Thursday, February 11, 2016

Now and Eternity

“And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)

The gospel is a call to completely forsake the world as it is and live for the radical hope of the world as Christ will one day make it. To give up the comfort and the priorities of this life, trusting that they are temporary and that the promise is true of a permanent future and of resurrection life in the new heavens and earth in the age to come when our bodies are given health and vitality that cannot be taken away and where we live forever as perfected men and women humbly in the presence of our great and glorious God. Truly believing this, truly trusting in this hope purchased for us by the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord changes everything. One simply cannot have faith that this is true and yet live as if this life is all there is, drinking in its pleasures because “you only live once,” checking worldly goals off our “bucket list” because you “have to experience this before you die.” No, the way of the world is simply not possible for those who believe in the grace of God in Christ Jesus and the glorious eternal kingdom at His future return. Believing in Jesus changes everything. The gospel is a call to forsake this life, and to live for the promised eternity.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)

Christ Himself left his heavenly glory and took on the form a servant, even faced death on the cross, to purchase the kingdom and display its glorious future hope in His bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. In this, Christ is not only our master and savior, but also our model (Philippians 2:4-11) He was born outside in a manger, in his ministry the Son of Man had no place to lay his head, and at His death He was naked, mocked, spat on, beaten, shamed, tortured, and murdered. He could have come as a king, and the crowds often wanted to make Him one. He could have multiplied food and turned water to wine for himself instead of only for the hungry crowds (but He would not even turn a stone to bread for Himself when He was at the brink of starvation). He could have called an army of angels to strike down the crowd who called for His crucifixion. Indeed, with a single word He could have snuffed out the lives of His enemies by His own divine power. He would have had every right, yet He did not. He forsook all to bear our sins and to purchase the sinners redemption, and He has called us to also forsake all to bear our brother’s burden and call the sinner to repentance and to faith in the redemption that Christ alone has purchased. We are to daily take up our own cross and follow Him. This will surely look different for different Christians in different situations. We are not all of the same gifts and ministries, but we are all of the same body and Spirit, and of the same gospel call that is simply not compatible with the pleasures and priorities of this life and of this world’s manner of thinking and living. Indeed, it is like forsaking all other women to take a wife. When we enter into to covenant with God by faith in the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we are giving up the world. To live like we haven’t is a great sin!

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Abraham left his home for a promise he would not live to see fulfilled, but he trusted that God would be true to His word. Elisha left his family and his inheritance to live in the travails of a life as a prophet of God amidst a wicked generation, putting his hope in the LORD alone. The apostles left their nets, their parents, their offices, their lives. They lived without financial security and in constant threat of pain, prison, and death for the sake of the gospel and in hope of the kingdom to come. This is faith. This is the Christian life. Suffering now, glory later. A sojourner in a foreign land now, an heir to an eternal homeland in the age to come. 

“The earth will soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine. But God who called me here below will be forever mine” (John Newton, “Amazing Grace”)

So what are we to do? As I said, this looks different for each of us, but for all of us it looks radically different than the people around us. It definitely means that you need to boldly proclaim the gospel and live obediently to biblical standards, even if that costs you your job, your career path, your relationship with family and friends, your financial security, your comfort, even your freedom or your life. It means you might get fired from the job you worked and studied so long to obtain, and could even mean that because you got fired for your stand for biblical truth that you end up working a hard, dirty, lower wage job and just scraping by even though you are qualified for something more. It might never go that way for you, but it means Christ and the gospel being so central in your life and speech that it could go that way.  It means being willing.

But it also means more. A complete shift in priorities. For some of you maybe it means you relocate your business or transfer your work and your family to a place in the world, or even a region in the U.S., where the gospel is not often heard and to devote yourself to reaching the lost and helping the needy there. Maybe you are to stay right where you are, but to downsize your house, cancel your cable, eat out less (or even not at all), live like the poor and give all that money to support missions, or your local homeless shelter, or to fund adoptions, or to support a local pro-life ministry in rescuing children from death. Maybe you would even use some of your hours off work and your vacation days to participate in these things rather than merely pursuing the pleasures of personal leisure. Maybe you are young and married and ought to consider adopting or fostering children to show God’s special compassion to orphans. Maybe you need to quit your work and go into full time mission work, or use your skills in accounting or law or medicine or the like in the service of a ministry that needs such things (even though it will likely mean a pay cut, and even though behind the scenes work like this is not a very “glamorous” side of missions.) Or maybe it means stopping the advance of your career and “settling” for a lower position that will demand less of your time and focus because money and title are not as important as time with church and family and time to share the gospel in the street and to serve the poor. A quiet, simple, modest, hard working life that is devoted to the service of others is a radical thing in this materialistic and self centered world, even if it isn’t the kind of story you read Christian books about (as we previously discussed here). This is not an exhaustive list, only a few possible ideas out of many. Read your Bible, and apply what it says, even if what it says will make you look crazy to others around you. Read your Bible, and apply what it says, even if what it says will make you look mundane and boring to others around you. But in all things:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33) 

Luke Wayne is a bi-vocational Baptist missionary in Utah and the chief editor for Perilous Trails. He holds an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist College. He has served as a church planter in Olathe, KS and a Homeless Shelter Manager in Kansas City, MO. He is also a husband, father, fisher, hiker, security officer, and raiser of livestock.   

No comments:

Post a Comment