Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Heavenly-minded Perspective

There is a small book I would highly recommend to everyone. It is called Grace & Glory. It is a collection of sermons written by Geerhardus Vos. Vos taught theology at Princeton a century ago when it was a godly place to learn. I believe the book is out of print now, and I saw three used ones for sale on Amazon.com starting at $55.00 if you're interested in purchasing it. One of the sermons in this little book is an exposition of Hebrews 11:9-10 called "Heavenly Mindedness." It's one of the sweetest collections of words I've ever read.

I was having coffee with a fellow pastor in our area yesterday morning. We lamented that there is not enough preaching on Heaven. Heaven is just not in the forefront of our minds. The need for more heavenly-mindedness may contradict contemporary sensibilities about "practical" sermons instructing us how to make the most of this world. It would also fly in the face of so much atheistic rambling that is flooding the culture in the last few years. But preaching about Heaven is crucial to our lives here and now.

Vos said, "The heavenly world does not appear desirable as simply a second improved edition of this life; that would be nothing else than earthly-mindedness projected into the future. The very opposite takes place: heaven spiritualizes in advance our present walk with God."

In other words, Heaven is a greater reality in the universe than the current earth. This isn't just psychological. Heaven isn't just a made up place in the back of our minds that we use to give ourselves hope, or make ourselves be good. Heaven is a real place inhabited by the Creator of everything. From Heaven, the Creator is irresistibly drawing this world to himself. It's as though God cast the world into existence so many thousands of years ago, and is slowly reeling it in toward himself. One day, the present form of this creation will reach the very hand of God, and history will become eternity. For some, man's rendezvous with Heaven will be great news. For others it will be a nightmare of unimaginable proportions.

While he's reeling creation toward himself, God reveals himself to the creation through his Word and by his Spirit. The ultimate form of Word/Spirit revelation is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Gospel we have been given a small glimpse of heavenly realities. Through the Gospel we have been given a peek into a higher plane of existence, out of sight to natural eyes. And through the Gospel we have been given the bridge that enables our successful crossing from this earthly age to the heavenly one.

What Vos was saying in the quote above is that we can't take our natural experiences, and just push them into the world to come in what we would consider a perfect form. Wealth and health and unity are ways of describing the glory of Heaven in concepts that we can understand. For example, Heaven can't just be a place where we look forward to going because we'll have all kinds of earthly goods that we were denied on earth. It's the opposite. Man is given the blessing of earthly goods as a pointer to the blessed state that exists in Heaven.

We cannot look forward to Heaven as nothing more than a place where we'll enjoy the perfect health we were denied on earth. It's the opposite. Health is just an earthly pointer to the heavenly reality of vigorous, blissful, eternal life.

Do you see how all the blessings of life are designed to reveal the eternal felicity of Heaven? In contrast, corruption, sickness, death, conflict and stinky feet all point to the horror of a life out of order with the heavenly reality. The disappointments and hardships of life are also designed to make us long for a day when all will be made well.

How can heavenly-mindedness help us in the mundane things of life today? Well the entirety of this life points to the greater reality of Heaven. Christians should be nurturing a desire for the world to come. Like Abraham, their father in the faith, they must look "forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10). It is only from this perspective that we can rightly interpret every single mundane thing that happens to us, whether at work or in the trenches of marriage. Because I have this conviction, Heaven will be a topic that will be visited, revisited, revisited and revisited again and again and again on this blog.

1 comment:

pjmay said...

What a great topic to write about. I can't wait to read more on this. I made the mistake one time of repeating in group a clever (so I thought) observation I had heard: "You can be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." And being rightly and promptly chastised by some teaching elder, that it's probably not possible to be too heavenly minded. Your writing makes that point very well.