Friday, August 31, 2007

How Heavenly-minded?

How Heavenly-minded are you? Does it matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. Why? Because there are nothing but Heavenly-minded people in Heaven. "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest" (Heb. 4:11). "Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2). "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13). "But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life" (Jude 20-21). "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3). "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).

What is Heavenly-mindedness? If I combined all the texts above, and boiled them into a soup, the result would be a forward-looking broth, seasoned with an active anticipation that shapes and influences all other thoughts and affections. Heavenly-mindedness is really just another way of saying "desiring God" above all else - and actually meaning it. God is to be enjoyed to the fullest in the world to come, not here. So rather than striving to bring God down, and rather than replacing God with something more readily available, Heavenly-mindedness channels thoughts and desires to where God is - the age to come. Heavenly-mindedness is a preoccupation with the world to come.

While Heavenly-mindedness is a preoccupation with the world to come, it isn't mystical. Many mistake monasticism with Heavenly-mindedness. Monks are not Heavenly-minded. They are worldly-minded, even while disowning much of the comforts it offers. They are so enraptured by this world, they strive to bring God down into it. Rather than allowing God to use them for his mission, they try to bind God to themselves in their own mission. It is amazing that when Martin Luther got a taste of Heavenly-mindedness, it drove him out of the monastery and into the world.

Heavenly-mindedness must overflow in love to others. Why? Because Heaven is populating itself with the people of this world. Heavenly-mindedness frees us from loving this world so that we can love those living in this world. We are free from the trinkets and the treasures. We are free from the delusions of health and peace on earth. We are free from the deceptions of wealth's value. We are free from man-made attempts to bring God in line with our agendas.

I'm currently reading Saints' Everlasting Rest by Richard Baxter. I highly recommend it to everyone. Baxter was a 17th century Puritan. He wrote the book during extended bouts with illness while "looking death full in the face and yet experiencing the sufficient grace of God." In other words, Baxter was stripped of the luxury of ignorant drifting through life. He was brought face to face with his own mortality. He wrote out of a mind denied the hope in this world that we take for granted. Therefore, the work is very Heavenly-minded. That is the book's point.

I think one of Baxter's most important words for us in America today comes in his chapter entitled, "The Saints' Rest is not to be Expected on Earth." He writes of "our unreasonable unwillingness to die, that we may possess the saints' rest." Consider this:

"This unwillingness to die doth actually impeach us of high treason against the Lord. Is it not choosing of earth before him, and taking of present things for our happiness, and consequently making them our very god? If we did indeed make God our end, our rest, our portion, our treasure, how is it possible but we should desire to enjoy him? - It moreover discovers some dissimulation. Would you have any believe you, when you call the Lord your only hope, and speak of Christ as all in all, and of the joy that is in his presence, and yet would endure the hardest life, rather than die, and enter into his presence? What self-contradiction is this, to talk so hardly of the world, and the flesh, to groan and complain of sin and suffering, and yet fear no day more than that, which we expect should bring our final freedom! What hypocrisy is this, to profess to strive and fight for heaven, which we are loath to come to! and spend one hour after another in prayer for that which we would not have."

Did you get that? Is that not the American Christian experience? "I want to go to Heaven when I leave this earth. I just don't ever want to leave this earth." Ugh! That is worldly mindedness. And that is the average Christian when death seems to come knocking. "Oh, anything but death! Put me on all kinds of machines for days, weeks, months, whatever it takes! Just don't let me die!" How is that any different from those "earthdwellers" who beg the caves to crash upon them to hide them from Christ? How does such behavior not show a hopeless dependence on this world for one's only satisfaction? Our collective Christian attitude about death shows how closely aligned we are with those who don't believe at all. We believe that America is close enough to Heaven for us. That is high treason. Heavenly-mindedness, though the virtue from which all others flow, is so neglected and scorned that it is amazing that anything Christ-centered happens at all.

Baxter again: "Consider, not to die is never to be happy. To escape death is to miss of blessedness except God should translate us, as Enoch and Elijah, which he never did before or since." In other words, eternal bliss awaits us in Heaven. Death is the door (unless one is Enoch or Elijah). So to be so yearning to live forever on earth, regardless of the quality of life, is to never experience the matchless blessedness of God's immediate presence. But then again, I doubt there are many who are actually looking for that anyway. How Heavenly-minded are you?

1 comment:

BReformed said...

What a refreshing post!

I have heard the "some people are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good" too many times.

The more heavenly minded we are - having the mind of Christ - the better for all concerned!