The Mind of Christ Part II—Thinking Eternally
[SLOW] It’s been said that the Christian life is the process of becoming who you already are.
It’s been said that the Christian life is the process of becoming who you already are.
[SLOW] It’s been said that the Christian life is the process of becoming who you already are.
The idea is that you await a great and wonderful life, eternally with Jesus Christ, and the way you get there is by pursuing that end now.
Two weeks ago, we talked about having the ‘Mind of Christ.’ The pattern that we uncovered in the text is that the Spirit of God communicates through the spiritual in the church to the people of the church so that the people of the church grow spiritually.
And I wanted to spend some time developing the final part of the spiritual person. We talked about it briefly, but the spiritual person thinks with the end in mind. The spiritual person looks to the ultimate goal. The spiritual person knows what the end is like, knows what the goal is, and lives their lives in pursuit of that end.
You can see where we get this. The Apostle Paul writes,
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (, ESV)
Here Paul tells us that spiritual people have received a revelation. Spiritual people know something about the end—the things that God has prepared for us—because the Spirit of God has revealed it to us.
So, today, I want to start a 3-part miniseries here in the middle of our exploration of the letters to the Corinthians to look at three aspects of the revelation that God has revealed to us. I want to look at three truths that the Spirit of God has made clear to us in the scriptures about the end, about God’s eternal Kingdom. And as we look at those three truths, I want to uncover in as practical a way as possible, how we can live out those truths in our lives today.
I’m calling this series ‘Thinking Eternally,’ because even on this side of eternity, we can still think as eternal people, living for our inheritance in God’s Eternal Kingdom.
So, the first truth about the end and our topic for today is,
The Psalmist sang this song,
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God. (, ESV)
When Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven after rising from the dead, the disciples were speaking with Him.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (, ESV)
They wanted to know the means to the end. They wanted to know, is the end going to happen now or later, and if not now, ‘Then when?’
He [Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (, ESV)
Notice, Jesus isn’t willing to tell them the means. He isn’t going to tell them how everything is going to unfold. But, he tells them the end. He tells them what is going to happen. He points to this idea of the nations. He tells them that they will tell people of all nations, even to the end of the earth, what they had seen and heard about Jesus. They had a message for all the nations.
Further, Jesus said to the disciples,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (, ESV)
Jesus told the disciples to go to all nations to make more disciples, more followers of Jesus.
The idea is that there is the Kingdom of God and the nations of this world. As part of the demonstration that Jesus’s eternal Kingdom is supreme over every other Kingdom, Jesus tells the disciples to go to every nation on the earth to bring them into subjection under Christ’s Kingdom.
And notice, this isn’t an ‘if’ issue. It’s not in the realm of possibility that the Gospel will not reach all the nations of the earth. I say that for two reasons. First, the Bible says it explicitly, ‘All the nations shall come and worship before you, O Lord’ (). But second, and maybe you’ve never heard this, but the Gospel has already in some respects reached all the nations.
And you’re like, wait a minute! I know there are tribes that have never even seen someone from another country and they don’t have the Gospel. And that’s true. But, every ‘tribe and tongue’ is what we think when we read ‘all nations’ through contemporary Western eyes. We read every single people group on the planet—every tribe and every variation of ethnicity.
But, taxonomizing people groups is kind of a new thing. The people of the ancient Hebrews didn’t do that. They recognized about 70 unique people groups or nations that stemmed from Noah and his three sons as listed in , a chapter of scripture we call ‘The Table of Nations.’ You can go there if you want and count them up. There should be 70 nations listed.
And we have evidence in the scriptures that the early disciples were thinking about those 70 nations. Here’s one evidence. The Apostle Paul seems to have had this in mind in when he told the Romans that he might be able to visit them when he heads to Spain. He writes,
I hope to see you [the Romans] in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. (, ESV)
So, here’s the odd thing. Paul has never been to Rome. There are Christians there that took the Gospel back from Jerusalem after Pentecost. We know that they had been in contact with both Paul and Peter. And Peter made many missionary journeys to them. Paul wasn’t worried about getting to Rome, although he thought it might be a nice visit. But, he needed to get to Spain.
Why was Spain so important?
Believe it or not, Isaiah told them Spain would be important many years before Jesus even came to earth. The prophet Isaiah said,
“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. (, ESV)
I won’t get into all of those cities, but they’re all far away cities inhabited by some of the people of the original 70 nations that all other nations stemmed from. You remember Tarshish from the story of Jonah. Jonah tried to flee the presence of God by going to Tarshish because it was soooooo far away! Tarshish was the port city of Spain in Paul’s day, and Paul was really concerned to get the Gospel to these people because he wants to get the gospel to all the nations. As Isaiah said, ‘the time is coming to gather all the nations.’
I can say that a different way. When Jesus said, ‘all nations,’ and ‘ends of the earth,’ Paul didn’t hear Jesus saying to take the Gospel to every single different ethnic division. That’s an implication of modern thinking. Paul and every other ancient reader would have understood Jesus to mean that he was to take the Gospel to the 70 nations that were divided at Babel. And in Paul’s day, the Gospel made it to all of them, except Spain, so Paul was going. That was the mission. Paul was going to the last place on earth that Jesus commanded them to take the Gospel.
And we don’t know for sure if Paul ever made it, but we do know from church history that the Gospel made it. The prophecy was fulfilled by the disciples by the end of the first century. So, as far as ‘reaching the nations’ being an end times prophesy, it’s just not a biblical thing. That’s an error we make when we infer our concept of ethnicity backward onto the biblical concept of nations.
Now some of you know this, so I’ll address it. The word translated as nations from the Greek is ethne, the word we get the English word ‘ethnicity’ from. So, you can see how we make this mistake. But, when we interpret ancient literature, we cannot cast our ideas backward onto the ancient word. Instead, we need to draw the meaning of the ancient word forward into our understanding today.
I want you to notice the heart of the statement, though. You see, the point of taking the Gospel to the 70 nations was that all people in the world at that time would have access to the Gospel. The point is that all people who hear the Gospel can be a part of God’s eternal Kingdom if they denounce their loyalties to the world and become loyal to Christ. The significance of the command to take the Gospel to the nations is that Jesus is not just gathering a Kingdom of Jews, but of all people. And that’s what we see in the end—all the nations.
So, that’s an end times thing. But, there’s a here and now thing as well. Let’s talk about here and now.
Why is it that our churches are by-and-large segregated by ethnicity if God’s Eternal Kingdom is supposed to be so diverse?
I believe it is because each culture has its own set of values. And those values aren’t always God’s values, even if we think they are. I want to be clear here. Every ethnic group has cultural values. Some of those values reflect God’s values. Some do not. No ethnic group fully reflects God’s values in every way. So, when we have values that aren’t God’s values, and we don’t share our values together, then we have trouble getting along. And that results in divided churches.
That won’t be an issue in eternity when we are free from bondage to this world, but we still live in this world, now. I can’t begin to express how important it is that we listen to the values of other cultures around us—even if we think they are wrong—and especially when we are dealing with other Christians, we need to get on the same page—not my page, not your page, not anyone else’s page, but God’s page.
That’s a task that takes a great deal of humility, but the humble will inherit the Kingdom of God, so that’s probably a good thing.
Let’s talk about…
We’ll have an exercise this morning. I want you to forget about your political preferences for this next part of the discussion. I want you to forget what values your parents might have tried to teach you about these issues. I want you to forget what people of your ethnic background tend to think about these things. Don’t presume that you already understand these values on a biblical level. And let’s just look at a few things the Bible says about God’s perspective on a few things that I’ve seen dividing Christians along ethnic boundaries.
The first we’ll look at is Social Programs—welfare, food stamps, and all that.
The Israelites communities had a long-standing tradition of caring for two groups of people. They cared for fellow Israelites. And they cared for foreigners who lived among them. This was commanded in the law.
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (, ESV)
God tells Israel that when they were immigrants in Egypt, they were cared for by the Egyptians. So, then, when foreigners are among them, they are commanded to care for them. God’s people were commanded to care for the immigrants who lived among them.
Now, that seems like a simple enough argument that the US should have social programs to care for the needy among us. But, there’s another facet to this.
Israel was a theocratic nation. That means that following God was a natural part of the political process. There was no divide between God’s laws for the individual and the laws of the land. The US, however, is not a Christian nation. What you have to understand here is that God does not command governments to care for needy people—whether foreigner or citizen. God commands God’s people to care for the needy among them.
God calls His people to care for the needy among them. God does not call governments to care for the needy.
So, social programs?
Yes, in the church. And in the neighborhoods where Christian’s live. And amidst circles of friends, family, and coworkers where Christians are present.
How about for the state?
Well, scripture doesn’t forbid the state to have social programs. It’s actually silent on that question. So, this is an area of freedom, I suppose.
But, let me point to two dangers. One: For the person who does not support social programs, please make sure that you are active in providing help to the needy among you, as the church, before you choose to take a stand against the state. In other words, don’t vote against social programs run by the state and don’t go gallivanting your opinions all over Facebook unless you are actively involved in the social welfare of your friends, family, neighbors, and so on.
And two: If you are the person who does want to see state-sponsored social programs, please make sure you are not trusting in social programs for your provision, but rather that you are trusting in God and God’s people, first and foremost. Don’t receive welfare from the state without making your needs known to the church. And don’t deny someone help when they need it because they can get help from the state. That’s a disconnect because it is first and foremost the churches responsibility.
Let’s hit another one. Refugees and Immigration.
Should the US allow people from other countries into our country?
And I’ll keep this one short. We just read,
You shall treat the stranger [foreigner] who sojourns [immigrates] with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (, ESV)
So, the same model applies as in the previous point. This has to do with how God’s people are to act, not with how God commands the US to act. You, Christian, must protect and care for the refugee and the immigrant—legal or illegal—among you because God had cared for you when you sojourned among His people, the church.
We don’t have the license to be callous towards immigrants as if they don’t belong here. That they are here means we have a God-given responsibility to love them as ourselves. They are our neighbors whether we like it or not.
As far as the US goes, you can’t really help that they are your neighbors, except for how you vote. And you are going to have to vote to have safe laws regarding immigration and all of that. Use wisdom. But, remember that your first priority in your political interests is to care for those God has allowed to sojourn among you—refugees and immigrants. In other words, if you vote for a policy to send refugees back into harms-way, or back into poverty, you work against God’s command to love your neighbor and to care for the sojourner among you.
This a complicated issue, so I’m not trying to tell anyone how they must vote. Rather, I’m helping you understand God’s heart so that you can make informed decisions for yourself.
Let’s hit one more. How should we feel about Marijuana use?
I’ll be honest up front on this one. There is a gray area with this one because I and many of you simply don’t have enough experience with it to make a perfect judgment. But, Paul says,
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (, ESV)
Notice this isn’t a command not to consume alcohol, but not to overly indulge. For Paul, overindulgence in alcohol works against our ability to engage the Spirit of God. Therefore, drunkenness is debauchery—or sinful—because it prevents us from living as spiritual people.
It follows, that, if you shouldn’t be drunk with alcohol, then any other form of drunkenness is out of the question, also. Again, I won’t pretend to be the expert on marijuana, but it seems to me that marijuana use is drunkenness in the sense that it inhibits your mind and senses. And I don’t know if there is a way to smoke pot and not overindulge. I really don’t. It’s definitely true for alcohol, but I don’t know about marijuana. You would have to tell me. But, it seems unlikely to me that you could smoke a small enough amount for it not to be drunkenness and still serve whatever purpose you intend it to serve.
And then there’s the question of medical necessity. Culturally, we don’t look down on people who become uninhibited because of prescription medications that they don’t have any choice about. When someone is injured in the hospital, and they are given morphine, we don’t call that sin. So, this is complicated.
I want to give a guardrail, though. Marijuana use is definitely sin according to Paul if it’s used recreationally to the point of drunkenness because it prevents you from living according to God’s Spirit. And I think that leaves a very small window for appropriate use, if any, except for possibly medically.
So, on any side of this argument, I think it’s important to have patience and understanding for the other side because it’s just not as clear of an issue as many of us like to make it out to be. There are definite biblical guardrails, but variance in opinion within those guardrails. Remember that as you consider the laws of our land and remember those guardrails when you speak your opinions or share them online.
And in all these things truth is only truth if it’s presented in love.
And there are lots of other issues we could talk about. But, my point in this discussion is that we need to get to the heart of the issue and not worry about our cultural preferences. We need to get past ‘what I think’ to get to God’s heart if we are ever going to be a church that is represented by ‘the nations.’
Let’s close by…
And to understand God’s heart, we can simply go to the story Jesus told about the Samaritan man. It almost starts like a joke. A priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan were traveling down the road one day … and they came across a man who had been robbed and beaten.
So, the story goes, the Priest couldn’t make himself unclean by touching a dying man, so he crossed on the other side of the street and went his way. Likewise, the Levite didn’t want to help him for similar reasons, so he crossed by on the other side of the street.
But, then the Samaritan comes along. And you have to understand the significance of the Samaritan. Samaritans weren’t Jews. And they weren’t Assyrians, who were the enemy of the Jews. They were actually half Jew and half Assyrian. They were rejected by both groups because they mixed with the enemy.
Mixed families aren’t super controversial all the time today, but you’ve still seen someone marry or date outside of their ethnicity and come under some amount of judgment for it. That’s not a new thing. It’s always been that way.
Well, the Samaritan man who no one likes used his own time and wealth and gets this bleeding man back to good health. We often call him the Good Samaritan.
As we look at this story, you might be appalled by the Priest and the Levite. And you think you would never do that. You would never leave someone to die, no matter what their ethnicity is. And that might be true. But, the real shock of the story is that the one person who everyone wanted to overlook, the one who everyone hated, the man that only his mother could love—the Samaritan—was the one person who was willing to do what was right and good in God’s eyes.
The real heart-stab comes when you realize that God’s goodness isn’t tied in any way to your cultural upbringing. It’s so easy to say, “See! I’m right because my people over here affirm what I think.”
But, right and wrong aren't tied to your skin color, your political preferences, or anything like that. God’s goodness is tied to whether or not you affirm what the Bible teaches—listen—even when what the Bible teaches conflicts with what you have been taught to be true.
I might be challenging you to relinquish faulty beliefs that you have believed your entire life right now. And you’re going to have to wrestle with God on that.
God’s eternal Kingdom will be a place of perfect peace, a place for the healing of the nations, where everyone worships together in perfect harmony. And that’s something we must strive for today. So, will you wrestle with these things and will you truly represent God’s heart in how you speak, think vote. Will you express with your life now, a heart for the nations?
So, what will you do with this?
It’s our practice to commit to a Next Step each week to take a step closer to God. You can write you Next Step down in the space on your card or check a box if that’s appropriate.
Some of you probably have some apologies to make. Write or wrong on your perspective, you may have offended a brother or sister in Christ and that needs to be made right. You may need to write down apology.
Some of you realize you need to think through things you believe so that you can align with God’s heart. You realize that in every way you don’t have the mind of Christ and you’ve been operating according to worldly thinking in some things. You may need to confess that and write it down.
And maybe you are ready for the first time to learn more about what it means to be a part of God’s Eternal Kingdom. If that’s where you are at, I’d encourage you to mark the box that says commit to Christ and we will contact you this week to answer questions and walk you through what that looks like.