"The trouble with Christianity is that it is all JAM TOMORROW." Or so the critics say. Is there any truth in it?
Is it, "Make sacrifices now, bear the pain and suffering today, because one day you will receive a great reward in heaven. Then you will live in luxury, have angels to wait on you and never have another worry." ? Some might add, "In fact, the more you suffer in this life, the greater your reward in the next."
Some sincere believers might even concede that this is far better than the destiny of the rest of humanity who will be tormented in the LAKE OF FIRE for all eternity.
What a travesty of life as a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ! What a flawed representation of a loving God! How would God be glorified in this scenario?
The critics who say that Christianity is only JAM TOMORROW, that it is the opiate of the masses, do not understand the purpose of life, do not believe that God is a God of LOVE.
Nevertheless, I ask again, "Is it true - is it all Jam tomorrow?"
The fact is that whether we are a believer or not, bad things happen to everyone. WE are not exempt. If we were, the whole world would be Christian. It would be foolish to be anything else when everyone could have a wonderful life, just by saying "Christ died for me".
In some things, God makes no difference between the true believer and the atheist. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45,
"[Your Father in heaven] causes His sun to rise on the evil AND the good, and sends rain on the righteous AND the unrighteous."
In theory we know that pain, suffering and heartache develop our character but when it happens in reality, can we agree with what James 1:2 tells the 12 tribes scattered abroad:-
"Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
PURE JOY? Yes, we can, if we realize -
" ... that in ALL things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose"
Joseph said to his brothers (the same brothers who caused him to be sold as a slave and spend years in prison), "You intended to harm me, but GOD intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
But how can we have JOY and PEACE today in the midst of so much pain and suffering? We can't, unless it is given to us to believe God's Word. The peace that passes all understanding doesn't come with getting 'psyched up' with music, drugs or 'positive thinking'.
The 'peace and joy' the world offers is a fake, harmful and transient at best. The only true peace and joy is to be found in God's Word. The source of that peace and joy is Christ.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need the disposition that was in Christ:
"Who, being inherently in the FORM of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the FORM of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
We read in Isaiah 53 details of that sacrifice. Christ knew that His prophesied pain, suffering and SHAME was essential to His own glory, our salvation and God's glory, fame and honour.
When we believe that it is "in GRACE, through faith," that we are saved and it has nothing to do with our works, good or bad, we experience a great relief. What peace! We don't have to worry that we will never be good enough to receive eternal life. We never have to worry that when bad things happen to us; that God hates us or is punishing us.
Paul rejoiced because Christ,
"Who undertakes a good work among us will be performing it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Neither do we need to worry that God will change His mind. Ephesians 1:13:
"In Whom you also - on hearing the Word of Truth, the evangel of your salvation - in Whom on believing also, you are SEALED with the holy spirit of PROMISE (which is an earnest of the enjoyment of our allotment ...) for the laud of His GLORY!"
Our salvation has been sealed by God's promise. God is not a liar, He is faithful to keep His promises. HIS future GLORY depends on it!
The starting point of our joy and peace is to discover and meditate on what CHRIST has already achieved in God's plan. Surprisingly, it goes back further than 2000 years ago. The first chapter of John tells us about Christ.
"In the beginning was the word, and the word was toward God, and God was the word. This was in the beginning toward God. All came into being through it, and apart from it not even one thing came into being which has come into being."
Everything was created by the Father through Christ. This is what it says in Colossians 1:15-17:
"[Christ] is the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of every creature, for in Him is all created, that in the heavens and that on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or lordships, or sovereignties, or authorities, all is created through Him and for Him and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him."
A remarkable thing that happened before what is called the 'disruption' of the world in the CLV, ('foundation' in the KJV and 'creation' in the NIV) is recorded in John 17:24. Jesus said that the Father loved Him before the disruption of the world.
Something else that happened before the disruption of the world is recorded in 1 Peter 1:20:
"You were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted Lamb, foreknown indeed before the disruption of the world."
Revelation 13:8 records that:
"the Lambkin was slain from the disruption of the world."
So if all this happened before mankind was even created, let alone before Adam first sinned, we can only conclude that God had planned it that way. This was no changing His purpose as He went along depending on what humanity did or did not do.
God does not worry Himself sick that mankind is messing up His plan. God does not worry! He has nothing to worry about! From the very beginning He knew the end and planned every detail in between. Nothing can go wrong. Everything today is just as He foresaw it. God uses EVIL as well as good in His operations.
We too can have that same peace when we believe that God is in complete control of the entire universe. Knowing all this, how can we NOT give glory to God for what Christ has done for us? And at the same time, give Christ the glory that He has been given by the Father? Philippians 2:9-11:
"Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him and graces Him with the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue should be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the Father."
It is nonsense to say that the believer's JOY can only come in the life hereafter. We can have joy now, yes jam now, as well as jam tomorrow. These verses from Ephesians chapter one have caused believers to rejoice for nearly 2000 years:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with EVERY SPIRITUAL blessing among the celestials, in Christ, according as He chooses us in Him BEFORE the disruption of the world, we to be holy and flawless in His sight, in love, designating us beforehand for the place of a son for Him though Christ Jesus; in accord with the delight of His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace, which graces us in the Beloved ..."
Yes, we many not have every physical comfort, but we are now being blessed with every spiritual blessing. We are treated as God's sons in Christ Jesus NOW.
There is no doubt - we have a glorious future. We also have a glorious PRESENT. And it is all because of what Christ HAS done and IS doing.
We don't need to worry either, about all those who did not know Christ in this life. Eventually, Christ will be the Saviour of ALL mankind. God will be ALL in ALL.
When we understand all this, do we need to be COMMANDED to rejoice? Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4 -
"Be rejoicing in the Lord always! Again, I will declare, be rejoicing!"
Finally, I quote the magnificent words of Romans 11:33:
"O, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways! ... seeing that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen!"
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© James Johnson