I have yet to meet a person who feels that he/she is qualified to “go to heaven” when they die. That is something to think about at another time. Life is now – eternity is then. But the believer in Jesus is said by the Truth Himself to commence eternality when one receives Him – when one surrenders to Him and His evaluation of reality – when one is willing to trust Him enough to direct one’s decision-making in the “now”. We like to corral spiritual life to a church setting, and perhaps a few minutes a day – isolating it from disrupting our personal preferences and decisions. We don’t want God-stuff to interfere with our lifestyle, so we compartmentalize. Spirituality is all but extinguished by religion, rules and cold formalism, being carefully contained so as not to spill over into everyday life. This is definitely not the course of a disciple – the image stirred by those dozen men who listened, lived, walked, failed and followed the Truth Made Flesh. He interrupted, instructed, challenged, corrected, inspired and exampled Eternal life. It was not something He looked for in the future, but something He lived and embraced every single day. He Himself was a disciple in a sense, always intentionally seeking the will of Another – His Father. It cost Him. In fact, it cost Him infinitely more than it will ever cost us. I suggest that this is the reason we delay thoughts of eternity – we do not want to be uncomfortable. We would rather choose the comfortable illusion that we are not worse than others, therefore unworthy of “hell”. We think less frequently about the nagging sense that we are also not good enough for “heaven”. We tend to think of eternity as the vague destination of a short term mortal experience. But we are living our destination out right now! Reducing eternal life to vague confusion about places (the two H’s) pacifies our mind, but endangers our soul. Jesus came to freely give what was anything but free for Him. Religion came in like a hawk to ritualize reality and distort discipleship. Where are the men and women of today like those pioneers of the faith who lost wealth, status, and even their lives for their Saviour? (Most reside today in “less fortunate” countries.) Relationship with Him was the motivator, the delight, the compass of their souls. It was definitely not a doctrinal decision or a brief Sunday activity.
What about me? Is that attitude of heart something I only read about and perhaps wish for? Does my belief system affect the way I treat others? The way I do my job? The way I use my time? Does it limit my willfulness, challenge my selfishness, confront my unforgiving bent? Have I befriended the Friend of Sinners by seeking Him out, hearing His voice, asking for HIs forgiveness?
Let’s turn to the thoughts of the inimitable Dallas Willard and allow our minds to honestly evaluate the condition of our souls – and make the appropriate response:
“Those who really do know Christ in the modern world do so by seeking and entering the kingdom of God…. To know Christ in the modern world is to know him in your world now. To know him in your world now is to live interactively with him right where you are in your daily activities. This is the spiritual life in Christ. He is, in fact, your contemporary, and he is now about his business of moving humanity along toward its destiny in this amazing universe. You don’t want to miss out on being a part—your part—of that great project. You want to be sure to take your life into his life, and in that way to find your life to be “eternal,” as God intended it.
There is a real danger that you will miss out on this involvement with eternity and thereby miss the entire point of your existence. Eternity is now in process. Silently it moves along. But it will not run over you. You have to really want it—deep down—or you will miss it. That is why Jesus said to seek it more than anything else. Today, given the prevailing intellectual and cultural atmosphere, you are likely to pick up from your surroundings, with no special thought on your part, the conviction that there is no knowledge to be had of good and evil, no knowledge of God, and no divine presence in our world that enables us to transcend its merciless regularities. If that conviction settles in on you, you will live in terms of it and never enter the kingdom of God. “Let it be done for you according to your faith” (Matt. 8:13)
From Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. Copyright © 2009 by Dallas Willard