Posted by: T. Boyd | August 15, 2011

Enjoying Life by Living in Reality

I shared a testimony at East End Fellowship yesterday about this past year’s teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. I talked about the passage ending “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33).

I think that this verse describes my goal in life, and, by faith, I say I believe that I belong to another kingdom other than this earthly one; I agree with Ephesians 2:6: “God… raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”, that I am truly seated with Christ in the heavens.

But do I really practice this? Is this real to me? I would say for the most part I do not live in the reality of this. Why not? The problem is that this heavenly kingdom is not visible; I cannot know it with my 5 senses of seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, or hearing. This reality is sensed only spiritually, and that sensing is not easy for us earth-bound creatures. If I ask myself, “How much of my time am I aware of God’s kingdom, or, how much of my mental processes are focused on the Lord Jesus?” I find myself coming up with a low score on this scale.

What can change this condition of not living in the reality of the heavenly kingdom? Notice that I am trying to avoid the question, “What can I do about it?” Unlike Yoda’s advice to young Luke in Star Wars, it is not about trying, nor is it about doing something. Jesus was asked this in John 6:28-29 “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.””

Because the work has been finished, and it is complete, there is nothing more that I can do to add to what Jesus has done. Paul said, “The fullness of the Godhead bodily dwells in our Lord, and we are complete in Him.” (Colossians 2:9-10). I simply need to abide there, live in Jesus. But, how do I abide in Him instead of mostly living elsewhere?

Paul says earlier in Colossians 2:6-7, (from The Message) “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.”

I need to see – more than see, but know – in my heart that this is where my deepest need and fulfillment is found. It is what I was created for. The ancients asked: “What is the chief end of man? Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever” – And this is true. There is no real living, real fulfillment, real happiness elsewhere.

I can find a hint of this way of living when I recall every time I been surprised by one of those sweet times of joy, those almost painful longings of my soul for something of beauty, of love, of peace, that have come suddenly before me in my walk down the path of life. Isn’t there something eternal in those times? I declare, “yes, there is.”

Maybe it is seeing something beautiful in the sky, or in the garden, or in an act of kindness that someone does for another person. Or it can be in the sudden understanding of a verse of scripture that has never opened up before. These events surely are arranged by the Holy Spirit – He is whispering to my heart how great is His love for me and you.

And when I acknowledge this in glorifying Him, I find true happiness pours out upon me in blessings – this is enjoying Him forever. It does not have to be just for a rare occasion; this is what Jesus found at all times, and longs for us to find – “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17) and “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15)

I just need for my heart to be convinced and frequently reminded that this place of real joy and happiness is found only in Jesus. If my heart is convinced in that truth, I will quit wasting time chasing the things of the world that only bring false and temporary pleasure.

C. S. Lewis said, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

What Lewis says is true – I mostly stumble through my day, indulging in one of my favorite pastimes, or maybe trying to achieve something, striving after some goal that will bring some sense of achievement, maybe, but, alas, I find its reward is so shallow and fleeting.

On the other hand, when I am able to “practice the presence of God” throughout the day, I finally start finding real peace and fulfillment. I suggest that this starts by deliberately setting aside a time each day to enter into my prayer closet and like Mary, linger at the feet of Jesus for a little while, learn who He is, what His aroma is like, what His tone of voice sounds like, what He is feeling, learning how can I serve Him, asking in what way can I join Him in serving others. And then afterwards arising and going out in that knowledge which strengthens me.

And I can sing to Him. I find it easy to think of Him by worshiping in music with my voice or playing keyboard for Him. I can write love letters to Jesus – it helps to keep a prayer journal, jotting down my requests and following up to praise God for the answers, which may come only years later, but brings a thrill when I realize the answer came.

I also find great help in memorizing scripture – this keeps on feeding the soul and spirit for days and years afterwards. I was able, at the peak of this practice, to memorize 18 or so complete Psalms – this totally surprised me because I have never been able to memorize anything before, at least, not without great effort. Many a night have I been able to get rid of insomnia by rectiting Psalm 1, Psalms 8, 19, 23, and 27. (For a blessing, watch John Piper quote from memory for some 20 minutes many passages of scripture: http://tinyurl.com/johnpiperquotes)

One thing that is not easy for me is to seek friendship with others – I am a loner by nature; but when I spend real quality time in conversation with another believer, and if it is centered on Jesus, I find that there is a third person always there – Jesus, Himself. It reminds me each time it happens that 2 or 3 together in His name is a natural gathering where He promises to be in a special way.

So, these are some practical ways of starting to seek the kingdom of God, of living in the reality of the eternal life with which God has gifted us. It boils down to living, abiding in the vine which is Jesus, and letting His life flow through me.

May the Lord teach me to be sensitive to those many times I tend to hurry away from the abiding because I suddenly have an idea of my own of something more worthwhile that I need to do, or because something happens to me to take my eyes off of His glorious face; or, more typically, of reacting to something that offends me and I grab my old defensive weapons to protect myself instead of trusting Him.

And gradually, He changes me, molds me into a true citizen of heaven, one who abides there and greatly desires with my whole heart to stay there forever.

May the Lord gently, but firmly turn my eyes away from myself and focus on Him. Amen.


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