Church, where are we going? When we discuss the need for church leadership, where do we expect these people to lead us? Sometimes, we settle for leadership, which helps the church grow. Sometimes, we settle for church leadership, which helps individuals and families become healthier. These are all good things, but are they the ultimate goals of the church? Many of us have set our sight far too low.
Maybe the church should pursue the greatest goal of seeing God. As we seek this heavenly sight, perhaps our congregations will grow, we will find ourselves healthier, and our congregations will enjoy healthy doctrine. For just a moment, let us explore what it would like to have God as our goal.
Although no one has ever seen God invisible, God has invited us to behold his glory in this life and more fully in the next. The Old Testament promises a relational presence between God and his people. The goal for God’s people is for them to dwell in the city whose name is “The LORD is there” (Ezek. 48:35). The Garden of Eden, the tabernacle, and the temple were exalted because God’s presence was there in a special way. While God’s presence was lost in the expulsion from Eden, God’s presence is firmly among God’s people through the incarnation (Jn. 1:14), the Son’s continued spiritual presence (Matt. 28:20), the dwelling of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), and finally the culmination of God’s presence as “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Rev. 21:3).
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Even in this life, the church is described as enjoying the fulness of God’s presence (Eph. 1:23). Paul said, “for now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). John encouraged his readers with the promise: “we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet be made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). This expectation of seeing God leads to continued sanctification in life. Paul said, “But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
If our highest goal is to see God, why would we settle for anything else? We can be certain that life with God would strengthen our families and congregations better than any other goal or program. How do we see God? What practices can we enact that will help us focus on God now and look forward to enjoying his presence most fully in Heaven?
1. We must be devoted to the life of the heart and mind. The contemplative life seems intended by God since he has given us the Scriptures to meditate on as we learn from them, the world around us to marvel at as the theater of his glory, and spiritual worship to cultivate our souls as we express our devotion.
2. We must practice spiritual activities. Reading God’s Scriptures is vital to the Christian life and the pursuit of God. Reading Scripture is more than learning facts; we are being brought into a relationship with God himself as he speaks to us in his Scriptures. Read God’s word as though you were in his presence being taught of God by God. This, after all, is what the reality of the situation. Worship becomes more than something we enjoy and a command that must be kept. Worship, in this mindset, becomes our response to God’s voice in Scripture. Scripture and worship become sender and receivers in the communication between God and man. These “discussions” are how relationships are formed.
3. We must also adjust our expectations. Our instant gratification culture finds eternity to be a journey too far. We must adjust. The blessings of this life are gifts from God, but if we are ever so focused on the gifts that we forget the divine Giver we will find ourselves in danger of reaching our true and best goal. Job, after all, displays how our confidence should always be in God, rather than in the uncertainty of present life. Job suffered but looked heavenward for consolation from the his Mediator (Job 19:25-27). His thoughts are excellently echoed by John Owen as he was preparing to leave this world and said, “The long wished-for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done or was capable of doing in this world.”