By Frank Powell
Our two sons attend Snowden Elementary, a public school about one mile from our home in Memphis, TN. So, every school day, like other families who don’t live within walking distance, we park our car two blocks from the school and proceed to cross a six-lane road. It’s a busy intersection that requires two crossing guards and a police officer to ensure children’s safety and regulate awful driving.
I have grown to love crossing guards. Rain, shine, humidity, and freezing temperatures, crossing guards are there. They always show up. And crossing guards don’t sit in a lawn chair, waiting until the area is safe, wishing children the best as they cross busy intersections.
“Good luck as you cross the street, guys. Hope you make it to the other side.”
Now, as an author and pastor, I know every metaphor breaks down at some point. But I think the image of a crossing guard teaches us something about the heart, character, and mission of Jesus.
You see, Jesus doesn’t sit on one side of eternity waving us across to Him. And He doesn’t join us on our side, only to pat us on the back and wish us good luck as we venture through the crossroads of life. Instead, He moves with us through the intersections of life. It is the heartbeat of John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and moved into the neighborhood.” Could it be that these words are intended to be the heartbeat of the church as well? I believe so.
The ascension of Jesus has a lot to teach us about what Jesus is up to today. If we are not careful, Jesus’s ascension into the heavens after His death will come to mean that His work was finished, and that One day He will reappear when He comes to judge the world and to set all things right.
“Good luck as you cross the street of life, guys. Hope you make it to the other side.”
Here’s what Paul writes in Ephesians 4:10, “He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.” In other words, the ascension of Jesus isn’t a way for Him to escape this world, leaving us to navigate the intersections of life alone. It’s a declaration that he stands in the middle of the road, much like a crossing guard.
And this is important. When Heaven is a future reality, something that seems “way over there,” we are much more likely to hang out on the sidewalk. After all, who wants to cross a six-lane road without help?
But if Heaven is a present reality, one where Jesus stands in the road directing traffic and walking beside us, we move off the sidewalk and into road with confidence. We step into the intersections of life because Jesus is there.
Here are 5 ways embracing heaven as a present reality changes how we live today.
1.) THE GOSPEL BECOMES MORE THAN A SERIES OF STEPS.
Unfortunately, in many Christian circles, the gospel is reduced to: 1) trust in Jesus, 2) have our sins forgiven, 3) arrive in heaven after we die. Even though Jonathan Storment and I embrace these truths, we wrote Bringing Heaven to Earth because we believe the gospel is larger than a few simple steps.
Following Jesus isn’t about crossing our fingers, hanging on tight, and waiting for eternity. It is an invitation to cross the road, to embrace a covenant relationship with the Creator. God gives us the opportunity to join him in all of the ways His mercy and goodness flow through the world.
When this reality sinks into our hearts, it changes how we see the world.
2.) GOD, WITH ALL HIS POWER, WALKS WITH YOU TODAY. HE IS A GOD OF THE PRESENT, NOT JUST A GOD OF THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.
In Exodus 3, God tells Moses He is “The Great I Am.” This becomes the most sacred name for God. It echoes throughout the pages of Scripture. But it also echoes throughout the pages of our lives. At least, it should.
This is huge: at no point in history does God become “The Great I Was” or “The Great I Will Be Again One Day.” He is “The Great I Am.” The same God today as he was the day He spoke the words to Moses.
If God is confined to the past or future tense, how will we raise up a generation to follow God in the present? Here’s the reality. The same God who parted the waters for the Israelites and promises to restore all things is the same God who walks with us into the street today. His power, grace, love, and desire to redeem the world are with us.
3.) SALVATION ISN’T PRIMARILY A MOMENT IN TIME. IT IS A MOVEMENT IN THE WORLD.
Throughout the New Testament, and especially in the book of Acts, conversions were a central theme. People regularly surrendered to Jesus, confessed Him as Lord, and were baptized into His name.
Don’t misunderstand me. We believe in conversions, and we celebrate them. Places like Luke 15 show us Heaven celebrates when a soul unites with Jesus in His death and resurrection.
The message of the gospel, however, is not that we are invited into a conversion moment, but into a conversion movement. Conversion isn’t a life insurance plan, securing our future in heaven. Conversion launches us into the street where we join God’s movement of restoration and redemption. The prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” is more than a prayer. It is the life we are called to live. It is a life in the street where things are dangerous and unknown.
But it is also a life where Jesus meets us because the mission of Jesus is in the street.
4.) YOU PARTNER WITH GOD TO MAKE HEAVEN A PRESENT REALITY.
God could do whatever He desires by Himself. He doesn’t need us. But from the beginning God engages in a working relationship with human beings. God is eager to use who God saves.
He doesn’t save people to increase heaven’s future population. He saves people to increase heaven’s present population. God delegates. He gives responsibility. He empowers His people. He equips them with everything they need to live an adventurous life. A life that declares the future of heaven is pressing into our present world.
That’s a message worth spreading.
5.) PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR.
As I write this, chaos is rampant all over the world. Violence is everywhere. Tension is high. And reasons to be fearful abound. Yet, the Bible declares hundreds of times, “Do not be afraid.” Now, I understand fear isn’t always unhealthy. But when fear paralyzes the soul, stunts spiritual development, and hinders the church from loving a world God desperately loves, something is wrong. If we are not careful, fear will drive out love, instead of perfect love driving out fear.
Hearts that trust Jesus are not called to shrink into a shell. They are called to press into the city. The response in the New Testament when people surrendered their lives to Jesus was not to play it safe. The response was to risk their lives for the sake of the gospel.
The earliest Christians knew the church was at its best when it gave up home field advantage to meet people where they were in life.
We wrote our book, Bringing Heaven to Earth, because we believe the good news of Jesus is just that: good news. We believe this good news doesn’t prepare us to die well, but to live well.
We believe Jesus loves this world more than we could ever imagine, and He wants His church to live as if they deeply love this world too.
IT’S YOUR TURN. HOW DOES HEAVEN AS A PRESENT REALITY CHANGE HOW YOU LIVE TODAY?
We now have lots of resources at the heavenly realms page on this site and the support group facebook page – http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com
To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available for download here.
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