Old Songs, New Perspectives

February 4th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 11: 31 (NLT)

 31 If the righteous are rewarded here on earth,
      what will happen to wicked sinners?


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

I grew up in a distinctively southern church culture.  Our little congregation was closely knit and intimately involved in each other’s business.  There were very few secrets and everyone knew where they fit in the family.  Most of our music was traditional and we did things the way they had been done for many years.

I still love many of those old songs that we used to sing . . . for that matter, I still include them in the worship sets that I prepare now.  Hymns and traditional choruses are more to me than just reflections of my heritage; they are lyrical snapshots of a songwriter’s experience forever captured in the moment when he or she penned the words.  My background is diverse, but I definitely lean towards the edgier side of worship music.  Playing in a Christian rock band for eight years will do that to you. However, nothing moves me more than a timeless anthem like Nothing But the Blood or My Jesus, I Love Thee.  

One distinctive feature of older hymns and choruses that I remember as a child was their focus on heaven.  Modern worship songs definitely mention our eternal destination at times, but the older songs seemed to dwell upon endless musings of our heavenly home.  Streets of gold.  Pearly gates.  Crystal seas.  

Needless to say, a culture focused on heaven produced perpetual thoughts in my adolescent mind about the next life.  It became the paradigm of my faith experience. It was the x-factor of any religious conversation and the defining viewpoint of any attempt to draw others to Christ.  The relationship with Jesus was real, but my understanding of it was defined by heaven and hell.

Heaven was everything to me, even though my understanding of it was cloudy at best.  It still is for that matter.  The lyrics of the songs we sang in church created imagery in my mind that didn’t exactly compute in reality.  Golden streets and pearly gates were cool concepts, but they didn’t exactly make me want to jump up and down.  Kids want to know about playtimes and excitement . . . and honestly, floating around in a traditional church service for thousands of years with no recess or playtimes didn’t exactly balance out the lure of golden pavement.  All in all, heaven was mysterious and quite frankly, boring.

These days, I still can’t say that I have a definitive concept of heaven.  The perfect and unending relationship with God and His people that I will experience there now seems way cooler than the gold.  I also think that I have accepted the fact that my life after this one cannot be comprehended in a human mental capacity.  Simply put, I don’t yet have the ability to fathom it; therefore, I try to just trust that it will be infinitely beyond what I can think or imagine.

I may have been obsessed with ideas about heaven as a child and I am still most definitely intrigued as an adult, but these days I’m also captured by another topic. Those who find and are found in relationship with Jesus in this life have access to untold benefits right now.  As a religious thinker who delves into apologetics, philosophy, and theological mysteries, I have arrived at a very simple conclusion about living for Christ: even if the vast and unfathomable rewards of heaven were taken out of the equation, an earthly life lived in relationship with Jesus is nothing short of remarkable.  Living for Christ on earth still makes the most sense of all the directions one could take.

That’s what this passage speaks of: “If the righteous are rewarded here on earth, what will happen to wicked sinners?”  The focus isn’t just on eternal benefits, it reveals something that many people are unaware of: living the right kind of life brings earthly rewards too.  Joy.  Peace.  Love.  Purpose.  Redemption.  Forgiveness. Removal of guilt.  Guidance.  Favor.  The list goes on and on.

The righteous are awaiting an eternal reward, but as I always say, eternity has already begun.  Heaven will be a different season, but we can already benefit from a relationship with the Heavenly One.  This isn’t a guarantee that we won’t face hardship, pain, suffering, or even the loss of our earthly life.  It just means that we don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the benefits of knowing Him.  They begin here on earth.

Honestly, it’s just a principle of our existence.  We reap what we sow.  We harvest what we plant.  We get back what we put in.  You get the point.

These days, I still sing those old songs about heaven and I know that nothing can prepare me for what incredible joys lie ahead.  But I’m glad that the rewards of His grace have already begun now.

Why wait?


~ by johndriver on February 4, 2009.

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