Back to where we left off yesterday. . .
The third thing we misunderstood is who exactly gets to heaven – not those who simply believe in Jesus Christ but who believe in His work. This I think might be the most shocking for many people who think they have secured a place in heaven. Many people have heard the gospel taught and out of fear of judgement have accepted that they need salvation and Jesus will do. But theirs is a kind of intellectual acceptance of the need for salvation from eternal judgement not the conviction of the ever-present need to have a Savior who has done a necessary and lasting work, and who demands fruit in us from now on to eternity. Heaven isn’t for those who made one decision about accepting Jesus for salvation, but those who daily (even hourly) believe, boast in and remain anchored in Jesus’ powerful, once-for-all work on the Cross.
Part of this misunderstanding is also in disregarding that heaven is a reward not for those who started the race but for those who finish the race according to the rules! Heaven isn’t like the t-shirt you get at the beginning of a race, it’s the trophy enjoyed by those who finish the race according to the rules. There are those who might think that how we run this race doesn’t matter but it matters a lot! The Kenyan runner Elijah Kemboi got disqualified from a race in which he had a medal standing position because in the middle of the race he slipped and stepped outside the running track. In the end it didn’t matter that he had run and positioned well, it mattered that he hadn’t run according to the rules! Heaven is therefore for those who persevere in the faith by sticking to the gospel of King Jesus – not simply whatever seems to work to get them to the end. A pragmatic man-made gospel is no gospel at all and it breaks the rules of the race. Be careful you are found clinging to the true gospel, running the race as is laid out in it.
Fourthly, we have misunderstood how we get to heaven. The way this world works tells us that mostly, we get what we earn. Unfortunately, a lot of people bring this understanding to the gospel of King Jesus (and then change it from being good news of grace). Some of us think that Jesus’s work is to cleanse some of my sin and then I work hard to get to heaven. Whereas I am advocating for the perseverance of the saints, this is all meant to be rooted in the work of the Father through the Son. Col. 1:12 goes ahead to tell us that we are to give “thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] for an inheritance with the saints in light”. We get to the end because of what God the Father has done for us in the work of God the Son. Our endurance is actually to persevere in this knowledge and assurance, being sure to let go and disbelieve any persuasion that says we get to heaven by any other means!
Fifthly, we have misunderstood what heaven actually is. We have too small a view of heaven. Many Christians have fallen for the comic strip depiction of heaven – saints and angels sitting on clouds playing harps. A good number of us see it as the boring end to what could be a fun life. This is why so many Christians have no qualms about the ‘You Only Live Once’ (YOLO) hashtag. We have spent little to no time getting a clear, Bible-centered view of heaven and therefore it is no surprise that we have not learnt to love, prize and long for heaven. It’s no wonder therefore that we will not work to endure. We only endure and wait with patience for what we believe to be precious and worth the wait.
So, now that we’ve looked at these 5 ways in which we misunderstand what God says about endurance, how can we begin fixing our understanding on endurance? I think, we must begin by acknowledging that we lack the proper understanding because we cannot apply a lasting remedy to a problem we refuse to acknowledge. After this we need to go to God in prayer and ask for His forgiveness of our ignorance and His help in helping us see and rightly understand what He is saying, in this case about endurance. We then go to God’s Word and spend our lives hearing what God is saying clearly and in context and learn from Him what we are to know and think and how we are to live our lives as pleases Him till we get to the end. This is a life-long work of storing up, chewing over, believing and living out the truth of what God says. It’s a work of endurance and steadfastness!