Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 29, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

God’s promised gift of an eternal inheritance

By Pastor Tom Starkjohn, Harvest Community Church, Winsted

Remember pretending as a child – pretending you were a mighty hunter, a caring school teacher, or a brave explorer?

I’d like you to pretend with me for a moment. Pretend you receive a very important piece of certified mail. In it you find a document from a very rich, very distant uncle who is notifying you that you will receive an inheritance of $50 million within the span of two years.

There is only one stipulation: if you receive a traffic ticket between now and the reception of the $50 million, you lose the promised inheritance.

Now you are faced with a dilemma: how do you ensure you don’t receive a traffic ticket? My guess is that you would go to extreme lengths – sell your car, cut up your license, and refuse to even sit in the driver’s side of a vehicle. I know I would!

I know this example is ridiculous, but I hope it communicates one thing: when the stakes are high, you will go to extreme lengths to ensure a positive outcome.

If we keep these things in mind, the Bible’s use of the word “inheritance” makes a lot of sense. In Genesis 12, God appears to the man who will one day be called Abraham. God unilaterally promises Abraham three things: many descendents, a promised land, and a personal relationship with God, Himself.

Then, we read in the book of Numbers, that God has proven himself mighty and totally sufficient to the Israelites through His great acts of power. The Hebrews had seen the plagues in Egypt, walked through the Red Sea on dry land, seen Egypt (the superpower of the world) totally incapacitated by God, been miraculously provided with water and manna on a daily basis, and physically seen God’s presence through the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. They had every reason to believe that when God said he would give the Promised Land to them, He could be totally trusted!

But, incredibly, the book of Numbers tells the sad record of how the Israelites rebelled against God. In spite of the glorious miracles they had seen, they chose to bitterly complain against God, live immorally, and even worship idols.

The very people who had seen God’s mighty power chose to disobey God’s clear command and follow their own pitiful desires. The result was wandering in the desert for 40 years until that entire generation was destroyed.

The book of Numbers tells us something very important about the character of God: God’s promise will never be revoked, but sin will defer the promise to a later time and generation. God had promised the Land of Canaan to the Israelites, but due to their clinging to sin and disregard for God’s commandments, he did not allow them to enter the Promised Land. Instead, he destroyed that generation and started afresh with their children.

So, did these children receive the promise of an inheritance of land? No, not fully. The book of Joshua tells us they received part of the land, but they never received the full inheritance – only part of the total promise. After David and his son Solomon passed away, the nation of Israel steadily lost their Promised Land until none of it remained.

Thus, there is a huge dilemma: did God fail in his promise? If He did, His promises can be broken. This cannot be true (see Titus 1:2).

Instead, we find a beautiful transformation of the promise, much like the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly – a promise into something even more grand and lovely than the promise of land. It is a transformation of the inheritance of land to the inheritance of eternal life.

What we discover as we read the New Testament is that we, the followers of Christ, are to receive the inheritance promised long ago in the form of the gift of eternal life.

Both the Apostle Paul and other New Testament authors use the terms “inheritance” and “heir” to bring to our mind the promise of inheritance recorded in the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, the terms “inheritance” and “heir” are used as a motivation for us to live lives wholly dedicated to God.

There are four major categories of motivation:

• A motivation to encourage Godly living.

• A motivation for joyful service, a desire to engage in good deeds.

• A motivation in suffering. The suffering in this life is often enormous, but the inheritance waiting for us far surpasses even the worst of suffering (see Revelation 21:6-7).

• A motivation for praise and worship to God in thanksgiving for his gift of the inheritance of eternal life.

When the stakes are high, you will go to extreme lengths to ensure a positive outcome. The promise before you is of a glorious inheritance of eternal life. Your responsibility is to deny yourself and follow Christ.

Do not be like the foolish Israelites who did not believe their God and acted in self-centered insanity. Instead, strive forward with all your might to gain the inheritance which has been promised. Call upon our gracious Lord who has promised to help us in our times of need so that you do not jeopardize your inheritance.

God’s promise remains sure, but will you be among those who receive the inheritance?

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