29 May 2009

Heaven or Hell

Whether your life is a heavenly one, or hellish, depends not upon your location or circumstances, but upon the faith in your heart and the god to which or whom you cling. If your heart clings to Christ and abides in Him, then your life is heavenly, already even now in your body on earth. But if your heart fears, loves and trusts in other gods than Christ, then your life is hellish, a damnable living death, which goes from bad to worse.

It is not your body of flesh and blood that is problematic or a prison; nor is it the material world of God's good creation that imprisons you, but sin and death, your false belief, idolatry, fear and dread and sheer despair. These make even your God-given vocations and your holy stations in life seem burdensome and tedious and irksome, painful and unfair. So, then, it seems that God is not the Sun that warms and lights you, but a cruel and demanding taskmaster, your judge, jury and executioner. So, too, you do not love and serve your neighbor, but hate him, despise and resent him, hurt and take advantage of him.

How then are you able to escape from such a hellish prison? How shall you worship God in heaven, in reverent fear, love and trust, instead of fleeing from Him in dreadful terror? How shall you not be always on the run, but never able to evade the threat of death and the fear of punishment?

How shall you cling to Christ in peace and hope, and rest in Him? How shall you rise with Him, and live in Him, and abide with Him in the bosom of His God and Father?

Rejoice, give thanks and sing! For all of this has been accomplished for you, and is freely given to you, here and now, by Christ your Savior.

He is not far away or far above you, but He has drawn near to God with you, even as He draws near to you with God. By His Incarnation (paralleled in the Apostolic Church and Ministry), by His Cross and Passion, by His Resurrection, by His Ascension, and by His Gospel.

He has entered into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens, as your great High Priest: your Anchor behind the veil. There He lives in the presence of God in your flesh, even while He feeds your flesh with His Body and Blood; so that where and what and who He is, you are also (by grace through faith in Him). God and man, heaven and earth, are no longer far apart and separated from one another, but are perfectly reconciled and united in the Body of Christ Jesus. Find your heavenly life in Him, therefore.

True, there is a right and wrong way to lay hold of Him on earth, demonstrated in the contrast between Mary Magdalene and Thomas. Ironically, it is faithful Mary Magdalene who attempts to lay hold of Him in an earthly way at first, from which she is dissuaded, whereas the doubting Thomas is given to lay hold of Christ Jesus in His means of grace.

Here, first of all, even in the midst of your doubts, Jesus lays hold of you in mercy, with the grace and peace of His forgiveness: by the preaching of His Gospel, and by the fruits of His Cross and Passion.

So that, already here and now, in your body of flesh and blood, you live a heavenly life in the presence of God. In and through Christ Jesus, your High Priest, you worship God in His Temple, in the midst of His Jerusalem, His Church, on earth as it is in heaven.

Christ Himself is the Incense and the Prayer of His Body, the Church. He is your Incense, Prayer and Worship, so that you, your body and soul, are received by God the Father in heaven in perfect peace and love and joy.

Receive the same Lord Jesus Christ into your body of flesh and blood, and live in Him, even now, on earth.

He is not far from you. Be not far from Him.

Do not attempt to live your life on earth apart from the gifts He freely gives you here in the midst of His Jerusalem: the gift of the Spirit, whom He promised from His Father, which He has received for you in His own crucified and risen body: in your stead and on your behalf.

As He does, indeed, pour out His Spirit upon you here, know that He Himself abides with you, and in you, so that you live and abide with Him, now and forever, in the presence of your God and Father in heaven. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

No comments: