Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Living to Die

Living to Die


“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Luke 12:32-34

Everyone knows that they’re going to die, but no one believes it will be today.  I believe that is the greatest hindrance in following Christ.  We all believe we have time to change, time to hone in on what Christ wants and lay aside what we want and follow Him.  We believe we can continue to live for earthly wealth and the “American Dream”, and then at some point in the future begin storing up treasures in Heaven.  Until then, we’re compelled to work for the 401K we need when we’re 65, plan for the retirement, pay off our debts, and prepare to live the “good life”.  We all live as if we believe that somehow, some day, God will nudge us, peck on our shoulder, or whispers in our ear “hey, it’s time to start storing up your treasures in Heaven”.    
It should be the life goal of every Christian to live to die.  The goal should not be to create wealth and comfort here.  That makes about as much sense as renovating and redecorating a vacation condo that you’ll live in for a week!  Life here is so very temporary compared with Heaven, which is eternal.  The goal should be to store up heavenly treasure, which is kept eternally.  It’s a retirement plan that is not time bound.  It doesn’t begin at 65 and end at death. 

So the question then comes, how do we store up this “heavenly treasure” without reaching Heaven? 
In Mark 8:34-38 Jesus explains what it takes to be a follower, a true servant of God.  He said “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

He will be “ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father” because he will have accumulated nothing of eternal good.  He chose not to deny himself, not “take up his cross” in sacrifice. 
There’s only one reason why people will not serve God in this capacity, and that’s because serving requires sacrifice.  You have to sacrifice your time or your money.  But isn’t that the point of service to God?  Is it really service if it’s continually convenient and costs you nothing? 

If you go to church and think you’re doing God a favor and storing up treasure in Heaven, I’ve got news for you.  Your account in Heaven is bankrupt.  If you pray thinking you’ve somehow done God a favor, listen up.  God doesn’t fill your heavenly account for talking to Him.  The conversation is its own reward.  If you’re willing to talk about Christ and matters of faith at church and in Bible studies, that’s great.  But if you find it uncomfortable and neglect to do the same in day-to-day life, you just may be serving man instead of God.  God doesn’t pay you to be a man pleaser.  Saying the uncomfortable truths is part of our service to Him. Service always includes sacrifice, but the sacrifice isn’t painful.  That is what we have to learn, little by little, as we serve God.  It really is the “good life”.
There’s a new movement going around called “Random Acts of Kindness”, which is a great start.  It’s about doing good deeds for others anonymously, without accepting honor, favor, or anything in this life.  Matthew 6:1 says “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Have you ever bought a cup of coffee and just sat it on someone’s desk when they weren’t watching?  How about buying Pizza and having it delivered to someone else’s house?  What about handing out gas cards to total strangers at the pumps? 

The acts of kindness don’t have to be materialistic.  They can be in service as well, such as mowing a yard, raking leaves, or visiting the elderly who have outlived all friends and family and are in nursing homes.  Maybe you become the grandparent for a child who has no grandparents, or volunteer to read to preschoolers.   Whatever you do, show love.  It is in showing others the love of Christ that we store up treasure in Heaven.  Be His hands and feet.
In Luke 12:22-32 Jesus talks about the “American Dream” and our pursuit to gain food, clothing, homes, and wealth.  He says we should look to the ravens, which don’t work for a thing, but never go hungry because God takes care of them.  He says look at the lilies which don’t max out their credit cards for fashion and yet are most beautiful because God clothes them.  It’s a matter of faith, faith that God will provide for us all our needs.  But then He goes a step further in verse 31 and says “But seek the kingdom of God, and ALL THESE THINGS shall be added to you.”  Do you trust Him?  Can you believe Him for ALL THESE THINGS being added to you simply for following Him?

Jesus goes on in verses 33-34 and says “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Selling what you have and giving gifts to those who deserve it is sacrifice.  But it’s not sacrifice without reward.  The reward is the deposits God makes into your heavenly treasure.  It’s a change of your heart here on earth to become more loving and more like Him.
If you really believe you are going to die and go to Heaven, doesn’t it make sense to deposit in your eternal retirement account there? Or do you prefer to be bankrupt for eternity? 

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