Let’s face it, the longer we have walked with Christ, the greater our susceptibility to spiritual dullness. It can come upon us so gradually that before we realize it, dullness has gained a chokehold on our life. Our spiritual growth becomes stifled and we become spiritually stuck. We lose life-giving communion with the Lord and find ourselves coasting along with no clear direction or purpose.
Behind spiritual dullness is a ubiquitous lie. It lures us into the belief that we have our life together and now all we have to do is maintain our lifestyle and everything will work out just fine in the end. And while there is a measure of truth in this idea, it fails to understand the Kingdom principle that a healthy life in Christ naturally yields continual growth and spiritual advancement (always taking new ground). Put another way, when we are experiencing communion with Christ, eternal Kingdom fruit is a natural byproduct of that fellowship. Dullness, on the other hand, is the fruit of a lack of sustained, wholehearted, engagement with the person of Jesus.
What’s more, dullness is not an innocuous condition; rather, it is a symptom of a life-threatening spiritual disease that if left undiagnosed and untreated has significant eternal consequences. It is a thief whose origin is the prince of thieves. Dullness is a strategic weapon crafted by the enemy to silently rob us of our future inheritance. When dullness has us in its grasp, we have more at stake than we realize.
A common notion among western believers is that all we have to do in this life is to try to avoid sin and to just make it through life until we die or Jesus returns, where we will all receive a mansion in heaven from which we will engage in eternal rest and blissful ease. Yet, this is an unbiblical perspective of life or eternity. It is a fantasy perpetuated in ignorance from pulpits across western culture.
In fact, the best way to overcome dullness is to gain a biblical understanding of how our decisions in this life shape our destiny in eternity. That is, we look at what scripture reveals to be the eternal consequences of the decisions we made in this earthly realm as a means of awakening us from our spiritual slumber. When we discover just how much is at stake, we can come to the realization that we are not okay just eking our way through life in a state of dull numbness. To put it more plainly, we are in serious trouble if we think we can set our spiritual life on cruise control and end up with an experience in heaven that will deeply satisfy us.
This why the Lord pulls back the veil of eternity in scripture and shows us snapshots of what is to come. He wants us to be aware of what we have at stake in our daily choices. He wants us to make choices that will lead to eternal wealth. Toward that end, let’s examine some passages to get a biblical perspective of how we are shaping our eternal reality each day in ways we may not be aware.
The First and the Last
“And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:30, NASB). Jesus is revealing a profound principle about how He governs His eternal Kingdom. There will be a first and a last in heaven but one’s status in this world has nothing to do with one’s status in eternity. One can be first here and last there and vice versa. How man values and prioritizes is entirely different than God’s ways.
Jesus is revealing that He governs His eternal Kingdom by establishing ranks of status and privilege among His people. Now, lest you object to the concept of Him positioning one person over another, consider that Jesus did during His earthly-ministry he awarded Peter, James, and John special rank and privilege to access, see, and do things the others could not. God gave Levites a special position among the tribes that gave them special access and privileges. He gave Moses access to His presence that was unprecedented because of his humility and responses to Himself. There are numerous other examples throughout scripture.
A studious examination of scripture makes it clear that there are not merely two positions of rank in heaven but that every person will be ranked somewhere between the first and the last. Jesus knows every one of us so well and He so faithfully administers every person’s life that He is able to rank every single believer throughout human history based on how they chose to respond to Him and to posture their lives in obedient submission to His lordship.
Say there are a billion positions between first and last in God’s eternal Kingdom. Where do you think you would be positioned in that line based on your total life responses to Him? Suppose that every decision you make in your lifestyle either shifts you up hundreds of positions in His Kingdom or it sets you that far back. How might that revelation influence the choices you make each day? Just imagine that when you are presented with a temptation, that you consider how that decision will either advance you forward or set you back. Every person is tempted by the same opportunities. Those in front of you have said no more often to temptation and yes to obedience more than you. Are you prepared to lose more ground based on your immediate choices or would you rather advance forward?
I don’t know about you but this puts the fear of God in me in a substantial way and I am so thankful for it. I find myself becoming dull so easily or bewitched by the shiny things of this world so often. I need frequent touchstones to remind me of what is at stake with my daily choices. Out of His loving-kindness, the Lord puts these mile markers in scripture before us. He wants us to choose wisdom, life, blessing, and riches. His desire is that we advance as high up into His Kingdom as we want. It all comes down the price we are willing to pay to receive what He is making available to us.
This brings up another important point for us to consider. What does rank translate into in terms of Kingdom currency in His eternal ecosystem? Does it inform economic prosperity, power, the ability to influence others, or our access to people and resources?
The Rich and the Poor
It may be a difficult concept to accept but scripture indicates that there will be poor in eternity. In his writings to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul reveals, “If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.” (1 Cor 3:15 HCSB) That is, all our works in this life will be tested by fire prior to receiving our eternal rewards. Whatever is not aligned with God’s purposes or is mixed with wrong motives will be burnt up. Those works that survive God’s purifying fire will be rewarded with heavenly riches. Yet, this passage reveals that some people will see all their earthly work burnt up by the fire. They will still be saved but they will be left empty-handed, like someone who escapes a burning house with only the clothes in their back. In other words, they will be poor and left with virtually nothing in eternity.
Some people foolishly suggest that this is enough for them. All they want is to make it into the pearly gates of heaven and they will be satisfied. But, this is a short-sighted perspective that will leave the masses weeping in mournful tears when they realize what was offered to them but was not seized as a result of their decisions in this life.
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells of a man going on a long journey and leaves his resources in the hands of his 3 servants. To one he gives 5 talents, to another 2, and to yet another he gives 1 talent. When he returns after a long time, he calls each servant to give an account for what they did the resources he entrusted to them. The first two doubled his investments and he tells them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Yet, the third servant completely misunderstands his master and responds, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ This servant did not know his master and he entirely misjudged him. What’s more, he did not have the common sense to avoid insulting his master to his face at this critical moment of judgment. This servant was ignorant, fearful, and lazy. His choices did not let him enter into his master’s joy. This does not mean that he will not make it into heaven but it does speak of the power and authority he lost out on in God’s eternal economy.
Clearly, the Lord is helping us understand that our position and status in His eternal Kingdom will be based on the choices we make in this life. Power, influence, and wealth are up for grabs in His eternal Kingdom, for those who understand what is at stake and choose wisely.
To the rich young ruler, Jesus responded, ‘“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.’ (Mt 10:21-22 NIV) Jesus is revealing that we have the opportunity to convert our resources in this world into treasure in eternity by investing wisely. Jesus wants us to be wealthy in His Kingdom. This is why He goes to so much effort to help us understand how we go about producing eternal riches.
Even in the Old Testament, God made this principle known, “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.” (Daniel 12:13 NASB)
How to Rank Up
This brings up the important question of how do we make choices in this life to rank up our position in eternity? Jesus gives us insights in the Parable of the Guests: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11 NASB)
Jesus’ parable speaks to natural circumstances but more importantly, it reveals an important Kingdom principle. Choosing the lowest seat at the table in order to be elevated to a higher position reveals that we escalate in favor in God’s economy is by humbling ourselves to the lowest of positions. Biblical humility is not intuitive to most believers. Biblical humility has nothing to do with self-deprecation and downplaying our significance in group settings.
It begins first and foremost with the realization that we are entirely inadequate in every way apart from God. We bring nothing to the relationship apart from a wholehearted yes in response to who God is and what He has done.
We always start from a position of realizing that apart from Christ we are wretched, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17).
This means that we always begin by seeking God and His purposes. Our own ideas do not produce life unless they originate in the heart of God. We do not focus our efforts on building what seems best in our eyes in hopes that God blesses it. Unless God initiates something, we are wasting our precious time doing anything of our own accord. Humility also means that we understand that we are not the center of our own universe. In everything we do, we put the needs of God’s Kingdom first and the needs of others second. Biblical humility always defers our needs in favor of others around us. This is beautifully illustrated in Jesus’ parable in which the servant always takes the lowest seat available.
Humility also acknowledges that none of this is possible in our own strength. None of us possesses this kind of humility within us. It comes from God forming His character in us through the process of sanctification (if you haven’t watched my video on this topic, you will find it here). We can put on an act when others are watching but when no one is there to see our choice to prefer another, God pays attention and marks such acts to our credit in His eternal ledger. Real humility is what happens when no one is watching.
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