Preface to Reaching Forward

Reaching Forward
This book is long overdue, and I apologize for that. When Diligently Seeking God appeared, I thought it might take me two years or so to write the next book. But little did I know how Diligently Seeking God would change my life. Able to write only intermittently, it has taken me six years to put Reaching Forward in your hands, but here it is, finally. Thanks for not giving up on me.

There is a close connection between Diligently Seeking God and Reaching Forward. In the first book, we talked about deeply desiring a right relationship with God. In this book, we will talk about having a right attitude toward the future. Ideally, each of these leads to the other. If we’re seeking God, we’ll surely be interested in the future — and if we’re interested in the future, we ought to seek God, because He is the only future worth reaching for.

As I said in the Preface to Diligently Seeking God, these kinds of things do not by themselves mean that we are in a right relationship with God and that we would go to heaven if we died right now. The gospel must be not only believed but obeyed before our sins are forgiven, and it takes more than merely “seeking” and “reaching” to do that. As I write, however, I never know who my readers are going to be, and that presents a problem. I want to give hope, but I never want to give false hope, especially to those who may think they’ve obeyed the gospel when in reality they haven’t. So not knowing your circumstances, I believe I need to say: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

I also need to clarify what I mean by the “future.” When I talk about reaching forward, it is heaven that I’m talking about. When we strive for earthly goals, those must always be tentative. In this book, however, we are talking about the only definite, untentative goal we can have. All others must be held loosely, but heaven is the one goal we may hold with a passionate grip that never lets go.

But where do we go from here? Well, I plan to take a year off from writing and then begin a new book called Obeying the Gospel. This will be the greatest writing challenge I have ever set for myself, and I am quite eager to begin it. Already, I am reading and praying about this work, and I would appreciate your prayers too.

What I want to do in Obeying the Gospel is write 366 daily meditations on the steps that one takes to become a Christian. Some might think there is nothing left to say on this subject that has not been worn out. But there is, in fact, a good deal more to say. On the subject of baptism, for example, a person could spend a lifetime digging deeper into what the Scriptures teach on that topic.

So Obeying the Gospel will try to mine some of the treasures in God’s word concerning our initial obedience to Christ. And in case you’re wondering, it won’t be just for those who have not obeyed the gospel. It will also be for those who have done so. I need to think more deeply about what I did when I became a Christian, and I hope that you’ll enjoy thinking about those things with me.

But for now, I hope you’ll think with me in this book about Reaching Forward — longing for the life that we can have in God when our work in this world is finished. These days, eternity is my passion, so much so that I have been accused of having a death wish. Maybe I do, but if I do, so did Paul. He was willing, as I am, to stay and work, but he left no doubt as to his longing when he said that to depart and be with Christ is “far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Within our generation, the other-worldly orientation of historic Christianity has shifted to a this-worldly emphasis, even in very conservative churches. Religion is no longer about heaven but about happiness in the here and now. Yet Christianity was never meant to remove the groaning from this life; it was meant to put it there! “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2).

Will you think about that with me?

If you will, let’s get started.

Gary Henry –

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