“If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” –1 Corinthians 15:32
Easter is coming! In churches all around the world, messages will be focused on the resurrection of Jesus. When I was pastoring, Good Friday and Easter were two of my favorite times of the year to preach, as it always brought us (and myself) back to the very heart and core of the true Christian faith and “Good News” of the Gospel: Jesus died for our sins but rose from the dead. We serve a Loving, Living, Risen Savior!
However, Easter should not be the only time of the year we think about the reality of the resurrection and the implications and application to our lives. First Corinthians chapter fifteen is perhaps the “Magna Carta” of the bible in regard to the resurrection of Jesus. In this chapter, Paul moves from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection to what this means and how this impacts our lives now and in the future. He writes of how if Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead then our entire faith is useless, powerless and futile (1 Corinthians 15:14-18). But even more than that it would mean we are not only “defeated” in life here on earth now; but without hope for or in eternity. In fact, Paul puts it this way: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our future resurrection and therefore certainty or confidence of eternity!
I fear we have lost or are losing our vision and focus in regard to eternal realities. Most sermons today are focused solely on life here and now. Be a better you! Seven steps to a healthier more productive life! How to be happy and successful! Be a more forgiving and loving person. And the list goes on. At it’s worst, it is really very shallow; at best much is biblical…but divorced from eternal realites. There are commands and passages that are important to emphasize in regard to how we are called to live our lives here on earth as believers. My concern however, is that when we fail to encompass the “here and now” within the reality and context of eternity; we lose the very core of the Christian faith and life. We also lose a sense of urgency and “eternity” that is so needed and in fact drives every “earthly” command and calling. Our lives on earth need to be lived in light of eternity.
Let me share a bit of my personal testimony. I grew up living a very “normal” American life. Nothing really “dramatic” ever happened and my childhood was a typical child’s life. Baseball was really all I cared about. My only dream was to be a major league baseball player. However, the summer after my senior year I went on a mission’s trip where God began to work in my heart and create a restlessness, a sense that there was “more to life” and that I needed to seek him with all my heart. Not long after, we lost the championship baseball game (partly due to an error I made in the first inning!). Somehow when that game was over I knew it would be my last baseball game. I was devastated and found myself depressed because I had only ever lived for and thought about one thing: Baseball. And I realized that day that whether that really was my last game, or whether I went on to play professionally until I was forty, it would one day be over. And then what? For the first time the question of “What really is the meaning and purpose of life” began to trouble me.
That Sunday, I heard a message revolving around a question posed to Jesus regarding the most important command. His answer was that the greatest command is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-31). I realized my love for baseball needed to be replaced with a love for God. I also remembered and realized I needed to return to a prayer I had prayed when I was about 11 or 12: “Jesus I need you…and I want to give my life to serve you.”
After my first semester at a secular college, I felt called to go to a bible college. During that first week at bible college there was a missionary who spoke every day at the mission conference that kicked off that week. His theme was “Living in Light of Eternity.” I still very vividly not only remember that week; but it set in motion a “mindset” and “way of life” that continues and I am still very conscious of to this very day. During that time I also began to read every book on heaven. I was gripped with a sense of eternity and began to intentionally and purposely find ways to put “Living in Light of Eternity” into practice even in small ways.
Two months later my first real “spiritual friend” (that I could talk to at a mutual level in regard to our walk with Christ) was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 18 and I was 19. It was the first time anyone real close to me had died. Suddenly, eternity became practically real and the shortness of life and suddenness of death were not just words in a book but experience in life. This reality was only then driven more and more home when I started pastoring a church. In just six years, I did around thirty funeral services.
We are all going to die. In fact we are all right now dying. Our bodies do not grow younger, but begin to slow down and show signs of aging. I can’t believe even in my thirties how much different I look and feel then when I was in my twenties! Time is not going backwards. Time is not slowing down. Time is marching us on towards eternity. It may be sobering to think about but actually the wise person will do so. Ecclesiastes 7:2 in fact says: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”
The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that this life is not all there is. There is an eternity that awaits us and is rushing upon us. This is good news for the believer in Christ; it is bad news for the unbeliever. It is our very hope as believers; it is the very hope unbelievers are missing.
As believers, it gives meaning and perspective to suffering, persecution and aging: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (1 Corinthians 4:16-18).
It gives a sense of humility: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15).
It calls us out of our selfishness, greed, jealousy, petty conflicts and earthly comfort: “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21).
It calls us to die to self and put to death sin in our lives: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature..” (Colossians 3:1-5).
It should also give us a sense of urgency and motivation in serving the Lord…now. Now is the only time you and I have! Eternal matters ought to take priority over earthly “matters” or “worries”: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33).
Truly living in light of eternity impacts our lives in very specific and powerful ways. There is an old saying that I think is incorrect. It says: “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” But I would argue vehemently to the contrary. If one is truly “heavenly minded” they will be of the utmost “earthly good.” In fact I believe the real danger is being “too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.”
Didn’t Jesus say in the context of praying, fasting and giving to not do these things to get praise from men; but sincerely before God in light of eternity? Didn’t he go on to immediately say: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
But is this our focus? Are we truly living our lives in light of eternity…or in light of our next paycheck or vacation or other “earthly plans?”
The resurrection of Jesus reminds us to live in light of the reality of eternity. He came once…but He is alive and coming again! There will be a future judgment and even bodily resurrection. Our life on earth is simply the “dress rehearsal” for the “real event!” Our brief life “here and now” is preparation for “there and then!”
And if we plan for so many other things here on earth; our career, buying a home, retirement, vacations etc; how can we be so foolish to not plan for and live our lives on earth in light of eternity? Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end. And your life here on earth is not the end either. It’s just the beginning…
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).