By: Sherilyn Chen
A little girl whose father had just died asked her mother where he had gone. “To be with Jesus,” replied her mother.
A few days later, talking to a friend, the mother said, “I am so grieved to have lost my husband.”
The little girl heard her and, remembering the earlier conversation, asked, “Mother, is a thing lost when you know where it is?”
“No, of course not,” said her mother.
“Well then, how can Daddy be lost when he has gone to be with Jesus?”
A Sure Promise
In the bleak face of death, sickness, and the mere frailty of human life, the gospel message brings an incredible hope. This isn’t just mere wishful thinking, or something we ‘hope’ for without being confidently sure. What God has achieved in the past through the life, death and resurrection of Christ is the foundation of what the Scriptures promise for the future of believers. The offense of humanity’s sin in God’s eyes deserved death, and yet Jesus, sinless and perfect, dying on a cross in our place fulfills God’s plan of salvation since the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4-7).
For believers, the promise of eternal life with Christ is sure (John 3:16). There are some days – like mornings when I struggle to roll out of bed on a cold winter’s morning, when the idea of eternity with Christ seem so distant. Disconnected. Even unrelated to the daily decisions of life. Yet, when Paul talks about the joy of being with Christ and the promise of eternity, there is an anticipation that seems breathtakingly real. So powerfully connected to the very choices he made in his life on earth as a disciple of Christ.
C.S Lewis sheds great light on this matter: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” It’s clear that the new creation has actually served as a source of transformative power for Christians throughout history. I’ve been greatly challenged and amazed by Hebrews 10:32-34, which describes early Christians giving up and risking the loss of reputation and property for the gospel with joy. How? Because they knew that they had ‘better and lasting possessions.’ That’s the same dynamic Paul talks about in Colossians 1:3-6a, where the certain ‘hope reserved for you in heaven’ has produced faith in Christ Jesus and great love for all the saints.
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” – CS Lewis
As I look at my own life, and the kind of comfortable Christianity we are surrounded by, I can’t help but ask – are we missing out on something bigger?
A Real Hope Causing Real Changes
We are in this world and not of it (Romans 12:2). We live in body of gradual decay and yet with the life-blood of eternal life flowing through us. We are temporary-residence citizens on this planet with our true citizenship held in an eternal Kingdom whose builder is God.
There are several things I would like to share on aspects the Scriptures reveal on living radically as Christians living for the life in the next.
A Christian living as a citizen of heaven, will become properly dissatisfied with the sinful imperfections of this world: he/she now has a standard of comparison. God, the Maker of all things, sets the rules. He knows what’s best. So we live in obedience to godly standards on all areas of life that society says misses out on fun and true enjoyment. We know this is so hard. But this momentary frustration of not joining in gossip, of waiting until marriage for sex, of resisting to gratify sinful desires of the flesh, will never bring regret on the day when Christ returns to rule.
God, the Maker of all things, sets the rules. He knows what’s best. So we live in obedience to godly standards on all areas of life that society says misses out on fun and true enjoyment.
Every fight against sin will prove the power of Jesus’ resurrection more victorious. And yet, every step of the way, our continuous struggle to honor God in all that we do will prove that we cannot do it without the grace of God. We will fail along the way. That’s why Jesus died. But the difference is that we are no longer defined by our failures, our sinful nature, our past regrets and mistakes.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin .For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
(Romans 6: 5-7)
We have already been raised with Christ. That’s who we are. On the day when all things are restored, and God ushers in a new heaven and Earth, sin will be eradicated. Currently, we are a work a progress. So we live and strive against sin in light of the hope of eternity with our sinless Saviour.
God has challenged me to see people in a completely differently in light of the promise of eternity. Worldly definitions of success – wealth, power, popularity, reputation, achievement etc. stand in fearful insignificance when compared to the unfading inheritance kept in heaven, the power and glory of God, the perfection of all things. If God will really restore all things in the new heaven and earth, and if the hope of eternal life is true, this means our perception of people’s worth now in this life needs serious consideration.
People are recognized and respected, deemed as deserving for attention and love when they appear to be able to contribute to society with their intelligence, their wealth and achievement. What about the less intelligent, the poor, the uneducated or disabled? We know, even in this life, that their value in God’s eyes is not based on ability (neither is ours). But this verse sheds glorious truth and great hope:
Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.
(1 Corinthians 15:43)
For all believers whose lives are in Christ, whether intelligent or less intelligent, wealthy or poor, they will “be raised in glory” and “strength”. The glory of our heavenly bodies are not reserved for only those who people looked up to more in this life, but all will be equally raised in glory. What does this mean?
For all believers whose lives are in Christ, whether intelligent or less intelligent, wealthy or poor, they will “be raised in glory” and “strength”.
For believers who struggle with disability or sickness in this life, mild or severe, God promises an eternity where there is no longer any kind of sickness or pain (Revelation 21:4). For the God-fearing woman who was born without limbs, God will one day raise her to glory where she will no longer be lame but leap. For the girl who sits in the back corner of church every week, because everyone thinks she’s just plain weird, God will one day raise her to glory. For the man with down syndrome who loves Jesus and rejoices every week in Sunday service in what many see as embarrassing joy, God will one day raise him to perfection and glory.
Life is short. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to a mission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20a
Going to church once a week, then getting on with our dreams and ambitions for the rest of the week, just doesn’t sit right. In light of the shattering truth of eternal life with Christ, warming up the pews once a week doesn’t seem to match up with our calling as disciple-makers of all nations.
Going to church once a week, then getting on with our dreams and ambitions for the rest of the week, just doesn’t sit right.
People who think a lot about heaven will love a lot. It’s a heavenly-mindedness that causes us to love the poor and the saints overseas. That’s why people would be willing to sacrifice their possessions and live off less on this earth. How? Because you’re no longer thinking about how beautiful and luxurious you can make your place on this earth. You’re thinking about heaven. And when we realize the hope we have in heaven, suddenly, sacrificing what we have to go and make disciples, is so much more eternally valuable.
This is the same hope that Christians hold onto when they risk their lives to proclaim the gospel to unreached people’s groups. It is the same hope that Paul holds onto when he is suffering and imprisoned for the gospel (2 Tim 1:11-12). It the same hope we should hold onto as we make our own sacrifices in order to make disciples and give generously, wherever God places us. Rock-solid confidence in a perfect future allows us to risk everything in the present, to be resilient in hardship, because we know something very good is coming very soon.
The little girl who told her mother that she didn’t lose her husband had hit the nail on the head. To say that at death a Christian “goes to be with Jesus” is not a euphemism but a reality. And so with every God-give breath, we are called to live radically in this life, looking forward until the day we depart to be with Jesus, with the hope of Jesus ushering the new heavens and earth in the endless ages of ages at the forefront of our minds.
“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” – David Platt, Radical