Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Profound Question

OK - sit with this one for a minute. With a question like this, one of the worst things we can do is quickly give the Sunday School answer without reflecting. This is a question that is not initially academic in nature. Rather, it explores (and exposes) our values, our hearts, and the nature of our faith. Ready? Here we go.

Would it really be any big deal if Jesus wasn't in heaven when you got there?

John Piper, in his new book God is the Gospel, has me thinking about this. Here is how he frames the question:

The critical question for our generation - and for every generation - is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauty you ever saw, and all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?


don said...

That is a great question. It seems to expand the more you think about it. Profound indeed! I'll post more later; I need more time to give due consideration.

Robb said...

Yeah, it's one that I have been considering this week.

We tell people all the time that they need to "get saved" so that they can

1) go to heaven
2) not go to hell
3) be free from guilt
4) enjoy what life is really supposed to be

But all of these aren't really the point or the goal of "salvation." Rather it is having a relationship with God.

Piper says that justification by faith is the "heart" of the gospel because it removes the two main barriers (God's wrath and our rebellion) to the goal of the gospel (creatures have a relationship with their Creator). Thus, the title of his book, God is the gospel. I like it.

don said...

I don't know what "justification" means.

Robb said...

The Bible uses several metaphors for what salvation is like. There are such things as reconciliation, ransom, deliverance, and justification (and more). Each gives a window into the nature of salvation, Jesus' work on the cross, and the character of God.

Justification is the metaphor for salvation that sees God as a just judge and us as guilty criminals. God has to punish our sins because he is holy and just, and we are therefore "objects of wrath" and condemned. But then Jesus steps in. In dying on the cross, he took the punishment we justly deserved. Our sin was transferred to him. We are now "not guilty." But what's more, Jesus' righteousness, purity, and perfection is transfered to us. We are more than just "not guilty," we are declared by the just Judge to be "innocent." This happens by grace through faith alone. There is no way we can earn this verdict. It comes to us by the grace of God when we believe in Jesus who has died for us.

The image is enhanced by the biblical writers referring to Jesus as our "advocate." He not only took our punishment, he now stands as the one who defends us and pleads our case. What love!

The book of Romans is primarily about justification.

The point of all of this, Piper points out, is not merely to get us sinful people into a perfect heaven. It is to tear down the main barriers between us and God - our sin and guilt. They are cared for in justification so that God can be more than a distant judge, he can also be our friend, father, and God. The point is the relationship. God is the gospel.

Don, I hope this little primer helps.

~ Robb

goboyle said...

Interesting question! I've been thinking a bit over the last couple of weeks and a bit frustrated by how we look at eternal life. It always seems to be more focused on the place, rather than the person.

Sara said...

I'm not trying to give a sunday school answer so hopefully it won't be...but to me...

It would be a reallllllllllllllllllly BIGGG DEAl if Jesus wasn't in heaven when i get there. Because although i look forward to the fellowship i will have with others in heaven, and i look forward to not having to watch people that i love die, and i look forward to not being in any physical need.....the thing i look forward to the most is seeing Jesus.

I've been so lonely for him, and him alone. I've cried many nights wanting to feel his arms around me, to be able to look into the eyes of the man who saved me, the eyes of a man that offered me more than just a living life, but a life that had hope, a future, a purpose.

I want to hug him, i want to kiss his feet, i want to personally say "Thank you," to personally say "I love you" to me it would be a very big deal if Jesus wasn't there when i get to heaven. I would be extremely disappointed because he is the reason that i've been persevering and moving forward...he has been my strength.
Happiness hasn't been my comfort and strenght, and Lord knows that my friends have often let me down, and even when my every need is provided for and i have nothing to worry about, the only person who is always with me and communicating with me through the holy spirit is Christ. He has persued me, and is sanctifying me throught the work of the spirit...

I wrote on my blog site an entry about the things that i miss...and one thing i said was..

"I miss Jesus..."

Guess what i miss Jesus...i want to see him...I want to hug him...I miss Him.

jdub said...

By being created in the Image of God we have been giving the unique ability to communicate and be in relation with God. Unlike any other part of creation.


who says that caps lock isn't useful

Anonymous said...

If Jesus wasn't there would it be Heaven?

A said...

* crank up old pipe organ notes in background *

"I'd rather have Jesus than any-thing . . ."

rqhdkdk: The sound phlegm makes when expelled from one's lungs. Don't ask me how I know this.

Anonymous said...

Is Jesus confined to "heaven"? What happened to omnipresence? Didn't He say "I am with you until the consumation of the age"? Thessalonians says "so shall we be with the Lord". Wherever He is, we will be there. Define "heaven".

kingsjoy said...

It could be that all those longings we have--for friends, food, leisure activities, natural beauty, etc.--are just shadows or symptoms of our True Longing for Jesus. If so, heaven would just be another round of our earthly experience if we discovered that our Heart's Desire was absent.

I enjoyed our chat Sunday. I look forward to visiting again soon.


Word Verification--
valkbus: a Greyhound reserved for Val Kilmer

Andrew said...

I've been on the sidelines for a while now and figure that this is a good time to jump in . . .

I agree with Robb that the goal of salvation is so much more than 1) access to heaven 2) exemption from hell and 3) freedom from guilt. But I’m not sure that 4) enjoying what life is really supposed to be – is that far off the mark.

People were created to live in relationship with the Creator. Since things got messed up the relationship has been broken, but redemptive history is all about restoring man to God - until ultimately God will again dwell with man and life shall be the way it was intended.

(I suppose that if someone were “selling” salvation as an immediate “fix” so that problems of life disappear, then that would be quite off the mark.)

Right on, Greg, about misplaced focus on the place (heaven) rather than the person (Jesus.) As I read the end of the story it looks like all things are made right when God again dwells with man on the (new) earth.
What if the people of God will spend eternity on earth, fellowshipping with Jesus and engaging His good creation? Would that change our evangelism and our thinking about heaven?

Robb said...

Well, I am happy to see that so many of my friends have rejected the therapuetic gospel of easy believism and have embraced the real mystery of the gospel - that we get to have a relationship with God through his son Jesus the Christ.

Don't you agree, however, that in many ways we have exchanged the power of this mystery for the consumeristic -if-you-believe-in-Jesus-you-will-get-x-y-and-z- gospel?

Josh P said...

Well this is just great - every time i answer this question I have to start over because I think of something new. geeezz....

stdre - dr. dre has been doing a lot of good deeds lately and got a promotion.