Christians have a sure hope of heaven. Because Jesus has paid for our sin and we have received his righteousness, we are children of God who will be with our Father forever.
That’s wonderful! But, some might ask, what’s in it for me now?
Though most Christians don’t ask this question in polite company, many have wondered. Aren’t there some tangible, present-time benefits of being a Christian? Or must we wait entirely for heaven?
We Have Left Our Home
Jesus addresses this matter with his disciples on the heels of his interaction with the rich ruler in Luke 18. The ruler wants to do something to inherit eternal life, and Jesus pokes his finger where it hurts.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
The ruler leaves in grief because he is so wealthy, and Jesus notes how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of prosperous Christians, however, because “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
Peter then says, “See, we have left our homes and followed you” (Luke 18:28). Peter must be thinking back to Jesus’s words in verse 22. We have done what the ruler did not. What does that mean for us?
Jesus’ reply is stunning.
And he said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29–30)
There is eternal life to come, but the blessings of the kingdom of God start now. And those blessings are abundant.
Blessings in this Time
We can almost hear the gears turning in Peter’s head. What is it that we receive now?
Jesus is not talking about wealth. That wouldn’t make sense in the context of leaving house and family, and it doesn’t fit after the warning about material riches.
There are probably hundreds of gifts we could discuss, but let’s focus on three.
The Freedom from the Grip of Idols
If an idol is anything (even a good thing) that occupies a commanding place in one’s heart, then the ruler made an idol of his wealth. Jesus told him to sell everything—not because this is a universal command to all believers, but because Jesus wanted the ruler to confront his idol. Sadly, the ruler was devoted to his riches.
When we follow Jesus, we start down the path of freedom from our idols. Jesus calls us to this freedom and gives us the power to make this freedom happen.
To determine the idols that occupy our hearts, we must ask ourselves: Where do I turn for refuge, safety, comfort, or escape? What brings me hope or causes me despair? It could be family, reputation, achievement, politics, or work. It might be a dozen other things.
If you’ve identified one or more idols here, don’t despair. It simply means that you are a human being. Jesus is eager to help idolatrous humans like us!
In the first century, a disciple who left his family (Luke 18:29) was leaving virtually all of his friends and contacts. With a few exceptions, he probably didn’t know any other disciples, but he was so compelled by Jesus that it didn’t matter.
We may lose family and acquaintances when we follow Christ, but we gain so much more. Christians who have joined a healthy, local church know the joy of belonging to a new family (Matt 12:46–50).
The people in the church are our brothers and sisters (Rom 8:29). They care for us; they help us with physical, emotional, and spiritual needs; they share a mission and a vision with us. In prayer, in gathering around the Scriptures, they point us toward the most important things in life—loving God and loving our neighbors.
The Presence of God
The disciples walked the same roads as Jesus. This was its own blessing—they learned from and were cared for by the Son of God! This is the very gift Jesus wanted to give the ruler in Luke 18.
And this gift is just as present for us. We have the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said that in some ways we have it better than his first-century followers.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
The presence of God—lost in the garden of Eden, accessible to a select few in the tabernacle and temple, described and promised in the psalms and prophets—is a real, glorious gift for Christians right now.
Not Just in the Age to Come
The best earthly blessings resonate with us because they offer a foretaste of heaven. Freedom from sin, the fellowship of believers, the presence of God—we long to have these gifts in full!
But the good news of this passage is that leaving everything to follow Jesus has benefits now. These present-time blessings strengthen us, encourage us, and develop our affections for eternity.