Looking_towards_the_future_WIP_by_acday1001

The work of the ministry is often about lifting up the other’s chin. We put a knuckle underneath, raise it up, and attempt to get them to look at God. We are tipping them toward hope in what God is going to do. Tipping them toward seeing the unseen. Shifting their line of sight from looking down in doubt, to looking up in belief. It is about getting them to think differently about their future.

Paul is always doing this in his letters. Paul is setting the believer’s heart toward the future. Paul says “seek the things that are above” to the Colossians (Col 3:1). “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Col 3:4) “When Christ….” I love that word “when.”  It is a future-word. Paul constantly wrote this way (Rom 5:2; 8:25; 1 Cor 15:53; 2 Cor 4:17; Eph 2:7; Phil 3:14; 1 Thess 5:9-10; 2 Thess 2:16-17; 1 Tim  6:19; 2 Tim 4:1; Titus 3:7). It is much like what Dallas Willard describes in his book The Divine Conspiracy:

“To live strongly and creatively in the kingdom of the heavens, we need to have firmly fixed in our minds what our future is to be like. We want to live fully in the kingdom now, and for that purpose our future must make sense to us. It must be something we can now plan or make decisions in terms of, with clarity and joyful anticipation. In this way our future can be incorporated into our life now and our life now can be incorporated into our future.” (Divine Conspiracy, 376)

This is what Paul did with the chaotic Corinthian church. The more excellent way Paul presents is seeing the future in God (1 Cor 12:31). This is bigger and better than anything the Corinthians could imagine. We know the Corinthians loved knowledge and power. Paul lists some of the big things they got excited about: tongues of angels, all mysteries and knowledge, faith to move mountains, giving away all one’s possessions. These were probably concepts the super-apostles used to astonish the Corinthian congregation (2 Cor 12:11). They were eating it up. Paul bursts all those lofty concepts like so many soap bubbles. Paul’s more excellent way is infinite, because it is as excellent and immense as God.

Seeing the future in God – glorious (Col 3:4), divine (1 Jn 3:1-2), and all-powerful (Phil 3:20) – elevates a person to the ultimate of intimate ends. The expectation is to see face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12). There is not a more personal posture than that. Equally, the communal is the future, because love abides forever. So the two, individual and community, are linked together in this ultimate of intimate ends. Willard writes, “A human life or a human world is one that holds together in terms of the future. It essentially involves meaning” (Divine Conspiracy, 386). For Paul to give the Corinthians something truly meaningful, it needed to last – inexhaustibly. So he gave them the more excellent way of a future with God.

Give your people a glimpse of their future. Nothing else will have a greater impact on their perspective of the present.

Check out this conversation between Dallas Willard and John Ortberg about how God is at work doing something very big in the world, but that it often gets unnoticed. We get glimpses of this “Divine Conspiracy” and hear the whisper of Jesus inviting us to enter in. The choice is up to us.

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