Heaven in Your Sights

The ultimate impact of Christianity cannot be experienced on earth.  There are heavenly realities that are beyond our comprehension.

Yet most Western Christians have learned to be very earthly in their view of things.  They think about things of this natural life, instead of having Heaven in their sights.

I am prompting you here to take stock of the Heavenly realities and to get your perspective back on track.

Impact on Eternity

Your human existence is incredibly short.  We have about 70 years to live on planet earth.  And even if you lived double that, to 140 years that is not even a blink in terms of eternity.

Your eternal existence is SO amazing and SO extensive, that your experiences on earth don’t rate a mention.  Even a whole life of fine meals, comfortable furnishings, fast cars, impressive views, memorable holidays, wonderful friends, fun moments, and the like, will be long forgotten within moments of seeing the glories of heaven, or facing the horrors of hell.

Eternity is hard for us to grasp, but its reality and its impact should not be ignored.

Eternal Riches

The absolute blessedness of being God’s child, in the Heavenly family, surrounded and immersed in blessings that make human treats seem worthless, is SO profound and SO glorious that no amount of wealth, fame, fun, excitement, power, glory, significance or indulgence on earth has any value compared to those eternal riches.

Yet so many Christians are totally distracted by their urge to gain more of that which is of no value.  We get caught up in the same quest for money, success, promotion, importance, love, satisfaction, possessions, fulfilment and such, as those whose eternal destiny is shockingly tragic and horrible.

It is time to refocus our attention on the eternal riches.

Biblical Instruction

In view of the endemic addiction to the world that seems to hold the western church spellbound some Bible instructions stand in glaring contrast to that worldly culture.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.” 1John 2:15

“If you have risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Col 3:1,2

“For they that live by fleshly natural values think about things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5,6

The Instruction if Jesus

Add to those previous verses given to us by the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John the clear statement of Jesus about not laying up treasures on earth.

Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupts things and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Heavenly Treasure

Do you have anything stored up in heaven yet?  How much is in your heavenly account?

How would you know how much you had?  What are you looking forward to in eternity?

Or are you distracted by your store of earthly wealth?  Are you much more aware of you earthly bank account than your heavenly treasure?

How do you add to your heavenly riches?

Persecution Dividend

Jesus taught that you get a heavenly reward when you are persecuted for your faith here on earth.  It’s not a pleasant thought in terms of our human experience, but it pays really good dividends.  Persecution is a pretty good eternal investment.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:11,12

All those times you avoided being in a spot where you might be teased or mocked for your faith you missed out on adding to your heavenly reward.  Your concern about things “below” cost you greater blessings “above”.

Losing What You Try to Save

Another danger with being preoccupied with this life is that we might be tempted to try to “save” it, and end up losing much more.

Jesus warned that if we try to save this life, protecting yourself, your reputation, or whatever, you will lose your life.

“For whoever saves his life will lose it: and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

If you are anxious to save your skin, protect your reputation, preserve your opportunities for comfort and pleasure, or similarly “save” your life, Jesus warns that you will lose it.  But if you abandon those things for Christ’s sake you will find real purpose and pleasure in your life, and great blessing in Heaven.

Angels Food

A great analogy for our life is given in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites after coming out of Egypt.  They were supernaturally sustained in the wilderness by food that was on the ground fresh every morning.  This manna kept them alive for forty years.

But the people loathed what they referred to as “light bread”.  It just didn’t satisfy their hankering for the kind of food their appetites wanted.

“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or any water; and our soul loathes this light bread. ” Numbers 21:5

Yet the food the people loathed was very special.  It was “angels’ food”, the “corn of heaven”.  That means it nourished the spirit of man, but did not pander to the human appetites.  And remember, that food kept the people alive for 40 years.

“And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.  Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.” Psalm 78:24,25

Flesh Rejecting Spiritual Things

The “angels’ food” situation reveals something that is patently obvious from many points of view.  Natural man despises spiritual things.  Man rejects spiritual things and wants to pursue that which indulges and satisfies their fleshly nature.

Spiritual things are awesome and wonderful, such as we see in the wilderness where the manna sustained human life for 40 years.  But spiritual things don’t pander to our lusts and pride.

Note that the key qualities of this world, which our natural man hankers after, are matters of pride and lust.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever.” 1John 2:15-17

Spiritual things do not cater for our pride, but will call us to be humble.  Spiritual things will not feed our lusts, but will call on us to die to our flesh.

Tricking it Up

The modern western church caters for fleshly interests.  Rather than promoting what is strictly spiritual, churches try to “trick up” their services, music, presentation and message, so they can attract people.

But to attract people means we are pandering to their flesh.  Remember that spiritual things are not inherently attractive to natural man.  Angels’ food is loathed by people, unless God is calling them and doing a work in their hearts.

So we now have thousands of churches with all the tricky bits to pander to human pride and human lust.  Good looking people up front and state of the art design and deco, with upbeat populist messages, promises of more fun and more fulfilment, ego stroking affirmations and similar accoutrements are packaged together to create an appealing context to attract the public.

The gospel is morphed from “you need to be saved from your sin” to “God loves you and wants you to have a good time”.  Joining the club is more the model than laying down your life.

So it is not surprising that the fleshly “What’s in it for me?” theme should underlie much of what we call modern western Christianity.

Look to Heaven

Turn your eyes heavenward.  Stop being distracted or even addicted to this world and its glitzy seductions.  There is no dividend from investing in your flesh.  There are FAR more wonderful things to experience than those things that appease your pride and lust.

If you pander to your flesh you die.  If you, through the Spirit of God, do put to death the impulses of your natural man you will live.

“For if you live after the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

I call you to so live this life that you will be more than ready for the mansion Christ has prepared for you in His Father’s house, and for the great reward waiting for you in Heaven.  There are riches and blessings for us to enjoy that are beyond our comprehension and they are ours for ever, world without end, in Heaven, not on earth.

Pilgrim Pleasure 1

Follow Pilgrim in his discovery of forbidden pleasure. And just maybe you will see something of your own journey over the years. For, as we shall see, pleasure has a power of its own that Pilgrims should treat with care……

Pilgrim paused at the junction and considered what lay before him. His “Do Right” trail had thrown up many hurdles, yet he always found sufficient resolve to cross them all.

The trail stretched before him, austere and narrow, straight toward dark, thankless mountains. Foreboding echoed from every crag. It was a Pilgrim’s lot to scale such heights and grow by doing so. Pilgrim’s shoulders slumped at the thought of what awaited him ahead.

pilgrims progress

To the left, down a short path spread a lush and leafy pasture, where the sun shed mottled patches through leafy trees. The path was marked, “Please Yourself”, and pleaded to his weary senses.

The Path to Pleasure

“I was warned of such a path”, he spoke to himself. Yet he paused and longed for the relief so near.

Even though Pilgrim kept away from self-indulgence he had enjoyed life so far. Overcoming a daunting obstacle, bringing joy to others, helping his friends and doing right all brought a reward that nourished him.

But at times he just longed for the freedom to do as he pleased. And now, as he thought, the meadow was so close. “Surely I could suffer no harm to pause for a moment.” Without further word he eased his load from aching shoulders and moved tentatively toward the inviting pasture.

Falling into the soft grass brought celebration to his senses. Muscles rested as a smile came to his lips. Surely this could not be bad, since the Lord Himself commended rest.

Breezes swept sweet scents to his nostrils and birds chirped happy music to his ears.

Sleep came readily in the sweet comforts of the meadow.

Call to Return

He woke to the cries of a friend. A companion he oft walked with called him back to the trail. “You are not to go to such a place.”

“It’s fine. I suffer no harm. Come, see for yourself.”

The companion stood firm, so the pilgrim rolled in the grass to show how harmless the meadow was. “Come. See for yourself!” As the companion remained resolute the pilgrim laughed at him.

“This is great fun. And it makes me feel so good.”

“But you are not supposed to be there. Now hurry up and get back on track. Others are coming and they will see you.”

With that the pilgrim returned to the “Do Right” trail, looking longingly back to the meadow.

Temptation

The “Please Yourself” path crossed the trail many times and each time it did the pilgrim was drawn to it. His companion did not notice the various delights laid up close to the trail, and did not seem to care even when they were pointed out. But the pilgrim felt a new ache for them.

His short pause in the pasture remained with him and pulled at him in ways he could not explain. If he had been alone he would gladly have sampled more of the treats he saw along the way.

Finally he discovered a case for venturing to the “Please Yourself” path again. Since that path kept intersecting with the “Do Right” trail, there was clearly no harm in taking it as an alternative route, at least for a good part of the journey. Since he had resolved to go the right way and “Do Right” there could be no harm if he were to enjoy himself while doing so.

When his companion needed rest, pilgrim decided to press ahead, hoping to find the pleasure path while alone and free to explore it without censure.

As You Please

When pilgrim came again to the “Please Yourself” path there was a man standing at the intersection. Pilgrim was eager to see what pleasures the path afforded, but held back, unsure of this new acquaintance.

“I see you like my path”, the stranger spoke.

“Is this path yours?” Pilgrim enquired.

“Yes. And it’s a fine path too.” The stranger watched Pilgrim’s eyes.

“Do you mind if I use your path?”

“Please yourself.” They both laughed at that witty answer.

“Well, should I go to the left or the right?” “As you please.” The stranger smiled.

“Can I stay close to the “Do Right” trail?” “If you wish.”

“Can I still be a pilgrim?” “If that’s what you wish.”

“Are there no rules, then?” “Yes. That you ‘Please Yourself’. There is nothing else you need worry about.”

Please Yourself

If life could be divided into two kingdoms they would have to be the Kingdom of “Do Right” and the Kingdom of “Please Yourself”. While enjoying life is by no means a bad thing, the issue is a matter of heart intention.

When you set out to do what is right your heart operates under a moral imperative, in the fear of God, recognising that you are not here for yourself, but to fulfil the purposes for which God, your Creator, placed you here. That becomes your joy, and joy is much richer than “pleasure”.

When you set out to please yourself your heart has chosen to elevate self above God. You love pleasure more than God (2Timothy 3:4). Moral responsibility takes second place and you see every situation, challenge and relationship as something to exploit for personal benefit.

Moral responsibility leads to self-sacrifice, self-discipline, character, inner strength, resolve, authority, moral might, leadership, ability to bless others, social fabric and security, and God’s grace on lives and communities.

Selfishness leads to irresponsibility, abuse of others, indulgence, moral weakness, exploitation, vulnerability, lack of care for others, and God’s wrath upon lives and communities.

Choose Your Way

We each choose our way. We either walk the way of life, or of death. Western culture advertises the merits of “Please Yourself” as if it is the only logical choice. We are told to “Just Do It!” and “If it feels good, Do It!” We are encouraged to have our way, do our own thing, and insist on our personally crafted notion of what is best for us.

God calls us to fear God, love Him, obey Him and glorify Him. As we do that we receive blessings that are beyond anything our natural senses can deliver.

I call you to choose “Life”! Choose the way of holiness in the fear of God. So you can truly enjoy the life in your hand.

The next lesson follows Pilgrim into his adventure, exploring the pleasures his heart craves.