Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness(Philippians 2:6-7 NIV).
I graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1976. The all-nighters working on term papers seem like yesterday. My church had given me an electric typewriter to replace the manual typewriter that my dad had given me when I was in high school. The electric typewriter was a welcome gift.
But, after I finished a paper, I would have to proof it for errors, and there were always many of them. Sometimes, I could take the new miracle in a bottle, white-out, and paint over the mistakes and after carefully aligning the paper back into the carriage, type over the mistakes. Sometimes, I had to type the whole page over again and again to get it right.
Then, there were the footnotes. Aggravating for sure because I had to estimate how much room was needed at the end of a page to add them. Sometimes, there was not enough room, or there was too much space at the end of the page. The whole page had to be typed again.
Little could I dream or imagine that one day, I could write on a computer using software that corrects my misspelled words, grammar errors, and automatically adds space for footnotes.
Two years ago, I tutored a student. One of his assignments was a PowerPoint presentation that involved research and pictures.
From my computer’s internet connection, we did all of the research needed to put together an excellent project.
How lucky students are today! No going to the library to spend countless hours hunting sources. No cutting and pasting pictures on poster board for a project. Just type the topic into the search engine and instantly, pictures and information appear. Then, do a little copying and pasting and editing via the software, and in no time at all, the assignment is finished!
No, I couldn’t have dreamed of such a thing thirty-six years ago.
Heaven is like that too. I can’t even begin to dream of what it will be like. On these cool beautiful spring mornings we’ve been having in May down here in Georgia, I think God teases us with what the weather in heaven will be like. Perfect. Not too hot. Not too cold. No violent storms. Just, well can I say ... Paradise!
In the same way that God seems to tease us with perfect spring mornings, He reveals a little of heaven’s bliss in the Scriptures. Some of the Biblical writers were given unique insight and even visions from the Lord about the place called heaven.
The Apostle John, received visions of heaven and recorded them. Aged and exiled as a criminal to the desolate Isle of Patmos off of the coast of Greece, John’s descriptions are breathtaking.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse (Revelation 22:1-3).
The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass (Revelation 21:21).
For John, words were inadequate to describe what he saw. He had to use metaphors or word pictures in an attempt to convey what he beheld in the vision.
It would be like me trying to describe in words the beauty of the sunset over Bryce Canyon in Utah that Joyce and I witnessed. What we saw is better expressed in metaphors. I’ll give it a try.
“God took his paint brush and dipped it into His palette. He brushed his giant canvas with brilliant streaks of flame on to the fading ocean-like hues to create a breathtaking masterpiece over the valley before us. As evening turned to night, the sparks from his furnace of creative love glowed in the darkness above dazzling with a glory never before seen by us who sat below soaking up the display of His glory and majesty.”
That’s the way John describes his vision. He used word pictures because it was too awesome to try and convey in mere words.
Jesus tried to give us an idea of heaven. After all, he had been there! “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 KJV).
The Apostle Paul knew a man who “was caught up to the third heaven. “And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-5).
Could it be that the man was not “permitted to tell” because no words on earth could describe what he had heard? I think so.
I could never have imagined the computer in front of me when I was drowning in coffee trying to stay awake pecking away on my electric typewriter. Even so, I cannot even imagine what heaven is like.
Heaven is beyond our imagination and dreams. It is indescribable. Word pictures don’t even come close to describe it just like word pictures don't come close to describing the sunset on Bryce Canyon. You have to experience the place.
Paul said in regards to heaven, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
If you make it to heaven, would you ever want to leave. I have to admit that as Joyce and I sat on the edge of Bryce Canyon that cool summer evening, we didn’t want to leave. I was with the one I love, and I could have stayed the night there. In fact, by the time we decided to go back to our cabin, we couldn’t find the trail in the darkness. We stumbled along for what seemed like hours hoping that no bears or snakes were out there before we finally found our cabin. It had been a great escape from the cares of life. We didn't want to leave.
I think heaven will be like that a thousand, no, a million times over. If you get there, who’d volunteer to leave and come back down to this old sin-cursed earth.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of joys and beauties on our pilgrimage along our way. Lots of them.
But on this earth, there is a lot of sadness, distress, despair, and everyone dies. Helen Keller said, “The world is full of suffering.”
Jesus noted, “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Heaven is a place that knows not suffering, pain, and death. John saw this and reported,
“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).
Who in their right mind would ever want to leave such a place like that and come back to earth?
Jesus would and did.
“He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant.”
The other night, I had a craving for a glass of milk and peanut butter and crackers. As the late Jerry Clower would say, “I had a craving flung over me!”
Joyce buys low-fat organic milk, and it almost tastes as creamy as the milk that my step-grandmother used to serve when I visited her and my grandfather on the farm.
I remember going with her to the barn. She sat on the milk stool and milked the cow. By lunch time, it had been chilled and ready for a young boy from the city. There was nothing like it. Smooth, creamy, rich, and velvety. That organic milk is somewhat similar to fresh farm milk.
I slathered my crackers with peanut butter and went to the refrigerator for milk to finish off my favorite bedtime snack. My mouth watered in anticipation. I was relieved to find that we still had milk in the refrigerator and reached for the carton only to find that a swallow or two was left. I poured the tad of milk into my glass. I was unsatisfied that I didn’t have a full glass. Disappointed, I tossed the empty milk container into the garbage with the rest of the trash.
As I got to thinking about what Jesus did in leaving heaven to come to earth, it was as if he threw heaven into the trash like an empty milk carton. He treated the glories and magnificence of heaven like trash.
Meditate on that! Christ, the third person of the Godhead who “Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6 NIV).
To grasp something is to hold on to it or to hug it because it is valuable. How many things in your closet or in your home have you “hugged” for years because of its value or sentiment to you. It’s not for sale and you wouldn’t dare treat it like trash and throw it away like an empty milk carton! I still have my Mickey Mantle baseball card that I got in a pack of baseball cards when I was a kid. It’s fifty years old and not for sale! I hold on to it.
You would think that Jesus would hold on to heaven and hug it at all costs. But, he didn’t. He treated heaven like trash when he entered this earth. He was born in a barn and walked the dusty roads of Palestine.
Christ could have hugged and held on to his divinity. He could have kept it to himself and never let go of it. He could have kept his God-nature and power to himself, but he didn’t.
He made himself into “nothing” or emptied his divinity into the form of man. He threw heaven into the trash.
What was it that he threw away? Serenity, peace, glory, power, and heaven to name a few.
God the Son entered this world of suffering, pain and death taking on our humanity. And, he chose not to live like a king with all of the accouterments of power and wealth that come with political supremacy. Instead, “When he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death — death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
The Presidential campaign is kind of funny to me. President Barak Obama and Governor Mitt Romney need the middle class, working men and women’s vote. Both try to identify with the working people of our nation, yet neither one of them has ever worked in a hard, gritty, sweaty job.
Another issue that is funny to me is their debate on wealth. The President markets himself as a friend to the poor and middle class. In an April speech, he said, "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”
Not to be outdone, the Governor likes to point out that his father, George Romney, came from very humble beginnings and never graduated college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter and sold aluminum paint before becoming a leading figure in the auto industry, the governor of Michigan and a candidate for president of the United States.
Both men are American success stories. Forbes Magazine estimates the wealth of President Obama to be $6 million. Governor Romney is worth $230 million. To me, anyone worth a million dollars is wealthy. I guess you could say that Obama is very wealthy and Romney is very, very wealthy.
Both men travel in fabulous jets. The President’s Air Force One is a $174 million Boeing 747. Governor Romney flies in a $9 million Cessna CJ4.
I doubt either candidate ever has to worry about money to pay the power bill or ever gets a call from a bill collector. They probably don’t even know the price of a gallon of milk or how much a tank full of gasoline costs. They don’t have to worry how to pay the rent this month.
Yes, they try to identify with people like me and you, but they are not one of us. They both live in another world far removed from you and I.
If they really wanted to identify with us, wouldn’t they do more than wear a hard hat and blue jeans? Wouldn’t they live in a homeless shelter for a while? Travel on a commercial jet - economy class? Or, how about driving a compact car and filling up at a self-service station? Or maybe, they’d take a job at a factory for a year or two or work in a shipyard.
But you say, that is too risky. One of these men will be our next President. Our President would be vulnerable to an assassin if he became like us. The Governor could have a debilitating accident at the shipyard. These men are too valuable to our government to take such a risk and become like us. That would be a foolish thing to do in order to earn our admiration and vote.
No, neither man would never treat the trappings of wealth and power like trash and throw it all away. But, there was one who did. Jesus. He became one of us and dwelled among us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Jesus treated heaven like trash leaving it behind, and then on earth, he was treated like trash - worse than trash really - for our sake.
The Scripture testifies of this. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus became one of us! He suffered even more than we suffer. He was despised, spit on, and whipped without mercy. Nailed to a cross, he died a horrible, painful death. And, he did that for us.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5.
We can only stand in awe of Jesus. He experienced hunger, homelessness, rejection, weariness, pain, suffering, and death. His great love for humanity - for you and me - made him treat heaven like trash!
The Lord came from heaven to earth to make the way for us through Him to join him there. He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6-7). He earned the right for our admiration, worship and “vote” to exalt Him to the highest place.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
Christ is pictured today as sitting at the right hand of God in the seat of honor and power making intercession for us. (Hebrews 12:2).
By His life and through his Holy Spirit, he enters into our infirmities, our trials, tribulations, sufferings, pain, and death to raise us up in order to abide in heaven forever with Him.
After all, Jesus has been through it. And only Jesus can take us through the dark valleys and storms on this earth and lead us to the place from which He came. A place that defies our imagination and cannot be described in words because of its wonder, beauty, and glory. A place that Jesus treated like trash to make us into his treasured possession and a people belonging to God to live in heaven with Him forever!
So, let us bow the knee and confess that indeed Jesus Christ is Lord! †
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
None else could heal all our soul’s diseases,
No friend like Him is so high and holy,
And yet no friend is so meek and lowly,
Jesus knows all about our struggles,
He will guide till the day is done;
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!
Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)
Rev. Dan White is a free lance writer and founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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