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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 isn’t that good Christians don’t 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 aren’t making the connection with how the THEN needs to shape NOW.

Unfortunately, we don’t 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 – It’s 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

I think this is because we have NOW and THEN unbalanced.

We want to get to heaven THEN, but we don’t know how to talk about the kingdom of heaven NOW.

Bad Ideas from Imbalance:

  1. Faith and religion is something like fire insurance – Don’t 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 don’t upset God. Simplistic and visionless view. A bad investment in a NOW that has no connection to God’s THEN.
  2. This life and this world is just a waiting room. We are supposed to get the word out because God isn’t doing anything about it. (This is an exaggeration, I understand but do we notice that?) NOW is unimportant. THEN is all that matters.
  3. 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.

Better Idea:

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 February 2010

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