In our previous blog post we looked at how to remain faithful and overcome the onslaught of wickedness that is increasing at a very fast pace. So another unshakable truth that will enable us to withstand the challenges that confront us, is to have an eternal perspective in everything we do.
It is easy for modern Western Christians to forget that heaven is real place and our final destiny. So many of us today live in such peace and affluence that we forget about heaven. We actually think that God’s purpose is to bless our lives here on earth.
Millions of immigrants work like possessed men, some of us amassing large fortunes, so that our kids can afford the things we never had. But over one-fourth of all U.S males die within two years after retirement because work is the only thing keeping them alive. It’s the reason too many of us-even dedicated Christians find heaven a topic of only minor interest because we consider it irrelevant to the challenges of this present life. Phillip Yancey writes:
The kingdom of heaven recasts life on this planet from Jesus’ own perspective, the perspective of two worlds. His words seem revolutionary to us only because we think like people who live an average of sixty or seventy years on a planet made of rocks and trees and soil. Jesus introduced a new way of thinking, raising sights to a life that extends into eternity and involves unseen worlds we have not the capacity to detect. He came to establish an alternate community centered on values from that invisible world, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Seen in that light, the kingdom of heaven prescribes a way of life that promotes what matters most and lasts longest.
Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s revivalists and leader of the Great Awakening took seriously Christ’s direction to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He determined that he would focus on ultimate success.
In early twenties Edwards complied a set of personal resolutions. Among them was this commitment: “Resolved, To endeavor to obtain for myself as much for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.
A Fanatic For Christ
Historians tell us a story of a Christian who was brought before the Roman emperor and was told to renounce his faith.
The emperor said to him, “Give up Christ, or I will banish you.”
The Christian said, “You can’t banish me from Christ, for God says, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
The ruler said, “I will confiscate your property.”
The Christian replied, “My treasures are laid up in heaven. You can’t touch them.”
Then emperor said, “I will kill you.”
The Christian answered, “I have been dead to the world in Christ for 40 years. My life is hid with Christ in God. You can’t touch it.”
The emperor turned to the members of his court and said in disgust, “What can you do with such a fanatic?”
The Story of Missionary C.T. Studd (1860–1931)
The missionary, famous British athlete, and founder of Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, C. T. Studd was saved in 1878 at the age of eighteen when a visiting preacher at their home caught him on his way to play cricket.
“Are you a Christian?” he asked. Studd’s answer was not convincing enough, so the guest pressed the point and Studd tells what happened as he acknowledged God’s gift of eternal life received through faith in Christ:
I got down on my knees and I did say ‘thank You’ to God. And right then and there joy and peace came into my soul. I knew then what it was to be ‘born again’ and the Bible which had been so dry to me before, became everything.
His two brothers were also saved the very same day. But there followed a period of six years in a backslidden state. C.T. Studd relates this time:
Instead of going and telling others of the love of Christ, I was selfish and kept the knowledge to myself. The result was that gradually my love began to grow cold, and the love of the world began to come in. I spent six years in that unhappy backslidden state.
In 1884 after his brother George was taken seriously ill, Studd was confronted by the question, “What is all this fame and flattery worth…when a man comes to face eternity?” He had to admit that since his conversion six years earlier, he had been in “an unhappy backslidden state.” As a result of the experience, he said,
I know that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come. Still further, and what was better than all, He set me to work for Him, and I began to try and persuade my friends to read the Gospel, and to speak to them individually about their souls. I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give…but those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.
Studd gave up all his achievements in this life for Christ’s sake. He was challenged to his commitment by an article written by an atheist. That article, in part, said:
If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand, or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be: “WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN IF HE GAINS THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSE HIS OWN SOUL.”
Citizens of Heaven
Augustine, one of the early church fathers, asked, “Why do we not know the country whose citizens we are? Because we have wandered so far away that we have forgotten about it”. There is a lot of disinformation about heaven. Yet Paul reminds us that we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) as Savior (Philippians 3:20).
Many of us seem to have a concept of heaven where people go around all day long with a harp and sing forever and ever. But for biblically informed believers, the life after this one is the eternal continuation and intensifying of the new life that began when we committed our lives to Christ. On that day we were genuinely converted-not just our souls, but also our values. Things we previously began to be unattractive, and things once disdained began to be embraced.
The readiness to meet the Lord when He returns is one of the great motivations of the Christian life and that is why every Christian must strive to be perfect in motive. No outward actions are acceptable to God, including religious practices, unless they are done from the heart to please God and with the right motives.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, our motives and motivations begin to change. No longer is our passion merely to please ourselves. Now we long to please Jesus:
Therefore, whether we are at home on earth away from Him or away from home and with Him, we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive his pay according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
It is right belief in Jesus Christ that get gets us into heaven. Its right behaviour that qualifies us for eternal rewards. These eternal rewards are worth enduring all the suffering, false accusations, exclusion and hatred for (see Luke 6:22-23) Indeed, they are worth dying for (Revelation 2:10). The Bible teaches that Christians will one day stand before the Lord, not recoiling in fear of possible expulsion but to receive His affirmation.
We must remember, however, that this world is no friend to grace. As this age draws to a close, we should expect a continual moral decline in society.
The Bible reminds us that there will be an increase of wickedness and the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity, and that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble hard to deal with and hard to bear (Matthew 24:12; 2 Timothy 3:1).
In the meantime, whatever success or seeming failure we have in this world must be measured and viewed in the light of our eternal destiny. If we make heaven our point of reference it will transform our relationship to everything that is temporal in this world. Every day is a new opportunity to discover what eternal business might be lurking in the ordinary business of being human. In view of this brevity of time, we should pray, as Moses did, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
C.S Lewis wrote: Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. There is no reason to let up now. Since we have no clear date for the termination of the present age, we must keep on loving and serving Christ until He comes.
An African Martyr
A young African martyr wrote these words in his prison cell before he died:
I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made—I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ—I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure—I’m finished and done with low living. Sight walking, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, and prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.
I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me and when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.