What does it feel like to live with a belief that Jesus will one day–even today–return?
Does it mean we stop buying homes with 30 year mortgages? Or refusing to pick up your average Russian novel? Should we immediately stop saving for our children’s college education?
I don’t think the experience of belief in the vision we outlined from Revelation 7 obviates any of those.
So what does it look like to believe such? Surely it has to be more than a token acknowledgment of His return to be trotted out every time someone dies.
Instead I think belief in what is to come has everything to do with how you’re facing your moment. You may bot be conscious of that undisclosed, future moment in your given moment, but our eternal hope does shape our response to present circumstance.
And one way to know if that future hope is being rightly applied to my present moment is to ask yourself certain questions.
William Williams was a 19th century Welsh minister noted for his insight into the heart’s true condition (HT: Center Church). In the bible studies he would lead, a series of
questions would be asked of each participant to discern their spiritual health, or in the words of the day their spiritual “experience.”
Some of the questions asked of those in attendance were:
- Do you have spiritual assurance of your standing in Christ? How clear and vivid is it?
- How does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are his child?
- Is your love for Christians growing?
- Is your conscience growing tenderer to convict you of the very first motions of sin in the mind, such as the onset of resentment, worry, pride, or jealousy?
These are only a sample of the kinds of probing questions Williams would ask to get beneath the surface of a person’s heart.
The puritans of Williams’ day were given to a degree of introspection that some might consider excessive. If sin be a lifelong companion, so to speak, (didn’t Luther call our name our givenness to sin, “Brother Ass”?) then a moment-by-moment effort to expunge each and every hint of sin could become a kind of obsession that is itself a sin. (Gah!)
Yet, never to ask of our souls questions of this character leaves us insensible to the subtlety and seductiveness of sin. Only by taking an inventory (“Search me, O God”–Psalm 139:23) of our heart, and thus the degree to which we’re trusting in the promises made us by God, are we taking to heart (or not) the reality not only of what is, but of what awaits us.
So if you’re looking to put the sermon into practice this week, submit to the questions. Prayers will be provoked–either of thanksgiving for that sense of “experience” about what is timeless, or lament of its absence. Either way, the kingdom that has broken into this world at the coming of Jesus and will come into fulness at His return will have come to bear on your soul.
And the heart animated by what is to come is uniquely animated in and for the present.