Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why Preach About Heaven? (part 2)

Reading:  Colossians 1   
In the previous post, we began exploring the question, “Why preach about heaven?” My answer is, “for the same reasons that Paul did.” First, I noted that a glorious hope in heaven produces a life of faith and love, or, to say it another way, the Christian life grows out of a glorious hope in heaven.
Now, I want to explore how Paul teaches us that a glorious hope in heaven will sustain a life of faith and hope—the Christian life. We see this first in Paul's prayer for the Colossians.
11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-14)
While it is clear here that the power for our endurance and patience with joy in the midst of trial is God's Spirit Who strengthens us will all power according to His glorious might, it is also clear that the reason for that endurance and patience with joy is that the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Just as the Savior, for the joy set before Him endured the cross despising its shame, so we for the joy of heaven set before us will find reason for enduring. The destination makes the journey worth it. This is one of the wonderful truths vivified in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Christian, in the story, sets out for the celestial city. However, he finds that the journey is fraught with danger and difficulty. He must remember the destination, and from what he is fleeing. We too must remember our destination, and from what we are fleeing.
A few verses later, Paul restates some of these things in teaching form rather than in his prayer: We have not only been qualified to share in the inheritance (vs. 12); we have also been delivered from the domain (control, power, sphere) of darkness. How? Through the forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus.
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.
We were alienated from God and were His enemies. God reconciled us through Christ's death on the cross, in order that we would be presented holy in His sight—if we continue in the faith. We must continue in the faith. This will require endurance and patience. Yet notice how he describes this endurance, “established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” In order to continue in the faith, established and firm, we must hold on to the hope which the Gospel holds out to us.
If the Gospel held out to us is all about earth, and not about heaven, there is no real hope held out to us. Hence we would be unable to hold on to it. However, the biblical Gospel holds out an eternal inheritance as our hope. Take it; hold on to it, an allow it to fill you with joy as you endure dangers and difficulties in the walk of faith. And trust in the power of God by His Spirit to empower it.
Not only does our glorious hope in heaven produce the Christian life, is also sustains the Christian life. In the next post on this topic, I want to explore how our hope in heaven is the real motivation for Christian ministry.
To be continued...
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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