Hope: The Fountain of Faith and Love - Part II (1:4-5)
I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the comments of John Piper on this passage in Colossians 1:4-5.
In a sermon titled "The Fruit of Hope: Love", preached on July 13, 1986, John addressed the objection that being "heavenly-minded" is a threat to earthly productivity and fruitfulness and love toward those in need. Fixing our thoughts and hopes on heaven, so some contend, doesn't produce love, but escapism. And so we must ask, writes Piper,
"Is it true that when Christians set their hearts earnestly and intensely on the future prospect of sharing the glory of God, and seeing the risen Lord, and being freed from sin and sickness, and living in joy for all eternity – when Christians set their hearts with deep longing and strong confidence on these things, do they become so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly use? Do they become self-centered and fall prey to escapism?"
Piper's answer, like mine in the previous meditation in Colossians, is that the Bible teaches precisely the opposite.
"It teaches and shows that a strong confidence in the promises of God and a passionate preference for the joy of heaven over the joy of the world frees a person from worldly self-centeredness, from paralyzing regret and self-pity, from fear and greed and bitterness and despair and laziness and impatience and envy. And in the place of all these sins hope bears the fruit of love.
The problem with the church today is not that there are too many people who are passionately in love with heaven. Name three! The problem is not that professing Christians are retreating from the world, spending half their days reading Scripture and the other half singing about their pleasures in God all the while indifferent to the needs of the world. The problem is that professing Christians are spending ten minutes reading Scripture and then half their day making money and the other half enjoying and repairing what they spend it on.
It is not heavenlimindedness that hinders love. It is worldlimindedness that hinders love, even when it is disguised by a religious routine on the weekend. Where is the person whose heart is so passionately in love with the promised glory of heaven that he feels like an exile and a sojourner on the earth? Where is the person who has so tasted the beauty of the age to come that the diamonds of the world look like baubles, and the entertainment of the world is empty, and the moral causes of the world are too small because they have no view to eternity? Where is this person?
He is not in bondage to TV-watching or eating or sleeping or drinking or partying or fishing or sailing . . . . He is a free man in a foreign land. And his one question is this: How can I maximize my enjoyment of God for all eternity while I am an exile on this earth? And his answer is always the same: by doing the labors of love.
Only one thing satisfies the heart whose treasure is in heaven: doing the works of heaven. And heaven is a world of love! It is not the cords of heaven that bind the hands of love. It is the love of money and leisure and comfort and praise – these are the cords that bind the hands of love. And the power to sever these cords is Christian hope.
I say it again with all the conviction that lies within me: it is not heavenlimindedness that hinders love on this earth. It is worldlimindedness. And therefore the great fountain of love is the powerful, freeing confidence of Christian hope!"
Well said, John! He then proceeds to cite several other texts in which the same truth is expressed. I'll take note of only one: Hebrews 10:34.
"The situation is that some of the church members had been imprisoned and the rest were faced with the moral dilemma of whether to go underground and save themselves, or whether to go visit the prisoners and risk losing life and possessions. Verse 34 describes what they did and why: 'For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.'
What was the power that drove them in love to the prison doors knowing their houses would be plundered? "Because you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." It was hope that drove them to love. Or to put it another way, it was heavenlimindedness that broke the power of worldly love for furniture and houses and security and freed the saints to risk their lives in love. Therefore, I say it again, it is not heavenlimindedness that hinders love. When religious people fail to love, it is not because they have fallen in love with heaven, but because they are still in love with the world."
Sharing with you in a better and abiding possession,