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on November 7, 2013
We Bible scholars know that the Bible has two parts, an Old and a New Testament. The Old is the foundation, the part that shows our need for a savior. The New is living out that reality in our everyday lives. In his earlier book, God Without Religion, Andrew Farley focused primarily on uprooting Old Covenant thinking from New Covenant followers. This is a good foundation, because it destroys one's confidence in the law, a law-based mentality, or performance as a way of earning God's favor. This is a foundation that must be laid for some people, because some people simply won't start trusting in Jesus more until they stop trusting in themselves. It was a great book for those with a legalistic or "I have to perform for God" mindset. With the foundation having been laid, Andrew Farley gives us the "New Covenant" side of the equation with this book, Heaven is Now, with some repetition of God Without Religion's material as well (see it as more reinforcement). So we realize we need a savior...great, but what does that mean? Does that mean we trust in God for our salvation, by believing in Jesus, but then live the rest of our lives out of our human efforts? Actually, no. Dependence on God was always how God intended mankind to live, even those under the law (see 2 Chronicles 16:7-9, Isaiah 31:1, Isaiah 50:10-11, Jeremiah 17:5-8, and Jeremiah 48:7). Even the tree of life represented dependence on God, because by eating of its fruit, Adam and Eve still wouldn't know the difference between good and evil; they would have to depend on God to know! The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on the other hand, made them say, "*I* have to know what's good and what's evil, and I don't want to rely on anyone to tell me." Dependence on God manifests by our trusting in Jesus, basically relying on him to give us what we can't give ourselves, salvation and freedom. But we shouldn't just trust in Jesus just for our salvation and then cast him aside, we should trust in him to give us the strength to live every moment, to do the things God wants us to do, which we were never intended to do on our own. Jesus isn't just a teacher or a savior, but a power source, our life (Colossians 3:4). Heaven is Now talks about how to live out of that life, and not our own fleshly, puny strength.
The book is divided into five sections, one for each sense of the body: Feel, hear, see, smell, taste. First let me say that the division into the different senses did nothing for me. It was unnecessary and didn't add anything to the book in my opinion; it was just a nice way of categorizing the material. The subtitle of this book, "Awakening your five spiritual senses to the wonders of grace," almost makes this book sound mystical, like if I just imagine really hard I might be able to see God or feel God loving me. This is definitely not the case, so I want to eliminate that thought anyone might be having right off the bat; this is a very down-to-earth book, and to read this book isn't an exercise in transcendental meditation.
Each division of the book discusses a different aspect of God's grace. For feel, Feel the Freedom of Grace, Andrew focuses on the law as a whole as totally insufficient to bring us near to God, just as he did in God Without Religion. But just as Andrew had such clever ways of illustrating Biblical truth with picture metaphors to help you remember them in God Without Religion, he does it again in this book with new and fresh examples, so reading similar material with different devices to help reinforce it will benefit you. Don't think of this as a repeat of God Without Religion and therefore unnecessary. Yes, they do talk about some of the same stuff, but reading about it in this book will still help you to get what he's saying further, and help you to explain it to others better, with the new analogies and stories he uses. His illustration of the prohibition on alcohol actually leading to more drinking (just more secretly) is a perfect illustration of how living under the law actually makes us sin more (Romans 7:8, 1 Corinthians 15:56). And his illustration of someone robbing a bank, dying, and then people bringing his corpse before a judge to be tried in order to give him a speeding ticket being just as senseless as the law having power over those who are dead to it (Romans 7:4) is also simple and profound at the same time.
Next we have Hear the Spirit Bearing Witness. Now we get into some new material that wasn't in God Without Religion. Andrew talks about setting your mind on the heavenly realities that are true about you in order to live with the secure, heaven mindset, and reflect it to a watching world that needs to see that heaven really can be now! Jesus came not just to get us into heaven in the future, but to remove from our mind any doubt that we're exactly where we need to be in our relationship with God, today!
Next is See the Finished Work of Jesus. In this section, Andrew repeats some of the material in God Without Religion as far as refuting the law-based mentality Christians can still have even while in Christ, like thinking daily confession of sin is a mandate to stay in fellowship with God, and not recognizing that the New Covenant began with Jesus died (Hebrews 9:17), not when he was born (and therefore, much of what he said was to a still-under-law audience). So this section will be reinforcement to anyone who read God Without Religion and nothing new.
After that is Smell the Fragrant Aroma of Christ. Heaven is Now is like a sequel to God Without Religion in this section, continuing where God Without Religion ended and building upon it. Andrew ended God Without Religion with a wink to this material in the form of an analogy of you playing hockey either by trying your best to imitate Wayne Gretzky or having the spirit of Wayne Gretzky playing hockey through you. It's a great analogy and Christians too often try to do the former in their relationship with Jesus, seeing him as just a good teacher to be imitated but ignoring the reality that he's much more than that. Heaven is Now emphasizes how we're actually united with Jesus once we believe in him, and we're meant to live out of that union, not living as if he'll swoop down from heaven and guide us sometimes when we need him to, but actually being driven by his life in us. He's not "up there" while we're "down here"...we're in him, and he's in us, and we're now one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17).
Last is Taste the Goodness of the Lord. This is a conclusion as to why we should live as if everything Andrew said earlier is true, and it's because God really is good. He really does want what's best for us, and what's best for us is to stop living with such performance-driven mentalities and just start letting Jesus live in us and through us (Galatians 2:20). Living and dying based on our successes and failures will make us miserable, and God doesn't want that for us. Everything in this book isn't just helpful advice, it's what God wants us to know, because he cares about us, and that should motivate us to remember it.
If you haven't read God Without Religion, buy it with this book, and also buy The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. That book is pretty much a reinforcement to this one and it will help make this stuff come alive for you by emphasizing how dependence on God isn't a new fad that God wanted us to have starting when Jesus rolled into town, but something that he always intended for us even since the creation of mankind. God didn't just forgive us to rely on him and live from a union with him starting with Jesus, he created us for it, and it was always on his mind since before we were born. While this picture is limited by our concept of time, I can imagine God watching Adam and Eve declare their independence from him, and then him patiently saying to himself, "I can't wait for us to be back together again," as the rest of the Bible unfolds. Now that, my brothers and sisters, is a God worth giving ourselves to.