We know a truly wonderful man who has influenced many in our lives and inspired us in our Christian walk. Many of our friends have adopted his pithy approach to spurring his children on to Heaven. When he asks them what is their greatest goal, their answer is: "to get to Heaven!" When he asks what their second greatest goal is, their answer is "to take as many people as possible with me!" While I understand and appreciate the thinking behind this, I'm actually not teaching it to my children.
I do understand what he's saying - and, knowing what I do about him, I would say that our desires are the same - but when I ask my children what their greatest goal is, I want to hear "to love & honor God!"
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22)
The end result is the same, but the focus of the desire is not.
If I teach my children that their goal is to get to Heaven, then life - and their walk with Jesus - is about them. Why do we want to go to Heaven? To avoid Hell; to live eternally in Paradise; to see Jesus, of course.. These are all great goals - but they're still self-centered - rather than Christ-centered.
For my children to successfully walk through life on this earth, they need to keep their eyes on Jesus - not only because He is their Savior, but because He is their Lord as well. There is a distinction.
Too many people want Jesus to be their Savior but not their Lord.
If life is about me - and salvation is about me - then, when life starts to get hard, I start to get flummoxed. If the Gospel is all about me getting to Heaven, what happens to my faith when life on earth becomes too much like Hell?
A goal that is centered on my salvation rather than God's glory has me at the center of the Gospel, rather than Jesus. A faith that has me at the center of the Gospel is plumb scary.
Jesus tells an interesting story that used to confuse me. I mean, Jesus tells us that the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served, but Luke also records Jesus telling this parable:
7 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17)
In this parable, we see that the focus in our relationship with God is God - and Him alone. Our place in the picture is as "unworthy slaves" doing only that which we ought to have done. This makes for a very different picture than that of a Gospel based on me and my eternity in Heaven.
Like every other sane parent, I desperately want my children in Heaven. The thought of any of them spending an eternity in Hell is more than I think I can bear. I will tell you, though, when I came to the realization that my children's eternal destination was more important to me than whether or not they honored God, I had to do some real thinking about just how much I love Jesus. We all want our children to honor God, but when I really took a look at my prayer life I could see I was desperate for my children to be in Heaven. I wanted them to honor God, of course...but my primary focus was that they would not end up in Hell. I had it backwards.
Where my prayers used to plead that God would give my children every chance to turn to Him and be saved, now I pray that my children honor God with their whole hearts and serve Him with unbridled passion. Where I used to pray with a primary concern for my children's eternal destination, I have chosen to pray with a primary concern for God's glory.
It has changed. my. life.
Do I want my kids to go to Heaven? Yes, Lord - desperately. Do I want their greatest goal in life to be to go to Heaven? No.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)