The last couple of weeks I have received a stunning revelation – stunning in the sense that I have lived so long, and been a Christian since the age of 9, without ever understanding this before now!
I am going to make an assumption, for which I apologize in advance: Because it took me so long to make this discovery, I will assume many other Christians have missed this as well. Yet, once seen, it seems so simple, so basic, so OBVIOUS that I wonder why I ever missed it – and am reluctant to attribute to anyone else such a colossal lack or lapse of attention.
We know that salvation is the thing, the key, the most important thing, right? But I had always before, without critical attention, considered salvation the end-all and be-all; that was it! I’m saved, salvation is a gift, I accept the gift, I’m saved!
But let’s give some critical attention to this. Paul, in all of his letters, is exhorting, encouraging, correcting and directing the Christians of the day, the saved, those who had accepted the gift of the Gospel. To what end, then, was he writing? Of course, he was encouraging the Christians to, out of joy, spread the good news of salvation to others, that they might also be saved – and that is an important part of our Christian life today. I always knew that this aspect is good and important – but I never before considered it VITAL – I do now. I have experienced lately, the Christian conversion of a very dear and close friend. I have never experienced that before; and I’ve missed out! Experiencing her joy, her excitement, her faith and her trust in God has been wonderful – and it has rejuvenated my spirit. She saw immediately that our calling, as Christians, is to introduce others to Christ, that they too might be saved. How silly and selfish of me to miss this crucial aspect of Christian living – actively seeking the opportunity to introduce Christ to others!
Even more recently I have realized another aspect of Christianity – why I never saw what was right before me, I don’t know – Paul writes about it, Christ spoke about it, the Bible is all about it – and it finally dawned on me! Hallelujah! Didn’t Jesus plainly say, “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” (Matt 6:20) and “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33, Luke 12:31)? How do I, after confessing such a lapse in my understanding, hope to shed light on such basic concepts?
I have to write about this. It came forcefully to me last week, was reinforced in my men’s group study last Sunday morning, and continued to beat me about the head and shoulders as I began to read “True Spirituality” by Francis Schaeffer (recommended by my friend and pastor, Tom Sanderbrink at Lebanon Calvary Chapel). In his book, Schaeffer talks about the very things I “discovered” last week! What assurance, what confirmation! (He also writes about some things that might change my current understanding about some other things – I am right in the middle of that part now – I’ll keep you posted.)
Here is the form it came to me: Salvation is the thing, it is the most important, but it is NOT the only thing – it is the threshold to heaven. There’s more – MUCH more. We don’t want to just make the threshold – at least I don’t – we want to enjoy the fullness of heaven to the extent of our capacity…and we will. But Christ has told us how to increase our capacity: Lay up treasure in heaven.
Here is how Schaeffer describes it: We can say birth is the single most important event in our lives, inasmuch as birth precludes any other event or aspect of our lives – just like salvation, or our rebirth. But once the event is past, other things become of much greater importance: Food, clothing, shelter as basics, and then the greater aspects of “living a good life” whatever they might be, in a natural sense. Once we are saved, God calls us to serve Him, to be the agents of His will and His kingdom here on earth. To be rejected by society, to die to self, our ambition, our hopes, our plans and be risen in Christ, with His mind, His ambitions, His plans – and thereby share in His rejection, crucifixion and resurrection, as He instructs us (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Matt 10, 38-39).
I saw, in this new (to me) line of thinking, that God has invited us on an adventure, a treasure hunt, if you will, and I have spent many days saying, “I’m born, I’m alive, I don’t need to find any treasures”. Who of us would actually say that in our natural life?
Suppose someone came to us and convincingly explained that they could and would make us wealthy beyond our imaginings, if we did what they told us to do, not necessarily easy things, but necessary things. Each day we followed their directions, we would find and bank stupendous treasure. To the extent we followed those instructions, our bank account would increase by much or by little. Given the honesty of our guide, our bank account would be a direct declaration of our confidence in his claims, wouldn’t it?
Does God lie? Do we trust His guidance? What does our heavenly bank account look like? How great is our capacity to enjoy God’s eternal presence? How much of our joy is measured by the eternal standard? How much of our joy is dependant upon our earthly circumstance? How much do we trust God’s word?
There is much to do. Take these hands and these feet and this mind and this body and do Your work. I believe in Your love for me and trust that You will guide me to glory and riches and joy beyond my ability to comprehend.