Homer and Langley Collyer were sons of a respected New York doctor. Both had earned college degrees. In fact, Homer had studied at Columbia University to become an attorney. When old Dr. Collyer died in the early part of this century, his sons inherited the family home and estate. The two men — both bachelors — were now financially secure.
But the Collyer brothers chose a peculiar lifestyle not at all consistent with the material status their inheritance gave them. They lived in almost total seclusion. They boarded up the windows of their house and padlocked the doors. All their utilities — including water — were shut off. No one was ever seen coming or going from the house. From the outside it appeared empty.
Though the Collyer family had been quite prominent, almost no one in New York society remembered Homer and Langley Collyer by the time World War II ended.
On March 21, 1947, police received an anonymous telephone tip that a man had died inside the boarded-up house. Unable to force their way in through the front door, they entered the house through a second-story window. Inside they found Homer Collyer’s corpse on a bed. He had died clutching the February 22, 1920, issue of the Jewish Morning Journal, though he had been totally blind for years. This macabre scene was set against an equally grotesque backdrop.
It seems the brothers were collectors. They collected everything — especially junk. Their house was crammed full of broken machinery, auto parts, boxes, appliances, folding chairs, musical instruments, rags, assorted odds and ends, and bundles of old newspapers. Virtually all of it was worthless. An enormous mountain of debris blocked the front door; investigators were forced to continue using the upstairs window for weeks while excavators worked to clear a path to the door.
Nearly three weeks later, as workmen were still hauling heaps of refuse away, someone made a grisly discovery. Langley Collyer’s body was buried beneath a pile of rubbish some six feet away from where Homer had died. Langley had been crushed to death in a crude booby trap he had built to protect his precious collection from intruders.
The garbage eventually removed from the Collyer house totaled more than 140 tons. No one ever learned why the brothers were stockpiling their pathetic treasure, except an old friend of the family recalled that Langley once said he was saving newspapers so Homer could catch up on his reading if he ever regained his sight.
Homer and Langley Collyer make a sad but fitting parable of the way many people in the church live. Although the Collyers’ inheritance was sufficient for all their needs, they lived their lives in unnecessary, self-imposed deprivation. Neglecting abundant resources that were rightfully theirs to enjoy, Homer and Langley instead turned their home into a squalid dump. Spurning their father’s sumptuous legacy, they binged instead on the scraps of the world.
A Rich Legacy to Enjoy
Too many Christians live their spiritual lives that way. Disregarding the bountiful riches of an inheritance that cannot be defiled (
Where did Christians ever get the notion that they needed anything other than Christ? Is He somehow inadequate? Is His gift of salvation somehow deficient? Certainly not. We are children of God, joint heirs with Christ, and therefore beneficiaries of a richer legacy than the human mind could ever comprehend (
Scripture has much to say about the Christian’s inheritance. It is, in fact, the central point of our New Covenant relationship with Christ. The writer of Hebrews referred to Christ as “the mediator of a new covenant, in order that … those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (
We were chosen for adoption into God’s own family before the world began (
This was a key element in the theology of the early church. In
The concept of an inheritance from God had great significance to early Jewish believers in Christ because their Old Testament forefathers received the land of Canaan as an inheritance as part of God’s covenant with Abraham (
We Inherit God. This concept was a key to the Old Testament understanding of a spiritual inheritance.
David said, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance” (
The prophet Jeremiah said, “The Lord is my portion … therefore I have hope in Him” (
We Inherit Christ. Believers enter into an eternal oneness with Christ. Christ Himself indwells them (
We Inherit the Holy Spirit.
We Inherit Salvation. Peter said our inheritance includes “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (
We Inherit the Kingdom. Jesus said in
And so, we inherit God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, eternal salvation, and the kingdom. Still, the fullness of our inheritance has not yet been revealed to us. John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known” (
We’re like a child prince who is too young and immature to understand the favored privileges of his position or the royal inheritance that awaits him. Consequently he may struggle with petty wants and throw tantrums over trinkets that pale in comparison to the riches he has access to and the ones he will receive when he assumes his father’s throne. As he grows up, his parents must discipline and train him so he learns to behave like someone of royal lineage. Throughout that training and maturing process he begins to understand the unfolding value and implications of his inheritance.
We, too, will someday experience the fullness of our inheritance. In the meantime we must learn to act like children of the King, and let the hope of future blessings purify our lives (
Two Revolutionary Concepts
Focusing on our eternal inheritance is a key factor in maintaining a proper perspective on the sufficiency of Christ, especially in the middle of difficult circumstances. That’s not always easy because we’re prone toward selfishness and instant gratification. Advertising feeds that mentality by telling us we can have all we want — and we can have it right now! Of course “having it all” usually means buying on credit whatever product they’re selling.
A steady diet of that philosophy has fattened our society with self-indulgence and impatience. People find it difficult to cope with life if they can’t instantly gratify every desire. They want to eliminate any discomfort, difficulty, injustice, or deprivation immediately.
Scripture responds with two revolutionary concepts: heavenly mindedness and delayed gratification. Heavenly mindedness is taking our eyes off the world’s offerings for fulfillment and focusing them on God’s sufficient provision for our satisfaction. It’s what Jesus meant when He instructed us to make the Father’s kingdom our first priority (
Delayed gratification is simply deferring to God’s will and God’s timing — the essence of patience. All His promises will be fulfilled, His righteousness and authority will be fully realized, His Son and His saints will be fully vindicated — but in His time, not ours. Many of the difficulties we experience will not be resolved in this life because His purposes transcend our temporal situations. So there’s no point in running impatiently for relief to people offering “solutions” that ignore God’s objectives and timetable.
For example, the Holy Spirit encourages persecuted believers to “be patient … until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (
I’m sure the dear saints to whom James was writing longed for God’s comfort and justice against their persecutors; but God wanted them to cultivate patience, strength of heart, and a joyful anticipation of Christ’s return. Those are far greater benefits than immediate relief from the difficulties and injustices they faced. God would vindicate them, but in His own time.
Adoring God for Our Eternal Inheritance
Heavenly minded patience includes looking forward to our eternal inheritance and adoring God for it despite our temporal circumstances. Peter illustrated that principle in his first epistle, which was written to teach us how to live out our faith amid seemingly unbearable trials and persecutions. The Emperor Nero had accused the Christians of burning Rome, and the resulting persecution was spreading even as far as Asia Minor, where the recipients of 1 Peter lived.
To help them focus on their eternal inheritance rather than their present difficulties, Peter gave them — and us — a threefold word of encouragement.
Remember Your Calling. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (
[We] have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example … to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously … (
Remember to Praise God. Bowing in praise is far better than bowing to pressure. In
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The main verb “be” (
For Peter to have to command believers to bless God clearly illustrates the depth of our sinfulness. One of the joys of heaven will be our undiminished capacity to praise God perfectly and incessantly for His saving grace. The song of the redeemed will be on our lips throughout eternity. Yet now we struggle with apathy and familiarity. What an indictment! Praising God for our eternal inheritance should be the constant expression of our hearts, no matter what the temporal situation might be.
Remember Your Inheritance. Focusing on our inheritance is an important key to experiencing joy amid trials. The richness of our inheritance should motivate us to bless God continually. We’re aliens in this world (
How We Received Our Inheritance.
The Greek word translated “inheritance” in
We receive our eternal inheritance by means of spiritual rebirth — the only solution to our sinful condition and alienation from God. Jesus made that very clear when He said to the Jewish leader Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (
We were first born as sinful creatures, dead in trespasses and sins and indulging the desires of our flesh and mind. We were by nature children of wrath, separate from Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world (
A person in that condition must be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the new birth, the Spirit makes a new creation in Christ (
God’s Word is essential to the new birth. Peter said, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God…. This is the word which was preached to you” (
Faith means trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Many people want to add other requirements to the gospel, such as religious ceremony, some code of conduct, church membership, or whatever. All of those things are human works. Salvation cannot be earned by works but is a gift of God’s grace (
Before Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (
Jesus illustrated His point by referring to a familiar event in Israel’s history. At one point during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, God had sent fiery serpents among the people because they had spoken against God and Moses. Many had been bitten and were dying. When Moses interceded for the people, God instructed him to place a bronze serpent on a pole. Those who looked upon the bronze serpent were healed of their snakebites (
That was the image Jesus called up in Nicodemus’ mind: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (
That bronze serpent was symbolic of the spiritual healing that comes to all who turn from sin and look to Jesus, who was lifted up on a cross. Nicodemus had been bitten by the serpent of self-righteous religious legalism. He needed to acknowledge his helplessness and look to Christ alone for salvation.
The new birth gives “a living hope” (
Also, our hope is living because it’s based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (
The Nature of Our Inheritance
Peter used three negative terms in
“Undefiled” (amiantos in Greek) means unpolluted or unstained by sin, evil, or decay. Unlike this world, in which nothing escapes the stain of sin (
“Will not fade away,” or “unfading,” comes from a Greek term used of flowers. In this context it suggests a supernatural beauty that time cannot diminish. Peter used the same word with reference to the unfading crown of glory that faithful elders will receive when the Chief Shepherd appears (
Those three terms picture a heavenly inheritance that is impervious to death, sin, and the effects of time. Considering the corrupting, damning influence of sin on the world, it is wonderful to know our inheritance in Christ is timeless and will never diminish.
The Security of Our Inheritance
The believer’s inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (
Not only is God watching over our inheritance, but He also is doing so in the safest of all places: heaven. That’s where “neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (
Many Christians are confident that God is able to guard their inheritance but doubt He can guard them. They fear they will somehow lose their salvation and forfeit God’s promises. That’s a popular view but it overlooks the fact that God protects more than our inheritance — He protects us as well! Peter said, “You … are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (
The word translated “protected” is a military term that speaks of a guard. Peter used the present tense to indicate that we are continually under guard. Implied is the idea that we need ongoing protection because we’re in a constant battle with Satan and his forces.
It is God’s omnipotent, sovereign power that guards us and guarantees our final victory. God, the ultimate Judge, has justified us in Christ, made us heirs with Him, and has given us His Spirit to ensure that the good work He started in us will be perfected (
Another guarantee of our inheritance is our persevering faith. Peter said we are protected by God’s power through faith (
Our inheritance is a glorious thing. No earthly thing compares to it. But we can lose sight of it through worldly pursuits and the quest for instant gratification. Dear friends, don’t collect this world’s trash and neglect the treasure of our unspeakable riches in Christ.
No matter what your circumstances might be, consider your eternal inheritance. Meditate on it. Let it fill your heart with praise to the One who has extended such grace to you. Let it motivate you to live to His glory.
Don’t pursue the quick fix — some worldly solution to the passing problems of life. This world’s trials aren’t even worthy to be compared with our eternal glory. And always remember that you have Christ, who is all-sufficient in everything now and forever.
From Our Sufficiency in Christ by John F. MacArthur, Jr. (c) 1991 by John F. MacArthur, Jr. Published by Word, Inc., Dallas, TX.