“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2)
John Lennon famously sang, “Imaging there’s no heaven.” Two days ago, we listened to Paul (the apostle, not Lennon’s Beatle buddy) sing just the opposite, “Set your minds on things above.” As little as some Christians talk about heaven, you’d think it almost doesn’t matter to us. So let’s imagine there is a heaven for the next few days — and let’s trust God to tell us a little about it through His Word.
Spoiler alert! This comes at the very end of the Bible. So if you’ve been reading through, this will give away some major plot detail. John (the apostle, not Lennon) has been given an all-access pass to the future, to the end, to heaven. He finally sees the scene described here.
Plug this into your imagination: Our “heaven” (the sky, the sun, the moon) has been destroyed, right along with our earth. New ones have taken their place. There’s a lot of land, because the new earth doesn’t have an ocean. Looking up, we see a city coming down from the sky toward the earth. She’s the New Jerusalem — God’s Holy City — and somehow she looks like it’s her wedding day.
Think: Do you think Christians think too much or too little about heaven? What’s the point of imagining our eternal future?
Pray: Ask God to help you think about heaven in the healthiest possible way.
Do: Give yourself a half-hour sometime this week to do nothing but stoke your imagination about heaven and your future with God.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)
Too many of us Christians carry around a silly and shallow idea of who we are on any given day. If forced to check a box, we put an “x” by “Christian” or “Evangelical” or something. We see ourselves as part of demographic. Those people are Muslims. That group is Jewish. I’m a Christian, because that’s the group I signed up with.
God sees those who are “in Christ” as far more than just the people in the “right” churches on Sunday morning. At the moment you stepped into relationship with God through faith in Jesus, Paul reminds here, your life — your journey to save yourself, your identity as your own person — died. It ended. It’s over. You are His. You are a Christ-one.
Your real life — the eternal, meaningful, unimaginable one beyond anything you could know to hope for — waits with Jesus to burst into the glorious technicolor now when Christ appears. Then you’ll find yourself in utter joy and with zero regrets standing right next to Him. All will be exactly as it should be. What will that be like?
Think: What will that be like?
Pray: Ask God to make you hungrier for heaven.
Do: Write a short list of things you’re looking forward to about heaven — things the Bible tells you to expect there.
So, what is this whole service and serve others thing anyways? I mean we do hear of it from time to time in our culture. If you have worked at any fast food joint you would have been ‘fed’ many lines about the importance of customer service. Actually any business with customers will stress this. [...]
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
It’s heaven week on the PW daily devo. This week, we’re going to ask, “What’s so great about heaven, anyway?” We start in Colossians with a couple of the most overlooked commands in the New Testament. These are powerful commands because they tell us huge things about God and about ourselves.
First, we learn that God does not just care what we do; He cares what we feel and think about. Second, we learn that we have the power to “set” our emotions and thoughts on whatever we choose. You can control your feelings instead of being run over by them. You can choose where your mind lingers.
Think of yourself as a cowboy and your thoughts and emotions as hundreds of cattle. Where should you be driving those little doggies? Toward “things above,” the verse says. Think about — feel about — what goes on above your daily life on earth. Round up all those stray thoughts and surging emotions and drive them in the direction of “heaven stuff.”
Why? Tune in tomorrow.
Think: Estimate about what percentage of your waking hours you spend with your heart and mind set on “things above.”
Pray: Ask God to make you hungrier for heaven this week.
Do: Make a little list of the top 5 “earthly things” you tend to think and feel about most.
“. . . who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:5)
The last item on David’s list of character qualities for an unshakable life is this: Don’t use people for your own advantage. Innocent people. Broke people. Desperate people. They’re not meant to be chess pieces on the game boards of our lives to be manipulated to get ourselves ahead.
I know. Who does that except for rich oil barons and corporate execs and bad movie villains? Well, honestly, we all do it a little, don’t we? You might not make high-interest loans to people who can’t get money at a fair price. (That’s what usury is.) And you might not take a bribe from a corrupt business person to allow needy people to be mistreated. That’s true.
But I’ve seen lots of people make friends with someone hungry for a friend — just to get something from them. I’ve seen socially desperate people used and mocked and ignored and avoided because they might bring another person’s status down a notch. That goes against the code. That’s lousy character.
Think: What are other ways you’ve seen desperate people get used or mistreated in everyday life?
Pray: Ask God to help you be a defender of people who are easy to take advantage of.
Do: Think of one lonely or broke or desperate person you could help out with today.
“. . . who keeps his oath even when it hurts . . .” (Psalm 15:4)
We’re getting back to where we started this week. Today’s piece of the code for a man or woman who would be welcome in God’s house is often included in the codes of cowboys and TV mob guys and superheroes. “A man’s word is his bond.” “If I said it, I’ll do it.” In an action movie, sometimes the hero even dies keeping a hard promise.
Keeping your word still matters in our culture. And in David’s world, an oath was a huge deal. Taking an oath was a way of making a contract, a promise beyond just agreeing to do something. God’s Law made it a sin to willfully break even a thoughtless oath. (See Leviticus 5:4) Jesus told people not to take oaths. Just have so much integrity that your “yes” and “no” stand on their own. (Matthew 5:37)
Sometimes keeping our word costs a lot more than we thought it would. Sometimes we have less time or money than we hoped when it’s time to pay up on a promise. David and Jesus say that should be our problem. Don’t promise easy. And be willing to suffer the pain of keeping those promises.
Think: How often do you say you’ll do something — and then not do it? Why do you think that’s so common in our culture? What can you do about it?
Pray: Ask God to help you to become known as a person who does what you say you’ll do. Ask Him to help you to be willing to suffer for that character quality.
Do: If you want to get an idea for how good you are at keeping your word, try this. Ask a couple of close friends or family members to rate you on a scale between 1 and 10 for this question: When you say you’re going to do something, how confident are they that you’ll actually do it?
“. . . who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD . . .” (Psalm 15:4)
Wait a minute! Didn’t David just write that part of this God-woshipper’s code was not to be hurtful to people, to carry compassion in our hearts and speak it with our mouths? Yes, that’s what I heard, too. So how does he turn around and say we should “despise” the bad guys?
The context here is important. David is not saying we should walk around with bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward anyone who does something wrong. He’s talking about what you will do with your own personal influence. In David’s time, people would give their loyalty and allegiance to a leader based on what he could do for them.
But what if that leader is a “vile man” who worships false idols, who participates in human sacrifice, who takes advantage of people for his personal gain? A God-worshipper should not give his “stamp of approval” to that person, even if it will make life easier for him. A “with God” person points his friends and neighbors to other God-honoring people.
Think: How are you using the power of your influence? What people, TV shows, and bands do you officially “approve”? Do you honor people of character or people who openly do wrong without caring about the consequences?
Pray: Ask God to help you use any influence you have to promote people who honor Him.
Do: Make a list of the top ten leaders, entertainment, and books you “approve of” with your friends? Put a check mark by the ones that demonstrate respect for God.
GET A GLIMPSE
Images are powerful. They stir up feelings and emotions and make you think about stuff. As you look at the image, let your mind, eyes and heart be engaged in conversation about life and faith and you may get a glimpse of God. Be engaged, start the conversation.
WHAT DID YA GLIMPSE
What do you [...]
“. . . who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman . . .” (Psalm 15:2-3)
In describing his code for how God-woshippers should live, David starts to get more specific with today’s verse. “With God” kind of people don’t tell lies. Specifically, they don’t tell lies to hurt other people. Or to put it in the positive, as David did, they “speak the truth from” their hearts.
It’s not just about not lying. David says that a person of character refuses to join in attacking someone else’s character. He will not make up stories to make someone look bad. His code leaves zero options for tearing others down to build himself up. He just will not throw mud that might damage someone’s reputation.
Often that means just keeping our mouths shut. But speaking truth from our hearts requires talking. The key is that our hearts have to be full of genuine care for the people in our lives. Once we get the anger out of our hearts, we’ll be ready to talk to and about our friends and neighbors in helpful ways — truthfully.
Think: People talk about others all the time. What do you think about the character of someone who is constantly saying hurtful things about other people?
Pray: Ask God to fill your heart with real compassion for your family members, friends, and neighbors — and for that compassion to come out in the words you say about them.
Do: Make a little score card to carry with you today. Give yourself a point one way or the other depending on whether you say something positive or negative about another person. At the end of the day, see which side wins.