Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Be the story

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. -2 Cor. 3:3

In yesterday's 'Daily Bread' I read that it's lovely to write a book, but it's even better to be a book. In his book, The Practice of Piety, Lewis Bayly, chaplain to England's King James I, said that "one who hopes to effect any good by his writings" will find that he will "instruct very few...the most powerful means, therefore, of promoting what is good is by example...One man in a thousand can write a book to instruct his neighbors...But every man can be a pattern of living excellence to those around him."

I thought this was profound. It never occurred to me that my life might speak louder than the words of any story I could write. Yet I'm also reminded that there are some things that can't be shown by how we live. The purpose of this story is not to "instruct" others about how to do good, but to show them the reason we are changed, to show "the hope that we have". People think that heaven is a place where everyone hangs around on clouds and strums harps and somehow has wings. And they think that version of heaven is where eternity will be. So when we say "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrew 6:19), it doesn't sound like it's all that great. Certainly not that it could be so wonderful that no amount of suffering could outweigh it.

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." -1 Thess. 4:13-18

That's all I want to do. I want to say that this hope isn't fantasy. It's not just words in an old book. It's history that hasn't occurred yet. For Christians this is just extending what they already know or have imagined about the afterlife. For those who "separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12)

Furthermore, everyone says that believing in Christ will give you a better life, more joy, hope for salvation, but we say nothing of heaven; we say nothing of everything that is to come. I'm going to do just that.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. -Hebrews 10:23

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