Have you been traveling lately? When we consider a trip, don’t we first pick our destination, and then choose our method of travel, taking the route, time, and cost into account? I enjoy finding other places or people along the way to enjoy before I arrive at my last stop. But the great reward is that final place, which I have researched, with hopes that the experience of it will be equal to my expectations and cost. It’s been some years since I traveled to Ireland for the first time, from Malawi, E. Africa. Along the way I stopped in Bath, England, having always wanted to see the city, and then visited with friends in Wales. The time in the UK was great, but I thought very frequently about the upcoming tour of Ireland and N. Ireland with some anxiety mixed with excitement. No doubt, being a single traveler influenced my thinking, but I was quite used to that. Unfortunately, my time was less-than-perfect because I was suffering from a bad knee that limited my walking. Then I was knocked onto the rocks of the Giant Causeway by the strong wind in N. Ireland, toward the end of the tour. I suffered a contusion that made sitting on the bus, the airplane, and in the car extremely painful, if you know what I mean (and for weeks afterward).
Just so, we Christians are on a journey toward a particular destination—heaven and the future renewed earth and heavens. But like our earthly trips, that journey is fraught with trials, anxieties, and hopeful expectations. However, there is excellent news: our destination is void of any difficulties, injuries, or trials. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Here on earth, we have all the issues of a sinful, corrupted world to contend with—shootings, confusing economies, political concerns, family splits, religious bewilderment, and on and on. Here on earth, Satan exercises his power to create issues like Christian accepts idolatry, promiscuity, obesity, lust, all kinds of greed, “free” gender identity, and same-sex coupling, to name a few of biblical sins. As we travel here on earth, believers benefit from remembering our destination, with a stopover in heaven—the eternal new earth—free from all pain, confusion, grief, and suffering of every kind. Amid anxiety here, we have an unimaginable, glorious, peaceful, and joyful future. Our certain, comforting, healing, peaceful, and painless future supplies our hope and peace in the present, empowering us to trust God more. Our future peace has the ability to redeem our present difficulties.
On Sunday, our Pastor taught from Haggai 2 about the prophet’s encouragement for Israel to consider their past (leaving it behind), present (of repentance and forgiveness), and their future glory (far greater than the present). Their future with the Lord in a perfect world would be far better than the old “glory days” of Israel when Solomon’s temple was intact. (1) We, like Israel, have lessons to learn from the past. These lessons and encouragements stay with us, as we leave nostalgia, wistfulness, and regrets behind since they will only hinder us in our present peacefulness. Confessional repentance is the most appropriate use of today. “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. ‘Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.'” (Isaiah 57:18-19) Passages such as these, given to Israel for her comfort and encouragement at a difficult time, help me because our world has normalized anxiety and toxicity. God’s peace works to settle our hearts and minds in our mixed-up, turbulent, reactive world. The believer’s past sins are absorbed into the covenant of peace in Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace, who paid dearly for our forgiveness. That is our history and inheritance as children of the King of Heaven. Our present is even more precious, since Christ, our High Priest continually makes intercession for us at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The future is glorious, when Christ will come again, establishing a new world of unimaginable peace without the disruptions that our hearts, minds, and bodies have become so accustomed to in this world.
Periodically, the Spirit reminds me to pray for revival, and I ask him to do so more often. On Monday I thought of it, and on Tuesday someone else spoke to me about it. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to speak about revival to others, and on Thursday, our group considered how our ministry can be renewed and revived. Now, on Friday I have the opportunity to consider it again with you—to pray that the Lord will come to us in power for biblical revival and renewal, in our communities, nation, and the world, starting with us. However, true biblical revival begins in one way only—through repentance. “God opens the way into his reviving presence for all the penitent…He even creates their spirit of repentance.” (2) Christian revival never has and never will come through new ideas of spiritual matters, looking lightly on sin in a spirit of love, or being passive about holiness and obedience. We taste the glorious future of peace now through the forgiveness we have in Christ. The warnings of to the churches in the Book of Revelation are instructive. “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:3-5) “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:19-21) “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” (Revelation 3:1-3) Repentance is the theme of today for us who take the Bible and Christ seriously—who seek the peace of God.
Our eschatology and view of our future glorious life with Christ, not just in heaven, but on a new earth together should inform our present walk with him. Unmitigated shalom will replace pain, grief, and death one day, and today, we have a taste of it through the indwelling Spirit of God. We’re not just on a journey, where we will return to our old home. We’re moving to a new destination and home. We ought to consider whether we view our walk with Christ here as a return trip (having been improved by the journey) or a complete change to a new location (with utterly transformed hearts, minds, bodies and lives). How do you view your present walk with Jesus—like a vacation or a relocation? Our new home is far away, so there will be many stops, repairs, feeding, fueling, rest, excitement, and even boredom at times. The traffic is heavy, so we must move with everyone else while on the road. Some days it will feel like we will never get there, and other days, we will want to turn around and go home, unconsciously, for the “good old days.” But the good news is that the fuel of the Spirit of Christ will not run out before we reach our destination with him. How are you moving? Is your heart unsettled because you are impatient for the future or content to be moving toward heaven? Do you appreciate and embrace Jesus Christ’s sacrificial, atoning grace that gives you peace with God and heals your sins daily, through his ministry of intercession and your call to repentance? Let’s pray to be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14)
(1) Taha, Allen, “Minor Prophets Series, Haggai 2:15-2:19,” https://www.trinityboerne.org/mediaPlayer/#/sermonaudio/297
(2) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 57:18-19, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
August 9, 2019