God’s Word, relationships, and the eternal hereafter

Make it an aim in your church to build relationships. This is so cliche now that it hardly needs to be said. But I’ll say it anyway– ministry is people-work. So build relationships.

I have often heard the saying that we real meaning in life is found when we dedicate ourselves to something that will outlast us. Even though this is often used in the secular world as a motivation to leave a legacy, the principle holds true biblically. In fact, the Christian life is to be entirely devoted to the heavenly country. Yes, there are here-and-now benefits to faith, but by-and-large, our faith will bring us nothing but trouble on earth. We are “sojourners and exiles” here. Jesus told us not to be surprised when there’s trouble. But it is the faith in another life that enables us to not only to endure but also to rejoice in the sufferings that we walk through now.

We really believe that these afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. We really believe that these present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed. Belief in an eternity with God– one that promises an end to strife, tears, pain, loss, and death– is the substance of Christian hope. Hope in heaven draws us onward. Our life here is but a vapor. A million years from now, our time on earth will be a faint, forgotten dream. Yes, it is true that all you’ve experienced so far is a flesh-burdened, earth-bound, pain-filled existence– but you were made to last forever. Life won’t be this way forever. You won’t be this way forever. Your ways of thinking will change. One nanosecond after death all your priorities will change. Your bucketlist will disintegrate in your hands. You will swallow all your complaints. On the porch of eternity you will know what life was about, what mattered, what didn’t– and I can’t imagine the gut-wrenching sensation that will overcome those who did not use their years well. Because, like it or not, next stop: eternity. It’s the last stop, too.

And you will enter in. Civilizations will rise and fall; ages and epochs will come and go– this earth may grow cold and shrivel up– but you and I and every human soul will still be alive. The vast majority of our lives will be spend in a post-death universe.

And everything will become very clear. The dead infant knows more than the brightest living philosopher. There’s nothing so clarifying as death. “Voltaire now knows whether there is a sin-hating God, and David Hume now now knows whether there is an endless hell.” If there is no afterlife– no heaven or hell– then Christians are most to be pitied.

We walk by faith in those truths, not by sight. No one has bridged the gap of death, escaped the teeth of hell and lived to tell about it. No one, that is, except Jesus.

We live for something elsewhere; something unseen; something greater. Don’t you recognize that this isn’t all there is? Don’t you recognize that there are a thousand things you can give your life to that will, in light of eternity, be rather pointless? That it is actually quite a real thing that you could be aiming to accomplish that which does not matter at all? Wouldn’t it be quite embarrassing to be building sandcastles in the surf when death comes knocking?

What does that have to do with relationships? This: relationships involve people. People last forever. Everyone (this is terrifyingly true) possesses, whether they like it or not, an eternal soul.

Make your life simple: dedicate it to the two things God has ordained to last forever. That is, give your life to the Word, and give your life to people. Fuse those two eternal things together and you invest in eternity. Don’t get bogged down in so many complex other things that you’re crippled from doing what matters. Get to know God’s Word. Get to know people. And then help people to know God’s Word.

Why do we make ministry so complex? It doesn’t have to be. Consider eternity– and then live accordingly.

 

Thoughts: Heaven Without Jesus

A heaven without Jesus doesn’t make any sense for the born-again believer. Such a place might be nice, but it would not be heaven. It may be a better place than here, but ultimately it would prove to be tantalizing. The reason why freedom from sin is so appealing to the Christian is not ultimately because sin is painful (though it is), or that it hurts others (which it does) but is because sin blinds the spiritual eyes from seeing the glory of Christ. Sin obscures, trivializes, and clouds Jesus Christ in all His wonderful glory. The goodness of heaven and the benefit of sinless perfection is fundamentally in the fact that we are finally able to enjoy Christ’s beauty, goodness, and perfection without the obstruction of sin. A heaven without Christ is simply not possible. And for one who is a new creation in Christ to be in such a place would be similar to the eternal punishment of Tantalus in Hades, who reached for the satisfying fruit above him but could not reach; who bent over for the satisfying water but could not drink.  To see Christ in all his glory without being able to be near him and enjoy him, would not be heaven. It would be hell.