The reality of heaven is something all of us must engage with. But as Christ-followers living in the here and now, how are we to live differently in light of this reality?
Alright blessings to all of you. So good to be able to share this time together. Our series is Abound. It’s been something that we’ve been sitting with. As we opened up this year at 2022. And now as we make our way to the second month of this year, wow. The, the year that none of us could have predicted opening the way that it did.
And I know that a lot for a lot of us, it’s still a little bit challenging. That we all retain hope. But my prayer has been for us, for our church, for you, my friend, my brother, and my sister near or far, wherever you are. Some of you close by here in San Francisco, others of you in other parts of the state, even in other parts of the country, some cases, other parts of the world, I’m just happy
you’re with us right now. Some of you may be, this is the first time you’ve ever had a chance to connect with us. I’m Pastor Terry, I’m the Lead Pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco. Since the year’s opening, as I mentioned, we’ve been talking about how it’s God’s desire for us to just grow in His love. Our key verse has been
Philippians 1:9, when Paul says, this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment. And we’ve just been trying to embrace the promise of that word. That we would grow in our capacity to love God. That we would grow in our capacity to love one another in Christian community. That we would grow in our capacity to love ourselves better, right?
In a healthy way, not a self-consumed, selfish way. But in a way that allows God’s grace to work in our lives so that we can get healed. And, you know, we, can’t, it’s really hard to love other people well, when we don’t have a good sense of how much we are loved by God and we, we learn how to grow in a, in a self-love that is humble and confident.
That’s not, you know, like I said, proud or arrogant. Or just somehow, you know, moving out of pain, but more whole and healed. So it’s good to be able to love ourselves well. Whose heart, how do you, how do you love others as you would love yourself? If you don’t know how to love yourself well, we won’t be able to love others
well. God wants us to be able to do that. I mean, He really cares about how we love in our relationships certainly. But I just want to sit with this word. I want to talk about two key principles. I’m calling them Two Key Life Tracks. You’ll see why in a moment. And they’re connected to something that the Apostle Paul wrote in this first chapter of Philippians.
I already quoted that ninth verse, how the apostle said it is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more, right. With all, with knowledge and all discernment. And then he goes on to say this in verse 10, and I’m just going to read this passage right now. He says, “so that you may approve what is excellent,
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, you would be filled with the fruit of righteousness. What is right, that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and the praise of God. You know, I want you to know brothers, all of you. He, he would include the sisters in that as well. That what has happened to me is really served to advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard,”
the apostle says, “and to all the rest that my imprisonment is actually for Christ, that God is using it for good. And most of all, my brothers having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, most of you are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Now it’s true. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love,
knowing that I’m put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, but thinking to actually make me feel worse to afflict me and my imprisonment. What then?” Ah, he, basically, what he’s reminding himself of is whether he’s got people criticizing him or others who are supporting him. He’s just going to focus on the right things.
And he says “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Uh, Christ is proclaimed. And in that I rejoice. Yes. And I will rejoice.” And we talked about this in the last week. And just really has been kind of a modest little subtext here as well, since we began sitting with this amazing chapter and just trying to draw wisdom from it as we make our way into the new year.
But we talked about, and you know, this, we talked about the choice to rejoice. The choice to rejoice. And it’s not a, well, it’s not a, “I feel,” but, a “I will.” I want to say that one more time. The choice to rejoice is not meant to be an “I feel,” but an “I will.” And there’s a difference. Here’s why, if we rejoice only when we feel it,
well, we will be limited to rejoicing only when things are going our way. And that’s a cap. I mean, that’s a, that’s a low ceiling. Like to rejoice only when things are going the way that we hope them to be, when they would go or just maybe even, you know, close to it. Maybe some people say, oh, the joys, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s close enough.
But that is to really, I mean, if we go by our feelings, we limit so much of what God can do and how God can use us and grow us and work through us, right? And, and there’s a difference, right? There really is. Because if I rejoice, when I feel it, only when I feel it, I cap what God can do in my life. But if I rejoice because I will it, regardless of the circumstances, or how I feel about them,
well, that’s an unlimited opportunity, isn’t it? I mean, the sky is the limit. It’s not about whether we feel it. It’s about whether we will it. Joy is a choice. It’s a response. It’s based on a sense of who God is and His living presence working in our lives. Look what Paul says. He says this, he goes on in verse 19.
He says, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance.” That is a very important distinctive here. The idea that we are being helped by the spirit of Jesus. Here’s the thing. When I rejoice, it creates an environment for the spirit of Jesus to move within me.
So God responds out of my choice to welcome Him in joyfully to my situation. But here’s what happens. When I do that, He comes in and my joy capacity grows. So it almost as if one follows the other and it’s not always clear, which one starts it off. Whether it’s my choice or my welcoming in His joy, you know, the choice sometimes it’s just say, Lord, fill me with Your joy or the choice to say, Lord, I will rejoice because I have You in my life.
And I know I am loved and I know You are good and I know You will help me in every situation I find myself in. So I choose to rejoice. And when I do that, more of Christ is at work in me and then it, it actually creates even a higher potential for the joy to flow through me. But it really does start with us making a decision. Even, even if that decision is simply: Lord Jesus, help me and fill me spirit of Christ, spirit of Jesus, with more of Your joy.
Help me to rejoice because there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to. And, and yet I choose to. And as I choose to exercise by faith anchored in Your love, again, that Your love may abound more and more then that, joy begins to just flow like a gift through us and around us. Well, look what Paul says. He says in this verse again, I just want to go back to that 19th verse. “For I know through your prayers and the help of the spirit of Jesus Christ, Christ
this will turn out for my deliverance.” I mean, that’s also a faith declaration. So the apostle is not only, you know, reminding himself to be filled with joy and to choose joy and it choose gratitude. But he’s also making a declaration of what God can do. And he’s really declaring his hope for deliverance.
And then he says in verse 20, look at this. “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not, I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now, as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” I mean, look at this, this is a prayer. I don’t, this is not an easy prayer.
I mean, he, he just, says it and prays it and confesses his heart around it. But this is actually to me, a far more challenging prayer than it seems. He says, Lord Jesus, this is my intention, my desire. I want all of you to know what he’s saying to, I want to bring Him honor. I want to bring Jesus honor in my life.
Or in my death. You know, in the word we render expectation when he says it is my eager expectation. The word that is rendered expectation is not actually a common Greek word. It signifies an intense focus gaze. Like he has his eyes on the prize. It’s about how he wants to show up for Jesus. He’s saying I don’t want to cower,
I don’t want to be ashamed, but with full courage, I want to face whatever awaits me. I mean, I find that inspiring. I don’t want to, I don’t want to in any way, miss my moment to give glory and honor to Jesus. Whether in my life or in my death, Paul says. I just want, I want to show up when the time is, is right there where I’ve got to make a call,
I want to show up. I want to be where, where He wants me to be. And I want to be the man He wants me to be. Some of us can say that we just, we want to be the woman He’s called us to be. We want to show up. We want to show Him our love. And in Paul’s case, he’s just saying, look, I don’t want, I don’t want fear to grip me.
And I don’t want to ever cower back in my faith. And if that moment comes, when I have to step up, I pray that God, I know I will, but by faith in Christ, I will stand for him, right? As one writer Ellicott put it, he says, uh, I just remember this. He said, cause I felt I found it so intense and humbling. He said, it was as if the Apostle Paul was saying, “my body will be the theater in which Christ’s glory is displayed.”
Think about that. My body will be the theater in which Christ’s glory is displayed. Wow. And then one of the great verses of the New Testament, the Apostle declares, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If I live, he says, because remember it wasn’t clear, he was going to get out of his imprisonment.
He wasn’t sure if he was going to end up dying. You know, people were being killed, if they were viewed as a threat to the Roman empire. And he didn’t know. He didn’t know if this was it. If it was his time to leave this world. And he said for, if I live, I live for Him. It’s like, and if I die, I go to Him.
It’s like, he was, I will only, it will only mean being nearer to the living Jesus, the one I first met, the one I used to despise, the one I didn’t believe in, but the one I met on the road to Damascus and the one that changed my life. The one who said Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It’s so hard to kick against the pricks, the thorns don’t, you know, stop fighting Me.
Right? It was the pursuing love of Christ at work in his life. And then that confrontation with Jesus on the road, you can read about it in the book of Acts that that crushed his sense of self-confidence and literally he was literally blind. And you think about the great hymn, Amazing Grace, you know, I once was blind, but now I see, I mean, it was Paul’s song, literally.
And that’s why his word was grace. He loved grace. The idea of God’s undeserved favor and love given to him. And that’s, he never forgot it. So for him, it was just a question about when he would be reunited with the Jesus he had come to love and serve. And made a decision to give his life for. So, for one, so the idea of the prospect of dying for him, huh,
was not something that he was afraid of. So when he says for me to live is Christ and to die is gain, he was basically saying is either way I have a win-win and this is a win-win for me. Basically, either outcome is a win and then, and then he pushes it even more and we’re welcomed into his thoughts,
aren’t we? Look what he says. He says, “if I am to live in the flesh, yeah, that means fruitful labor for me.” And I can just see him. “Yet, which I shall choose uh, I shall choose I cannot tell you.” It’s almost as if he’s saying, you know, if I, if I had my choice, hmm. I’m not sure which one I would choose. All right.
I’m going, wow. Are you saying on the one hand, I mean, I hear him, he’s waiting it out and he sort of says, yeah, if I’m really being honest about it, I’m not sure if I had my way, if I would rather stay or go. Woah. It’s like, you know, and then he says, you know, there’s so much good yet to be done. And yet the idea of leaving behind so much of what makes life unkind, the pain and the hurt and the suffering.
But even more, the potential joy at the expansive love of God being experienced at a dimension that the Apostle hadn’t been given a glimpse of. So for him, it was even a little bit less than you and me in the sense that we, he got exposed to the glory of the living Jesus. He says, I literally, I saw Christ.
I saw the living Christ and, and the thing about it w- it was the last thing he saw before he had that bout of blindness. He sees that he’s blinded by the light of Christ. And so for him, the idea of warmth and the love of God and the forgiveness of the Lord and the light of glory, these are things that he’s had a taste of.
And then we also know that he had other experiences in Christ, some dreams that he had and visions that he talked about, where he was convinced that heaven was even more than real, it was, it was so full of joy and life and glory that, this life could not be compared to it. So, I mean, for him, he’s really weighing out, you know, I’m not sure if I had a choice. Look what he says,
verse 23. He says, “I am hard pressed between the two. I mean, if I’m being honest with you, my, my desire is to depart actually and to be with Christ. For that is far better. But to remain in the flesh or to be alive still, is more necessary on your account. So it’s almost like he’s saying the truth is I’m torn, right?
Perhaps a few of us can relate, not everyone, I know. Actually, I don’t think I can quite relate to this. I don’t, cause I don’t, I don’t, I don’t really feel, um, the, the, the yearning. I still want to be here. I guess I do. I do. I do. Like, I’m just being honest, I, I know that there’s a part of what is ahead that is going to be so beautiful.
And I do look forward to the day of life overflowing and I look forward to a new body and I look forward to, um, sacred reunion and love without end and creativity at levels I’ve never known. And, uh, just so many of the things that we only see very much in part. But someday we will see with great clarity, all the limitations we face in our broken condition in humanity, even as we aspire for more, those longings will be fulfilled on that day.
So there’s a part of me that goes, wow, that’s, that’s amazing. But this is the only world I’ve known. And sort of like the baby in the womb, that’s what I see this life as being. It’s the safe place. It’s the safe place and that’s, and I love, I love people. I love you. I love, I love the special people in my life.
I love my family. I love my friends. Uh, I love life. I do, on this side. And then, but I’m sure there’ll come a point in, some of us are getting close to it where, you know, there’s, enough things that are hurtful and disappointing and, and painful and not working as well as they used to that, the closer we get, the more we look forward to renewal, right?
It’s almost like the seasons themselves. When you hit the winter season, there’s a part of that, that’s, that’s longing for renewal. It’s longing for a new beginning it’s longing for spring, it’s longing for Genesis it’s longing for the touch of the very life of God in Christ. Well, the Apostle Paul says, look, I, you know, I am, I’m just being honest with you.
I’m torn. I, I, part of me would rather go and be done with it. Like, um, I’m tired of living in this world. I look forward to being, I mean, that’s what he’s saying. And I look forward to being reunited with Christ. I mean, he has suffered a lot. Even now he was in confinement. But then he said, but for the sake of you, my friends, for the sake of you, my friends.
Actually, I think it’s best that I stay, to encourage and strengthen you and others in the faith. Who, and one of the things I’m struck by is his again. And I’ve been alluding to, this is, this his yearning for home. It’s so authentic. There’s no even remote doubt. There’s no struggle of trying to amp his faith up.
It’s just complete assurance about what is ahead. I was reminded of something that I remember CS Lewis writing when he said “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” There are far, far better things ahead than any, we leave behind. And so when Paul says, you know, part of me wants to depart.
You know the idea of depart in the original Greek, it carried with it a sense of a striking camp and loosening the tent peg. Some of us, you know, we can kind of see sense that, right? So it would be as if you were leaving the place, you were embarking on a new journey. And you, you were bringing the tent down and you were loosening the 10 pegs and you were rolling things up and you were getting ready.
It was also actually a word that was used for loosening the morning ropes pulling up the anchors and setting sail. So in each case, this idea of depart had to do with something that they were very familiar with in their, in their world and their culture and their experiences, whether it was departing by loosening the ropes and on, and the tent pegs.
Or loosening the mooring ropes so that you could bring the anchor up. And set the sails. I mean, it really does give us, uh, an idea of how he was seeing this. And, um, you know, part of him seemed to be just fascinated by the journey into the next life and dimension and. Because he was already assured of the destination. So he could yearn for the dimension because he was already sure in his mind,
of the destination. But he said, if I stay its, it’s better for you. And so he says, so I think God will keep me here a little longer. Verse 25, look, “Convinced of this, now I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,” and these are two words, I truly believe we are being invited to abound in, in this next season.
Look at these two words. He says, “for your progress and joy in the faith, the idea of abounding flourishing in your progress and your joy in the faith.” It reminds me of the two tracks, so just think of it as two tracks. Maybe two railroad tracks, right? Two tracks that we are to travel down in 22. What are they?
I call one of them a growth track and the other, a joy track. A growth track and a joy track. This is the place. This is the way that God wants us to travel. Right? That’s where the growth track, you know, this track is to be our way all through life. Speaking of staying on the growth track, I was, oh, I was reading something written by, um, a man.
Some of you may recognize if you’re baseball fans. His name is Fay Vincent. He, he, uh, was, uh, well, he served as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 92. So it was just for a short duration, but he, he is a believer in Jesus. More from the Catholic stream, but he was reflecting. I read, I read something
he wrote. It was a little op-ed that he wrote after his recent diagnosis with leukemia. And he had that diagnosis at the age of 81. And he’s now around 83, I think. And, uh, but there was something in the small article he wrote that touched me and actually inspired me. Cause I was thinking about that growth track. Right? There, that God’s wanting all of us to stay on as we make our way into 2022 so that we can abound our faith and in our love more and more. Right. And this is what Vincent wrote. He, he wrote this, “I understand the dying begins at birth, but I’m 81 and fortunate to have been afforded longevity. I can have no regrets.
My diagnosis means that the game of life is turning serious and the late innings loom.” He’s using that baseball metaphor. “Perhaps my leukemia will turn out to be the good type that is slow moving and not as virulent as some forms of blood cancer. Perhaps not. You know, my challenge is to seize what time I have left. Dying is still a part of living, and the way one lives is vital, even in the dying light. As I try to live while confronting an incurable illness, I remember how much I enjoyed the youthful process of learning. Thus I now read and learn from every book possible. I remember one of Blaise Pascal’s ‘Pensées'” that’s a classic in literature. “In my own translation:
he wrote these words, “man is but a reed, the weakest in nature. A puff of grass, a drop of water is sufficient to kill him. But the difference between him and what kills him, is that he knows he is dying.” Vincent says, “It is my brain that still defines me. When I am thinking I am living. I must fuel the brain by reading.” And I, I found myself enthralled with these words, they spoke to me.
Because this man in his twilight years is still contending for a joyful growth. Even as a man, like I said, in his eighties in the dying light. And his commitment to growth in reading and cultivating his mind, it really did it, moved me to want to pursue the growing edge and not to get complacent in my faith to read good things and to stay in God’s word and to enjoy good writing and good devotionals.
And, uh, Um, just to keep learning and growing and expanding, don’t stop. Don’t stop growing. You know, we honor God with our minds, as well as with our hearts and with our words and actions, we do. And that’s so many of those things are connected to what we fill our mind with. We fill our mind with junk food,
we’re going to get, you know, junk coming out of us. And if we fill our mind with life, nutritious things, uh, we will find life and nutritious things flowing out of us that will bless and strengthen other people as well. You know, let us not simply only live for giving attention to our body. Which, no matter how much we care for it will someday not be able to sustain the life that is within it. But let us also, as Jesus taught us more so even, give attention to the spirit and the things that are everlasting for the things, we are told
in the scriptures. That are seen they are temporal, but the things that are not seen, they are eternal. God has reminded us. There’s so much more, but in the meantime, between the now and the then of life, I want all of us to grow and to flourish and to become more and more of what he wants us to be. And that thing that to me means I don’t stop growing.
I don’t stop contending. In fact, being part of a church means that we’re being part of a growing community, not just in terms of the size of our numbers, but actually in terms of the ethic that propels us into life, that we never want to stop growing and becoming more of what He wants us to be, a better version of who we were created in Christ Jesus, to be that He who has begun a good work in us would complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
So there it is the idea of having a growth track. Remember I said, there are two tracks for 2022, two tracks for 2022. A growth track and a joy track. That’s what Paul was talking about. Right? He says that you would progress and that your joy and your faith would expand. Right. And I remember something Max Lucado, he’s just a wonderful Christian writer.
He wrote this, he said, just, you could see it with me. He says, “I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical.” Boy how easy, is it to become cynical and suspicious and dominated by everything that’s not going well. He says, “the tool of a lazy thinker.”
Whoa. Wow. Cynicism is the tool of a lazy thinker. He says, “I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything, less than an opportunity to see God.” And that in turn reminded me of something, I remember Mother Teresa writing. Or at least it was recorded.
And she said this about joy. She said, joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. God loves a cheerful giver. She gives most, who gives with joy. Come on now the best way to show our gratitude to God and the people, you know, that God’s placed into our life is to accept everything with joy, a joyful heart.
Is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen.” Wow. We are to choose joy. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart that’s burning with love. Go back to Philippians 1:9. I have my pray for you that you would abound in love more and more, right.
You would abound in love more and more that your love would abound more and more. That think about that. And never let anything fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ who is risen and who lives with you. Think about it. What, what she was really saying there is so profound is so simple and so hard. Because it’s almost like saying no matter how heavy something is, how, how difficult something is, right.
That when we weigh it against the love of Christ, When, when you weigh it up against the joy of the risen Christ at work in our lives and all that is connected to that, what she was saying is that nothing, not even the worst sorrow in life can take away is heavier, has more meaning, more weight, the weight of glory, than Jesus at work in us.
Wow. Think about that. Think about. Lord, may You fill us with a yearning for growth and joy all the days of our lives. Two tracks for 22. The other thing that, that, uh, Mother Theresa wrote there was that God loves a cheerful giver. She was quoting the scripture and the Lord does. Maybe we be a people who are a people of blessing, and that is a perfect lead in to me,
being able to remind all of you about our time of giving. Because we’re going to close with a song. And I actually have one more, like I do have, I, I have a thought. A little saying actually it’s a principle. I have a principle that I think is a difference making principle. that I want to add on to this, but we’re going to do that after the song that we share.
But before we even do that, I wanna remind all of you as so many of you do to be continued to be faithful in your ties and your offerings to be a cheerful giver, to give with love. Continue to give as a faithful part of this community. Uh, remember you can send it in, you can give it online, through our website.
You can give it through the app. That’s what I do. I do it on my phone actually. But like I always say, give Him your heart first, give your heart first, because if your heart is burning with the love of Christ, all the other things will start to slot into their proper place. So with that in mind, Lord, Jesus bless us.