it’s just portions of truth that are being held back.
Missionary, what you are going through, what you’ve said goodbye to, all you’ve given up to do what you’re doing is worth it, because heaven exists. Because following this world and this life, is a new life in a new, lasting, permanent world. You are where you are, ultimately to tell lost people about that. I know, it sounds so old school, so passé, but it’s a promise still full of hope.
Believer, live today serving others at work and at home, setting your heart and mind on things above, not just on earthly things. (Colossians 4:1-2) See those around you as spiritual beings facing an eternal destiny. Let that both bother you and excite you.
Are you not a follower of Jesus? I do mean to scare you with this, and I love you too much to not say it. This month the news is dominated by a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, England. I lived only twenty miles from there, and have been to that area often. I would not be surprised if I hear that I know people who knew people who were there. No one who died knew this would happen to them. Some were small, young children.
Life cut so short.
It could be us, at any moment.
Where will you go when you die? Do you know? If not, I have the best news ever, which far surpasses anything I can offer you for this life. And it comes straight from the Bible. Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.. (1 Corinthians 15:1-14)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)