Monday, May 01, 2006

“Beginning With The End in Mind”

1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-48[1]

Steven Covey is world famous for his book entitled, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Many of you may be able to quote the lines as well as I can—to be a “highly effective” person, you must be proactive, which means “beginning with the end in mind.” Covey advises us to picture the epitaph we would like inscribed on our tombstones, and then make that the goal that we proactively pursue. At the time the book came out, I believe my goals were to be a faithful servant of God, to be a supporting and loving husband, and to be an understanding and loving father.

The only problem with that kind of thinking is that it doesn’t go far enough. If you’re looking for success in this life, you’re bound to be bitterly disappointed at some point. No matter how well you “begin with the end in mind,” bad things do happen to good people! All the time, in fact!

1 John gives us a different goal to shoot for. He says that when we stand before the risen Lord Jesus, we will not only see him as he is, but we will also be like him (1 John 3:2)! The promise of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is that we too will be resurrected to a new life, and when that happens, we will be “conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom. 8:29).[2]

But there’s more! Believing in the resurrection of Jesus points us not only to our new life, but also to the restoration of all things in a new world![3] God has a lot more in store than just making it possible for the chosen few to “go to heaven when we die.”

The promise of salvation is this: God is working to restore all creation to the point where everything is “very good” once again. The Good news of the Gospel is this: “Behold I am making the all things new” (Rev. 21:3; or “Now I am making the whole of creation new” as The Jerusalem Bible translates it). [4] Our Confession of 1967 puts it this way: “It is the will of God that his purpose for human life shall be fulfilled under the rule of Christ and all evil be banished from his creation.”[5]

How’s that for beginning with the end in mind! It may seem outrageous at first glance, but it’s no more outrageous than believing in the resurrection of a Crucified Messiah! As we celebrate this Third Sunday of Easter, it’s important to recognize that resurrection is not simply something that happened a long time ago to Jesus of Nazareth. The resurrection opens the door to God’s new reality that is already breaking into this world and transforming our lives.[6] The resurrection also points us to the promise that God is working to restore everything that is and ever was to its rightful place under the Lordship of Christ (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:23). The promise is that God will not rest until the “whole of creation” is made new!

If that’s the “goal” that we’re shooting for, what does it look like for you and me to “begin with the end in mind?” I think it may have widespread implications for the way we life the Christian life. First and foremost, I think it will mean that we find ourselves called to the mission of Christ. Because we have the hope of a new life in a new creation, we have the courage to carry out the mission of “faith expending itself in the pain of love.”[7] The promise of the Gospel makes it possible for us to sacrificially offer all that we are to promote the kingdom of God, sharing the amazing grace we’ve come to know in Jesus the Christ with a hurting and broken world.[8]

[1] A Sermon preached 4/30/06 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX.

[2] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.2.117.

[3] Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope, 110.

[4] Brunner, Eternal Hope, 61

[5] Confession of 1967, 9.53.

[6] Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 197; cf. N. T. Wright, Simply Christian, 92.

[7] Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 337-38.

[8] Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 203, 212-13, 278.

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