Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Preach About Heaven? (part 3)

Reading: Colossians 1
In the previous two posts on this topic, I began exploring the question, “Why preach about heaven?” My answer is, “for the same reasons that Paul did.” First, I noted that our glorious hope in heaven produces a life of faith and love—the Christian life. Then, in part 2, I explored how Paul teaches us that our glorious hope in heaven sustains a life of faith and hope—the Christian life.
Now, in part 3 I desire to look at how our glorious hope in heaven defines a life of faith and hope—the Christian life. In order to do that, let's look again at Colossians:
Colossians 1:25-29 25I have become [the church's] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul describes our hope of glory in very specific terms. He doesn't spend time describing the wonders of heaven itself as far as the place goes...what it is like, etc. And though there are places in Scripture which make it clear that heaven is more magnificent than the fallen world we are in, that is not what Paul points to here. Paul describes the hope of glory as, “Christ in you”. I believe this is the same thing Paul spoke of to the Galatians when he said, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you...” (Galatians 4:19). Again he speaks of this in Ephesians 4:13 when he desires that we “become mature [same as perfect in Colossians 1:28; complete], attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Christ in you,” “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” or “Christ formed in you” all speak of the same thing. Paul's goal in all his ministry was quite clear: that we may present everyone perfect in Christ (Col. 1: 28).
What is our goal? To become just like Jesus. Christ redeemed us to make us like Himself. God sent His Son to save us in order that He might replicate His Son in us! Why? Because He loves His Son! And if that is the goal of Christian ministry (presenting us before God like His Son), then the Christian life, is defined as an on-going pursuit of Christ being formed in us...becoming like Him!
When we preach heaven, we are preaching about that day when we will be just like Him; unhindered by the body of sin. And in the very preaching of that goal we remind ourselves of the glorious desire to be like him, and to put off sin. Our fleshly desires are not the goal; Christ is. His glory far outshines the glory of sin. And this defines how we are to live now while we are on the way to that glorious hope!
John the apostle would agree with this idea that our hope defines our living.
1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
The goal? The appearing of Christ when we shall be like Him. And of course we are only on the journey because “now we are the children of God” utterly by the grace revealed in the Gospel. But the journey is one of purifying ourselves (by His grace at work in us), just as He is pure. Christ is the glorious hope of the Christian life; Christ defines the Christian life. “Christ is all and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)
So this goal of being presented complete or perfect in Christ defined a major portion of what Paul preached: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom...” Paul proclaimed Jesus because Jesus is the Gospel. Paul proclaimed Jesus, because Jesus is the glorious vision that calls us out of ourselves. Paul proclaimed Jesus, because Jesus is the ultimate goal of our inheritance in heaven. Proclaim Jesus and you can't help but bring heaven into the picture; it is where He is.
Why preach about heaven? Because the Gospel points us to that day and as we hold that day up it will produce the Christian life, it will sustain the Christian life, and it will define the Christian life—Christ in you the hope of glory!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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