Monday, October 14, 2013

In the Sweet By and By-Product

Today is the first day in our 41st week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:
  •  Jer 27, 28, 29, 24; James 4
  •  Jer 37, 21, 34; James 5; Psalm 79
  •  Jer 30-33; 1 Peter 1
  •  Jer 38, 39, 52; 1 Pet 2
  •  2 Kin 24-25; 2 Chr 36; 1 Pt 3; Ps 126
Yesterday, I was checking out the website of a church in another state, clear across the country, because a friend of mine is considering visiting that congregation.  They are a very evangelistic church--so evangelistic, in fact, that you'd think that the main message of the Gospel is "how to get to heaven."

"What?" you say.  "That's not the main message of the Gospel?"


The message of the Gospel is "Be reconciled to God."  You can be reconciled to God by trusting Jesus, and following Him.  Getting to heaven is a by-product of being reconciled to God.  But going to some beautiful place in the sweet by and by isn't what the Bible's all about.  If that were it, then we'd have a Gospel tract, and not an entire library of books in our canon.

Be reconciled to God.  Live, reconciled to God.


The exiles who were carried off to Babylon were so upset over their present situation that there must have been a lot of people moping about singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and "When We All Get to Heaven."  But God doesn't want His people so fixated on future blessings that they forget His present presence.

God is here.  Now.  

"The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:7 ESV)."

So, Jeremiah told the people:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV).

In other words, don't live for the sweet by and by.  Live for the sweet here and now.  Jesus told people not to worry about the future, for today has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).  In the same way, it's also true that the believer should pine for the future, for today has enough joy of its own.

Religion isn't just about where you go when you die.  For God "is not the God of the dead, but the living (Luke 20:38 ESV)."  Religion is about how we live today, to experience God today, and to bless others today.  The sweet by and by is a by-product of that.  

Don't confuse the two.

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