“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV).
In the book of Philippians the Apostle Paul highlighted the need for advancement or progress in one’s Christian life by inciting the Philippians to “work out their own salvation” (vs. 2:12) and then by rallying them to follow his example and “press on toward the goal” (vs 3:14).
It’s as if living their Christian lives was like participating in a footrace. And, the finish line for this race was not ahead but up!
“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10, ESV).
Paradox is used to reframe a reality that is outside of normal perceptions. When used in the Bible, paradox helps us perceive an alternative universe–the Kingdom of God–where God rules and reigns.
The normal Christian life is a great paradox. It’s life, but it’s death. It’s sorrow, yet joyful. It’s deficiency and sufficiency.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV).
The “treasure in jars of clay” verse (2 Corinthians 4:7) is probably in the top three of my favorite Bible verses!
The treasure spoken of refers to “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (vs 6). And God gives this knowledge of Himself–this treasure, revealed in Christ Jesus, to human beings to do with as they please–accept it or reject it.
In these verses the Apostle Paul describes what life is like for those who possess this treasure. He describes what we might call The Normal Christian life–affliction, bewilderment, persecution, adversity AND eternal life.
“You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations for those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).
These verses are the 2nd Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Although I’ve read and repeated the 2nd Commandment many times, I’ve never paid much attention to the second part of the commandment, which explains the consequences of obeying or not obeying the commandment.
But, God uses the pronouncement of a curse and blessing in the 2nd Commandment to make a striking contrast between the everlasting effects of His boundless love for those who worship and obey Him with the exigency of punishment for idolators.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”(Genesis 3:15, NIV).
In the Creation Story in Genesis 1 God created a good and perfect world populated by vegetation, animals, and human beings. Genesis 2 is perhaps a continuation of the Creation Story–possibly the next chapter in God’s already created order–describing the first people God chose to work His redemptive plans and purposes for all of humanity.
Genesis 3 is a creation story of sorts as it describes the formation of a different kind of world from God’s good and perfect creation–a new world order contrived by human beings. Genesis 3 describes the beginning of evil among humanity and it prognosticates the cosmic conflict between good and evil played out on the stage of this world.
In fact, this cosmic conflict may be the main point of the Creation Story in Genesis 1-3.
“By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter when he was grown up. He chose to be mistreated with God’s people instead of having the temporary pleasures of sin. He thought that the abuses he suffered for Christ were more valuable than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking forward to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26, CEB).
A few years ago I wrote a book entitled, The Kingdom Order: Living for the Future in the Present. It took me 12 chapters and about 250 pages in the book to make the same point about the Christian life that the Hebrews writer makes in these 3 verses describing the godly legacy of Moses.
Like Moses, Christians live life by looking forward to their reward–living forward!
Human beings were created for eternal life! God created people for eternity and eternity is ever present in the life we now live.
So, when you follow Jesus, you start to live life life forward…
“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4, CEB).
Because God is love, He is seeking humans to receive His love. But, God’s love is eternal so His love affair with the human race is of cosmic proportions.
You see, God is preparing a place for Him to live together with us, forever!
While God dwells with us (in us) by His Spirit in this world, in the world to come this cosmic love affair will no longer be constrained by distance. God plans to dwell among us!