“Smile at me,” says Sofia, 5.
I wonder how many of us can imagine God smiling at all?
To imagine God smiling requires that little five-letter word called “grace.” Most of us know instinctively that we fall far short of the kind of righteousness needed to cause God to smile. When we think of our failures and sins, we can easily imagine an angry, frowning God.
Grace causes God to smile a lot because it doesn’t depend on anything we do or fail to do. Our performance is not an issue. Grace depends solely on God’s initiative and work. If grace depended upon us in any way, it would surely fail.
God is smiling because his love motivated him to send his only son to die on the cross for all our sins. I like to call this the Grace Exchange. Jesus takes our sins by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins and those who believe in him alone for their salvation have his righteousness credited to them (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“When I get to heaven, God will lift me up, wipe away every tear,” says Karissa, 11.
Of the age to come, the Apostle John wrote, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
If this isn’t hope, what is? Can we imagine a world without tears, death, sorrow, pain or crying? As I go to therapy for a frozen left shoulder, I’m ready for “no more pain.” The second coming of Christ will see the suffering of this present world pass away like a distant, faded memory. This present world is infected by sin and only the return of Jesus Christ can restore it to a state even better than the paradise God originally created. Read Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21-22.
Karissa, 11, also says: “He will give me a new name and call me his beloved.”
God is in the new identity business. Remember Jacob? God renamed him Israel, which means prince of God. Remember Simon? Jesus renamed him Peter, which means rock. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, “the Son of the living God” became the rock upon which Jesus built his church (Matthew 16:16-18).
Even though all who arrive in heaven do so by accepting God’s grace in believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a new name on a white stone will be given only to those who “overcome.” That same grace that allows us to become citizens of heaven enables us to live an overcoming life now.
Our natural tendency is to live selfishly with ourselves at the center of our world. When Jesus Christ takes up residency in a Christian through his Spirit, he or she can break the selfish orbit and begin to focus on the Lord as the true, life-giving center. Jesus not only promises eternal life to all who believe in him, he offers an abundant life to all who follow him (John 10:10).
Think about this: Living the abundant life now will have eternal consequences beyond what anyone can imagine. It all starts with God giving you a new name on a white stone that only you will know. You want to arrive in heaven not as a mere resident, but as an overcomer (Revelation 2:17 & 3:12).
Memorize this truth: Revelation 21:4 previously quoted.
Ask this question: Who is the center of your life?
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