I remember when my wife and I were dating. She used to bum me off from taking her out to dinner or coming to visit her apartment by telling me she needed, “Me Time.” I remember thinking, “What on earth is ‘Me time?!’” Years later, after we’d been married a while, she confessed that she actually wanted nothing more than to spend time with me. She just wanted to build mystery and anticipation. She was playing hard to get!
More and more I’m wondering if the churches today have focused so much on cultural relevance that we have forgot to teach, preach, and practice the mystery of God. We’re all the time telling people God can solve their problems, but there is so much more to the historic Christian faith than God solving our immediate problems. Maybe church shouldn’t always be focused on the immediately practical. Perhaps we should remind people of our mysterious beautiful God.
Here are two ways preachers and teachers can build eternal anticipation:
1. Teach about intangible things.
I know that people want to know how to have a better marriage and we need to address people’s real problems. The Bible does speak to these matters. But let’s do so in a way that doesn’t neglect to teach on topics of a more inherently eternal nature.
For example, rather than focusing merely on the more psychological aspects of marriage, illustrate the beauty of marriage in the depiction of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church being His spotless bride. Evoke the unexplained beauty of the relationship between Christ and the Church and paint a portrait with words of the extraordinaire nature of the God of all Creation likening His calling and creating a body of people for Himself to the love relationship found in the marriage of two simple human beings.
2. Preach regularly concerning the future kingdom.
The majority message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God. He was proclaiming it having come in Him and it soon coming in fullness. I think the reason Christians love to hear about the second coming of Christ is that it floods the imagination with things that fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart.
People everywhere dream of a time and a place where perfect justice will reign. Every man longs for the time when the Peter Pan living inside of him will be unbridled to fly in the purest sense. We all long to be unchained by gravity, unrestricted by the heaviness of this broken sinful world.
Every woman is enchanted by the sparkling images of the grandeur of streets paved with gold, where the most beautiful material of this earth is so simple and mundane so as to be used for paving stones. Every child longs to see grandma again face to face. Speak of Heaven often. Draw people to the splendor of the things that no eye has seen and no hear has heard and no mind can conceive.
Look for examples of mysterious beauty in the Bible. Don’t feel pressured to only preach on the immediately practical needs or people or things that can be immediately applied. Talk about faith holding on to promises of Heaven and the Kingdom reign of Christ. Talk about Angels and things that cannot be seen or touched and lions laying with lambs on a day when there shall be no more weeping and pain. Point Christians to things unseen to find hope beyond today.
The trouble with being overly practical is that we risk losing touch with why today even matters for Christians. We need to dig deeply into the mystery of God for strength for the trials. If we lack eternal unseen perspective, none of the practical tools we give people will have Holy Spirit power behind them.
Instruct in practical matters but don’t forget to proclaim the mysterious beauty of God. He doesn’t play hard to get but He is impossible to fully comprehend. Practical preaching has its place, but remember God is beautiful and mysterious!
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