Theology must be based on God’s revelation of Himself and His will found in His Word. Too often we base it on a reaction to someone or some doctrine we are certain is wrong. And when we do, we can end up being just as wrong.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”
–Philippians 3:7-9 (ESV)
Got this video in my inbox yesterday. I thought it was neat and wanted to share. Enjoy!
I thought they missed a good opportunity by skipping the 5000 that left Him the day after He fed them, but enjoyed the concept.
What did you think? Click the following link to add your input: Post a comment.
Yes, you read the title of this post properly. I’ve decided I’m going to quit trying to go to heaven and I urge you to do the same. This has been a bit of a process for me. I’ve been struggling with this concept of going to heaven for a while now, but I’ve finally come to a conclusion.
I can’t do it, so why bother. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get myself to heaven. I can assemble with the saints every time the doors are open. I can give all my money into the collection and anything that is left over to the poor. I can sing all the songs as beautifully and meaningfully as possible. I can avoid big sins like adultery, murder, homosexuality. I can work on the sins I’ve struggled with like lust, angry outbursts, materialism. I can teach a person the gospel every day. I can build a huge tower reaching up to the heavens. It doesn’t matter. I can’t get myself to heaven. In fact, when I do all of that, it seems more like I’m just trying to make a name for myself.
So, I’ve decided to quit trying. I’m giving up on trying to go to heaven. If I go to heaven, it will be because God decided to take me there. I’ll leave my eternal destiny up to His decision. I’m no longer going to try to manipulate His decision.
Instead, today I’m going to work on connecting to God, getting closer to Him, and glorifying Him. Why would I do anything else? This is the God who created a world perfectly suited for me to live. This is the God who gave me life and a body (and the more I learn about this body, the more amazed I am at God’s wisdom and majesty). This is the God who has given me food every day of my life. This is the God who has clothed me. This is the God who has provided me shelter. This is the God who has given me family and friends. More than all of this, however, this is the God who sent His Son to die for me that I could be forgiven of the horrendous sins I’ve committed. This is the God who sacrificed His Son not only so I could be forgiven, but so I could be set free from the enslavement of my sins. This is the God who is sanctifying me and making me righteous because I hunger and thirst for that. How could I do anything but get connect, get closer, and glorify Him? I love Him. How could I not? Look at how He has loved me.
On a practical level, here are ten things this means for me today.
- I’ll walk in God’s presence. I know that sounds kind of ethereal, but it actually means something very practical to me. I’m going to work on constantly remembering God is with me. While that means I’ll have a specified time of prayer, it also means I’ll strive to carry on a conversation with the God who is right beside me holding me up all the way. As victories occur, I’ll thank Him. As struggles arise, I’ll retreat into Him. As the need for decisions arise, I’ll petition His wisdom. As I pursue the ways today lays before me, I’ll acknowledge God for His power and providence in my life. As I walk through my day, I’ll talk to Him.
- I’ll abide in God’s word. Again, that sounds ethereal but means something very practical for me. It means first of all that I’ll spend time in God’s word. I’ll read it. But more than that, I’ll give attention to what I’ve read; I’ll think about and meditate on what I’ve read. I’ll strive to pick at least one thing out of what I’ve read with which to examine myself and see if I’m in the faith because I’m living what God said. I’ll hide God’s word in my heart. I’ll study deeply to understand God’s will and know God’s mind. Is there any better way to get to know God than get deeply involved in what He is saying to me?
- I’ll love my wife as Christ loves the church. Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage (be careful, if you click that link, it will take you to Amazon.com and if you purchase something while there, you will be helping me out financially) helped me grasp Ephesians 5:22-33 on a deeper level. I’ve learned that nothing will help me become like Christ more than my relationship with Marita. Therefore, nothing can glorify God more than how I approach that relationship. When I love Marita as Jesus loved the church, I proclaim for the world His love. So, I’ll talk to her with love, not disrespectful judgment. I’ll make thoughtful requests, not selfish demands. I’ll bring peace to our relationship, not angry outbursts. I’ll fulfill her needs by the grace and strength of God.
- I’ll love my children and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. How I treat my children today demonstrates to the world what I think about God and what kind of Father He is. No doubt, it teaches my children how to view God. Let’s face it, if nothing else, it teaches my children how to view God. There is little else I can do to glorify God more than to strive to father as He does.
- I’ll resist the devil. James 4:7-8 demonstrates that resisting the devil goes hand in hand with drawing near to God. Based on my understanding of God’s will, I’ll resist the traps of the tempter, trusting in God’s way of escape and His grace and strength to see me through the battle.
- I’ll talk to others about God’s things. I’m doing it now through this blog. With my friends and family, while we may talk about the weather, we may talk about sports, we may talk about politics, I will make sure to make God’s things part of my conversation. I may talk about what I’ve studied in God’s word today. I may talk about God’s blessing in my life. I may talk about the gospel’s power to save to someone who is lost. I may talk about my decision to quit trying to go to heaven and just striving to connect to God.
- I’ll praise God. Perhaps this is just an extension of walking in God’s presence. But while typing this I looked out the window and saw three or four different kinds of birds. It just amazes me the intricacy and detail with which God has created our world. I want to praise Him for the red birds, blue birds, yellow birds, and black birds I’ve seen. I want to praise Him for the trees in my yard. I want to praise Him for the rain that continues the cycle of life. I want to praise Him for the seasons that are turning the leaves into hues of orange, yellow, gold, vermillion. I want to praise God for the coffee beans that have been roasted, ground up, and brewed and are now sitting next to my computer warming and refreshing me. I want to praise God for giving me the brethren with whom I ate on Saturday and Sunday, the friends and family with whom I played games over the weekend. I need to stop the list now or this point alone will dominate the post. I think you get the picture.
- I’ll serve others. I can’t help but think of the song “Make Me A Servant.” “Make me a servant, just like Your Son. For He was a servant. Please make me one.” If I get outside myself, sacrificing myself for others, I become more like God. What a glory that points toward Him, especially as I point others to Him as the motivation for my service. Of course, that will only be when they find out that I’m the one serving. To give God the glory, I’ll strive to keep the right hand from knowing what the left is doing. I won’t be out for credit. I’ll be serving because that in itself is a reward.
- I’ll spend time with God’s family. I can say this easily today because my family has been invited to another family’s house to have supper. While this may not be something I can do every day, it is something I’ll work on. After all, if I want to draw near to God, one of the best ways to do it is to draw near to God’s children.
- I’ll attend tonight’s assembly of the Franklin Church. This is obviously a very practical one for me today. It just so happened that I’ve made the decision to quit trying to go to heaven during the week the congregation I’m part of is having a special series on “Connecting and Conquering.” However, tonight, I’m not going to go because there is some rule about attending. Tonight, I’m not going to go because I’m the preacher and have to. Tonight, I’m not going to attend because the speaker is one of my best friends. Tonight, I’m going to attend because what could draw me closer to God and glorify Him more than meeting with other Christians to edify each other, praise God, and learn from His word as one of His children shares the fruit of his study of God’s word?
I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Today, I’m going to put my eternal destiny in God’s hands. I’ll let Him decide what to do with me for eternity. I’m no longer trying to manipulate Him, impress Him, or earn anything from Him. Today, I just want to get close to Him. I hope as I spend time with Him, I’ll see you hanging around with us.
The church in Laodicea is famous, though I’m sure if they knew it, they would not be pleased with their legacy. We all know Laodicea was the lukewarm church and Jesus was ready to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). But what exactly does this mean and how can we use their example as a springboard for our own spiritual lives?
For a long time, I read and preached this metaphor as I had heard it from others. Perhaps you have heard it presented this way. The temperatures represent a scale of spirituality. Hot was being on fire for the Lord with amazing zeal. Cold was being as absolutely uninterested and unconcerned about the Lord and spiritual things as possible. In fact, it was more than a lack of interest, it would represent a positive animosity to God and His things. Lukewarm, on the other hand was somewhere in the middle. It was not complete animosity or apathy. But, it wasn’t complete zeal for God either. It represented the person who cared enough to “go to church” perhaps but was just resting on their laurels and not working for the Lord at all.
With this reading, Jesus is saying He would rather the Laodiceans be His complete and utter enemies than act like they are His friends but not really serve Him.
Perhaps that is Jesus’ meaning with this metaphor, but more recently, I have read it differently.
The Tale of Two Drinks
This metaphor is a picture of useful drinks versus useless drinks. We have to ask what makes hot and cold drinks useful. Hot drinks are useful, especially on a cold day because they are comforting and warming. I drank a hot cup of coffee while driving in my cold, heaterless car this morning. It was most useful and I wish had more even now. The cold drink is useful on a hot day because it is refreshing and cooling.
But what happens if the useful drinks are left to sit on the counter for an hour or two? They lose their distinction. As we learned from high school science, the difference in temperature between the drink and its environment will begin to regulate each other. The energy from the hot drink will dissipate. The warmth from the air will heat the cold drink. They will both become tepid, lukewarm and useless.
Now, stop and think. What happened to these drinks?
They lost their distinction. I needed a hot drink on that cold day. I wanted a cold drink on that hot day. These drinks lost their usefulness because they had become just like their surroundings. Instead of having a great impact on their environment, their environment had an impact on them.
Do you see now what Jesus was telling Laodicea. His point was not that He would rather they be His clear enemies than just so-so. He was saying He wanted them to stand out and be different from their environment. He wanted them to impact those that surrounded them. Sadly, the reverse had been true and so they were to Jesus like the tepid cup of coffee–disgusting and useless.
The Springboard for Us
What’s the springboard for us? Stand out. Be different. Don’t try to blend in. Don’t try to make everyone like you spiritually. If that happens, you have probably become useless to the Lord. We are only useful to Him to the degree that we are different from our environment and therefore make an impact on it. Today, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks about your spirituality. Embrace it. No, don’t flaunt it Pharisaically as if you are special for your spirituality. But don’t hide it either, embarrassed that someone might find out you are a Christian. Let your light shine before men so that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The Rich Young Ruler
We’ve all heard of him. The man presented himself as a great disciple who had kept God’s law from his youth. But in the end, we find out that really he was only almost a disciple. I don’t want to be in that boat. I want to be a really, truly, totally and all the way a disciple. How about you?
When I examine his story in Luke 18:18-23, I find three questions that will force us out of the shallow end of discipleship and push us into the deep end of true discipleship.
Question #1: Do I live as though Jesus is merely good or truly God?
The Rich Young Ruler called Jesus “good teacher” and Jesus called him on it. Jesus wasn’t questioning His own deity. Rather, He was highlighting a problem the man had. He called Jesus good, but did he really believe Jesus was the ultimate good? Did he recognize that Jesus was actually more than a good teacher and that He was God in the flesh?
We listen to a good teacher when we want to. We listen to a good teacher when we like what he says. We listen to a good teacher as long as we still think he is good. We take a good teacher’s words as advice, something to do when we get around to it. That is not how we take God’s words. Jesus’ words are not just good advice, nice suggestions or possibilities. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He was and is God. Therefore His word is law.
When we live as though Jesus is truly God, then we surrender to His word. When He says, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved,” we believe and get baptized. When He says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we don’t let the sun go down on our anger. When He says “Treat others as more important than yourself,” we treat others as more important than ourselves.
Why do we do this? Because we know Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is the Great God.
Question #2: Who is my God?
The Rich Young Ruler said he had followed all the 10 commandments since his youth. He had not committed theft, murder, false witness or adultery. He had honored his father and mother. What a great man he was. How could he not possibly be a great disciple and inherit eternal life?
As we study this text, we realize this poor man actually was lying to himself. One of those commandments said, “Do not have other gods before Me.” Yet the Rich Young Ruler clearly had a god before Jehovah. His God was his material goods. He couldn’t possibly sacrifice them to have the eternal life God offered. Through that, he demonstrated who his real god was.
So, who is your God? Learn the lesson of the Rich Young Ruler. We can easily lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that Jesus is our God and runs our lives. Instead of just trusting what we’ll say when put to the test, let’s examine our lives. Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money? Who are best friends? What would we not give up if God asked? These questions can help us cut to the chase.
Or ask a friend. Ask your spouse. If you have kids, ask them. “What do you see is most important in my life?” They’ll be able to tell you and that can help you determine who your God really is. Don’t be like the almost disciple and simply trust your intellectual answer to the question. Dig deep and examine with rigorous honesty.
Question #3: What do I value?
At first glance, the Rich Young Ruler appeared to value eternal life. He came asking about it. Further, he claimed to have scrupulously kept the law since his youth. Even more, he was willing to go beyond that asking what more he needed to do.
However, as we see the story unfold, we find out that he did not truly value eternal life. Eternal life was not a driving core value. It was merely an aspiration. He would like eternal life if he could get it but not at the expense of his material goods. Through we find out what was his driving core value–Money. He valued money and material goods. That drove his decisions. He would be happy to keep God’s law until God’s law told him to give up his goods.
What do you value? Again, don’t just accept whatever you say when asked this intellectual question. We all know the right answer and can give it whenever asked. Instead of looking at this intellectual answer, we need to examine our lives. What drives our choices? Is it the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness or is it the pursuit of wealth, fame and influence?
Be careful. As we can see in the Rich Young Ruler, these are tough questions because we can so easily deceive ourselves. Don’t just ask them once. Ask them repeatedly. Question yourself like this regularly. Question your choices with these questions, especially those big life decisions like where will you work, who will you marry, where will you live, with what church will you work.
Don’t be only almost a disciple like the Rich Young Ruler. Be all the way a disciple.