“You can’t take it with you.”
It’s kind of a throw away phrase in the church culture. Of course we all know we can’t take our earth-toys to the heavenly realm. Up there, we’re told, everything is supposed to be superior to earthly shadows.
We say this to pacify ourselves when we things we love are wrenched from our grasp. And we say it to admonish others against materialism. After all, “You can’t take that shiny new car, your six figure salary, even that perfect body you’ve worked so hard for.”
In fact, you can’t take your accolades, the receipts for your charitable donations, your church attendance record or all the journals in which you recorded heartfelt prayers, either.
In the same way that we cannot take our here-and-now treasures into heaven, we cannot take our law-keeping, good-girl selves into a relationship with the Father. I think this is what Jesus means in His parable about new wine in old wineskins. (Mark 2:22) The Father has no use for our prettified behavior, our swept clean spirits, our tidied thought life or our white-washed worldview.
The only thing that will endure the transition from this world to our face-to-face introduction to the Father, is Christ’s righteousness for us. Like a meteor ripping from outer space into our atmosphere, all the things we’ve worked so hard to do for God will disintegrate into oblivion.
This week I’ve been pressed to think more deeply about my priorities. If I can’t take it with me, why have I spent so very much of my life working to polish and perfect my body? If I can’t take it with me, why do I feel so guilty when one of my good deeds or best intentions goes sour? Really, if none of the things I love so much here can survive in the glorious atmosphere surrounding my Father’s throne, then really what use do I have for them now?
I believe that when I accepted Christ’s payment for my sin, He immediately came to dwell inside of me. That means, I’m living in His presence, the atmosphere of Heaven, every breathing moment. What good then is all my pre-packaged, personal perfection?
He has made all things NEW, all things are fresh and REAL in Christ. Why would I sip old wine or dine on stale crumbs?
I love the way C.S. Lewis depicts the two irreconcilable worlds in his book, The Great Divorce.
“I could see him [the ghost] feverishly trying to fill his pockets with the apples [of Heaven, that real country]. Of course, it was useless. One could see how his ambitions were gradually forced down.”
When he finally succeeded in lifting the smallest apple, “he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.”
The ghost longed to keep the riches of Heaven and still return to the bus which would take him back to his comfortable, familiar hell.
‘Fool. Put it down, ‘ said a great voice suddenly. It was quite unlike any other voice I had heard so far. It was a a thunderous yet liquid voice…’You cannot take it back. There is not room for it in Hell. Stay here and learn to eat such apples. The very leaves and the blades of grass in the wood will delight to teach you.’
Under the blood of Jesus, standing tall in the purity of His imparted righteousness, we can again dine from the Tree of Life, and in His presence! I would chose nothing less!