IMAGINE: Living in 3D
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
April 8/10, 2005
Good morning and welcome to Fellowship as we are right in the middle of our Imagine Campaign as a church—surely one of the most exciting moments in the life of our church, and I’m glad you are with us. We are excited because we are doing all of this with eternity in mind…we want to impact people’s lives for eternity and help many more come to a forever relationship with Jesus Christ.
When you came in, you got some 3D glasses. Go ahead and take those out. There is a reason we have these glasses, to remind us that God invites us to live lives that are 3D not just 2 dimensional. Most people live life in 2 dimensions, the here and now, but the third dimension is eternity…3 D living is living with eternity in mind.
Go ahead and put them on, and make sure you don’t do it upside down or it won’t work. Everybody play here…put them on. You look great! I wish you could see what I see right now. Well, let me allow you to (I-MAG). This will be cool, but we need to train your eyes a little. 3 Dimensional living is not natural, so we need to train our eyes a little bit. (Show clip).
Okay, great. Never thought you’d do that in church, huh? Now let me show you our land, and watch carefully. In this Imagine step, we are relocating our church to the site on Legacy for our next twenty years of ministry. You can see a great worship and multi-purpose space that will be full of light and be flexible…that will be cool. Then the KidZone facilities that will have space for not only our kids now but children to come, and be designed around our ministry goals…those buildings are going to create a lot of excitement. And then the youth building, which won’t just be our own youth building. It will, but a youth center for our community. We hope to reach thousands of kids there, and there is a lot more going into that than just a really cool building—though it will be a really cool building.
Why are we doing it? Not because we are bored or just like buildings. We are doing it with eternity in mind. There are 650,000 people in a ten mile radius of our church and we want to do all we can to help them spend eternity with Jesus Christ. And let’s pray to that end.
Today we are talking about 3D living, how God invites us to live beyond the here and now. Yet, our culture is very much a two dimensional culture, obsessed with the here and now. And that is interesting because many other cultures around the world and in history are very different. Other cultures not even Christian have been obsessed with the afterlife.
When I was twelve, I went to London with my parents, and we went to the British museum. My favorite part of that was the Egyptian area, all that stuff they got from the Egyptian tombs…I guess because I was a kid who loved my mummies. Any way, it really was cool, but you see really quickly that this was a culture obsessed with the afterlife. That’s why they made the fancy headdresses, so they would have a face in the afterlife…they didn’t want to walk around without a face. Can’t blame them for that. And they had food and servants and horses. They wanted to be prepared.
Now, obviously their ideas were misguided, but the Bible says that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men…meaning that we all have this awareness that there is something after this life. As Americans, we’ve done the best job ever trying to cover that awareness over. We are very much a here and now culture, like the bumper sticker says, “I want it all, and I want it now.” That’s America. That’s why everybody advertises “easy credit,” “no down payment,” and why Americans max out all their credit cards. We live for now.
Yet, occasionally this eternity idea breaks through, and we gain perspective…usually that’s when something big happens in our life that shakes us. A loved one dies or we get really sick or maybe come close to death, and then we all of a sudden become quite clear that we are not going to live forever and we think about our lives differently. At those points, we all become much more clear about what is really important.
With this in mind, I talked with my brother this week who is a cardiologist. I wanted to confirm something, so I called him. I asked him what the death rate is right now, and he confirmed that the death rate is hovering right at 100 percent. Every one of us will die, unless Jesus comes back first. After that comes eternity, and forever is a long time.
Jesus spent a lot of time pointing people to this reality, that the only way to make sense of life here is to consider it from the perspective of there. At the end of our lives, our perspective of how we should be living now will be very clear. So, today we want to look at a couple of key Bible passages to get us ready for eternity…to help us now how to live in three dimensions.
The first passages is in Luke 12, where Jesus tells a story in response to two brothers who are living in 2D. They are really concerned about the here and now, and Jesus tells a story to broaden their perspective:
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
So, Jesus tells this story about a guy who was pretty smart. He had done very well in life and lived what we would now call the American dream. This guy had it all, and he worked hard to get it. So, what could be wrong with this guy? He worked hard, invested for the future, thought ahead, amassed great wealth, and now was going to retire and enjoy all of his stuff that he worked so hard to get. Sounds pretty good. But Jesus then brings in a three dimensional perspective. God comes into the story, so in verse 20 we read: 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Why did God consider him a fool? Because he didn’t live in 3D. He only lived for the here and now. He worked his whole life to build up all this stuff and was ready to really enjoy it, and then he dies. And since he didn’t live with eternity in mind, he has nothing in eternity to show for his life here on earth. Because he lived in 2D, he did not live on earth in a way that would make him rich toward God, that would build eternal wealth.
Elsewhere Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 5:19-20). Jesus is telling us to invest our lives now in building wealth in eternity.
In fact, what the Bible teaches is that God rewards us in heaven for what we do now and that the only way we can build eternal wealth is in this life. You and I will not build wealth in heaven…that will be determined by what we do here. So, we have a choice with what we do. We can store up for ourselves here on earth and just spend it or live with eternity in mind and invest it. As one person has said about our possessions, “We cannot take them with us, but we can send them on ahead.”
This past week, we were booking flights for a trip that Don Overton and I are taking to New Zealand to speak at a couple of pastors conferences there, which is a cool thing I’ll tell you about as it gets closer. One time I went over there, they bumped me up to business class from coach—which was awesome! It is an 18 hour flight, so it really makes a difference. I actually slept, and enjoyed the flight. Probably most fun was looking back through the curtain at all the bozos in coach…peasants! This time I’d love to get bumped up again, but I know I don’t want to pay for it. Even better though would be to charter my own private, custom plane. You can rent out these jets that have bedrooms and living rooms, and for about 100,000 bucks have a great trip to New Zealand. And it would be fun, but I think most would agree that an 18 hour plane trip is hardly worth a hundred thousand bucks…it’s not that long of trip.
Our life here on earth may feel like a long trip, but from a longer term perspective it is short. How foolish to spend so much on our little trip here when it is so short.
Back in the fall, I spoke in the series on the sermon on the mount about this Matthew 5 passage, how God tells us to use our money now to build eternal wealth in heaven. A friend of mine in that service called me that week. He is not quite a Christian yet, though I think very close. But he said, “Jeff, if what you said is right, then I’d be an idiot to keep living like I do. If what you say is right, the only thing that makes sense is to invest everything I can for eternity…to give it so that it can build eternal wealth…rather than just spend it here…but then I think, ‘Well, what if this is all just a bunch of hooie’…I mean, I am not sure I even believe all this stuff yet. But then I think, ‘Well, even if this life is all there is, and I choose to invest in eternal things, give to the church and to the building thing you are doing, I’ve still done something really good. This church has done good things in my life and in a lot of other lives, so even if I get to the end of my life and realize none of this eternal reward stuff was true, then I still can look back and know that I did something really great in my life.” I remember telling him, “Man, if I could get Christians to be so smart, I’d be very happy.” He is exactly right. If what Jesus says is true, then the only thing that does make sense is to live for eternity, to build eternal wealth.
But God gives us the choice. He lets us decide. He gives us all that we have, and he gives us freedom during our little trip here on planet earth as to what we do with our possessions and our abilities and our time—but one day this life will end and we will stand before God. As a pastor, I want to make sure you are prepared for that moment. I want you to go into eternity with confidence.
And the most important factor then will be where you will spend eternity. You do not want to go into eternity still holding on to your sin. Sin separates us from God, and if we are still holding it means that we will know his justice for all eternity and will not be in heaven…and that would be truly tragic, because the whole reason Jesus came was to take that sin and its judgment away from you. He came to die on the cross for your sin and mine. He says that to as many as receive him, meaning receiving him into our lives and the forgiveness that he offers, to them he gives the right to become children of God and be with him for eternity. The Bible says that he offers eternal life as a gift, that he paid for. The first thing you need to settle is your ultimate destination, and you can change that today.
Many of you though have taken that step, and you know where you will spend eternity. That part is settled. Yet, what is still being settled is what eternity will be like in heaven for you in regards to rewards. And though God gives us some freedom as to what we do with what he gives us here on earth, you need to know that one day you will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for all that you have done with your life for him. It’s called the bema seat judgment. A bema was just a raised platform where a throne would go, or where they would honor athletes in the Olympics. One day you and I will stand before Jesus to be rewarded for all that we have done and give an account of our lives.
I’d like you to turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5. That’s one of the places where the Bible talks about this event, and if you are a Christian this will happen in your life. You will stand before Christ. And I really do want you to be prepared. I don’t want you to get there and say, “Well, Jeff was my pastor, and why didn’t he ever tell me about this?” I’m telling you, and you know what, it is designed by God to be a really great moment.
6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
He lives life in 3D in anticipation of this event. He says that we as believers will all appear before Christ. Now, the word translated “appear” is not just about physically being there. It could be translated better something like, “be laid bare,” or “have our lives opened up.” Our lives will be revealed before him. But this isn’t about heaven or hell but rewards. What he is judging is our works, what we have done for him. He says will receive what is due while here on earth, whether good or bad. The Greek word that the NIV translates as “bad” is unfortunate. It’s not the word that refers to good verses evil. It means useless or empty. It refers to stuff that we have done in life that just didn’t amount to anything, that didn’t matter…no eternal impact. That stuff we won’t be rewarded for. 1 Corinthians 3 also tells us that our works will be judged by their motives as well, and then we will be rewarded.
The point of the bema seat judgment is reward and celebration of everything we have ever done for God that impacted eternity…which is a really good thing. I remember when I was a kid I went to a friend’s church down the street, and the Sunday School teacher talked about this but said that God would reveal all the bad stuff we had ever done…all the sins we’d ever committed. She told us it was going to be shown on this big screen for all to see, and that just about scared me to death. When we get to heaven, God is going to show all of our sin on video? Oh no! It made me not even want to go to heaven. Anybody else every hear that?
Well, the good news is that she is dead wrong. God may show her sins up there since she pulled that kind of stunt with us, but not even that will happen. Our sins are put to bed. They are forgiven. When we see Christ, this judgment is about all that we have done with the resources he has given us. And he will reward us for everything.
We are not told exactly how it will work, but I see it as a time of great celebration, when God will say, “Hey, let’s celebrate all the great things Suzie did for me. You were generous here and here and here, and look what happened…look at all the lives you’ve touched. Suzie, you were a loving mom, and you sacrificed for your kids, and look what happened. Suzie, remember when you served in KidZone with the five year olds, let me show you what these guys are up to. You were part of that.
It’s like this other judgment in Revelation, these believers said, “When did we do this? Or when did we do that?” I think for most of us, we are really going to be surprised by all the people we impacted. We’ll say, “I didn’t know that. Wow. I had no idea that happened.”
Some people believe that all the people we have impacted will be there cheering us on. A crowd of people whooping and hollering for us. And at that moment we will be thankful for every single thing we did for God, every single dollar we gave, every single minute we invested.
The stuff that will be burned up is the useless stuff, the things in our life that we lived for that in the end just didn’t matter…our possessions, our stuff, our bank accounts, all that. When we get to that point, we’ll think to ourselves, “What was I thinking? Why didn’t I invest that. Look at that just burn up.”
The bema seat is when all that you have done will not be a secret. God will reward you and affirm you for all that you did for him, and for those who lived in 3D will be a time of great celebration…and we will enjoy the rewards for all eternity.
Right now you and I have an incredible opportunity to make an eternal investment of a lifetime. I really believe that. For those who participate in Imagine, this investment will be mentioned on that day, and we will all get to hear the stories of what God did…all the lives that were changed, all the kids who were impacted, all the teenagers who came to know Christ and were disicpled to serve God, all the families who were touched.
When I think of these buildings we will build, I really don’t think about the buildings themselves. I think of the people who will be impacted because of each one. The worship area, the kidzone area, the youth area, the education spaces. On that day, we’ll hear about all the stuff that happened there, and we will realize we were part of something really big. And we’ll say, “I had no idea. I was just trying to be faithful. I had no idea all that would happen.”
And God will say, “I know. Isn’t this cool. And I want to reward you for all eternity. Well done! You did great!”
We have no idea yet all the people we will be able to reach and gather into Christian community and see lives changed. God does, and one day we will see it all. Most people live in 2D, and they will never know the joy of 3D living.
Here’s the deal as you pray about what God wants you to invest in Imagine…because in 2 weeks is the Big Step weekend, where all of us will take this step together. On that day we will make our pledges in that service of what we will give to this project over a three year period of time…here is what we need to remember as we are praying about that:
- One day this life will be over
- One day we will be rewarded for all that we have done
- One day we will look back and be thankful for everything we did to help the Imagine dream become reality
- One day we will find out all the things God did because we gave
- One day we will realize that this opportunity is a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity to impact thousands and thousands of lives
Just think of the people who gave to our first relocation, when we moved from the warehouse to Lexington…they have no doubt at all that they were part of something big. They could have never guessed all this would happen, but they got to be part of it. I want you to hear from one of these folks…someone who is very important to our church, our founding pastor Gene. Gene has been among the most ardent of cheerleaders for this step, and he knew we needed to do this a few years ago. We’ve been praying about the right timing and believe that now is the time. I believe you will be encouraged by his story, how God guided him and Elaine as they prayed about what investment they would make and how God responded.
Close: Imagine really is about eternity. It is not about the here and now. We are taking this step because people’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance and we want to reach them for Christ. That is our mission. One day this life will be over for all of us, and there are hundreds of thousands of people right around our church who do not yet know Christ. God has called the church to be his tool to help others come to know Christ, to grow in the faith, and to be equipped to serve God. The church is what God is using. It is the hope of the world. And the church is the only organization that will stand the test of time…the church will out live governments and business, and it is the only one that will go into eternity. When we say Ephesians 3:20, it includes this aspiration:
We want God to be glorified forever because of this church. We want to help fill heaven with those who came to know Christ. We want to live a 3 dimensional life. Let’s pray.