This summer our church is going through A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. Chris picked up this book a few years ago at a NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) Conference in St. Louis that we attended. I had ignored the book all week. There was a nice lady in the hallway handing them out for FREE. But being the superficial girl that I am I thought the cover was pretty ugly, so I didn’t take one. Chris on the other hand will take anything that is free and took the book and preceded to read it cover to cover, many times over. It greatly influenced his gospel focus and thinking and often times he would read me a section before bed at night. Well, I have had the privilege of reading it for myself this summer and there really is some great stuff in it. There are short little sections and we are to read one each day to help us focus on the gospel on a daily basis. Today I read this section that I’m going to quote and it really impacted me and the way we’re so often taught about heaven. I’ve heard about the streets of gold and the pearly gates for most of my life, but never (in my memory) did someone remind me that those streets of gold are there to lead us to God himself, not just for our pleasure. Let me share this quote and you’ll see what I mean….
“The essence of eternal life is not found in having my sins forgiven, in possessing a mansion in heaven, or in having the streets of gold on which to walk forever. Rather, the essence of eternal life is intimately knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Everything else that God gives to me in the gospel serves merely to bring me to Himself so that this great end might be achieved. Christ died for the forgiveness of my sins so that I might be brought ‘to God.’ Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven so that He might receive me “to Himself” and have me forever with Him where He is. And yes, there is a great street of gold in heaven, but is there any doubt where the street leads? Unquestionable, it leads straight to the throne of God Himself, as do all of God’s gifts to me in the gospel. As I meditate on the gospel each day, I find my thoughts inevitabley traveling from the gifts I’ve received to the Giver of those gifts; and the more my thoughts are directed to Him, the more I experience the essence of eternal life. The “gospel of God” is from God, comes through God, and leads me to God; and it is in Him that my soul finds its truest joy and rest.”
It seems that at times in teaching the focus just ends up in the wrong place… on me and what might benefit me, and the same is true of teaching on heaven. True heaven is much better than hell and I certainly desire to go to heaven over hell. But heaven and all the benefits of it are not for me, they are to bring glory to the one who created and sustains it all. Heaven is all about God and just as Mr. Vincent says “The ‘gospel of God’ is from God, comes through God, and leads me to God; and it is in Him that my soul finds its truest joy and rest.” Truly heaven would be nothing without our God and it is only in him that I will ever find any satisfaction. He is the Ultimate Prize, not the streets of gold or the ‘big’ mansion I will someday reside in.