Last night we finished our summer series looking at some common ideas we need to examine in light of Christ’s teachings. Here are the notes:
Someone read this to me recently, from Bon Appetit magazine:
Newlyweds Maddie—24, illustrator, cook—and Trevor—26, photographer, pro surfer—live on their boat, Brisa, in Santa Barbara Harbor. For the past year they’ve traveled often with their close friend and collaborator Mary Gonzalez, a 26-year-old baker, cook, and farmer who lives in a trailer on an avocado farm in the Los Padres area. (We couldn’t make up this stuff if we tried.) The three pals have found themselves sharing meals in unexpected enclaves: in boats along the Pacific coast’s many sheltered nooks and crannies, in treehouses hugging Douglas firs, in yurts, and in campers.
One thing that caught my eye was a picture of one of the boat dwellers sitting on the side of his schooner, and the caption said, “Cooking on the boat, and living the life we all dream of.” And that leads nicely into this study. We all understand what the caption means when it claims we’re dreaming of this life. But should we, as followers of Jesus, be dreaming of that life? What kind of life should a christian be seeking? What does a follower of Jesus dream about, hope for, plan for, work for, and want?
What Do Christians Seek?
Matthew 6:19-21, 31-33 – Christians pursue the Kingdom of God.
Don’t lay up treasures on earth. Why? They can be stolen, they will rot away. In other words, they’re not permanent. So we see right away that Jesus is not anti-treasure, he’s anti us losing our treasure. He’s all about us not missing out.
Instead, Lay up treasure in heaven, invest in things that are eternal. Jesus wants us to have eternal joy, eternal happiness, eternal security. And so he says: seek the kingdom of God. D.A. Carson explains: “To seek first the kingdom of God is to desire above all to enter into, submit to, and participate in spreading the news of the saving reign of God, the messianic kingdom already inaugurated by Jesus, and to live so as to store up treasures in heaven in the prospect of the kingdom’s consummation.”
Now, there’s a lot of learning we’ll need to do as followers of Jesus as to how to actually do this over the course of our life. But the point is that Jesus comes to our generation and really confronts our way of looking at life. He says if it’s made of matter it can break down. If it can be bought it can be stolen. If it passes away when humans die, it can’t last as long as you actually need it to. So think hard, modern American youth—What do you want to invest in? What do you want to live for?
Now, when Jesus says, “seek God’s kingdom”, you need to know about what this kingdom even is to understand why it’s worth it. I really recommend you take a few months of your personal bible reading time just to read through the scriptures and find out everything you can about the kingdom of God. For now, let’s just say the kingdom of God is when God is known and worshiped by everyone, so everywhere you go is full of his life-giving, personal presence, so no one oppresses anyone, everyone has everything they need, everyone is nurtured to health and strength and no one ever conquers or oppresses or invades or steals and everyone is safe and everywhere is safe. That kingdom is coming soon, and Jesus is bringing it with him—and he’s the king of the kingdom. And lots of passages in the bible make it clear that Christians can enjoy many of the effects of having Jesus as king now, even in this difficult and painful world.
Philippians 2:19-21 – Christians pursue Jesus Christ’s business.
For Timothy, sincerely caring for the Philippians church, and how the Christians there were doing, and in fact, actually going and seeing to their practical needs, was a way for him to take care of Jesus’ business. The big question for these guys was, “What is Jesus concerned about?” That’s what Timothy was available to spend his time, money, travel, and emotional energy on. Other people around Paul spent their time and money and hearts on their own things. Paul and Timothy knew that Jesus cared about the health of Christians in Philippi. So they were engaged in doing what they could to promote that health—in whatever way health was needed.
Colossians 3:1-4 – Christians pursue the things which are above.
One reason Christians think and act differently than everyone else is that we have been fundamentally changed. Something has happened to us that has made us so different than we were before that Jesus calls it a whole new birth. Along with this comes a new status and a new identity. Paul tells us here it should also lead to a new orientation. One scholar (D. Moo) wrote: “Orient yourselves totally to these heavenly realities…you’ve been given a new status freely by the gift of god. Make that new status the guidepost for all your thinking and acting.”
The things people with this new identity pursue are called “the things above.” In Romans 2 Paul lists “glory, honor, immortality” among those realities. In other words, Christians realize that the coming realities are so huge, when the God of glory and honor and immortality blesses his creatures with glory and honor and immortality—where we live in totally glory and total honor forever—these things are so big and so worth it that we learn to orient our whole life around those truths—that future reality. That’s when our lives will really happen. Not now. Then. This life is massively meaningful because it’s preparation for glory, and because everything we are here directly affects what we will be when Christ returns. But the significance of this life is not because it’s the only life we got, because that’s not true for a Christian.
So everything you do in this life is significant—because Christ is coming and bringing our whole life with him. So if you live beneath your means to free up money to serve Jesus, it’s not because you like being poorer and having less. It’s because you know when Christ comes you’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams. If you move away from your family and friends to serve Jesus somewhere else, it’s not because you like to be lonely. It’s because you know one day you’ll never have to say good bye to anyone, ever again. If you end up living in danger because of your witness for Christ, it’s not because you like danger. It’s because you know the Father’s house is eternally secure, and you’ll be there soon. If you let your body be chewed up or your future be cut short in order to do the Lord’s will, it’s not because you hate life. It’s because you know you have a glorious indestructible body with a future that extends beyond this earth’s horizon. If you end up doing without a friend, or a family member, or a spouse, or a child…it’s not because you hate people. It’s because you’ve found someone whose love is better than life, who it pains you to think of letting down, whose good opinion of you matters more than anything, and whose friendship and love—you know—will fill every hole and erase the pain of every loss. He’s that great.
1 Timothy 6:6-19 – Christians pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Christians don’t pursue wealth. They learn not to long and wish for the kind of life wealth brings. They learn the truth of it all, that people who wish for that life and chase that life “pierce themselves through with many sorrows” and “drowns them in destruction.” If they happen to be born into wealth, or accrue it through faithful work, or have it given to them, they don’t feel guilty or hate their life, but they learn not to get proud or trust in their current financial status, and instead they learn to consider a life of good works to be their true wealth. They know they’re really poor unless they’re rich in God’s eyes. They use their temporary wealth to build eternal wealth, by putting their money and status to work serving Jesus’ purposes.
So Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. All those things are qualities which make us do things in the real world. Pursue the kind of inner qualities that make you the kind of person who does God’s will in the world. It’s interesting this list is pretty similar to the fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Which says to me that Christians are to pursue a life changed by the Spirit…which becomes a life that changes other things by the power of the Spirit. We want to chase becoming people who are so righteous, godly, faithful, believing, loving, enduring and gentle that God is using us to bring those exact things to the world around us. We want to see other people becoming righteous, godly, faithful, believing, loving, enduring and gentle. It’s what Timothy was after for the philippian Christians. It’s what rich people use their money to promote. It’s treasure that can’t be taken from you, and never gets old. It’s the exact flavor of the kingdom of God and the qualities of those who rule and reign there.
And this is so important. Christians are not anti-adventure. There are untold adventures and excitement waiting for those who will let their new heavenly status and Christ’s command shape their aims. All you have to do is read a missionary biography or two, or personally put yourself at Jesus’ disposal and start hanging out with other people who are pursuing his purposes. You’ll see. And I fully expect the eternal life in the new heavens and earth to be chock full of adventure and happiness. But the question is, what will I make my aim in life? If I make my aim in this life to have an awesome life, I will miss out, eternally. If I make my aim in this life to seek God’s kingdom, who knows where that will take us? My friends have gone literally all over the planet and done all kinds of things just being open to what God is doing. Or some of them have found themselves planted firmly right where they grew up to work and go through the ups and downs of people’s lives.
But no one I know who serves Jesus has a boring life.
Finally – Revelation 22:10-14.
Jesus is coming. He knows how to reward his people. He knows how to make everything worth it.