Sunday, September 11, 2011

Too Heavenly-minded to be of Any Earthly Good?

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-5)

Excerpt from “The Joy of Repentance: Walking with God” – 2011-09-11
What is the hope, the anticipated objective reality laid up for us in heaven? Well Paul doesn’t specifically tell us here, but he does in Titus 2:13 when he speaks of “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In Colossians 3:4 he says: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." And in Colossians 1:27 he defines what heavenly minded people look like: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Now the reaction to this that often arises is - that we need to take care that we do not become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. My experience in this – in having been baptized in the Catholic faith, raised in the Charismatic faith, confirmed in the Lutheran faith, saved in the Fundamentalist faith, taught in the Reformed faith, and served as a pastor in the Evangelical Free and Baptist faith – is that I have never met anyone who was that so heavenly minded that they were of no earthly good. I have met folks who are so self-centered in their heavenly-mindedness that they were of no earthly good – because they are constantly letting people around them know how heavenly-minded they are. Those who I have know who were truly heavenly minded lived it out humbly and quietly – and their earthly lives transformed many others lives.

John Piper tells us that the Bible, “teaches and shows that a strong confidence in the promises of God and a passionate preference for the joy of heaven over the joy of the world frees a person from worldly self-centeredness, from paralyzing regret and self-pity, from fear and greed and bitterness and despair and laziness and impatience and envy. And in the place of all these sins, hope bears the fruit of love.” Hope bears the fruit of “faith in Christ Jesus and of the love” that we are to have for one another and for others. I would argue that one problem the contemporary church does not truly wrestle with today is being too focused on heaven. The problem the church struggles with is retreating from the world and spending most of their time together in the building, indifferent to the desperate needs of the lost people around them. The problem professing followers of Jesus Christ wrestle with is spending too little time reading their Bibles and praying and listening to God and serving others and having conversations with all kinds of people they do not know - because most of their time is being taken up just living for themselves.

To be heavenly minded means you understand that you are currently in exile here on earth, and that you are on a journey to go back home to the place “laid up for you in heaven.” Heavenly-mindedness frees us from the bondage of worry and anxiety and pride and addictions and bad habits and sinful attitudes and self-centered routines - because so much love and faith is bearing fruit in our lives, that we have little time to spend on anything else. As the fountains of faith and love flow out from the powerful, freeing confidence of our hope in Christ, the light of eternity burns away the shadows of worldly mindedness.