Tag: ETERNITY

HOW TO BUILD A REAL AND LASTING YOU

Who’s read C.S.Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce”? In this stimulating novel Lewis sees some people who make it to heaven as being brilliant, vibrant beings, shining as the sun. Others are portrayed as just feint wisps: dim, almost ghost-like forms-the difference being due to the way they had lived their lives on the earth…

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Please don’t mistake my message. I’m not speaking about a gospel of works here: salvation is by faith. However, rewards are conditional.

Socialist-minded readers will automatically recoil from the concept of “inequality” in celestial rewards, as in Lewis’ work. But like it or not, there is considerable Biblical basis for the idea that some will be greater than others in heaven. After all, Jesus said so himself. The parable of the talents is clear on this (Matthew chapter 25). And when it comes to how we act on God’s word or otherwise, Jesus said:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NIV).

Perhaps the verse which inspired Lewis is this one:

…they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).

I’m convinced that Lewis was really onto something profound in his descriptions of post-human beings in heaven-something which we should, perhaps, consider much more than we do.

Have you ever looked at some people and seen them almost as shells only? They’re human, and they’re loved by God, but they have no depth of mind or character. They look only upon mundane, every-day things, like what they will eat for the next meal. There’s no depth of thought or concern for others, or for God, or for anything with any meaning or significance. In some ways they’re almost like animals.

How will God judge the simple and the shallow? Perhaps the first answer is “fairly”, because He’s the righteous judge. It’s not brains or knowledge which endears us to our Creator: He doesn’t look down on them like we do. It’s not material wealth or popularity, or great energy, or success, or imagination or wide experience of life, and it’s not our earthly achievements. What we drive and where we live doesn’t impress our God at all. And it’s not our humanity which God loves in us. After all, “The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). Those who displease God are of no lasting value.

The route to God’s heart, and to a “greater” you in eternal, lasting terms is through his word, as we read in the Matthew verse. If we consider it highly, and if we seek to live it out, we are then building our own eternal nature-what will remain when the ultimate trial comes, and what will live on for ever. Our faith in God is also of utmost concern to Him. Works born of true faith is what He’s looking for in us. This is what Jesus called “fruit”.

I’m not speaking here about human works. Only what is truly Godly can last through the fire of judgment, and human righteousness without our God is not acceptable to Him. It can’t be done without Jesus Christ. Neither do I subscribe to a common view in some areas of the Church that we can’t do anything-God does it all. That’s a cop-out and it’s not what Scripture says. It’s team-work, where we live in Christ, and we apply ourselves to what we know we must do, and He works in our efforts:

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).

It’s our Godly character-that which is living in Christ, which will live on. By growing in Him, what grows will be our real, lasting, eternal self: everything else about us will be gone.

 

 

 

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IT’S LIFE…(your name)… BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT…

We dream, we plan, we think, we strategize. We try to manoeuvre the pieces of our lives in the hope that one day…one day…everything will be just right. But somehow things never turn out quite as we imagined. In fact, they often turn out very differently. Just as we think we’re getting used to things, they change. Our lives can be as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath-tub: almost impossible to get a grip on…

egypt-giza-sphinx-02And it’s not just our personal lives which are unpredictable, but the world we live in changes every day. Nations change, cultures change, cities change, people change, and what was once familiar, what we once thought was the way of things for the rest of our lives, is now gone, or radically altered.

When you’ve been around for a few decades as I have, you look back on your life so far and on the land you once considered to be your safe, comfortable, familiar home, and you see all the twists and the turns in the events of your life and in the life of your civilization; you see the people you once felt would be close to you forever; the places you once knew intimately; the leaders you had some confidence in; the institutions and icons you’d built your world on…all gone, and replaced by others you may feel no attachment to.
I’m not saying I’m opposed to any kind of change, or to improvement or innovation: quite the contrary. I quickly get bored with status quo, with clichés and the same old way of doing things. Give me imagination any day. Neither am I one of those who resents modern technology: I’m tapping away on a laptop right now which gets used many times a day for all kinds of tasks, and I say thank God for it.
The best we can do is to make the most of our lives, and to enjoy what we are blessed with while we can.

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But people come and go: that’s the hardest thing to deal with. And the people you would most wish to hang around often don’t, for one reason or another. And some changes in our world, let’s face it, just mess things up totally, and there’s usually no turning back. We have to face up to the fact that things will never be just how we want them to be…at least, not for long. We all need to have the ability to adapt. We all need to get into our heads that this world is temporal, our lives are temporal. We are, to borrow the name of one of the Doctors’ subjects of rescue, the “Ephemerals”, and while we want to think of our lives as unending and indestructible, they aren’t.
Here’s just one more of those subjects on which the Bible succinctly captures our condition. I don’t call it a “plight”, because the ultimate message of the Bible is supremely positive. After all, how could our future possibly be any better than having eternal life in an incorruptible body, with our Creator who loves us unceasingly?

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I often think that if the Bible’s inspiration were solely human there would be far less consideration of the ugly side of man’s existence, such as the brevity of life. We’re brought to our senses not to depress us, but to align our minds with reality and with that of our Maker. In that vein, Bible writers speak on our behalf, uttering the things many of us are never willing to face up to:
Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 ESV)
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).
I’m convinced God understands and appreciates that we can’t naturally see the real end from the real beginning: we know only what we see in our own very tiny corner of time and space:
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14)
There’s hope for us, because God is our savior, and he is eternal. He isn’t subject to change like we are:
The grass withers, the flower fades…Surely the people are grass…
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:7-8).
That’s why God was prepared to send His Son to deliver us:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The eternal God invites us to look beyond our limited view. We need to look ahead, not backwards. Anyway, not even nostalgia is what it used to be.

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I think time is just a measurement of change. Without change, there would be no time, and vice-versa. You can’t go from A to B without time, and there can be no time without change-that’s the nature of our universe. So somehow, while we should look back with fondness on the past, and to learn from our mistakes, we must more importantly look to the future, which is never-ending.
It’s a mistake to get too attached to the physical while neglecting the spiritual:
…we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).
We live in a fallen world where people and things let us down continually and we let them down. But there’s coming a time of restoration. How can a God who created such an amazing universe not want to restore it? And He’s promised that he will. In that future there will be no more tears, and no more struggle. The only change will be all positive, constructive, attractive: improvement and growth. I personally believe the universe is not only vast because our God is vast and uncontainable, but because he has plans for it, which we will be a part of, if we choose Him.

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelation 21).