Cindy and I do discipleship with another couple every Tuesday night via Skype. We use Greg Ogden's book Discipleship Essentials
as a spine for our discussion. Last night we were talking about the Holy Spirit and a quote from the book spurred an interesting conversation:
He (the Holy Spirit) constantly turns the spotlight off himself and on the God-man. Any moving of the Spirit, therefore, that does not lead people to Christ is not the moving of the Spirit of God. The passion of the Spirit of God is to make the living Christ the center of our lives.
When something is of the Holy Spirit, it should always point to Jesus. John reminds us of this in 1John 4. Yet, we discussed, that many times we have been a part of things that we assumed were Spirit-filled but did not necessary point to Jesus. They pointed to the gifts, they pointed to a ministry, they pointed to our nation, they pointed to the lost, they pointed to political issues, but not always to Jesus. It was somewhat of a big revelation to our friends that they had been a part of churches where other things then Jesus were the focus. So, what does it mean to have Jesus at the center of our lives, at the center of our churches?
I think somewhere along the way, we have lost focus of what the goal of our faith is supposed to be. If you ask many, they would say the goal of our faith is heaven. Yes, Jesus is in there, we need to cross to get our sins forgiven, but the actual goal is heaven. I've heard people talk about how they will have a country house and a city house in heaven, but never about being with Jesus. But is heaven the goal or are we missing something.
Here is the interesting thing, Jesus didn't talk a lot about heaven. He mentioned it from time to time in different parables, but it wasn't the focus of his preaching. Instead, he was the focus of his preaching. "Come follow me". Even in the end, Jesus' last orders to his disciples were simple - make disciples, be my witnesses, tell them about me. Paul said that all he wanted was to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Heaven was there, but Jesus was more important.
But what is true for us? What do we ask people we are trying to "lead to the Lord"? Don't we ask them where they are going to go when they die? Isn't it all about the afterlife? "If you don't pray the prayer now, you will burn in hell." Jesus is in there, but he is simply the way to the means - the stairway to heaven. Somewhere along the way, heaven became the goal. Don't believe me? Why then is the fact that we will be worshiping 24/7 something that most people don't look forward to. We preachers threaten our flock that they need to get used to worship here, because we will be doing a lot of it later. If Jesus were the goal of our faith, worship would be a given, not a chore.
Heaven was never meant to be the goal of our faith, Jesus was. Heaven is a distant reality. Because of that we are able to put it off for a bit. Heaven is in the future but my job, my family, my marriage, my stuff, myself - this is all in the present. So we give heaven some time (usually 90 minutes on Sunday) and focus on what is here an now. If our goal is in the distance, it won't become a factor in our present until it becomes closer (why do you think people get serious about their faith during times of illness and death). But Jesus is not a future realty, he is here now in the present. And if Jesus is meant to be the focus of our life and the goal of our faith, then Jesus is supposed to be in my job, in my family, in my marriage, in my stuff, in my life. My friend hit the nail on the head last night about why this is. He said that heaven sells, but Jesus, not so much.
So what would our lives looked like if Jesus, not heaven, were the center of it? What would our churches looked like if we preached Jesus here and now, not heaven in the by and by? I think things would be extremely different - Acts 3:42-47 stuff. And I think people would be interested. Heaven may sell, but it has a limited market and a quick expiration date. Jesus on the other hand, is continually fresh and is relevant everywhere. We just need to chose for ourselves what the goal of our faith is. Heaven or Jesus.