One night while I was crumpling newspaper to
start a fire, I saw a minister quoted on the front page of the local
section. His quote was this, “I preach because I want people
to go to heaven.”
At first glance, It seemed like a reasonable
enough statement, but after a few seconds of thought, this statement
really bothered me. I thought this statement was ultimately off
the mark, perhaps a little dangerous, and certainly misleading in
regard to the roots of the Christian faith. Sure, people going to
heaven is an excellent “Side effect,” of preaching,
and of following Christ in general. But is that the ultimate goal?
Is that what we’re in this for, just to “get people
into heaven?” Some would argue yes, but I’d say they
would be missing the mark also.
Again, getting to heaven is an awesome perk
of following Christ. But I think that’s a bit of a human,
selfish way of looking at it. Is that God’s goal? When God
started this all, was he thinking “As long as they all get
to heaven,”? Somehow, I don’t think so.
I preach, teach, mentor, hang out, and love,
to restore a beautiful relationship between God and his people.
That’s ultimately what God wants. When THAT happens in the
purest form that is what gets people to heaven. But that is also
what truly changes lives here on earth as well. That’s what
restores relationships with others. That’s what encourages
people to live life to the fullest, because God has brought his
kingdom to us, here on earth. Eternal life implies not only life
after death, but life now. When relationships between God and his
people are restored now, eternal life has already begun, and the
world becomes a better place. We can all look toward Christ’s
return, ultimate restoration, and renewal of all things, but our
ultimate goal should not be simply to “Get to heaven.”
Our goal, God’s goal, is to restore our relationship with
him now, and live as his kingdom on earth. Heaven is a byproduct
of that. I do what I do because I want people to begin and/or continue
an amazing adventure with Jesus.
Perhaps this pastor can say, “Well yeah,
I teach all of that on the way also.” Well then, say that.
Placing the goal on “getting to heaven,” becomes about
me, and when it becomes about “me” it detracts from
our living sacrifice of worship to God in our journey with him through
Consider the words of Jesus when asked by a
young man, “what good things must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus answered, “…If you want to
enter life, obey the commandments.” Notice, Jesus didn’t
say “eternal life,” he just says “enter life.”
Most translations have it that way. The Message (Eugene Peterson)
says “enter the life of God.”
After being probed further by the man, Jesus
finally tells him to sell everything he has, give to the poor, and
his treasure will be in heaven. But he doesn’t end with heaven.
The last thing Jesus says is, “…then come, follow me.”
These are the exact four words in every translation I read, including
The Message. Jesus left him with the now. Heaven was a nice thing
to look toward, but the life starts now, by following Jesus. (This
story can be found in Matthew 19: 16-24)
A couple more great verses:
“After two days he will revive
us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his
presence.” Hosea 6:2 (Note the reference to the third day.
Any significance or connection there?)
“And the God of all grace, who called
you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little
while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
1 Peter 5:10.