NOW AND THEN
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Right now, many of us are thinking about what we want to be doing an hour from now. Here we are in the now but we are focused on then.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be in live at the restaurant.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be heading to the golf course.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be settling into my recliner and looking for something on TV that will make me take a nap.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I have a meeting to attend and some shopping to finish before ministry tonight.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be driving the van back after taking others home.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN we will still be chatting with friends.
This may seem like a ploy to get your attention. It is. But the message isnt that good Christians dont let their minds wander. No. In fact I want to encourage you to use the ability to think about NOW and THEN just like Jesus does in his parables.
Matthew 13:44-46 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Make up two words: Now-ness and Then-ness. Now-ness is everything about the present reality of the kingdom. Then-ness is everything we know about the future reality of the kingdom.
We need to live in and think about the NOW-ness of the Kingdom of Heaven and the THEN-ness of it.
We need to live in and think about how the THEN of the kingdom has to do with the NOW.
We are conditioned to think about how the NOW shapes THEN. The future is today. The choices you make today determine the sort of person you will be. But this parable says that the THEN determines the NOW. The treasure is found and then the man buys the field. The pearl is discovered and then the man sells all that he has.
Unfortunately, the Kingdom is usually a THEN subject and we have not always related it to NOW. We know the treasure is buried in the field and one day we hope to own it, but we arent making the connection with how the THEN needs to shape NOW.
Unfortunately, we dont always connect church to the Kingdom of Heaven as we should. And this is going to sound strange, but one of the problems is that we focus too much on getting to heaven. (Afterlife thinking Its all about THEN, with no thought for NOW.)
Go for the Gold There is Doubt about victory. 2/100 of a second may keep one from winning gold [at the Winter Olympics]. But what if we went into a sport knowing that we would win? Would we still play? Would we play to win? Would we play like we already were winners? (The concentration camp prisoners knew that they were liberated even before they were freed.)
The good news is that you have been given the treasure. You have found the pearl.
Getting to Heaven
- This is how some of you became a Christian: You wanted to get to heaven and didnt want to go to hell.
- If this is where you are at today, then I have good news: It is simple. Jesus has secured your entry into heaven. But you dont know what I have done. Maybe I dont but God does and the blood of Christ and the Love of God has covered over that sin and brokenness. All we have to do is accept it. When you are baptized into Christ you are united with Christ in his death (and dead to the power of sin) and you will be united with him in his resurrection. Why complicate this? Its that simple.
- For the rest of us who have been baptized because we wanted to get to heaven why is it that we still fret and wonder if we are going to get to heaven THEN? Why do we still talk about it as if there is something else we are supposed to do NOW to get to heaven THEN other than trust God? Why do we still depend on ourselves? Why do we think that there is some work we have to do NOW if we want to get to heaven THEN?
- And what is the point of all the energy and effort we expend on managing the church and laboring in Gods service is getting to heaven THEN isnt dependent on what we do NOW other than trust Jesus? Sometimes we dont seem to be able to understand how receiving the Kingdom in full THEN has anything at all to do with NOW other than stay out of trouble.
I think this is because we have NOW and THEN unbalanced.
We want to get to heaven THEN, but we dont know how to talk about the kingdom of heaven NOW.
Bad Ideas from Imbalance:
- Faith and religion is something like fire insurance Dont we sometimes make our faith into something we take care of now so that when this is over then we are okay. Beyond this obligation we can do whatever else we want with our life as long as we dont upset God. Simplistic and visionless view. A bad investment in a NOW that has no connection to Gods THEN.
- This life and this world is just a waiting room. We are supposed to get the word out because God isnt doing anything about it. (This is an exaggeration, I understand but do we notice that?) NOW is unimportant. THEN is all that matters.
- NOW and THEN are disconnected. Church is a project or product that God has given to us to keep us busy. It is something we have to maintain or build.
- (But scripture never says that we are responsible for building the kingdom of heaven. We can build up each other but God is building the Kingdom. We can purify ourselves, but God purifies the church).
- We give kids things to keep them busy to pass the time. Meaningless diversion. If the THEN is all that matters, then church (which is NOW) is not very important. How does it fit?
- Church is much more than a project or something we have to maintain.
- There is a THEN of the Kingdom that breaks into the NOW (Little green signs outside those little green signs indicate to us that the NOW of the field is not its THEN. Its NOW is effected by its THEN)
- God has a building project. He has put little green signs all over our world. The rightful owner of this world is going to do much more with the world around us then we might imagine.
- Our salvation is going on right now. God is turning over the soil and filing the papers to renovate this world. The present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:31)
- The church is not a meanwhile project, it is the first sign of the reconstruction project. We are the field with the buried treasure. We are the man reinvesting his property in hidden treasure.
- We are about more than Getting to Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking into our NOW and we are living in it and living up to it.
- We are a people who treat the NOW based on the THEN that we trust is coming our way.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 February 2010
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