The Wonder of Heaven
Text: Colossians 3:1-4
Proposition: There is a transcendence and splendor in heaven that rises man above his present sense of self through Christ.
Introduction: There’s an old Valvoline commercial that went something like this: “You’re born, you die, in between you work on cars.” Sounds like some form of sagely wisdom doesn’t it, yet it is the exact opposite. It is a statement of unbelief that seems to be saying this life is all there is. It misses the truth that there is not just one world, but three. Consider how the 18th century writer Jonathan Edwards put it: “There are three worlds. One is this, which is an intermediate world — a world in which good and evil are so mixed together as to be a sure sign that this world is not to continue forever. Another is heaven, a world of love, without any hatred. And the other is hell, a world of hatred, where there is no love…” This present world, where there is such mismatch, is the doorstep into either Heaven or Hell. What is done here has an almost unimaginable follow through into either of the two to come. Why is that, why should so much hang on this limited time and influenced perspective? Perhaps the answer lies in a quote from R C Sproul, “All sin is cosmic treason… We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.”. The reason I bring this before you is because we are commanded to set our minds against that treason that resides in our sin nature. We are commanded to set our minds in a Colossians 3 way. Have a look at Colossians 3:1-4.
I. The Moment You Believed In Christ, You Were Raised With Him.
Clearly Paul is not speaking to the dead here as if that was the time when we would be raised with Christ. Don’t miss the ‘past tense’ way he says this, “If then you were raised with Him”. He puts it as a statement of fact, you are this moment as a believer in Christ positionally raised with Him, accepted before God with Him, alive evermore with Him. The judgement for your sin happened at the cross when Jesus bore the sin of every person who would by faith believe in the provision of God for righteousness. So you are there this moment, even though you inhabit this intermediate world where good and evil are mixed. Look at the rest of verse 1, “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” That’s the reality of your state as a Christian, you were raised with Him! And where is Christ? He’s seated at the right hand of the Father, you are in Christ and positionally as a believer in Him you are as accepted and loved and present before the Father even as the Son is. So if that shakes you up this morning even just a little bit do what you are now commanded to do, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” That phrase, ‘set your mind’, ‘set your affection’, is in the present, active, imperative sense. Present tense, now; active voice, you are the one to do it; imperative mood, a command by one in authority over you. Now you do it, set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth, this intermediate world where good and evil are mixed. Here’s the kicker, if you choose to still set your mind on the things of the earth you are forgetting one very crucial thing. Look at verse 3, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As a believer in Christ you are now no longer who you used to be. You have died, do you get that? You aren’t who you once were before you believed in Christ. It’s either that or you haven’t believed in Christ at all and really do prefer your old self, it can’t be both. Imagine you are on a sailing ship in the 1800’s and you’re headed for the new land. Ahead lays the opportunity of freedom, plenty, a future and blessings. Do you set about to make your spot on the ship as though this was all there is, do lovingly cling to rail at the back wistfully wishing this could be your forever home? Not at all, this is where you threw up, this is where sickness and being lost were every day experiences, where the food was only moldy and rotten. You longed for that new land, even so, “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” One day you reach your destination, the destination you longed for and lived for. “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
II. The Transcendence of Heaven Is Built Into All That We Know.
Think of all that we have known emotionally, sensually, spiritually… contentment of heart and stomach, the wonder of love, of a gentle touch, a faithful friend, encouragement, longing and the ties of hope… the list is endless yet it all is but a foretaste of what Heaven’s experience will be. You see in each of things there is a tiny component called ‘Transcendence’. It seeks to lift us beyond the limits of mortality and specifically sin. You’ll see transcendence in a believer who suffers for their faith, the pleasure of a hymn quietly sung in the darkness or the presence of a friend when loneliness settles on you like a damp fog. Jesus spoke often about this aspect of transcendence, the experience of something here that is but a shadow of its fullness in heaven. Do you remember the words of Jesus in John 17:13 as He prayed to the Father just before going to Gethsemane., “But now I come to Thee and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” When did Jesus expect that people would have the joy that He Himself knows, His joy, made full in them? There will be brief moments when we streak through the depths of this joy, like a rifle round fired into the air, but the fullness of the moment will be in heaven. You see in Heaven there is nothing to restrain the experience of being righteous in Christ. The accuser of the brethren is gone, the depravity of sin removed, the influence of a fallen system neutralized. But then there’s more, look again at John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me …”. What is the center of joy in Heaven, what is the height of Heaven… it’s close, personal, intimate, eternal, UNION with God. It is the very opposite of separation. What do you think it will invoke in you to see the glory of Jesus Christ, not only see it but be there with Christ at His request to share in the wonder of that before Him? Holy, Holy, Holy… that’s how Isaiah described it. All self- restraint gone, you fall at the feet of Jesus and if the word ‘adoration’ has ever described how you feel about Christ, it is now set free in an unrestrained love for Him in the presence of His glory.
One last thought in John 17:26, look at what Jesus says about transcendent love, “and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them.” What was the degree of the love of the Father for the Son, because whatever that is that’s the degree of transcendent love that God purposes to place in our hearts. The Father loved the Son because no one understood the Father like the Son, Jesus is the exact image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).. The Father loved the Son because no ever trusted Him like the Son. The Father loved the Son because no one ever loved like the Son did. The Father’s love for the Son is what Jesus prays will be the love we experience, a love founded on Christ in us. But here’s the wonder, Jesus prays that this love would occur in us now, as we love what He loves, as we trust the Father like Jesus did, as we yield to the Father like Jesus did. It’s that love that He means to have emanate out of each one of us to each other and to the lost and ultimately to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That love is transcendence, it will know its zenith in Heaven, in the presence of the glory of Jesus Christ.
Randy Alcorn in his book ‘Heaven’, makes this insightful statement, “The best life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”
May the wonder of Heaven always manifest in us an alerting soulful cry of anguish about Hell.