That Great City

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This post is adapted from Mary Austin’s Blog

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I used to think that being motivated by thoughts of heaven was a bad thing, because I should only love God for who he is, not for what he has given me, and therefore that I shouldn’t really think of heaven too much lest I start loving God for his gifts and not for himself.

I was really surprised when I studied the New Testament and realized that our future promise to be with God forever is quite frequently cited as a motivating factor for us to suffer persecutions and hardships in this world. I have found it to be such a biblically sound idea that I think ignoring it is harmful to us and to our faith. What is better than desiring to be united with our perfect, holy, pure, good God and Savior? Desiring to see sin and all its devastating affects vanquished? Dying to see our enemy crushed once and for all, our fears wiped away, justice restored, love reigning forever? Seeing this strange world we live in become once and for all as God intended it to be?

A real, Biblical view of Heaven is something that Christians should treasure in our hearts and be encouraged and strengthened by. Our Christ has promised to come back to us. Our God will be with us forever. We will see him face to face. Somedays the burdens of life, of sin, of pain, of brokenness that I see in myself, this world and others haunt my soul so much that the only comfort is that one day I will be in the presence of my great God and Father!

This attitude is the same one that our forefathers in the faith had. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” {Hebrews 11:13-16}

As long as I am living, God has a purpose for me in this world–to live for the praise of his name and the spread of his gospel. I greatly desire to see my city transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ. I know that the Holy Spirit is alive and in this world and that he can do and is doing amazing things to change lives and affect the well-being of our city through the work of Jesus. I pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, and the Spirit inside of me enables me to walk out God’s kingdom principles on this earth, making my city a better place to be for all people. But I see in the Bible that there is nothing that can happen on this earth before Jesus comes back that will come even close to what life will be like afterwards. And so in all my praying, all my working, all my walking, all my successes and failures at learning to live in love– I wait with an eager expectation.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” {Romans 8:23}

“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” {1 Corinthians 1:7}

“The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” {1 Thessalonians 2:16-18}

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” {2 Corinthians 5:4}

“For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” {Galatians 5:5}

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying 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 1:20-21}”For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” {Titus 2:11-13}

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” {2 Peter 3:11-13}

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” {Philippians 3:20-21}

I was listening to a Tim Keller sermon a few months ago about the “shalom” of God and I began to get a song in my heart. I love the idea of God’s shalom.

“God created all things to be in a beautiful, harmonious, interdependent, knitted, webbed relationship to one another. Just as rightly related physical elements form a cosmos or a tapestry, so rightly related human being form a community. This interwovenness is what the Bible calls shalom, or harmonious peace.” {Tim Keller}

‘“Shalom” is usually translated “peace” in English Bibles, but it means far more than what our English word conveys. It means complete reconciliation, a state of the fullest flourishing in every dimension—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual—because all relationships are right, perfect, and filled with joy.” {Tim Keller}

As we seek peace on this earth, it is not an ambiguous, hippie kind of “peace and love”, but a peace that comes through OUR peace, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus’ kingdom is coming down out of heaven from God. And Jesus’ kingdom is the one in which he is the KING- the one we bow down to, the one we put all our trust in, the one who has all the authority.”A church FOR the city proclaims the truth of Scripture with passion, clarity, boldness. At the same time, it commits itself to seeking the shalom, the flourishing of the city–living sacrificially to seek the peace and prosperity of their neighbors.” {Matt Carter, “For The City”}

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” {Revelation 22:20}

With love in Christ,

Mary Austin