I trust your Christmas season was peaceful and Christ-exalting and that you’re starting the new year filled with fresh faith to embrace God’s promises in Christ.
I’ve been trying to finish my book, which was due Jan. 1. Didn’t quite make it. Lord willing, the book, Worship Matters: Priorities in the Pursuit of God, will be out in August, published by Crossway.
At the start of a new year our thoughts inevitably turn to goals we’d like to achieve in the next 12 months. Here’s an unedited section of my book that has to do with goals. It’s from the last chapter, "The Goal of Worship," where I describe ways the worship of heaven should affect us now. I pray it will be an encouragement to you.
Most of us realize we’re on a journey. We know we’re on our way to somewhere. But our vision is usually far too short-sighted and our goals too limited and temporal. If you’re in high school or your single years you might want to finish school, find a job, get married and have kids. If you’re already married your plans might include getting your kids through college, reaching the top of your career path, or making sure you have a sufficient nest egg for retirement. Or maybe you have your eyes on a new house, a sportier car, or some city you’d like to move to and settle down for the rest of your life.
God wants our eyes on a city, all right, but not one we can get to by car, boat, or jet. He has something longer lasting in mind. Since we were expelled from Eden, God has promised his people he would lead them to another place of rest, the “promised land.” However, even Abraham knew the promised land was not of this world.
By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:9-10).
Abraham and other faith-filled Jews considered themselves strangers and exiles on the earth and were looking for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13, 16). The Promised Land of Canaan served as a picture of the land that every believer in Jesus Christ will inherit – heaven.
Our present life is like a pregnancy. We’re getting ready for birth. In one sense we’re already enjoying the benefits of the new birth. But there is much more to come. God doesn’t intend for us to be like a baby in his mother’s womb who thinks all life has to offer is dark, wet, and kind of cramped. Pregnancy, with all its changes, growth, and adjustments, is a time of preparation, not the final destination. We are traveling through a corridor which one day will open up into a panorama so startling it will leave us gasping for grace-drenched air. Our final years on earth aren’t the last stop on the train of our existence. In fact, in light of eternity, we’re still at the boarding station when we die.
Heaven teaches us that God doesn’t hand out all his riches in this life. Though we want an experience of glory here that will satisfy, amaze, and fulfill us, we will always be left wanting more. That’s the way God intended it to be. That “more” awaits us in the next life.
That’s one of the reasons we are commanded to celebrate the Lord’s supper “until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Even as we feast at his table and proclaim the Lord’s death that reconciled us to God, our eyes are on the future wedding feast. We are among those who “have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8) because we recognize our citizenship is in heaven.
We look forward to that day when the great multitude stand in the nearer presence of Father, filled to all the fullness of God the Spirit, through whom they are united with the Son. There they will look around and within, and find only worship. Despite all the attacks of the evil one, the drag of indwelling sin and the seductive power of the idols throughout their long history, their song will be one of praise drenched with wonder. In them the commandment will be completely fulfilled: they will have no other God but him. And in them the promise will be fully realized: he is their God and they are his people. (Noel Due, Created for Worship, 238)
Whatever goals you pursue in 2007, I pray you’ll find joy as you fix your eyes on the sure hope of heaven, attained for us through the sacrifice of our Savior.