Monday, December 19, 2011

Feasting in heaven

Last week’s chapter of Prodigal God enveloped us in thoughts of the incredible eternal home we all long for. To help us think more about this, I thought i’d actually start with a quote from the end of last week’s chapter.

p104 “Jesus, unlike the founder of any other major faith, holds out hope for ordinary human life. Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. We will not float through the air, but rather will eat, embrace, sing, laugh, and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory, and joy that we can’t at present imagine.”

What an amazing home that is. I can’t wait until that day when we will look upon our Saviour’s face, and live eternally with him in glory. What joy, what magnificence, what delight!! It is good and right to long for that great feast with the Father. And as we think more on it, on our eternal home, and as we ponder the treasure we have been saved for, it is also right that our lives here on mortal ground are changed.

In this last chapter, Keller suggests four ways (each with similarities to a feast) in which salvation changes our lives now.

1. Experientially
We have such riches in the mercy of god. Such forgiveness and such a depth of love, that it is often hard to grasp. We have access to the Father, through the Spirit, because of Jesus’ sacrifice. And what a wonderful thing that is! Yet there are certainly times when we forget how wonderful it is. When trouble hits, or sadness comes, we can lose that sense of delight. Despite this, it is important to remember that these feelings in no way lessen the truth that in Christ, we are united with the Father through the Spirit. We are just as much forgiven, saved and adopted in those times, as in the good. However, God did make us with emotions and feelings. He made us to richly experience his love. And so we can greatly and deeply experience salvation in this way. We just need to be careful that this isn’t the indicator we use to know whether or not we have been accepted into salvation by God.

2. Materially
Material does matter. God made us to work his creation and look after it, and that is still our job. As Keller so clearly puts it, “the ultimate purpose of Jesus is not only individual salvation and pardon for sins but also the renewal of this world, the end of disease, poverty, injustice, violence, suffering and death” (p110). What it means for each of us to live in light of this day to day will of course look different from person to person. But it does mean that no one has an excuse to stop caring about the environment, the world, and conditions of people in the world. The gospel of Jesus means salvation and forgiveness for many, but also necessitates a care for each individual human, a care for the environment, and a desire to see change. Of course these things will never truly be fixed until Jesus returns, but is exactly his return which should motivate us to seek change where change is needed.

3. Salvation individually
We must personally continue to chew on, swallow and consume the gospel. I really liked Keller’s expression as he said we need to “deliberately, repeatedly set [your heart] to gospel-mode” (p115). Without the gospel, without God’s word we cannot keep on growing and maturing as heaven-looking followers of Christ. We must keep feeding on the Bible!
This is such a constant rebuke to me. I know just how valuable and important dwelling on the Word of god each day is. And yet I constantly find it way to easy to let days slip past without having nourished my soul on God’s word. I need to keep feeding myself with it to be able to function! We would very quickly see something wrong with a person close to us who stopped eating for a week or two, so how do we let ourselves and those around us stop feeding on the everlasting food? Please if you are reading this, please keep watch on yourself and those around you to make sure you are not spiritually starving yourself! I will do so myself also. This is a promise to you readers out there. For the next month (just to give myself a starting goal), no matter where I am or what I’m doing for the day, I am going to set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than necessary, and sit down and read the bible. It really isn’t that hard. If you find this difficult at times too, do it with me! Let’s keep reading the bible, putting it where it should be in our lives... at the very centre.

4. Salvation communally
We can’t do this alone! We need to keep encouraging those Christians around us, and meeting with others to be encouraged by them as well. This is so important, and will so help us keep our eyes fixed heavenward, striving with priorities in line with our eternal home. As a bible study leader at my church, can I just say how important this is in bible studies! I find it so encouraging when the people in our bible study come regularly, being excited to meet to read the bible, and to encourage each other, even just by being there. Just in the same way, it is quite discouraging when people in our bible study regularly don’t come. It’s the same for your church meeting really. Keep going! It will be much harder to walk on in the Lord without shared fellowship.

While thinking through all these things, it really has been a joy to be reminded of the home to come, of the feast awaiting us with the Father. By way of conclusion, here’s one final excerpt.
“Jesus tells us that both the sensual way of the younger brother and the ethical way of the elder brother are spiritual dead ends. He also shows us there is another way: through him. And to enter that way and to live a life based on his salvation will bring us finally to the ultimate party and feast at the end of history”. p132

May our lives continually be changed by him. May we never forget the great love and mercy poured out on us by our truly Prodigal God.

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