By Patrick Miller
I didn’t grow up Christian, but, like any American, I grew up hearing things about Christianity. In my understanding, Christianity was mostly about two things: 1) being a moral person so that 2) you could live as a spirit forever with God instead of going to the bad place.
When I finally became a Christian, I learned that part 1 of that statement was incorrect. I’m not a moral person, but Jesus died to take the penalty for my sin. Why? Enter part 2.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that when a ministry leader told college-me, “You don’t need to study for your test. Jesus cares about saving people. That’s all that matters!”… I believed her.
Fast forward a week, and I received my first F on a college exam.
The truth is that if we think the goal is to leave this world behind, we will be so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good.
Your Goal is Not to go to Heaven
The irony is that making your life about “going to heaven” is really the opposite of what Jesus taught. He told his followers that his goal was not to bring them up to heaven but to bring heaven down to earth. His incarnation was the bridgehead of this heavenly invasion.
Now we can understand why Jesus never told his followers to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, please take me to your kingdom from this squalid planet. Amen.”
Instead, he taught his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come down “on earth as in heaven.”
Revelation ends with John seeing exactly this happen! The heavenly kingdom descends to earth. God fills the planet with his love, justice, and mercy. It recalls Adam and Eve’s original calling in the Garden, to spread the boundaries of Eden (where God and humanity dwelt together) by multiplying and filling the earth with images of God.
Christians should be so heavenly-minded that they become a great earthly good, precisely because they know that the goal is to bring heaven to earth.
The church is a training ground for craftsmen and craftswomen who see it as their job to construct heaven’s love, justice, and mercy on earth.
How to Bring Heaven to Earth
1. Focus your attention locally.
In today’s interconnected, globalized world, it’s easy to fixate on national politics and national events. Shift your focus. Not because national news doesn’t matter, but because you can do very little to change it.
Do you know what you can change? Your family, your circle of friends, your workplace, your school. So start small.
2. Use your specific gifts!
God does not give talent in equal doses. For example, I am embarrassingly incapable of successfully completing any house project more challenging than changing a light bulb. But maybe you’re an expert drywall hanger, or plumber, or organizer. Use your specific gifts to serve others.
Maybe you’re an attorney. Could you take on a few pro bono cases every year? Maybe you’re a business owner. Could you join the board of a local charity to help it run more smoothly? Maybe you’re a gifted photographer or marketer. Could you help a local charity fundraise?
3. Join an organization that works for the common good.
Could you serve in your school’s PTA/PTO? Could you join (or create) your office’s committee to welcome new hires, celebrate birthdays, or organize service events? Could you join your local HOA? Could you organize a block party?
Could you serve at your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or shelter for abused women? Could you serve in a ministry to single moms? Or in a pregnancy crisis center?
4. Make a few deep, meaningful relationships.
We are in the midst of a loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide epidemic. Therapists and medicine help, but they aren’t the ultimate solution. Relationships are what we need.
Of course, you can’t have deep relationships with everyone, so don’t try. But work toward actively investing in supportive relationships with a few other people.
Create a network of friends that can support each other, show up when someone is sick, watch kids when you need some help, share meals, have fun, and discuss Jesus together.
5. Go to church.
I’m not just saying this because I’m a pastor. Going to church will improve your own happiness and resilience. It will challenge you to serve others. It will anchor you in the only power that can empower a sacrificial life: Jesus.
Your worshiping community is supposed to be the context of your heaven-making work. Serve there. Get into a small group there. Invest in friendships there. Making heaven on earth isn’t a solo project. It’s powered by Jesus and accomplished by his team (not by solo all-stars).
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