“When you’re up to your hips in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original purpose was to drain the swamp.” Likewise, earth’s many difficulties can make it even harder to remember our purpose for being here in the first place. Part of that purpose is to drain the earth of its forgetfulness of heaven. For when we remember heaven, all the difficulties of earth lose their bite.
Heaven: the Reason We’re on Earth
In this series of essays, beginning with the post Everyone Is Going to Heaven, we’ve listened to the promise of heaven that God gave us through the prophets and apostles who spoke for the Lord and gave us the Bible (for more, see the post Why the Bible Can Be Trusted). We then examined the reasons for this promise. We learned that creation is a war between good and evil, and that God has plans for us to win it. After considering this cause, we dwelt upon the consequences that reverberate from our lives, and how, through God’s love, we can overcome even the worst of them. We thought through the importance of our motives, which precede and shape our actions, and how having a method for being conscious of God helps us put to good use all that we know of Him. This is the message of heaven. It’s the reason we’re here.
It was a problem in heaven that gave rise to our creation. It was God’s love to and through humanity that solved that problem and cleared the skies so that we could safely return home. As you have seen, if it weren’t for heaven, we wouldn’t be here in the first place and if it weren’t for heaven we’d have no place to go when this life is over. Thus heaven can’t be seen, but it’s the very reason for everything that can be seen.
Walking through life in the sight of heaven is the way God wants us to live. It’s a life that is above us, but He is willing to lift us to it. And He is willing to keep lifting us back up as we fall. Walking through the day’s activities with heaven on our minds is both possible and profitable. Of course, I’m not just talking about heaven as the place we go when we die, but also as the place that watches us while we live. Whoever said “being heavenly minded is being no earthly good” must have only understood heaven as a destination and not a dimension. Even as destination, however, heaven has a redeeming effect on our minds because the anticipation of summer vacation can be half the fun – especially when it’s forty below where you are.
But heaven is a dimension as well as a destination and that dimension is full of meaning for today. The mundane concerns of life aren’t to be a departure from spiritual activities. Remembering God while we do all these things transforms the mundane into the spiritual. Thus all the activities of our lives become spiritual activities. The culmination of allowing this light of heaven to shine on all we do is that life itself becomes a spiritual activity. This is precisely what life was meant to be. God has been nudging us toward this understanding from the very beginning.
The “waking” of all those who were “sleeping” in Sheol/Hades is a metaphor for life today. As the dead were raised from their slumber, so we the “living dead” are being raised from ours. Our slumber is a dullness to heaven, a drowsiness that keeps us from recognizing it and living in the light of it. Hardly anyone who believes in God disagrees that He is everywhere present and knows all things. Yet our minds have restricted the conscious awareness of Him to certain buildings and specific occasions (at least this is what most of those who organize religion would have us think). Thus most of the day we walk around unconscious of His watching us and caring about us. The “sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) has risen, as the prophets foretold. It’s long past time for us to wake up to heaven!
Waking Up Includes Repentance
We can only maintain our walk in the light of heaven if we let heaven cleanse of us our sinful ways. That is, knowing that Jesus is watching everything we think, say, and do, we must only think, say, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. If we aren’t willing to make this fundamental change in our way of living, the light of heaven will not stay on for us. By that, I mean that it will recede into the darkness of our forgetfulness. We cannot cling to sin and maintain an awareness of a holy God.
For most of us, sin (that is, selfishness) is so pervasive in our lives that repentance cannot be accomplished all at once. We start with the sins of which we are acutely aware. If we successfully repent of those, God will reveal our more subtle sins to us. We do not realize the depth of sin’s stain on our lives until we enter into the process of removing it.
All sin is lawlessness of the heart – that is, conducting our thought life out from under authority. The first step in repentance is to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our thoughts. If we would think only those things that He would think, then we begin our redemption. We will be tempted to forsake our repentance: “Why are you trying to be so righteous when no one else is?” We must persevere in our quest to please Him with everything we think, say, and do. Where then do we start? Here’s some help.
Husbands, Love Your Wives
Do not merely love your wife outwardly, love her with every thought you have about her. Give her a special place in your heart and do not put any other woman close to it. Do not entertain lustful thoughts. Seek every day to love your wife more than you did the day before. Nurture her and care for her as part of yourself, the better part.
Wives, Love Your Husbands
Show respect to your husband for it is an aspect of love that nourishes him. Do not demean him, belittle him, or joke about him. Never share his secrets with anyone. Be content with him and build him up by your support.
Couples, Do Not Divorce
Marriage is for one man with one woman for one lifetime. Death of a spouse is license to remarry, but not divorce. Nevertheless, if you have remarried after divorce do not divorce again. Whomever you are married to now is your spouse until death do you part. The tearing asunder of marriage is the tearing asunder of what God has joined together.
Parents, Love Your Children
Many parents have come to care more about their reputation as parents than they do about their children. It matters not whether anyone else thinks you’re a good parent; it doesn’t even matter if your child thinks you’re a good parent. It only matters if God thinks you are a good parent. Make sacrifices for your children that only God can see, and God will reward you openly in only ways that He can.
Children, Honor Your Parents
God gave you your parents as His representatives until you grow enough to relate to Him as your Father. Therefore, until you are conscious of Him as your Father, honor your parents. Once you are conscious of God as your Father, you will always honor your parents for that is His will. Your parents may not always be right, but they will always be your parents.
Teenagers, Honor Your Parents
You encounter more temptations as a teenager than you did as a younger child. Resist them. Continue to honor your parents with your obedience. The only time you should ever disobey them is if they tell you to disobey God – which is rare. Save sex for marriage, for that is the only place in which it is holy. Honor your parents instead of the crowd, for your parents usually want you to do the right thing and the crowd usually wants you to do the wrong thing. Peer pressure does not haunt only teenagers, it haunts all adults as well. Resist it now and you will be better able to resist it as an adult.
Employees, Serve Your Employers
Give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Do not shortchange your employer because it is easy to do so. Do not steal time, money, supplies, services, or anything else from your employer. Treat your employer as if you were working for God Himself. Give the very best of yourself every day. Do not steal from your family’s time to serve your employer, but give your employer all that is rightfully your employer’s.
Employers, Do Not Lord It Over Your Employees
Just because you are the boss does not mean you are better or more important than any employee. Treat every one as if he or she was Jesus of Nazareth Himself working for you. Be respectful of their needs and treat each one with dignity.
We Must All Repent
Jesus of Nazareth was the only human who never needed to repent and yet He submitted Himself to the path of repentance (because He was identifying with us). Since all of us need to repent, we must repent – that is, live a life of repentance and humility before God. We do not repent so that we can get into heaven; we repent because we are going to heaven and don’t want to have to hang our heads in shame when we get there.
The world today (that is, the source of peer pressure on adults and teenagers) is going the wrong direction. It always has been. It has been running away from God, running away from heaven. In this life you can either win the approval of the world or win the approval of heaven. Which will you seek – passing pleasure or eternal joy?
Do not think that if you live a life of repentance that you will be sorrowful. There is indeed a sorrow we feel for our sins, but God continually converts that sorrow to joy as we amend our ways and walk with Him. Truly this is the kingdom of God that He has given us for life on this earth: righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This kingdom is worthy of our pursuit. It is the pearl of great price. It can be sought and found in this life. Going to heaven when you die – that is assured. Whether you will attain the kingdom in this life on this earth – well, that depends on what you do with the knowledge of God that you have.