Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Coming to God on His Terms

Imagine a grand wedding. The wedding hall is beautiful and decked with flowers. There is a large wedding party and many guests. There is beautiful music, with all the couple’s favorites. There is a sumptuous meal with all the trimmings laid out for all after the ceremony. This is to be followed by a lovely honeymoon cruise to some exotic location. There is only one problem. The bride is not interested in the groom. Sounds absurd. But I sometimes get the idea that this is how some people picture heaven. The Scriptural pictures of heaven are that we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17), that He will be our God and we will be His people (Revelation 21:3), that He is the groom and we are His bride (Ephesians 5:21-33). Therefore, our goal as Christians is to be with Christ. This is at least one answer to the question: Why doesn’t God let everyone into heaven? If the whole purpose of heaven is to be with Christ, then for the person who has no desire for this, heaven would not be heaven but only another type of hell. Heaven is only heaven for those who love God. As C. S. Lewis points out, there is nowhere in the universe we can be truly happy following our own selfish desires. Our whole purpose is to know Christ (Philippians 3:7-11) and be conformed to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). If we are to do this, one of the first things that has to go is the perception that we are the center of the universe.  

This goes along with the fact of trusting God through suffering (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18; Acts 14:22). Now this can be difficult, wherever you are coming from, but it is made more so if we see God as someone who solves our problems for us, rather than someone we build our lives around. If we see knowing and following Christ as our goal, then suffering can be something that Gods uses to bring us closer to that goal (Romans 8:28-30; 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). But if we see God as someone who does things for us, we can struggle with any difficulties we face that are not immediately surmountable. That does not mean that God does not take care of us (Philippians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalms 23:1). But He often brings us through the trials, rather than taking them away (John 16:33; Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:6,7). Unfortunately, they are often what we need to turn our eyes away from the temporary things of this world to the things that are eternal (2 Peter 3:10-13; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4). Jesus rebuked those who followed Him for the immediate benefits of the loaves (John 6:26), and they ended up walking no more with Him over His hard sayings (John 6:66). Therefore, we need to center our lives around love for God (Matthew 22:37,38; Psalms 5:11; 1 Peter 1:8) and not our own desires.

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