WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?
By Jeannette Haley
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those
things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13, 14
When you’re young, the future that lies ahead seems almost endless, and every day you’re caught up with things you look forward to. As a little kid I looked forward to special events, such as birthday parties with friends, trips to the country to visit Grandma, and especially, Christmas! It seemed to me that a whole year from Christmas to Christmas took forever, and my least favorite day of the year was December 26th.
Kids normally look forward to growing up, but being an only child and being around adults most of the time didn’t make me especially excited about being one. Besides, growing up meant parting with toys I wasn’t quite “finished” enjoying yet. However, the thought of gaining personal freedom was attractive enough to smooth over any nagging fears of the unknown so eventually I had to “get in the current.” After all, you can’t stop time anymore than you can halt a swiftly flowing river by sticking your finger into it. As with most people in our westernized culture, I looked forward to getting a driver’s license, looked forward to graduation, to getting a job, to marriage and home ownership, traveling and so forth, but all of these things don’t amount to any eternal significance.
Fast-forward to today. Now that the world is facing another New Year, I doubt if the usual carefree hilarity, party spirit, and downright silliness is going to quite reach the fevered pitch it usually does when the “big ball” drops and confetti fills the air. Yet, in spite of all the tragedy, heartache, loss, misery, fear, evil and just plain insanity, “hope springs eternal” and so there will still be those who go on partying, playing, and “marrying and giving in marriage.” Human beings simply must have something to look forward to in order to “keep going” and this is true for both believers and nonbelievers alike. The difference is, however, nonbelievers look forward, (but not far enough) to what they consider to be “life as normal” on planet earth, while believers look (or should be looking) forward to spending eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ. Living for the things of this world is temporary; living for Christ is eternal. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36.
Perhaps you remember some of the old hymns like “I Am Bound for the Promised Land,” “In the Sweet By-and By,” and “Beyond The Sunset.” As Vance Havner said about the “old-time saints,” “We took seriously the Scriptures’ reminder that this world is not our rest, that we are strangers and pilgrims seeking a city.” He also said, “Say what you will, the Old Book gives no comfort to those who would drive down their tent pegs in these lowlands. It warns against the love of money, the cares of this life, and the pride of it. It would have us love not the world but lay up our treasure in heaven. It reminds us that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. It admonishes us to be content with food and raiment, and such things as we have.
“It is high time we heeded such counsel. We used to feel like traveling on; now we feel like settling down. This wonderland of plastics and gadgets, deep freezes and give-away shows, ranch houses in Suburbia and push-button living, seems good enough for most of the saints.”
He went on to say, “Of course, God’s people have a right to the common comforts of life. There is no holiness in a hair shirt. The old mystics were sometimes mistaken; we are pilgrims, not hermits, and living in a hole does not make us any holier. On the other hand, the new fad for equating Christianity with earthly prosperity is hard put to it to find New Testament texts for its position. Our Lord had nowhere to lay His head; He was not at home down here. The early saints bear little resemblance to the new variety, who are not out to overcome the world, but to enjoy it. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 do not remind us of many modern ‘successful Christians.’ And what shall we say of Paul, who said that the apostles were made as the world’s rubbish, the scum of the earth?”
Havner was right when he alluded to the fact that the brand of Christianity we take for granted today began long ago when Constantine paganized Christianity by trying to Christianize paganism. He said, “Then we lost our pilgrim character and the marks of our heavenly citizenship. The church ceased to look for the Lord from heaven; she settled down like Lot in Sodom, and became a gigantic supercorporation, another big business, so like the age in which she lives that few can see the difference. It was a dark day when the church forgot that we have no home down here.”
The above quotes were taken from the book by Vance Havner (1901-1986), WHY NOT JUST BE CHRISTIANS” which was published in 1964. This was nearly 60 years ago when he was faithfully preaching to the sleeping Laodicean churches. A person can’t help but ask themself, “What would he say if he could see the state of affairs today?” No doubt Havner understood that fallen mankind is forever trying to forge for himself, for good or for evil, what he believes will bring satisfaction to his life, whether spiritually or physically. You could say that the end result is what he (or she) is looking forward to. This is true for Christians as well who lack understanding of the will of God for their lives. Therefore, the mindset of visible, mainstream Christianity concerning what the church is, seems to be “the bigger, the louder, and the most “feel good” the better”—with Christ tacked on, of course. But bigger doesn’t mean “better” if Jesus isn’t there. Have we forgotten that He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20? The key is to be gathered in His Name. That means in agreement of who He is according to the Bible. We live in a day and age when self-professing “Christians” have their own take on who Jesus is, and why He came in the first place. Church leaders whose goal is to build their little kingdoms “bigger” know this so they cleverly avoid “rocking the boat” or “stepping on toes” by preaching hard truths from the Bible, (the King James Version in particular.) Peter warned, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” 2 Peter 3:16.
As for the “louder the better” concerning music, it seems that there is scarcely a wisp of true reverence, adoration and worship remaining that honors God and allows for the precious presence and move of the Holy Spirit. The competitive spirit that overshadows and corrupts simplicity, sincerity, and wholehearted praise may claim to be “anointed” but the truth is, it’s annoying, agitating and, in most cases, just plain awful. As in all things, we need to discern what spirit is behind not only the words we hear, but the music we hear as well. Jesus taught, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” John 4:23, 24.
Finally, we come to the “feel good” part. We all know of mega churches that offer a continual diet of sugar-coated cliches, New Age delusional fantasies, lofty humanistic platitudes, and positive half-truths from watered-down “bibles.” People look forward to their weekly “feel-good fix” and in some cases, they’re even willing to pay an entrance fee to have their itching ears tickled by flattery, half-truths and outright lies. 2 Timothy 6:5 warns, “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” As Christians, instead of looking forward to having our egos stroked, we must “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Now that another New Year looms in front of us, what are we looking forward to? Perhaps it is world peace, which would be wonderful, but let us not forget that until Jesus sets up His visible kingdom on this earth, and rules and reigns from Jerusalem, the world is still subject to the “god of this world.” (2 Corinthians 4: 3, 4.) Even though it appears as if God has raised up certain righteous men and empowered them to destroy and expose the hidden things of darkness, there can be no lasting peace until the Prince of Peace appears. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
We are living in times that try men’s souls, a time of great aguish and sorrow. Fear and insanity abound, yet in the midst of it all, many are still looking forward to a “return to normal” and whatever that personally means to them. The problem is, we cannot move forward by looking backward. We cannot control, change, or escape reality, and if we somehow could, would our “normal” put God first, or would our particular choice of a lifestyle be first? That is the question to honestly ask ourselves.
When things are going our way, we can list a lot of things we look forward to, but how many of us are truly looking forward to heaven? After all, the Bible talks a lot more about hell than it does heaven, but what is written about it is like precious, glittering gems that we need to stop, “pick up,”
and carefully examine. Such gems are easily overlooked, however, when our thoughts, emotions, worldly entanglements, responsibilities, relationships, possessions, problems and challenges occupy most of our time. If you ask people about heaven, they will agree that they want to go there, but not yet.
Many years ago, I asked a close friend if she hoped Jesus came soon. Her answer shocked me. She said, “No! I want to see my grandchildren grow up.” I was stunned into silence. Jesus did say in Matthew 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” People’s ideas of heaven are equally shocking sometimes. Reading comments on Line and in emails, there are those who plan to “party, party, party” in heaven, but my Bible says, “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” Galatians 5:21. Others put more emphasis on seeing, and being with, their departed loved ones than they do on Jesus, and many seem to believe heaven will be an eternal continuance of their earthly life without sin, death, Satan, and so forth, while some have a vague notion that we become “angels,” but Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Matthew 22:30.
From my experiences with Christians through the years, I’m of the opinion that far too many of them, though decent and well-meaning, have become so overly caught up with, and influenced by, the world that the idea of being “as an angel of God” for all eternity holds no real joy or anticipation for them. After all, considering what we know about angels from the Bible, they don’t seem to have much, and fun is something all earthlings look forward to. On top of that, there is no romance, marriage or family units in heaven either, and aren’t those things at the top of the list of “what it’s all about”? (And, yes, I do believe we will see our saved loved ones in heaven, but they should not be, and won’t be, the “main attraction.”) So, what about those mansions Jesus mentioned in John 14:2, proclaiming, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you”? Surely, in heaven we all get to live like the rich folks do on earth as a grand reward for saying the “sinner’s prayer,” right?
At this point, for your edification, I’m taking the liberty of quoting a short excerpt from a most informative, edifying and in-depth explanation of the dwelling places (“mansions”) that Jesus spoke of by Mike Weatherford Ministries (http://mikeweatherfordministries.com/many-mansions/): “On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit would come to dwell with men who called upon Jesus’ name, and would cause the seeking souls to know all aspects of the Life that is in Christ, i.e. His crucifixion, death, and resurrection (resurrection life), thus Gods redemptive plan and activities were accomplished in His Son, not in us, but in His Son, we only know them in Him. Now, all of what God will do for you and I, His many efforts toward us will be in His working to reveal and give spiritual knowledge of the Son who abides in us. Therefore, God is working on our behalf for us to continue to abide in Him, by faith; for there is no other place, all is in Christ, if we miss this, we miss it all. And so that we might understand, regarding our new place which is much higher and more majestic than what the disciples knew physically with Him, He reveals Himself in a new and living way, in our spirit, via the Holy Spirit, who grants us, through the Father’s Will, those heavenly things and spiritual blessings the Father has both placed and hidden in Jesus His Son. Andrew Murray said it this way,
“With the Holy Spirit Christ came down to be with His disciples as really, and more nearly, than when He was with them in the flesh. The abiding nearness and fellowship of Christ, and in Him of God the Father, is the very central blessing of the Kingdom. This experience was what the Holy Spirit at Pentecost made real. The disciples had their Lord with them as consciously as the angels.
Certainly, now we can begin to see what Jesus intended and instructed regarding His going away and returning, and where He was, or is, they would be also. Our dwelling place, not only a future place, would be through the Spirit, in heavenly places, in Christ, and surely in this context is not a future place we would live one day, in our assigned furnished mansions. To assign such an estranged interpretation that is according to this physical temporal world demeans and degrades heavenly things, and the kingdom that God occupies, which certainly speaks to the level of immaturity of those who speak of these things in terms of temporal and physical means.
“However, and as mentioned previously, if we are to understand our new dwelling place, and to possess insight, it is a God given spiritual understanding that He grants according to His sovereign Will; He opens our eyes to see, and our ears to hear, His given instructions, thus drawing us to His Son that we might dwell or abide in Him, by faith, where in Him all spiritual blessings are available, in heavenly places, to us, that how we might be equipped to walk in a manner that pleases Him.
“Therefore, why is it that we abide, it is for the sole purpose that we might walk differently in this world, i.e. in a manner that fully pleases God. Those who hold to their physical temporal interpretation of mansions have need to go to the Father and ask for Spirit given understanding that they might see and know more profoundly the life that is in them, that they might dwell in Him.”
With the above explanation in mind, honestly ask yourself what you are looking forward to. Is your main concern for wealth, health, security, peace, happiness, love, companionship, pleasure or lustful pursuits? After all, the world can be gained if a person is willing to sell their soul, but what profit is there in that? These are all carnal, temporary pursuits that have no resemblance or place in heaven. Jesus told us in Matthew 6 how we are to live in this world, and to “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Matthew 6:34. The Word tells us what we need to focus our hearts and minds on: “IF ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” Colossians 3:1-4. That “mansion” you may be looking forward to is your dwelling place in Christ. (See Ephesians 2.) Colossians 1:12-14 tells us, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In Whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
Being human, we are naturally curious, easily disillusioned, often disappointed, but nevertheless still eager to push our way forward through emotional, physical and intellectual barriers to make new discoveries, forge new conclusions, and somehow survive in our own power. But through it all, whether in victory or defeat, stands one great, immovable, eternal beacon of glorious, radiant light, and that beacon is the Cross of the LORD Jesus Christ. His coming and His kingdom is what we need to look forward to if we are to survive the onslaught of unspeakable evil, darkness, death and destruction this world is experiencing. Looking forward to saving our life, our lifestyle, and our self-serving cravings in this life will cloud our vision, weaken our faith, and overshadow our minds and hearts with the baseness of this world. If we are to survive spiritually, we must remain standing on the Rock, on His Word, and remember Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
As we begin another New Year, what are you looking forward to, the things of this world, or to the things which God has prepared? “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9.