Imagine being welcomed home

There is an enormous difference between the songs “Imagine” by John Lennon and “I Can Only Imagine” by Bart Millard. One affirms Heaven as described by Scripture and the other suggested that heaven is an empty promise that causes division amongst people.

For those of us who have a relationship with the Lord, the imagery of being welcomed home is very real.

The late Rev. Dr. Billy Graham had preached a message on Matthew 25:21f, which described the rewards and penalties, paraphrased: “Welcome home, good and faithful servant” and the penalty for the unfaithful (unbelieving) following the “Great White Throne Judgment.”

From the “Christian worldview,” Billy Graham was most definitely welcomed home, while the judgment of Mr. Lennon has been decided by a righteous and holy God.

…The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether… (Psalm 19:9).

“Imagine” was released in 1971 and peaked at Number 3 on the US Top 100, according to Rolling Stone Magazine. The “culture of war” and unnecessary loss of life demanded a response from “the world community,” despite the attempted expansion of Communism in the Far East and around the world. Lennon’s presupposition was that peace for all people is achievable. This idea of achievable peace would require the elimination of all things divisive to mankind and the enabling of communal living, rather than the Communist form of government.

The early church, under the Roman Occupation, was the model of change through peaceful means. The people shared all they owned and were united in purpose (Acts 2:44f). “The Way” did not form an army to oppose the Roman, or the Jewish religious, and political, authorities.

Early Christians suffered greatly and the blood of the martyrs has caused growth of the church at large over the years. Imagine your loved one used as a living candle in Nero’s Circus. It’s easy if you try.

World peace is a wonderful idea, but not achievable in a lost and dying world that is full of sinful people. Does that mean good people should do nothing? On the contrary, when good people do nothing — then evil thrives.

“I Can Only Imagine” was released on the MercyMe album “Worship Project” in 1999 where it peaked at Number 5 on Billboard’s Top 100. This song was written as the result of faith combined with inner pain, the struggles of life that all of us face on this side of eternity. This is the reason for the popularity and acclamations the song and the songwriter, Bart Millard, achieved.

You, the reader, may have grown up in a house or apartment with an abuser. But maybe your struggle is about meeting the approval from a parent that you will never receive. Perhaps you struggle with an addiction, or something else that weighs on your soul. Then you walk hand in hand with inner pain. The kind of pain that just does not go away on its own. Some of you have tried to make peace with the pain, only to realize that pain continues to hurt you. People who are now deceased may have wounded your soul and no peace can be established between you both now. But you continue to feel the intensity of the moment that you were violated.

Maybe you caused the inner pain to yourself by not acting through situations beyond your control, like not dying in combat with your fellow soldiers, instead living to honor their sacrifice and memory. However your inner struggle manifests, you must have realized it is a sickness of the soul with which you struggle. This sickness is one that will end in death.

The wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:3).

This is a debt that cannot be paid no matter how good a person might be, or the works that might have been done, or the wealth that might be accumulated. The only way to pay this debt is through a gift that is given to those who ask. It is Part B of Romans 6:3… but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This gift is made available to everyone. The catch is you must desire it and be prepared to follow through by action.

Faith without corresponding action is dead (James 2:17).

Imagine a literal Heaven and Hell… it is easy if you try… the curtain of the Holy of Holies has been torn and mankind has been given the free will to choose between the truth and lies.

There is no lasting peace apart from Christ, paraphrased from Ephesians 2:11-15.

So what is the answer? We can imagine a world without countries, governments or religion. But in the end, man will throw down on his fellow man. The Word of God tells us that in the end, man will get what he has desired these many years… a world without God.

I can only imagine what God has prepared for the Believers. The end of the struggle with pain and death. A new beginning on the other side of the Jordan, a new beginning on the New Earth that is untouched by sin or corruption and a return to the garden. To come full circle, before sin and the beginning of time. I can only imagine spending time with my Lord in the cool of the evening, standing in a place where He has created perfection. And I am renewed in body and soul. That is what Mr. Millard was getting at through his lyrics.

How will we react? It will be like winning an event at the Olympic Games. The thrill of victory in the presence of someone who is very special to us personally… sharing the victory and the excitement of the moment.

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Pastor Bryon Reynolds of Charlton Chapel, an American Evangelical Christian Churches Charter Church.

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