The Escapist’s Fatal Flaw
“We cannot go to heaven as worldly men; for there would be nothing there to make us happy.” Charles Spurgeon
I still remember my very first time reading this quote, and since then it’s a quote I often return to, where I ask myself, “Are my priorities currently focusing my life toward heaven?” Charles Spurgeon emphasizes a critical point that is truly humbling, if we are so focused on “Earthly” matters, what good is heaven, really? If there is nothing about living for God or a pursuit of a relationship with Him that makes us happy, then will there be anything in heaven that will be worth us looking forward too? This is such a frightening series of questions because it forces us to be real with ourselves and our viewpoint of God. Are we living a life that is directed toward heaven or centered on earth. Obviously, I am by no means suggesting that we should discount everything in life. This physical world has needs that must be attended too, but we ultimately must remember as the old song goes, “This world is not my home I'm just a-passin' through…”
In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy passionately declared before the U.S. Congress: ”before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” On July 20th, 1969 the spacecraft Apollo 11 successfully touched down on the moon. This landing was the fulfillment of that declaration, and the end of the “Space Race.” Shortly after the spacecraft landed on the moon Neil Armstrong suited up and made his historical descent down the craft’s ladder. Upon his first step on this terrestrial wasteland, Armstrong proclaimed, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A phrase that has be quoted in history books and rings through the eons of time. In all the pomp and circumstance of this conquest into space, there was still one major factor, the moon was not his home. Millions of dollars were spent, and all of mankind assembled together to grace the surface of a giant rock in space. After years of preparation, months of training, and hours of flight time, the men of Apollo 11 spent 2 hours 31 minutes and 40 seconds on the moon. The sad reality is simple; humans cannot survive in the alien environment of the moon.
God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 1 & 2). We as mortal human beings are designed by God to survive on Earth, but there is something deeper than that at play. While our bodies, are designed to live and die on earth, we are spiritual beings with eternal souls. Much like the team of Apollo 11’s adventure on the moon, life on earth is but a vapor. Our physical, tangible life on earth is full of ups and downs. Earth is a place we live and die, but it is not the eternal home of our souls. Let me assure you, there is a Heaven, and there is a Hell. The decisions and choices, that are made on earth, will unquestionably determine where you reside at the end of the day.
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’ while really its finding its place in him.”
The story of the rich young ruler in the Gospels is an account that shows the danger and truth of C.S. Lewis’s quote. This young man came to Jesus desiring to be one of his disciples, but went away sad after one single statement from Jesus, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” This young man had great possessions, and this world had taken its hold upon him. I guess this is why the Psalmist said, “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). Do not misunderstand me, I am by no means suggesting that we should not have possessions. I am very thankful that God has blessed my family and has provided for us in abundance, but there is a danger of possession. We pass a point of need and enter a realm of greed. When a person’s greatest pursuit in life entails chasing a dollar I am afraid they will be sad to find a heaven who lacks currency.
“For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
When debates over holiness standards, or systems of belief arise a question, that too often arises, goes something like, “Is it a Heaven or Hell issue?” This issue irks me because it is proving Spurgeon’s point precisely. The underlying principle is simple; the question is suggesting how far can I go without going to hell. In other words, I want to do everything I can possibly get away with on earth, but not have to suffer eternal judgment. I want to live as much like the world as I can, and still be saved. In short, Christianity has simply become a means of escaping hell, and not enjoying heaven. I am afraid that those, who ask questions like these, are at the risk of discovering exactly what Spurgeon meant.
Why would I possibly want to live my life under the least possible requirements necessary to make it to Heaven when I have a God who went above and beyond simply to give me the choice of salvation? If God wanted to go by minimum requirements he didn’t have to take on human flesh, endure sinful humanity, he didn't have to undergo the merciless subjection of mankind, he didn’t have to die for my sins, he didn’t have to… But he did. God loves you so much that he went to extremes to show it. How could I live a life and allegedly love God while doing everything I can to walk on the line of Heaven and Hell?
There is no more harsh debate on this topic than that of holiness standards of lifestyle. What you believe is what you believe, but in my opinion holiness is the greatest act of love we can give to God. We are not bound by some law requiring a lifestyle that sets us apart from the world. Holiness is not a mandate it is a blessing. Holiness is looking at the other side of the “Is it a Heaven or Hell issue” question. While there are those who try to walk the line, a lifestyle of holiness places a buffer between us and the line. Because a seperated standard of living is not required it shows our love and submission to God. Where mandates say one must, love says I choose too. Love always goes above and beyond, and our love for God should be no different.
So I challenge you today, are you walking the line in your relationship with God? Even if issues aren’t Heaven and Hell, when you get to Heaven do you think you are going to wish you had done more? Is Heaven captivating because it's simply better than eternal fire, or is there something deep within you that longs just to be in the presence of God? Is it God that makes you happy? Does Heaven indeed sound like a place where your desires are leading? Is your love for God leading you to the point that no matter the price all, you want, is more of Him?