Under the azure sky, the Susquehanna River unrolled like a ribbon. Without a ripple, dotted by dozens of limestone outcroppings, embraced by feathers of ferns, the river spurned interruptions like a king among its subjects.
As we drove alongside the river, my wife and I would gasp at each new vista, then she would nudge my knee to remind me to steer the car back onto a paved surface.
Our hearts wanted so much to be wrapped up in God's glory, but our minds were constantly drawn back to the things of this world.
Isn't the way it always seems to be? When it comes to God's glory, we are reduced to being sightseers and tourists. Yet it is our right, our inheritance, to dwell in God's glory.
One of my favorite Christian songwriters, Derek Webb, tells a story about Christian reformer Martin Luther.
A member of Luther's congregation asked him, "Pastor, why is it, week after week, you preach to us the Gospel? We've read your books, we know you to be a brilliant man. Why do we never move on? When do we get past this, on to something else?"
And Luther replied, "Beloved, because week after week, you forget it."
Even Moses was never able to directly experience God's glory. When he asked for the privilege,in Exodus 33:21, God agreed only to give him a glimpse.
"When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by," said the Lord. "Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
A recent book called "The Slumber of Christianity" by Ted Dekker, considers a similar problem among Christian churches these days.
Dekker points out that we all know that God promises us a breathtaking new life in heaven. The sheer brilliance of this promise leads the Apostle Paul to say, in Philippians 1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Paul goes on to say in Philippians 3:20-21 that "... our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
So, what will it take to transform us from sightseers to residents of the kingdom of Heaven?
I think Paul would tell us the answer is: Death. But it's the question itself that is killing us.
If we expect to experience something like Heaven on earth, we are setting ourselves up for failure, for disappointment, for a spiral into slumbering Christianity.
It's not enough to sell our homes and move to a chalet overlooking the cliffs of Maine. The point of Heaven in our day-to-day lives is to inform our actions with the promise of Jesus.
Paul uses a metaphor that outstrips the comparison with tourists -- that of a race toward the ultimate prize, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:
"Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
The training Paul speaks of is an entire way of life centered on sharing Jesus with others, through our loving actions.
Paul puts it best in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
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