Every week at the end of our worship gathering at Liberty Baptist Church, one of our pastors or members comes up to leave the congregation with a few, final words. Among other things regularly said, I always hear this specific recommendation directed towards the visitors at our church that day (paraphrased):
We’d like to issue to our visitors what we call our four-week challenge. If you’re considering or would like to consider membership at Liberty Baptist, then we would like for you to simply attend our church for four weeks to find out if we’re what you’re looking for in a church family. If, at the end of those four weeks, you don’t feel like our church is the right fit for you, then let us know, and we’ll do everything we can to get you connected with another local church body in this area that we trust.
Can I just say how crazy this sounds to me? And I know I’m not the first one to say this. I completely understand why we do it. There’s a needed humility there, where we consciously and publicly admit: “We know not everyone wants to be here; but let us at least help you move in the right direction.” So, my feelings could possibly be attributed to my own flesh, but if I’m honest, my immediate thought after hearing this every week is: Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this church after attending it for four weeks?
My thoughts on this might seem a little headstrong, but let me tell you why I think this way.
I cannot think of a more comfortable place on earth than the fellowship I have with my brothers and sisters in Christ at Liberty Baptist. Literally, there is not a place on earth that I would rather be. It is the quintessential “comfort zone” for me. What’s more, this makes me anticipate all the opportunities I have to be with our church members on Sundays at Equipping Group and Morning Worship, on Tuesdays at my Community Group, and any other day of the week that I might find myself in fellowship with other members.
Here’s the crazy thing – this is but a glimpse of what we will have in the new heaven and the new earth, that is “prepared like a bride adorned for her husband… where God will live with [humanity]” (Revelation 21:2-3). Once we’re there, we know that God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes… [that death] will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
Speaking of our earthly lives in light of eternal life, Paul says, “Our momentary and light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He also says that when we receive our glorified bodies, we’ll really see the words of Isaiah 25:8 come to life. We will mock death, proclaiming: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Comparatively speaking, heaven will be a “comfort” like no comfort I’ll ever experience on earth.
But while I am on earth, the church will continue to be the most comfortable place for me.
Here’s the real difference between the comfort of the local church versus the comfort of heaven: while God has me here, I am continuously required to get out of my “comfort zone” (i.e. the local church). I’m required to actually go into the world, a place that I find all too uncomfortable. You, church member, are required to do this as well. Why? For the sake of the gospel’s advancement. Consider some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus tells them in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Our objective, as Christians, is to expand the glory of God around this world. It’s much like John Piper has famously said: “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” This is why we eat with tax collectors and sinners – because like Christ, we desire to “call sinners” to Him (Matthew 9:10-13). This is why we get to know our unsaved neighbors; though they likely don’t want to be pestered by us, for the sake of the gospel, we do. This is why we have co-workers over to our house for dinner; as uncomfortable as it may be to make the gospel known to those who are enemies of God (Romans 5:10), it’s what we’re required to do here on earth (Mark 16:15).
But one day, Christian, “getting out of your comfort zone” will no longer be required. It won’t even be a possibility! This is one of the things that makes the new heaven and the new earth so great. It’s a part of what makes the good news the good news. One day, we will die, and for a time, our souls will be separated from our bodies (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 6:9). Then one day, Christ will come back. Our souls will meet a resurrected and glorified body (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:49). In heaven, we won’t be angels flying around as some would have you believe. Rather, we will have physical bodies that we could’ve only imagined having on earth.
- We will commune together.
- We will worship our God together.
- We’ll feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb together (Revelation 19:6-9), with “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).
And much more than all of this, who knows of the undeclared things in heaven that are still yet to be revealed? I don’t exactly know what the “crown of righteousness” is that Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 4:8, but I do know I can’t wait to get one, as I too have “loved [Christ’s] appearing.”
Those few hours we get with the fellowship of the local church each week will one day last forever with the Church universal. As God intended in the beginning of His creation, new and glorified mankind will have a perfect relationship with Him. No sin. No harm. No strife. No enmity. No hostility. No divisiveness. No debate. Just the Church, eternally living together in the harmony that God intends for His people. Oh, what a glorious and eternally comfortable day that will be!