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Maybe one of the most common myths is that Jesus came to take us out of here-to escape from this corrupt world. This may be the most common identifying factor of what Christians believe. Ask anyone on the street corner. Christians have this formula down pat: "If you believe in Jesus, you will go to heaven and if you don't, you will go to hell." Either way Jesus is all about getting us out of here and on to heaven, therefore that is the comfort many hold on to and the challenge to not be LEFT BEHIND. Hear me out on this. It will take two sessions to cover this myth. This myth isn't a question of heaven or hell, but about which direction God is moving and where He invites us to be-with Him.
The damage with this myth is threefold: FIRST-We have so embraced this myth that we have become extremely focused on the sweet by and by rather than living in the nasty now and now. We have so embraced this myth that we tend to live in the tyranny of the urgent and plan our lives accordingly. Jesus was all about Kingdom living being right here right now.
SECOND-We have so embraced this myth that we have wrapped our lives around the 2nd coming of Jesus as if we know when He will return. This seems to be a bit of a problem, since Jesus says that He doesn't even know.
THIRD-We have so embraced this myth that we are missing out on the most powerful proof of the love and the presence of Jesus that bear witness to the world.
There are 5 basic movements throughout the bible where God is going in the direction from heaven to earth and not from earth to heaven. The first movement is illustrated in the Garden of Eden. The essence of God is relational and demonstrates the need for fellowship within the creation. God wants to walk in relationship with man. Check out what happened in the Garden of Eden. The first time we encounter lost people is in the Garden. Apparently, God walked with Adam and Eve daily in the garden, but on this particular day Adam and Eve didn't show up. They were distracted and walked away from God and His will. So, instead of walking with God, they were hiding from God. It's at this point that God asks a most relevant question, even for us today, "Where are you?" Now He knew where they were, but He wanted them to understand that they were not where they were intended to be-walking with Him.
So, this is MOVEMENT #1-GOD FIRST WANTED TO WALK WITH MAN, BUT MAN WAS BUSY DOING SOMETHING ELSE. God has put a lot of effort in getting you to walk with Him. So, WHERE ARE YOU? Are you doing your part to walk with Him daily or are you distracted, walking away or hiding?
MOVEMENT #2-GOD WANTS TO DWELL AMONG HIS PEOPLE. God wants to dwell among His people on planet earth. In a very real sense, this is what will distinguish God and His people from all others. In Exodus 25:8 God says, "Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them."
God commands Moses to oversee the building of a sanctuary in which He will dwell. Israel is promised God's very presence. At the very establishment of the nation of Israel, God's presence becomes a fundamental characteristic of the nation's identity. They will be marked by God's presence. To be God's people was to have God's presence. In Exodus 33, following the incident with the golden calf, God promises to have His presence go with Moses and with the people. Moses says, "Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?" Never before has God dwelt with man in this way.
Man had free fellowship with God in the Garden, but God did not dwell there. God met with Moses on Mt. Sinai in a powerful way, but God did not dwell there. Now God commands Moses to make a tent, a tabernacle, so He could live with them. God wanted to take up residence right in their midst!
Again, this is why God asked Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" And, as His people continued to grow and gather together outside the Garden God was always doing anything He could do to bring His people closer to Himself. But even more than this, He wanted to dwell among His people right here on earth.
And when God shows up among His people, some amazing things happen and people are touched with His loving and healing touch.
This theme of purpose is extended to the very end of the Bible. In the last book of the Bible in Revelation 21:3, it says, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.'" This isn't to happen in heaven, but right here on earth.
NOTE God's intention and longing is to come down here, not take a group to go up to heaven. Jesus doesn't teach that He came down to earth to take us up to heaven. God desperately wants to make His presence known right on earth among His people. Rob Bell says that God is saying, "I want to get down there!"
Let me ask you something. Have you ever felt the presence of God as you gather with His people? God is willing to do anything He has to do to get close to you and He wants to do this on planet earth. He is not interested in taking you up to heaven, but to dwell with you right here.