Monday, November 12, 2012

Registered in Heaven

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24, NKJV).

Peace can be hard to come by in this life. Not just external peace, that kind where nobody is actively at war with you or engaged in overt hostilities, but internal peace, as well; that peace that enables you to sleep at night without anxiety or fretfulness.

By understanding where Christ has led us by His sacrifice and our faith in Him, the writer of Hebrews is adding layer upon layer of reasons for peace, especially that internal sort. 

We are no longer under the curse of the law, He has led us past Mount Sinai and its integral darkness and tempest and death penalty, we are destined for an eternal dwelling place - the heavenly Jerusalem - the likes of which we can barely imagine, and we are guaranteed fellowship with angels - magnificent and powerful supernatural beings who stand before God and minister to us, His children and the heirs of salvation.

Beyond that, we are part of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, and have, by faith, an irrevocable membership. Whether or not this general assembly refers to the Old Testament faithful who died believing in God's promises, or is something else, it is clear that this group, along with the church of the firstborn - clearly specifying New Testament believers - are registered in heaven.

Think of it as an exclusive reservation, or legal roster, or an indelible census of heaven's inhabitants. However you picture it, it is a list from which, once on it, your name cannot be removed.

By professing Christ as your savior and acknowledging in your deepest heart your dependence on Him to save you from the penalty of sin, you obtain this inviolable citizenship. You can never be deported or disenfranchised. Your true home is someplace you have not yet been, but for which you were born or, more precisely, reborn. And unlike any earthly home, it can never be destroyed or violated or repossessed.

As a lifelong earth dweller, you may find it next to impossible to place your hope and trust in a place and Person you have not seen, but that is exactly what faith asks us to do. No, more than that - it commands us to do. And it is the longing of every human heart.

That is why being anxious is a sin (guilty as charged), as is worrying (guilty) and fretting (guilty). All these are expressions of lack of faith, and, in essence, are lodging complaints against God and His uniquely perfect will for each one of us.

I find living worry-free an exhausting challenge in my own life. To avoid the anxiety, I typically end up taking things in my own hands, not because of a leading from the Lord, but because I just want "it" over with as quickly as possible. This, too, is sin, and an almost certain recipe for exacerbating whatever the situation may be.

There is a fine line (from my faulty perspective) between "waiting on the Lord" and irresponsible inaction. The ONLY solution is to be in such close fellowship with Him, always, that His voice is heard over and above the tumult of our own sinful hearts, and the so-called wisdom of the world.

In turn, this is ONLY possible by determinedly spending time in His word and in prayer, both of which are not obligations, but privileges bestowed upon us by His grace and mercy.

Another stumbling block I find easy to trip over is subsequently condemning myself for my obvious and egregious lack of faith. This is spectacularly unhelpful in that it can initiate a downward spiral: anxiety = condemnation = more anxiety = more condemnation, and so on - a perfect trap guaranteed to prolong the agony.

The good news in this, and in every trial we face, is that the Lord is gracious and knows that while our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak. Jesus, of course, says it best:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV).

We must understand, He implores us to understand, that these are not just words, but divine promises. Our registration in the heavenly realm has been purchased by Christ Himself on the Cross. It was neither easy nor cheap. It cost God dearly, as he considers each of us a pearl beyond price.

It is easy to believe in the sunshine, and a life of ease is an untested life, built upon an untested faith. I suspect that many of us know of those who have fallen away because their profession of belief was based, not on a broken spirit and a contrite heart, but on an unspoken deal-making mentality. 

When they felt that God had not kept up His part of the bargain, because of hardship or loss or dissatisfaction, they turned away from the only true hope available to a hopeless mankind. That is tragic, indeed.

If you are worried or fretful or anxious, hide Paul's loving exhortation to the Philippians in your heart:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7, NKJV).