Heaven and Earth: 6 ways to raise your gaze!

(Homesick, Part 1)

Chin up!

Do people still say, ‘chin up!’? It’s one of those annoying things that people say when you might just be thinking about something and someone else thinks you’re depressed. I mean, if I was depressed, the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me to ‘cheer up, it might never happen’. Or ‘smile!’ If I wasn’t feeling low before, an annoying voice telling me to cheer up will certainly do the trick!

However, I want to encourage us to raise our gaze, to lift our heads, to look higher than what is around us. Today I want us to remember that while we certainly live on earth, there is so much more to life than this.

Colossians 3:1-4 says,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Heaven is your home.

As Christians we need to remember that the spiritual realm is greater than the physical realm in front of our eyes.

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Looking down will bring you down

The alternative is that we end up living our lives like everybody else – looking down at what’s going on around us in the world and letting it dictate our thoughts, emotions and even the way we behave. We become earthly-minded and filter our Christianity through a non-Christian worldview because we’ve lost sight of heaven. We aim for social justice and all the good things that are moral about Christianity but forget that we serve a supernatural, God who works outside of the physical realm: a God who wants to partner with us to invade time and space with the power of his Spirit.

We are not of this world, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

This is why I constantly aim to discipline myself to spend time in the word. Not because I have another sermon to write, but because I want to keep my perspective, so that whatever goes on in my world or the world around me, I see that world in its true and proper context.

Homesick

When I am disturbed by bad news I am just experiencing homesickness. I’m homesick for heaven. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

“6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Your body: The real before and after picture

Look at the following distinctions between our bodies before and after resurrection Paul makes in the above passage:

Before After Ref Comment
Tent made by man Building made by God v1 Compare Paul’s idea that we’re wasting away in chapter 4:16: Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Tents are generally thought of as temporary. They suffer wear and tear much more quickly than buildings. This is how we are to see our existence here on earth.
Naked Clothed v2-3 Is there a deliberate connection here between Adam and Eve being naked and unashamed and then needing clothes when they felt ashamed of their sin? If so, in heaven we are clothed, i.e. we know no guilt, fear or shame and are in no way hidden from God. Thankfully we can experience a foretaste of that now: we have his Spirit as a deposit (v5)
Mortal Swallowed up in life v4 No death, all life, all good, eternal life is our destiny. Let’s raise our gaze to heaven even whilst we’re on earth.

Living in the ‘before’

That’s all good and well, thinking about the after picture, but we’re still stuck down here, framed in the ‘before’ scenario. Here are 6 pointers to help us living in the now, whilst we wait for the not-yet, all taken from the above passage.

  1. Remember your ultimate purpose

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God… (v5)

That’s the purpose of going to heaven and experiencing this before and after transformation. Whatever ambitions and goals you might have, whatever you are going through right now, remember that if you’re a Jesus-follower, you are fashioned, made, crafted for life in heaven. Meditate on this every day. On the bus, in the rain, going to work, going about your daily chores, remember who you are and where you are going. Remember your purpose.

  1. Recognise the Spirit living in you

…who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (v5)

When I book a holiday I am asked to pay at least a deposit. The thing about that deposit is that it has to be a large enough sum to guarantee my commitment. If I had to pay a £1 deposit on a £3000 holiday I might book it just to reserve my place but not really be sure if I was going. It’s more likely that I’d have to pay a £300 deposit. Then the holiday company knows I’m serious. They know the rest of the money is coming. In the same way, God has given you the Spirit who lives within you as a guarantee that one day you will receive the fullness of all spiritual blessing. And it’s not just a £1 deposit. In fact the whole of your salvation is paid in full – you just haven’t received the fullness of it yet. I could pay just the deposit even if I had all the money ready in the bank. I’d been working hard and have earned the money required. That’s what God’s done. All of God’s heavenly riches have been earned and paid for and you will receive the fullness of his blessing. For now we have a wonderful, valuable deposit in the Holy Spirit.

Heaven is guaranteed, paid for by Jesus. His Spirit lives in you as a guarantee of heaven to come. Make the most of that! The bible tells us to continually be being filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s not to say you can lose him entirely, but you can be filled. Then be encouraged that that Spirit living in you is a guarantee that you have a home elsewhere.

  1. Be confident

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. (v6)

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (v8)

Now you are walking around, day to day, knowing that your citizenship is heaven and you know this because of the Spirit living in you, hold your head up high. You’re a child of the king. Have confidence. You know you don’t belong here. Don’t let the things of this world get you down or threaten you. You have a King and a kingdom waiting for you.

Imagine walking into a scary workplace for the first time. If your perspective is all earth-based it might overcome you. You could feel overwhelmed. But walk in to that place knowing who you are and the temporary nature of any current threat – real or perceived – and you can experience the confidence that befits a child of the King.

  1. Live by faith

For we live by faith, not by sight. (v7)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

We are encouraged throughout the Bible to live by faith. We have to raise our gaze! In fact without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)! Where in your life are you being challenged right now to have faith and not look to the earthly circumstances? Come on! God is calling you to an adventure! Don’t look at the waves – walk on the water and look at he who made the waves, and gravity, and all the laws of the universe!

  1. Prefer Heaven

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (v8)

Luke 12:29-34:

29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Naturally, we prefer our own bodies, our own desires, and material stuff. It’s too easy to adopt worldly values and justify self-centred ideals. But Paul sets a higher example: a challenge to live on a higher plane.

How do you know if you prefer heaven? Two indicators: your calendar and your bank statement. Where do you put your time and your money? What are you investing in?

  1. Live to please God

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (v9)

How do we know we are pleasing God? Well a good starting place is that there is some element of faith about what we are doing with our lives. Remember point 4? Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It’s also worth considering the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave us: to love God and love people. If we combine these commandments with the requirement to have faith, we know God is pleased with us if we are taking faith-ventures to express our commitment to him and to others.

There’s not much room left after that for earthly, self-centred thinking really, is there?

No one said living the Christian life was easy, did they? (If they did they were either lying or mistaken!)

Homesick?

When the Jews were in exile they were homesick for Jerusalem. Some of them had never seen Jerusalem – they were born in exile. But still they would face Jerusalem to pray. They longed for the day they would be allowed to go home. Although they had been captured by the enemy, they came to understand that it was God who had put them where they were. Every day spent in exile was focused on one day heading home.

We haven’t seen heaven yet. But let’s pray and live heavenward, focused on our future, and aim to bring as many people with us as we can.

What can I do this week to live more heaven-centred?

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