I Can Only Imagine?
It's only 4 weeks into this new blog experiment, and I already failed! I missed last week, but I figured I would just move on and resume this week. I've really enjoyed being able to share with you guys through this. I also greatly appreciate the feedback that I have been receiving. So here goes blog #3:
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine.
Many of us know these lyrics. We've heard them on the radio, sang them at church, heard them at a funeral, and seen numerous social media images with these lyrics written over them. Admittedly, its a beautiful song that brings me to tears when I hear or sing it. MercyMe wrote a great song. Lately however, I've been thinking about eternity and I'm not so sure that the thought that this song communicates is always as beneficial to our spiritual growth as we think it is.
Should we look forward to heaven and imagine what it will be like to be surrounded my God's glory and righteousness? Of course! In fact, in 1 Peter 3:13 we are told that we are to be waiting for God's promise of a new heaven and earth. Scripture also tells us that we are longing for our heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). I have no problem saying this and imagining what it will be like to pass from this earth and be in my heavenly home. However, our view of eternal life needs to be more more than this. Let me explain.
If I were to ask most Christians, "What is eternal life?", I would dare say that 9 out of 10 would immediately point to heaven and living with God forever. Some might mention things like worshiping God forever, walking on streets of gold, or being reunited with loved ones that have died. And in most cases, all of these things would be mentioned in the future tense (i.e., "I will worship God forever", or" I will see so and so"). Hear me here, I am not saying that these things are wrong to think or talk about, but what I do think is that this is way too narrow of a view of eternal life. Eternal life isn't something in the future that we look forward to, it is something that we have right now that will never end! When we understand this concept, I believe it will change the way we see the world and live our lives.
Let me explain myself, or more specifically let me show you what God has to say about this. The question of "What is Eternal Life?" is answered by Jesus in John 17:3: "This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God,and the One You have sent— Jesus Christ." We see Jesus' view of eternal life is not someday being with God in heaven, but by knowing God and knowing Him in the present! This isn't just about knowing about God, it is actually knowing God. The fact is this; the eternal life that has been purchased for you and me by the blood of Christ is not primarily waiting for us in heaven, it is being able to have a real relationship with God right now and forevermore!
You see, the greatest tragedy of death is that it breaks our relationship with God and others. When death entered the world as the result of sin, our relationship with God was broken and we were faced with being separated from Him forever. The gift of eternal life that we have been given is that our relationship with God has been mended by Jesus taking the just punishment for our sin and dying in our place. That relationship begins at salvation, not when we get to heaven. In a very real sense, eternal life is now.
Why do I say all this? At this point you might be wondering where I am going. I don't blame you. I'll try to bring this all around to make sense in how this truth can and will change the way we live. If we understand that eternal life is now, then we can stop looking at life as "I've just got to get through this and then I'll get to go to heaven" and instead look at it as "This life matters so much that I am going to live out my relationship with Christ every second I have on this earth until I get to heaven." Its a difference of sitting back and waiting or standing up and living for Christ. How we live now is more important as where we will live in the future.
So what does living out our relationship with God (eternal life) really look like? The Bible has plenty to say about this. Let me just look at a few ways that we can live out the eternal life that we have been given.
1 John 4:7-8- What God tells us here through John's writing is that if we know God (remember, that is what eternal life is all about) we will also love one another. In fact, we are told that if we don't love others that we don't truly know God. So the first way we can live out our eternal life is by loving one another, its that simple. Knowing and loving God is seen in our love for others. Live a life of love now and forever!
Philippians 3:7-8- Here Paul is writing and says that he was willing to give up everything good in his life (power, status, success, wealth) in exchange for knowing Jesus. Living eternal life for Paul meant giving up those things that were so very precious to him. He had everything you could ask for in life, but counted all those things as filth (literally "dung") in the face of the relationship he had with Christ. How about us? Are we willing to put aside our hopes, dreams, and success in order to follow Christ however he leads? If we want to live out our eternal life and not just wait for it, we will be willing to sacrifice everything for knowing Jesus more and more.
Colossians 3:1-17: I'm not going to elaborate on this passage, I'm just going to quote it. This is exactly what living out eternal life looks like:
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self[d] with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Living eternally through our relationship with Christ will most definitely lead us to a life in which we live for Christ and not ourselves; this is the whole point. Our priorities will dramatically change when we start thinking about what we should do in light of our relationship to Christ and what really matters. Our time, talents, and money will be spent on things that glorify God and not ourselves. Our sinful ways will become less and less while our love for God and others will become more and more. This is eternal life. Am I living that way? Are you?
In one sentence, this is what I am saying: Don't wait for eternal life, live it!
So back to the song...I don't have to imagine what it will be like to walk by Jesus' side or see his face before me. I am experiencing that right now!
P.S. The context of the two passages that I referred to in the second paragraph interestingly enough connect our longing for heaven to a change in the way we live! Once again showing us that even in looking forward to heaven, we are to live in the light of eternity right here and now!