Shouldn’t we long for Heaven?
Practically, we are here on this earth to live and proclaim Christ with our mouths, and our lives. To possibly suffer trials and difficulties, as well as enjoy the blessings of God for the Glory of God. In daily practice, as much as we are able, we are called to resist sin, and trust that Christ’s perfect work in his life and death are working in us and through us. Despite those real tangible things occurring in and around our lives, isn’t it that final destination that should be our ultimate desire? Shouldn’t being with Him, directly, personally, be the final desire of every believer? A place where we might finally once and for always, put aside our struggles and insecurities, or actually have them put aside for us as fully and completely realized new creations, unshackled by the shadow of understanding that we have of Him in this world, into a full revelation of who He is in the next?
I thought so too.
So the question posed is, “can we be so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good?” Is that true? Can we be so focused on Heaven, that we don’t or can’t do anything good here on earth? I’ve heard this question before as a kind of kitschy catchphrase meant to be a kind of “gentle rebuke” to people for paying too much attention to learning what scripture means, and not enough attention to doing what it says. Knowing my audience the way I do, I took your overly long silence to mean that you emphatically desired me to address this, so here I stand.
Now, let’s think about this for a minute. What does it mean to be heavenly-minded? Do we just think about getting to Heaven and nothing else? Does it mean we are trying to please God, or are we being selfish? If we are heavenly-minded, do we treat people poorly on earth, or simply ignore them to protect our own little circle of influence as we wait in grateful anticipation for Christ’s return? And if we do, are we really being heavenly-minded? Are we even Christians? Is there a misconception being drawn from the idea that being heavenly-minded means we can’t do any good here on earth?
For me, it doesn’t seem to jibe. Especially, when we are told in the same vein to “keep your eyes on Jesus.” I mean, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” is as heavenly-minded as you can probably get. It could be as close to a glimpse into the future Kingdom of Heaven as you can get. It’s also something, that as much as we strive for, we will never fully realize because of our lifelong struggle with sin. But, by God’s grace he always encourages us to follow him imperfectly, until were with him perfectly in Heaven. Some new thinkers in Christian circles would tell you that doing all those things(good works) brings Heaven to us(or within). I had a friend, a former youth pastor, who was emphatically holding on to the idea that Heaven is on earth now, in what we do, how we act, and what we say. While I suppose that’s true to some degree-that we display the Glory of God in and through our lives-the part that worried me most is that he would not admit, agree, concede, or acknowledge anymore that Jesus died and rose again for the world. He would not admit that there was more. He danced carefully and respectfully around the issue, claiming some deeper secret knowledge in the text of the scripture, and was convinced if we do good, we have Heaven within ourselves.
Another man I had the opportunity to converse with, claimed he was a Christian for quite a while, and was still a Christian, but came to the conclusion that Christ did not rise from the dead. He said, paraphrasing, “I don’t believe in any zombie/savior walking around.” Instead, he went on to say, Jesus was just a good moral teacher and leader with good examples to follow, and then he died. He insisted by following those examples we can create Heaven on earth with our action and our lives. When I tried to tell him(which I think I attempted to do with care and concern), he may be apart from God, because of a fundamental truth about Jesus that he’s rejecting, a mutual friend, and fellow churchgoer, came to his defense.
So, whether new age ideas(Heaven is within us) or humanistic views(we create Heaven here). There is an infiltration within the Church as a whole to remove the idea of reaching for Heaven, looking to Heaven, setting our minds on things above. Instead we are told to deal with the now. We must do what you can here, and serve God by serving others. These things are correct to an extent, but we miss the point, and are only allowing ourselves a partial understanding of God.
There’s also another misconception. It’s that being heavenly-minded means that we are in “deeper” relationship with God through all the tools He gives us to draw nearer to Him. Through prayer, reading, fasting, and meditation(on His Word), we do commune more closely with Him, but if that’s all we do, we again miss the point. We swung the pendulum of Christian “spirituality” from one extreme to the next.
There is a road upward towards God that includes all of these things, but the road forward on the ground we must take as well. It leads us in contact with others, including people hurting and in pain, that need to know about God’s great mercy and grace. Now, when I say “must” I mean that the Gospel of Christ, and the salvation it provides, should encourage gratitude within us, which in turn spurs us on to know Him (God) more. Knowing God more, should hopefully spur us on to loving and serving others for their current best welfare in this world, but then also wanting to present the Gospel to them, because we know their is something greater, someone better at loving and serving then us. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating a formula. This relationship with God is a struggle. We will not do ANY of these things, whether “upward” toward Him or “forward” toward others with any perfect application(my own hand raised high first). Responding to the Gospel, leads us towards these things, and all the highs and lows that come with it in the course of a normal life lived. But to beat a dead horse, again its starts (and ends) with The Gospel.
The Gospel is that He(God) reached down to us first, in the person of Jesus, the Son. In the virgin birth, in the life he lead, the death he suffered, and in the pinnacle of all of this, his resurrection from death. This life, death and resurrection both paid for all our sins, and gave us a righteous life to present to God. As a result, we literally have as an encouragement to us, the Holy Spirit. This trusting in Christ that God supernaturally plants within us, is a gift of faith in Him. As a result, it makes us citizens of Heaven. That makes this world temporary for us. Denying the resurrection, believing that Jesus was just an example to follow, and that he is now dead and rotting corpse in the grave, removes the power, and honestly, the grace and mercy that comes with following him as Savior. It is no surprise that people who dance around the subject, or outright deny the deity of Jesus, say Heaven is within us, or on earth as we make it. If we don’t believe that Jesus is the resurrected Savior of the world, all we have left is ourselves and this world and what’s in it. Frankly, it’s not terribly encouraging, at least for me.
Knowing that God reached down to us in the form of Christ Jesus, we have hope for something more, something greater, and that is Heaven and more specifically residing with our Savior. It is in this reaching towards Heaven that we know Him better. It is in this reaching towards Heaven, that we are trusting in the salvation and reconciliation we have with God. It is in this looking to Heaven that encourages and reminds us that we only have to endure trials, difficulties and struggles with sin only for a season (however long that season lasts), and that He continues to be with us in all of that while we are here. It’s Because of that hope of Heaven that we gratefully, worshipfully, though imperfectly, live a life that tries to honor Him in loving and serving others.
So if we are truly “heavenly-minded”, we ARE the most earthly good we could be, because we are drawing nearer to Him, serving others, loving others, preaching the gospel, and encouraging others on in the faith.
So be as heavenly-minded as you want!