i’ve been wondering lately if the theme of this blog has run its course (reverend osteen’s interview with piers morgan notwithstanding). are christ-followers so wrapped up in current affairs that they are not interested in talking about eternity? are we so captivated by social justice that the thought of heaven can no longer captivate?
well, last night while channel-surfing, i happened to stumble across some christian tv (and i suddenly realized i have something left to say about your best life later). before i could get the channel changed (and i was furiously trying), i heard the preacher say that god wanted me to encounter my destiny.
and all this time i thought i had found my destiny when i found jesus.
when the television preachers talk about “destiny,” what they’re talking about is power/comfort/luxury in this life. the apostle paul looked at “destiny” differently. following is paul’s description of:
For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. (2 corinthians 5:1-5 – the message)
even more graphic is the language in the new international version, where paul says, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” our current existence is not our “destiny” (paul won’t even call it “life”). our “destiny” happens when this existence is “swallowed up” by death (what paul calls “life”).
let me be clear. i am not suggesting that a believer cannot be powerful/comfortable/ensconced in luxury. i’m saying that those things have nothing to do with “destiny” and even less to do with the gospel. the whole idea of salvation is that there is something here…in this life…that i need to be saved from. this existence is evil because the environment is evil and my heart is evil. this existence cannot be redeemed–i must be redeemed from this existence (john called it passing “from death to life”). i want to be comfortable and have nice things just like the next guy. but “nice” is not my “destiny.” neither is the american dream. my “destiny” is completely wrapped up in the kingdom. when i received jesus, i was delivered from my need of anything else.
“you are blinded by your lack of faith,” my tv preacher friend would say, “you need to get a hold of the revelation i have received.” i say “bull butter.”
my wife and i went to russia in 1992. communism had failed and the governmental systems were in shambles. but the believers there were shining examples of grace. the people who depended on the government for income hadn’t received any money in more than a year. still, they brought us in and fed us the best they had and talked of god’s goodness.
i went to haiti a few years ago and met men and women and children who had committed their lives (big statement, but literally true) to serving jesus. jesus had not delivered them from poverty or fed their families, but they loved him nonetheless. they had no job, no money, nothing to eat–but you should see them worship!
i had lunch the other day with a friend of mine who is a missionary to mozambique–one of the poorest countries in the world. he explained to me that those people are utterly without hope and when they meet jesus, they find hope. not hope of a better life, it’s not possible. there are no resources (he told me that the trees have no bark on them, and there in not a blade of grass anywhere…they have all been boiled and eaten). the hope they find in jesus is the hope of salvation. salvation from this existence. salvation into “life.”
just last week, my buddy, rob, said, “i refuse to embrace a gospel that works only in america” and i couldn’t agree more. if salvation is not the same for russians and haitians and africans as it is for americans, then it was invented by some false prophet to make us worship some false god. i reject that gospel.
but the gospel i believe and preach is one that saves us from the eventuality of this life, the inevitability of sin and failure and death. jesus came to redeem me and save me from “life” into his kingdom, and that redemption makes life worth living–not just tolerable, but exciting and full of joy.
the preacher i listened to last night said that god told him he was going to get an airplane, so he went out and built a hangar. he went on to explain that i could have what i believed for if i would just act on my faith. if that preacher’s “destiny” is in an airplane–even a really nice one–then i feel really sorry for him.