I saw a quote from Penn Jillette recently that got me thinking. If you don't know who Penn is, he's a magician (of Penn and Teller) and a very outspoken atheist. I've posted the picture with the quote above.
The question I want to pose is why do you behave morally? There is no doubt that for some the reward of heaven is what motivates them to try and obey God. For others, it is the fear of hell. In fact, I think for many years I called myself a Christian and tried to obey God because I didn't want to go to hell.
Penn, however, is blind to what should be the true reality for all Christians. I obey God because I've been shown grace and I'm grateful that He would love and save me. Simply put, it's all about grace and gratitude. I'm not obeying to escape hell and I'm not obeying to gain heaven or some reward. I'm obeying because I treasure Christ. He is everything for me.
I've heard the question posed, "If you could have heaven without Jesus, would you still want to go?" If we're not making Christ our treasure, but just His benefits then the answer is easily yes. But if Jesus is the supreme treasure and the capstone of all joy then the answer is a definite no. Where are we obtaining our joy from? Is it from knowing Christ and becoming more like Him or is it trying to live my best life now?
On the flip side, if we're living morally because we're scared and we don't want to be punished therefore we see God as the means of escape then we still don't get it. When you talk about burning for eternity, the obvious choice is that I want to escape that. But if I just see Jesus as a means to an end and not the end itself then I'm still missing it. I think this is could be why we see many young kids become Christians and then later realize that they were never really saved. When you tell a kid about hell and then ask if they want to escape that, the answer is "duh!"
That was my story. I wrestled with fear of not actually being saved on and off for several years. I thought I had been saved at age eight. But once I was a bit older, I understood what it truly means to be saved. I think at age eight I didn't want to go to hell. At age 16, I was beginning to see Christ as savior and treasure. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that all young children produce false claims of salvation. In fact, I think many really are genuine and they grow in maturity. I know people who would legitimately say they were saved at age four. But I also think there many stories like mine as well.
When we see Christ as our supreme treasure, we don't act out of fear of punishment or for selfish gain. Instead, we act out of grace and gratitude. We know that we've been given everything in Christ, therefore, there's nothing else to gain except to know and become more like Christ. We've already received the greatest gift. We just want more of it. Our hope is not in the reward, we've already been given it. May we all pray for Penn Jillette, that he would discover the true hope, joy, and satisfaction that can only be found in Christ.