"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
Come, Lord Jesus! Lift our sights to that “forever day”, to
that “evermore time” when we will know you like never before, when faith and
hope will be swallowed up in sight and love will flower into full bloom! And now,
help us so that as we listen and imagine and dream, our yearning may be
handsomely increased, and our hearts be more fully won over. Amen.
I realize that last Sunday’s sermon may
have left you in something of a darker humor as we talked about the Day of
Judgment. But you have to take that sermon in the context of the three before
it, and this one. What will happen after the resurrection and the great
“Tribunal of Christ” – In other words – what will heaven feel like, sound like,
taste like, smell like etc?
Heavens and New Earth. 21.1 We
are often left in the dark about heaven after the resurrection, and have
pictures flitting about our heads of clouds, harps, floating bodies or angelic beings
filling the imaginative void. It all seems so dreamy and far away. But the
Scriptures give us a different, more solid picture: A New Heavens and a New Earth.
and 2 Peter 3:10‑13 (Anna’s wedding ring).
b. “Just as God is renewing the human race
and just as he will glorify the human body, so he is going to restore &
glorify this present world. Satan will not have the final say regarding the
destiny of our planet” (Ed Donnelly, Heaven & Hell, 114). “( . . . )
through the mediatorial ministry of Jesus Christ the Lord ( . . . ) a new
humanity is being created and a full reconstruction of our sin spoiled cosmos
is guaranteed” (J.I. Packer, Foreword, “Antinomianism,” ix).Then we will
see the Beatitudes completely fulfilled: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall
inherit the earth.” Then we will see our prayer totally answered, “Thy kingdom
come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As the early church
fathers used to say: “Grace doesn’t destroy nature, but restores it.” Heaven
will come to earth and both together will form one radiant existence (Rev.
21:1ff)… “Jesus who died shall be
satisfied, and earth and heaven be one” (TH 111). The restored earth will be
an abundant testimony to the Father’s beauty, Christ’s triumph over sin and
Satan, and the Spirit’s power!
If God totally wipes out all creation and
comes up with a new creation completely out of nothing, it would be a sign of
defeat (like me playing chess…). As Anthony Hoekema stated: “The
defeat of Satan. If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan
would have won a great victory, for then Satan would have succeeded in so
devastatingly corrupting the present universe and the present earth that God
could do nothing with it but blot it out of existence. But Satan was decisively
defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he renews
this very earth on which Satan deceived mankind, and finally banishes from it
all the results of Satan's evil work. God will maintain his creation. There
will be continuity as well as discontinuity between the present earth and the
new earth” ("Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off"). To use the words of Paul in another context, mortality will be
swallowed up in life! And to paraphrase St. Augustine, as the ecstasy of the
saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body, so the joy of re-creation,
reconstruction, renewal, the regeneration will flood the created order.
Therefore, we should long for Christ’s return: 1st –to see him
vindicated before the eyes of all – before demonic, angelic, inanimate and
human. 2nd –To see his work of liberation and rescue
fulfilled before our eyes. And thus the created order restored by his
tender-love. Oh what a sight that will be - our minds can’t even imagine what
an unscarred creation will sound like, taste like, smell…!
Humanity Displayed in all of its
Colorful Beauty. 21.2-8 No longer tribal wars, racial tensions,
territorial-turf feuds, etc. Micah 4.1-4, Isaiah 2.1-4, 11.1-10 will be utterly
and completely brought to fullness. Swords beaten into plowshares, spear into
pruning hooks, lions and lambs will dwell in peaceful harmony, predator and
prey will thrive happily together. There will be a radiant, shimmering display
of the diverse aspects of our humanity, all united into one eternal race - In
Christ, because of Christ and around the Father. In eternity we will blossom,
developing perfection and growing in greater aspects of his likeness. As
Richard Baxter wrote: “O then, what a blessed society will the family of heaven
be, and those peaceful inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, where there is no
division, no strangeness, no deceitful friendship, no, not one unkind
expression, nor an angry look or thought; but all are one in Christ, who is one
with the Father, and all live in the love of him, who is love itself.” Therefore,
knowing what we shall be should already affect how we treat one another here
and now: How can one look forward to eternity with people you can’t stand now? Give
grace to one another now with a view to then!
“Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and bless-ed we shall meet at last” (TH 689).
New Joy. 21.3-4. Throughout eternity we
will discover new aspects of God’s infinite majesty, holiness, power, grace and
loveliness. True, unending, enduring ecstasy will fill our souls as we learn
more and more of his being and his ways. We will study his ways...we will delve
into the depths of his purposes...we will rummage the profundities of his movements
throughout history etc. and see he really is Good; and – though we may never
fully comprehend it all - we come to see that it was all very right;
“O Christ, he is the fountain,
the deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
his mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land” (TH 546).
And that joy will be unstoppable. No
longer, as it often is now, will that joy be stunted by sin; no longer will
that joy be hobbled by disease; no longer will it be hampered by exhaustion. “When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when
we've first begun” (TH 460). Sinclair Ferguson inspiringly describes things
this way, “The energies of God the Spirit are fully released in the
resurrection body; those who possess it consequently experience the end of the
inertia and lethargy of the flesh, and an ease in serving God to the full capacity
of their being” (“The Holy Spirit,” 252).
As I end this series, I ask you: are you
ready? “And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the
beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water
of life without payment” (21.6). “For “everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved”” (Romans 10.13).
When I was 20 years old, I was stationed in a Muslim country for two years. During that time I read the Quran (in an English translation from Oxford), interacted with Muslim acquaintances, and saw Islam lived out in it's communal context. Therefore I was excited when my mother gave me a copy of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus". With bazillions of reviews already plastered on the various sites and venues, mine will be short and succinct.
Nabeel Qureshi has woven together a very personal and personable volume written to give "an insider's perspective into a Muslim heart," as well as equip readers "with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam," while chronicling his own inner struggles, sacrifices and doubts when grappling with the Christian faith. The style of writing is autobi…
"When evil looms and darkness falls And tragedy is breaking When all that's good seems overturned By God I'm not forsaken For though I fall or wander far I'm not too far for saving And when my Shepherd seeks and finds How can I keep from singing" (229)?
So cantillates Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, mother, wife, writer, musician and abuse survivor, in her new 240 page hardback "Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse". This volume is the tale of her terrors and troubles at the hands of an abusive father, and it is far, far more. It is truly a story of life after abuse, abundant life found only in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. An easy to read book, it is ideally suited for those who have been traumatized and those who long to help the trampled! "I am not my abuser. I have a choice. I aspire to heal and grow by God's grace" (82).
Just like taking an abnormal psych class in college, a reader will likely see their reflection on many pages in the 200-page hardback "When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse". This newly released dossier, written by Chuck DeGroat, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, is a velvet covered brick. It is easily readable, and reasonably attainable. DeGroat exposes the varied ways narcissism shows up in a parish, whether in the leadership, families, or congregational culture; and how it can show up in the corporate culture of an ecclesiastical denomination, association or network. It arises from the "lack of capacity for self-awareness and self-evaluation, shunning humility for defensive self-protection" (15). Further, according to the author, a deep, underlying shame is the driving forc…