What is the main promise held out to us in the gospel? What is the indescribable joy we are offered? Many times, we answer that it is the hope of heaven and an escape from hell. In other words, our hope resides in our being promised to obtain access to a certain place and being protected from having to go to another certain place. While I completely acknowledge that heaven and hell are real places, what if the ultimate joy we have in the Gospel resides in a Person instead?
Let’s ponder a couple of passages together.
First, here’s one from John’s first epistle…
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” -1 John 3:2
In this passage John lays out two glorious truths for those who are in Christ, none of which have to deal with a place. First, we are God’s children! The joy of the Gospel is found primarily in our new relationship with God. Instead of relating to Him as Judge, we relate to Him as our heavenly Father. Second, our joy is not only found in a where but in a who. Being able to see Christ as He is without being destroyed is the hope for all those who have placed their trust in Him.
Next, consider this gem from Colossians 1…
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” -Colossians 1:21-22
The good news for the Colossians wasn’t only that they were now promised heaven. Rather, the good news is that through Christ’s finished work, they have been reconciled to God! Though former enemies, Christ has put away all the enmity that was stood between God and man through His substitutionary death.
When we are reconciled to someone, the joy doesn’t primarily reside in where we will now enjoy our restored relationship, but in the person him or herself. Likewise, the most precious truth to which our souls cling is that in the Gospel we are forever reconciled to the One who fulfills the deepest longings of our soul.
Ok, one more… This one is from Philippians 3:7-10. Listen to the powerful emotion that comes through as Paul describes his hungering for Christ.
“7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
In other words, the most wonderful, satisfying, indescribably good gift God promises us in the Gospel is Himself!
Today, I want to challenge you to spend some time thinking through this very thought provoking question from John Piper. As you think through the way you answer this question, use it as a guide to shape your prayers in the future.
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have Heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with Heaven, if Christ was not there?”