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God's first desire for us is to discover a deeply fulfilling relationship with Him now, which is fulfilled by our divine union with Him. Everything in the Bible centers around this CALL IT IDOLATRY 45 concept. God uses suffering in the life He has given each of us, which further refines our affections for Him. As the depth of our hearts call out to the depth of His, God matures our love, stripping us of any other fulfillment. Thus, we can't help but direct our highest affections to Him. In addition, we receive His highest affections for us—seeing Him in His glory.
God is a jealous Lover. He is so hungry for our identities to evolve from our relationship with Him. Therefore, He will allow our lesser identities to be painfully stripped away from us. He is a desperate Bridegroom, and He wants to receive all that He placed within us.
God actually removes things—sometimes permanently—that we esteem more highly than Himself. As our divine Creator, He knows how to prepare us to "shout from rooftops" that we love Him. We need His help to season our love past a giddy first-love stage for Him. To accomplish this, He sets us on a life course to reposition our passions so they are immersed even more deeply in His love.
If our identities are rooted in our earthly lives, when things go wrong with our church, family, friendships, or jobs, we will feel as if we are failing in these roles or they are failing us. At this point of failure, we will experience deep disappointment and feel a sense of shame in our hearts. Such disillusionment will break our will and cause us to compromise—not just with sin, but even to the point of judging God.
One of the gravest sins is to judge God according to this world's standards, because His word is true and filled with the reality of His goodness. If we doubt this, then we lack confidence in God's nature, and we will not be able to share in His divine virtue. Yet God is pleased with a life that sacrifices everything on the altar of love.
A very close friend, Paula Benne, grew up extremely gifted.
She had a great personality, excelled in athletics, and was vivacious in ministering to others. Paula had her whole life planned out, filled with astounding goals. Then one day, God 46 THE THRONE ROOM COMPANY appeared to her in a vision and said: "I want a will exchange. I want you to exchange your highest will for My highest will."
From a human standpoint, Paula's goals were pure and noble, but they were not God-given. In the vision, Paula handed God all of her hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In return, God gave her a piece of paper that looked like a living will. It contained His plans for her life.
Instead of making her mark by doing extraordinary things in the world, for the past twenty years, Paula has entered into a very private journey involving intercession and delight in God. After all these years, if you asked Paula if she would trade her list with God's, she would reply: "If everything on God's list for my life was going to be fulfilled—no way!" Many Christians find Paula's testimony convicting.
Christianity, unlike any other religion, does not just give acts of service and works a secondary role. God also adopts us as His children and promises us an eternal inheritance, based on our experiences and walk in His love, not based on how much we achieve in the natural.
This means we have the full deed to Heaven that God appointed to Jesus and which He shared with us. The key to these ownership rights is understanding that their nature is not about serving Him but about having an intimate relationship with a loving Father for all eternity.
The Fourth Consequence We assume that keeping the second commandment results in our greatest reward in Heaven.
When I was a little boy, I remember attending a church service. The preacher greatly enjoyed his own service, but I was bored out of my mind! I thought he was the most monotonous man I had ever heard. But that didn't stop him from assuming we were all experiencing the same rapture he was from his longwinded teaching. During the ministry time, he shouted over the microphone, "This is just what Heaven is going to be like!" CALL IT IDOLATRY 47 As a six-year-old, my heart just about died. He was saying that Heaven was no better than this church meeting! I looked up at my mother, who was sitting beside me, and declared, "I don't want to go to Heaven!" Shocked, she didn't know what had gotten into me; my statement scared her to death. So she began to pray for me.
This story causes me to smile now, but so many young people do not want to go to Heaven. It's not just their selfish youthful natures wanting to fulfill their dreams before giving everything to God. Rather, it's the attitude that Heaven does not have as much enjoyment as Earth. No wonder so many young people rebel in the Church. Their focus isn't on the eternal hope but on the systems of religion.
This fundamental misunderstanding of Heaven keeps us from desiring it wholeheartedly. The only people who really like Heaven are people who have a hope that it will be nothing like Earth—even church on the Earth.
The Church is called to prepare us for Heaven; it isn't a substitute. Any church that compares itself to Heaven will grieve the Holy Spirit. Let's get real. You wouldn't want to go to Heaven if it resembled one of the church meetings you attend on Earth. We would become so bored after the first few days, let alone the first thousand years!
What we do on Earth does give us a reward in Heaven. Our reward is tied to Jesus, not separate from Him. Some people think of heavenly mansions filled with extravagant items, but even the rich on Earth are not truly fulfilled by material things alone. Wealth by those standards is not an accurate picture of our reward. It's difficult in our fallen state to understand a reward tied to a Person, even if that Person is the glorified Son.
We can capture wonderful glimpses on Earth of our eternal reward that help us rivet our identity to Heaven. Marriage is a dim-glass reflection of how rewarding a relationship can be. But as the days get shorter, marriage is failing to be such a bright picture, even to the Body of Christ. Our heavenly reward is a 48 THE THRONE ROOM COMPANY reward of covenantal relationship that brings total completion.
This is what our hope longs for eternally—to be fully united with Jesus.
As I contemplate these questions about eternity, I think of a quote by Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, one of my Christian heroes. Toward the close of her life, she made this
insightful statement at a public gathering:
"It was not the ministry that made life worthwhile. It was my journey of watching the faithfulness of God all my days."
1. Have you ever sought a title over a relationship?
2. How does influencing society differ from reflecting it?
Which do you currently do—influence it or reflect it?
3. What does the term royal priesthood mean to you?
4. What is the current condition of your day-to-day relationship with God?
5. What does loving obedience look like?
kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
WHEN THE DISCIPLES WERE FIRST CHOSEN, THEYHAD no clue what they were getting themselves into. Each one had to be delivered from trying to build a natural kingdom. Until and in some cases even after Jesus' resurrection, the disciples struggled against disappointment in Jesus, because He didn't meet their natural expectations as a leader.
What I find extremely interesting is that Jesus didn't discourage their desire to be influential or powerful. He just refocused their desires onto eternity.
At the same time, Jesus set an incredible example. Instead of setting up an earthly kingdom, He chose to lay it all down.
Scripture indicates that people were ready to make Jesus their king by force (John 6:15). But unlike most who are born to rule, Jesus clearly avoided this, withdrawing to a mountain by Himself. The disciples were constantly confused by His restraint.
And, in a way, Jesus displayed His most powerful act of love by holding back His glory.
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Jesus had fully exercised His God-given power? Would every sickness have been healed? Would every grave have been emptied?
Would every evil have been rectified? Instead, Jesus moved unhindered among all the earthly needs at hand, focusing His heart and mind on what He must accomplish for eternal purposes.
All the disciples had to reconcile themselves to the truth that Jesus was not living for the establishment of an earthly kingdom.
Jesus had already affirmed His followers as eminently important to the Kingdom, but they sought rank and title as well. James and John actually petitioned Jesus to sit at His right hand and left hand. "We are ready to serve You," they said.
But Jesus is worthy of more honor than is contained in the entire Earth. Therefore, He was not preoccupied with establishing an army or a regime. His earthly goal was to obey the Father.
John and James didn't understand all this when they made their request. But Jesus told them, "What you ask is not for me to FOCUS ON ETERNITY 51 give, but belongs to my Father in Heaven" (Mark 10:40).
Jesus did not need their service or validation. He was not waiting for His "commanders" to finally understand who He was and then pledge their allegiance to Him. The ultimate picture of this is when the Father picked the day for Jesus to die. His disciples betrayed and abandoned Him. If He had been seeking for them to finally realize who He was, then the Cross was a pretty foolish interruption of that plan.
Jesus was not preoccupied with how His Kingdom was going to be established. He didn't need to establish an army or a regime. His only goal was to obey the Father's voice, recognizing that the Father's will was greater than His own. Jesus knew the Father would give Him much more than anything offered on Earth, because Jesus was born of the Spirit.
Although Jesus did know many things about His journey on Earth, He didn't have foreknowledge of how every step of the Father's will was going to be played out in His life. He was an example of day-to-day communion and obedience. He did not devise a master plan for His destiny based on previously successful works and strategies; He received His destiny by cultivating the Master relationship based on love.
This probably shocked the disciples. They believed Jesus was the Messiah. However, they did not understand that He had not yet claimed His rightful inheritance. Their disappointment was evident.
Paying the Price In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John requested that Jesus allow her beloved sons to reign with Him for all eternity— permitting one to sit on Jesus' right hand and the other on His left. Their mother was actually fostering a wrong motivation in the hearts of her sons. Don't get me wrong. Her motherly intention was beautiful. I believe that is why Jesus was so gracious with her; He loved her passion for her sons.
Yet Jesus did not give in to her desire. The disciples' families —and even His own earthly family—were entrenched in wrong 52 THE THRONE ROOM COMPANY understanding! They probably empowered a lot of wrong thinking in one another as they tried to understand this mysterious Christ with whom they spent so much time.
Jesus asked her sons, James and John, if they could pay the price He would pay?
By His question, Jesus refocused their desire on the cost of eternal reward. In this, Jesus went to radical extremes to break their wrong ideals about these earthly processes and natural kingdoms. This was a war that Jesus waged.
Some of Jesus' statements about His own earthly family were considered morally wrong and the ultimate in dishonor by the
culture around Him. He explained:
Jesus actually said this to the large crowd traveling with Him. The Jewish culture was so wrapped up in the old covenant role of family being one of a person's primary focuses. So, how could they accept such a statement? How could they continue to follow one who did not ascribe value to the central pillar of their culture? Jesus' statement was revolutionary.
This, however, was not the statement of an extremist. It conveyed Jesus' jealous love for humanity. He loved us enough to leave His Father in Heaven, and He expects no less from us— asking us to abandon all other loves for Him. As His followers, we are to treat everything else as lesser in comparison to Him, FOCUS ON ETERNITY 53 the greater.
In an epistle, the apostle Paul made an incredible statement
about giving up everything that had value to him:
Paul considered everything prized by his culture worthless compared with the awesome experience of knowing Jesus. His treasure was in Jesus. Likewise, we need to love Jesus above all else. As He did with the Jewish culture of His day, Jesus calls us to a higher love, to embrace the burning and passionate heart of God.
A People Belonging to God Speaking about His true family in another situation, Jesus shocked those around Him (as recorded in Mark 3:31-35). The people had announced to Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." His answer was a question: "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Then Jesus looked at those circled around Him and observed, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
Jesus confirmed that those who were seeking God's will according to His desire were the only ones He would spend time with—His true brothers and sisters. In this statement, Jesus had separated Himself from the common relationships of the world, and showed His devotion to those who were pursuing eternity.
Everything else would represent the world's system, with which Jesus had no part. In this way, He was born of the Spirit, not of the flesh.