The Thing Week 6: The Tension
Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “The Thing.” Today, this weekend, is the last of the series. So, for the last five weeks, we’ve been dealing with this subject matter. Today, we’re going to conclude. But, if this is your first time, rest assured. I do this at the beginning of every sermon to make sure that nobody feels like they don’t know what’s going on. I sort of do a recap of what we’ve been doing so you feel like, “Hey, I’m a part of what’s going on.”
So, here’s what we’ve been doing over the last several weeks. We’ve been taking a big idea, this thing, that the thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing. We’ve sort of been unpacking that. The way I’ve been doing that is this way here: I’ve been saying that a lot of times in our lives we’re trying to live out our Christian life, we focus on symptoms. Those are the things that we focus on. We’re like, “Okay. We go to prayer meeting. We do our thing. We pray for this or we try to overcome this in our life.”
But that’s a symptom of a root cause. Oftentimes, the thing that we’re focused on is not really the thing. There’s something behind the thing that’s creating these symptoms. So, over the last several weeks, we talked about things like unforgiveness. Unforgiveness can be a root cause of so many symptoms or so many fruits in our lives. If we’re aiming at the symptoms or we’re aiming at the fruits and not dealing with the cause or dealing with the root of this matter, we’re probably not going to see victory in our lives the way that we feel like we should.
We talked about things like our attitude. A bad attitude can create all kinds of symptoms in our life. We talked about 1 Corinthians 11. About doing life together. Paul even says, “When we don’t do life together right, when we don’t discern the body, there’s symptoms. Some are weak, and some have healed.”
Those are symptoms. But the root cause is not discerning the body. Last week, we talked about religion. We talked about how religion and trying to gain God’s love and His favor by the actions that we do and trying to perform to get God to love us — religion can create all kinds of symptoms in our life. So, what we’re going to do this weekend as we finish up — I sort of had debated to put this at the front of the series or at the back of the series. I’m so glad that I put it at the back now. This is sort of like the thing behind the thing behind the thing behind the thing. When you walk out of here and you go, “Okay. You know what? That’s good stuff. I do need to work on some unforgiveness. I’ve got some other root causes that I can deal with. This has been a good thing for me to learn.”
But you walk out of here and then, all of a sudden, life hits you and you start trying to struggle through. “How do I do this in my life? How do I practically walk out my Christianity? How does this work Monday-Saturday? Not on a Sunday where I go, ‘Oh, that was good. That can benefit me.’ Then Monday hits and it’s like, ‘How do I do this?”
I call that thing that’s behind all those things “The struggle.” The struggle is something that can be so debilitating in our lives if we don’t understand what the Bible says about this. Now, historically, we call this “sanctification.” How do I become more like Jesus? How do I take the lessons of the thing behind the thing and then how do I apply them to my life and actually see God work in my life? Well, if we don’t get this thing right, it can lead to defeated existence. Many Christians I’ve met, they’re just defeated. They’re like, “Man, I’m trying to run the hill. I’m trying to do the God thing. I’m trying to pray. It just seems like I never get there. It seems like it never works out for me.”
So, this struggle can create all kinds of issues and it can create doubt. So many Christians wonder if they’re a Christian or not a Christian. They wonder if they’re in or if they’re out depending upon how things are going that week. Many people are confused. They’re like, “How do I do this thing?”
Some people are just done. They’re like, “You know what? I tried to follow Jesus. I tried to do this thing and I couldn’t make it work.”
So, what happens is the struggle is the in-between. So, I can maybe make this a little bit clearer for everybody. Most of us in here, at some point, decided that we thought, “Hey, I need Jesus in my life.”
Now, if you’re here today and you’ve not made that decision and you’re not a Christian, you’re so welcome here that you can belong before you believe. Just sit back and hopefully enjoy what I have to say and just listen. You’re cool to be here. But, for those of us that decided to be a Christian — it’s funny, too, how when we decided to be a Christian, we all have our little ways we describe it. You know? My mom had some sisters that you had to be “born again.” Being a Christian wasn’t good enough. You had to be born again. Some people are like, “I asked Jesus into my heart.”
Some people are like, “I decided to become a disciple.”
We have all these terms that we use for being a Christian. But at some point, we made that decision that, “Hey, I want to follow Jesus,” and that’s where we realized we were forgiven. That was the start of the whole journey here. And then we knew that at the end there was eternity. We knew, “Okay, we’re going from here to here.”
But the struggle, the difficulty, is living out this middle part here — this struggle. For those of you all who like theological terms, this is justification, this is sanctification, and that is glorification. But the question is: “How do I live this thing out? How do I practically see God work in my life in a way that makes sense?”
Well, we’re going to look at that. But before we do, I want to give you a little story here that I think you will like. At least, I hope you will like it. I am a Church history buff. I’m committed to the fact that if we knew Church history better than we did as a Church, we wouldn’t commit a lot of the errors that we commit today. You know? It’s like everything that has been done wrong has been done in the last 2,000 years. We just need to read about it because they’ve done it. You can see it all through Church history. All the fumblings and bumblings, problems and issues. They’re there. It’s like the Chinese people say: “A fool learns from his mistakes as the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
So, understanding Church history is really, really important. There’s a great story that you Eusebius tells. Eusebius was a Church historian. He lived somewhere between 260 and 340 AD. Roughly in that time frame. And he tells a great story about John. This is John. You know? The Disciple John. The Apostle John. John the Elder. John that I personally believe wrote the Gospel of John, the three letters, 1, 2 and 3 John, and the Book of Revelation. This is John. John is an interesting guy because he lives longer than everybody. I mean, he lives into his 80s and maybe even into his 90s.
Eusebius tells a story about John. It’s an awesome story. John has been set free from Patmos. That’s where he wrote Revelation. He’s in his late 80s or early 90s. Somewhere in that vicinity. He is out still planting churches, still preaching the Gospel and out doing all these great things. He’s gone into a city. In the city, as he’s talking to the bishop, which is basically like our pastors today, he notices a young man that’s in the fold. He says, “This man has got it on him. This is a guy we need to really take under our wing and we need to work with.”
He tells the bishop, “You need to get this guy in here and work with him,” and the bishop says, “I will.”
So, John goes on his way. Well, John returns at a later date and he says, “How’s my boy doing?”
The bishop says, “Well, he’s dead.”
John just tears his clothes and falls on the ground and starts crying. I mean, he’s just hurt. And the bishop says, “Well, I sort of misspoke. He’s not dead physically. He’s just dead to God.”
And John says, “What do you mean?”
He says, “Well, I brought him in like you said. I started instructing him and I started telling him about the things of God. But he started running with some guys in the village here, and now they’ve formed a band of robbers and thieves. They live up in the mountains. They’re heavily armed. They come in and they kill people and rape women and do all this stuff. And he’s the leader.”
John’s like, “What? Get me a horse.”
The bishop says, “Get you a horse?”
He says, “Get me a horse.”
He says, “What are you going to do?”
He says, “I’m going to ride up in the mountains.”
He’s like, “Dude, you’re like 80-90 years old. This is not the time to get on it. They’ll kill you.”
He’s like, “I don’t care. Get me a horse.”
So, he gets on a horse and he rides up into the mountains. As he’s on his way up into the mountains, he’s captured. These young men are like, “What are you doing up here, old man?”
He says, “I came up here to get captured. Take me to your leader.”
They’re like, “Okay.”
So, they bring him into the area where they’re living, and the young man sees John and he takes off running. John is 80-90 years old and runs the boy down. He runs the boy down and he says to him, “Son, God has a plan for your life. What are you doing up here?”
He’s like, “Do you not understand you coming up here? You will die.”
He’s like, “I will gladly give my life for you to come back into the church and to follow Jesus.”
And the young man falls on his knees, drops his swords, knives and weaponry, and starts crying. He gets up and John puts him back on the horse. They go back, and the young man gets back involved in the church and doing ministry again.
The story is a cool story. I️ mean, that’s a cool story. But not only is it a cool story, but it’s so pregnant with so many things. It’s like, “How did John go from being the man who ran when Jesus was being arrested to running down people for Jesus in his lifetime? What happened? What happened?”
What about the boy? I mean, we can all sort of relate to the boy. It’s like you’re trying to do the Jesus thing and you maybe hang around the wrong people. Next thing you know, you’re up in the mountains and you’re going, “How did I get here? How do I get back?”
I mean, there’s so many things about just life that are pregnant in this story. And I think that’s why John is so rich when he writes, because he’s experienced the fullness of life and he’s experienced walking this thing out and living this thing out. In three verses in 1 John, he does, in my opinion, the greatest job in the New Testament of explaining what the Christian life looks like. What does sanctification look like? What does living the practical Christian life look like? And it’s interesting because if you read in 1 John 2, before you get to 1 John 3, people have actually left the Church, much like this young man.
So, he’s writing to a church, he’s writing to Christians and encouraging them in their faith to understand what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus. And here’s what he says to them.
He says, “See...” — focus here, guys. Focus, everybody. Focus here.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us,”
And see, John understands something, and it’s something that all of us need to understand as Christians. Salvation, God’s love and all of that is always the initiative of God. It’s not anything that we initiate. You know, Paul says it in Ephesians 2 clearly. He says, “We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God, with this incredible love that He loved us with, made us alive together with Christ.”
John says, “Hey, guys. Lean in here. Look at the kind of love that the Father has given to you and me. The love He’s given to you and I that we should be called children of God; and so we are. Guys, gals, the love of God is so incredible. It’s so beyond what you could ever even grasp, that He has called us His children. We’re His kids. We are kids of the most high God. Look at the love that He’s given to you and I that we should be called the children of God. And guys, gals, the reason why the world doesn’t know us is because it didn’t know Him.
“See, what’s happened is you were in a family and the family was called ‘the world.’ You’ve been moved from the family of the world into the family of God. Now you’re a child of God. You’re no longer a child of the world.”
He’ll say in 1 John 3:10, “There’s children of the devil and children of God. You’re no longer a child of the devil or a child of the world. You’re a child of God.”
And I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but when you got married, did you notice that you didn’t just marry a spouse? You also married a family. Can I get an amen? Ain’t that right? Whether you expected to or not. You’re like, “I’m going to live on love,” and then you start hanging out with the family. You’re like, “This is work.”
Anyway, the reality is when we get married, what we see usually — and it’s not everybody that sees this thing, but many of us do — is that families do things differently. They do the birthday thing differently than your family did the birthday thing. Or they do Christmas different than you did Christmas. Or they do Thanksgiving different. You had turkey and ham and it was done this way, and they do it this way. They have their traditions because every family is different. John says, “Hey, listen. Here’s what’s happened now: The love of God is so incredible towards you and me that He’s made us His children. The reason the world doesn’t know us anymore is because it didn’t know Him, because the world lives in a different family.”
He says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;” — this is huge — “but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we will see him as he is.”
He says, “Guys, we’re God’s children. We’ve been moved from one family to another. We’re God’s children now, but all that we’re going to have and all that we’re going to be is not all here yet. We’ve got some of it here now. Some of it’s still out here. But we know that when He appears, we’re going to be like Him.”
And listen to what he says: “And everyone who thus hopes in him...” — everyone who has that hope in Him — “...purifies himself even as he is pure.”
This is walking it out. This is sanctification. If you have the hope, you purify yourself even as Jesus is pure. Now, we read that, and we go, “That’s a lot of stuff. What’s really going on?”
Well, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to do sort of a deep-dive into all of this. We’re really going to do this right. So, here’s what I’m asking you to do. Spiritually, metaphorically, symbolically and with an analogy, imagine yourself, right now, putting on your thinking cap. Okay? So, everybody in this church is putting on their thinking cap, because we’re going to have to think here a little bit. We’re going to go to school right now and we’re going to learn a little bit. This is absolutely imperative. I promise to you, as your pastor, if we don’t get these truths, we will bankrupt Scripture. There’s so much bankruptcy going on in trying to live out this Christian life. I mean, I’ve read so many books that I just want to toss into the fire because they’re just terrible.
When I teach hermeneutics, which is how to read and study the Bible, one of the things I say — if you don’t get this, and there’s a few things, but this is one of them. If you don’t get this, you’re going to miss all of what’s going on in Scripture. You’re going to go to one extreme or the other every time. Here’s what John teaches us in this passage, and this is one of the huge keys to reading Scripture. We live in between two ages that have started to integrate. See, we’re Westerners. Mystical things and spiritual things? I want the bottom line, man. Just give me the bottom line. Give me the black and the white. Just give it to me. Bottom line.
The Bible doesn’t do that. The Bible always does this sort of in-between thing. You know? People go, “Well, was Jesus God or was He man?”
You go back to Church history and read? They argued about that. There was a group of people that said, “Well, He was a man. But He wasn’t fully God. I mean, He had God in Him, but He wasn’t fully, fully God. He was sort of like God.”
Then there were other people that said, “No. He’s God, but He wasn’t a man. We thought He was a man. We thought we could see Him. But, He wasn’t a man.”
That’s why John says in 1 John, “The things that we’ve touched, handled and seen,” because he’s talking about people who are starting to wonder, “Was Jesus really a man?”
Because how could He be both God and man? So, when Christians are asked, “Was Jesus God and man?” the answer is yes. We go, “Well, okay.”
We do that with the Bible, right? Was it written by people or was it the Word of God? The answer? Yes. Well, we want to go to one extreme or the other. But we live in-between two ages. Not understanding this will mess everybody up. The two ages that we live in, we refer to in the academic world as the “now” and the “not yet.” This is the way we phrase it. Anybody who teaches theology or anybody who talks about Scripture understands the embedded tension of the “now” and the “not yet.”
Here’s the way it works: We don’t like to be in the middle. We don’t like to have a tension. We don’t want to live there. We want it to be one way or the other. So, you’ve got people that are in the “not yet.” If you were raised in, sometimes, the mainline, traditional church, it’d be like, “In this world there’s going to be misery and there’s going to be suffering. But in the by-and-by, God’s going to do...”
You know? Remember those songs you used to sing? “Misery, suffering and pain. God’s going to do it all in the future in the sweet by-and-by.”
Can I tell you something? There’s a truth there. There is a truth. That’s not all the truth, but there’s a truth there. And look, I’m not dogging hymns. There’s some great hymns. Please don’t take me wrong. It reminds me of that story, I think y’all probably know it, where the pastor was like, “Hey, I know we’re sort of a cool church, but if you give a lot of money, we can do some hymns.”
The lady in the back, she gives a thousand dollars. He goes, “You can choose three hymns.”
She’s like, “I’m in!”
So, she gives a thousand dollars. He brings her up. He says, “Alright. You can choose three hymns.”
She goes, “Okay. I’ll take him, him and him.”
But, anyway, you go to the “not yet” and what happens is you have no power, you have no victory, you have no present working of God. Everything’s backloaded. Then what happens is — and this is pervasive in the church now — people go, “Oh, no, no, no. Let me tell you about the finished work of Christ. Everything you’ve got now.”
“Really? How come you still die?”
“How come you still get sick?”
“How come there are still wars?”
“Well, but, but, but...”
See? This is the problem. We want to go to one extreme or the other. We can’t. We live in between two eras. John says it. He says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.”
God’s broken into the now. There’s an integration of the “not yet” into the “now.” We’re God’s children now. But what we will be has not yet appeared. We’re in a transition. When we don’t understand that transition, we are going to misinterpret Scripture. Jesus refers to it as earth and heaven. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer? He says, “Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to pray that God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Why does He pray that? Because Jesus knew when the world was created, heaven and earth were created together. What happened was sin. Genesis 3. It separated earth and heaven. In Revelation 21, everybody’s not flying away to heaven. Heaven is coming back down, in Revelation 21, to earth. They are integrated again. Have you ever thought about this? If we didn’t have sin, the Bible would be a pamphlet. We’d have Genesis 1 and 2, and Revelation 21 and 22. That would be it. It’d be a pamphlet. Because of sin, it’s not.
So, Jesus says it’s earth and heaven. And what this does is this creates a tension. There’s a tension in Scripture. And what we don’t like is tension. We want to get rid of the tension. We want to move away from the tension. And no matter what you teach, no matter what you read, the tension is there. Period. You can say, “Oh, I don’t have it at all.”
Yes, you do. Because you’re still not living it the way you want to live it. There’s a tension. We live in between two eras. That’s why we go to the Bible and we see, “Old man; new man. Flesh; spirit. Sinner; saint”
We go, “What do we do with all of that?”
The tendency is to want to go to one extreme or the other, and not live in the tension. And let me explain how other writers explain this. It’s clear. I️ could spend hours up here going through passages of Scripture, but because we’re Westerners and all we think of is bottom line and we want solutions to everything, tension doesn’t solve anything for you and me. We want a solution to the tension. There is no solution to the tension. We live in between two eras.
This is the way Paul says it: “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and you believed in him,” — when you made that commitment — “you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance...” — look — “...until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
See, this word here, “guarantee,” is a deposit. Many of you all — I’m 47, so I sort of date myself a little bit. Most of you all, if you’re younger than me, you don’t remember a layaway plan. Layaway plans were of God back when I was a kid, because there’d be like a town of 6,000 people in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and there wasn’t like here in Sarasota where you go to the store and there’s 9 bikes that you can buy. There was one. I mean, they’re still playing Star Wars in Cynthiana, Kentucky. You know what I’m talking about?
The point is that there was one bike. If you wanted that bike, you’d go in and say, “Here’s my 10 bucks, because I’m going to come get that bike. Every week I’m going to pay a little bit until I can get it.”
Okay. The spirit is a guarantee. He’s a deposit. That’s the word here that Paul uses. He’s a deposit of what you’re going to get. So, there’s some of it you’ve got. The Spirit of God has come into you, but it’s not all of it. It’s some of it. Because the inheritance is going to be something that we acquire possession of in the “not yet,” even though we have some of it in the “now.” Paul says it another way in 2 Corinthians 6. There’s no Bible chapters and verses in the original text, so sometimes they’re really badly divided. At the end of 2 Corinthians 6, Paul starts talking about that day when God’s going to live with us and we live with Him.
Here’s what he says: “Since we have these promises not yet, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Here we go. Here’s the tension. Here’s the “not yet.” Here’s the “now.” We’re in the “now” and the “not yet.” Peter says it this way: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
You go, “Don’t I have all the grace now?”
No. You have some grace now. You don’t have all the grace that you’re going to get. You don’t have all the fullness of everything that you’re going to get, because you live in between two ages. As Americans and Westerners, we don’t like the tension because the tension is like, “Well, we don’t like the tension. I don’t want the tension. I want the tension to go away.”
The tension’s not going away. But what we learn from this — and this is huge, this is huge — is that future certainties are the foundation for present living. Now, notice what I did not say. I didn’t say, “Present living is the foundation for future certainties.”
I didn’t say what you’re doing is guaranteeing you in the future. What I said was because the future is guaranteed, that changes the way you and I live. Let me give you an example. Let’s assume that you all want to go to Yale or Harvard. Great schools. I mean, if you were godly, you’d go to Kentucky. But, Yale or Harvard or whatever. So, you apply to that school. When you get that letter of acceptance, you’re in. Now, you’re not going until August, but you’re in. So, what do you do? Well, you start buying the t-shirts, the bags, the sweatshirts. Why? Because that future certainty changes the way you’re living in the present.
You’re not doing those things to get in. You’re already in. You’re doing those things because of the future certainty. Big difference. For instance, we elect a president every four to eight years. When we elect the president, there’s a period of transition. In that period of transition, they’re doing all of this work to get ready for when there’s the inauguration. Okay? They’re not doing all of that work to become president. They’re doing all of that work because of the certainty that on January 21st they’re going to be sworn in as president. Big difference.
The work going on, the preparation going on, the sanctification going on is not earning something. It’s because of the certainty of the future that you’re doing things here because of how certain you are of the future. Let’s tease that out here a little bit and show you how this works.
Since God has granted us status as His children now, that gives you and me hope and assurance towards the “not yet.” Look at what he says:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;”
We’re His children, but we’re not fully everything that we’re going to be, because there’s still problems in this world because we live in between two ages. Listen. He says, “Because we are God’s children, and because we know that out there is the future certainty that what’s going to happen is going to happen,” he doesn’t say, “So we pray.”
No. He doesn’t say, “So, we try.”
No. He doesn’t say, “So, we do more.”
No. He says, “Because of this, we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
That future certainty changes living in the present not to guarantee the future certainty, but the present living in the future is because you know that what’s going to happen is when He appears, you will be like Him. Let me put it another way for you: Performance is off, but preparation and purification is on. Here’s what he says:
“Everyone who has the hope and certainty of what’s going to happen purifies himself as he is pure.”
Let me explain how I think this analogy here will work. I’ve called this the “IRS extravaganza.” I think you’ll find this funny. A long time ago, I made a commitment when I was in the business world. We were successful and making good money. I decided that the best way to do our taxes — which my accountant completely disagreed with me on — is that we were just going to claim our kids, our mortgage interest, and a part of what we gave charitably. And that was it. We weren’t going to do anything more. And the accountant is like, “Dude, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.”
I’m like, “I’ve got it.”
He’s like, “But why are you doing that?”
I go, “Because, if I ever get audited, I’m going to win. I’m going to crush the IRS if they audit me.”
And he’s like, “You’re crazy.”
I’m like, “That’s fine. I’m crazy.”
Until I got the letter. “Mr. Bennett, we think you owe us a bunch of money.”
I was like, “Alright! Unleash the Kraken!”
Man, we got so much money from the IRS back. And do you know what? When we knew that money was coming, do you know what it did? It changed the way we lived because we knew it was coming. We weren’t changing the way we live to get that money. We were living in light of that money coming in. Big difference. See, that future certainty changed the way I was living today. There was still stuff going on. There were still issues and whatever. But, we knew that was coming in and we said, “We’ll put this aside here for the kids for college. We’re going to do this and we’re going to buy this.”
We’d already figured out all the stuff because the way we were living was changed in light of that future certainty. So, here’s the take-homes. There’s only two. They’re simple, simple take-homes.
First of all, give yourself permission to live in the tension. It’s okay. It’s okay to live in the tension. The reason it’s okay to live in the tension, the reason you should give yourself permission to live in the tension is because of the second take-home. Embrace the tension for what it is: Assurance. The fact that you live in between two ages is the fact that you are a child of God. There’s an assurance in the tension. We don’t like the tension. We don’t want to live in the tension. We want to solve the tension. You’re not going to solve the tension. You live in between a “now” and a “not yet.”
It’s basically like a play is done and the curtain has dropped. The play’s over. It’s done. But we’re waiting for the curtain to go back up so everybody can come out and take the bow. We live in between the curtain drop and the curtain raise. We live in between the “now” and the “not yet.”
I put it this way. I penned this out for this message: God wants to give you and me victories now, so we can have testimony to His power. In other words, everything’s not just backloaded. We pray for healings today. We believe that God can overcome. We believe in victory. We believe in those things. But we also know, as we do those things, at the same time He provides us assurance that the complete victory we long for will come to fruition in the “not yet.”
Now, I prayed and said, “God, can You give me a great example of this?”
Here’s what came to my mind, and hopefully this will make sense. If Mindy and I decided today that we were going to adopt a kid from overseas, when the paperwork was complete, that’s our kid. Now, we’ve got to get the kid from there to here. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re our kid there. The Bible basically says the same thing about you and I. God lives in the heavenlies. That’s not up there, that’s just the heavenlies. We live on the earth. But, when we become God’s children, He adopts us. The Bible says we’re already citizens of heaven. Why? Because when the paperwork’s done and you’re adopted, then you’re a child of God. It’s done. You’re a citizen of heaven and you’re no longer a citizen of the earth. You’re a child of God. All of those things.
But there’s a transition between here and here. Let’s assume that you had to get on a plane to get to here. While you’re on that plane, because you’re so excited about the fact that you’ve been adopted by this father, you’re going to want to read about who your father is so that when you meet him you know who he is.
You’re not reading on that plane because you want to get Him to be your Father. You’re reading about Him because you already know that He is your Father. You’re going to put on good clothes and clean up. Why? You already are adopted. You already are His child. You’re putting those things on because you know where you’re going. You’ll get off the plane and be able to take pictures. You don’t want to be all gangly and all this stuff. You want to look as if, “Hey, when I get off the plane, I want to be there.”
You’re not doing it to earn favor. You’re not doing it to get Him to be your Father. You’re doing it because you have a hope and an assurance that, “Hey, when I get off that plane, I’m going to meet my Father.”
That’s a surety. That’s going to happen. And because of that, it changes the way you and I live in the now. And see, this forever separates all of the, “Well, you’re telling me to do things so I can...”
No. I’m not telling you to do anything. I’m telling you to live in light of the future. What you’re doing is not securing you anything. What you’re doing is living out the conviction that you have of you’re going to meet your Father. And I think we need to learn to pray like Paul did and to talk like Paul did. Here’s what he said:
“I am sure of this. This is what I’m sure of, guys. I’m confident in this. I know this. This is what I know. I’m sure of this. He that began a good work in you will bring it to its completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Not ‘might.’ He will do it. I’m sure of this. I’m sure that the God who began a good work in me, that called me His son and daughter, I️ am convinced, I️ am sure that He’s going to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus.”
And, see, it’s living in that tension. It’s living in that understanding of the “now” and the “not yet” that helps you and me work through practical sanctification and practical living-out this life that God has called you and I to live. Because you can’t deny the Bible talks about all the things we’re supposed to be doing. But we’re not doing them to guarantee our future, we’re doing them because our future is guaranteed. Big difference. And there’s a freedom in that if we can understand it.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, that You have not left us to our own devices. Lord, I thank You that You’ve given us, in these majestic passages of Scripture, the truths that we need to know to live this thing out. Lord, the two prayers I have today is if there’s anybody in here that’s never started that journey with Jesus, Lord, I pray that today would be the day that they realize that You went to great lengths to bring them home.
Lord, I pray that they would hear Your call today and hear Your Spirit beckon, and that they’d make that journey and say, “I’m in.”
And Lord, for those of us that are Christians, and Lord, we walk out of here today and we say, “How am I going to live this thing out? How am I going to do the thing?”
Lord, knowing that we live in the tension between the two ages and giving ourselves permission to live there and understanding that we’re just living in light of the future certainties — we’re not procuring anything, we’re not earning anything. We’re just living out what we already know to be true, and we want to, on that plane, know who our Father is. We want to get the clothes on the best that we can, because we know we’re going to meet our Father. And it’s not because we’re earning anything. It’s because we’re so certain of what the outcome is that it changes the way we live in the present, for Your glory and for Your honor.
So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You’d watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to birth in our church Your Son. Lord, help us to be the church that truly reaches those that are outside the four walls, being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You and we thank You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a hand clap. God bless everybody. Have a great day.