There aren’t too many sermons on heaven these days. There seems to be a lot more focus on money and finances. This being the start of a new year there will be financial seminars in about every church. While it is smart to wisely manage earthly Mammon, where is the interest in sending riches on ahead of us into eternity?
A. W. Tozer wrote: “The streets of gold do not have too great an appeal for those who find it so easy to pile up gold and silver in the service of the Lord here on earth. We all want to reserve the hope of heaven as a kind of insurance against the day of death, but as long as we are healthy and comfortable, why change a familiar good for something about which we actually know very little?” A. W. Tozer (The Best of A.W. Tozer, p.57.)
In today’s Jeremiah passage the prophet predicts the coming fall of Babylon, the oppressor, at the time, of most of the known world. “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.” (51:49-50a) He then issues a warning to the Israelites who will experience new-found freedom from their exile in Babylon: Get out of there! “You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger! Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem.” (51:50b)
Christians have been promised a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21) and we need to long for it as the Israelites in Babylon longed for their Jerusalem. We are in this world, but not of it. We are to seek justice and pursue peace while we are here, even if it cost us earthly comfort. This is not taking out eyes off Jerusalem… it is an extension of that focused gaze. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Let 2011 be a year where we are less concerned about how comfortable we are down here. Let us be un-comfortable if necessary in the pursuit of helping those around us. Fix your gaze on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-4) and flee Babylon!