This podcast often addresses gospel boldness, risk-taking, and personal suffering. On occasion, those three themes — boldness, risk, and suffering — merge together, like they do in today’s sermon clip from the ministry of John Piper. Today, we look specifically at how the assurance of the hope of heaven releases us for radical, risk-taking love that makes people look at our lives and ask for “the reason for the hope that is in you,” as Peter says it (1 Peter 3:15). So, how do we escape the natural love of safety? Here’s Pastor John’s answer, from thirty years ago, in a sermon on Revelation 21.
Richard Baxter was a very effective pastor in the seventeenth century in England. He’s well known for his book The Reformed Pastor. Not many people know, however, that Richard Baxter labored for all the years of his life under tremendous pain. He had frequent nose bleeds, constant cough, headaches, digestive ailments, kidney stones, gallstones.
He believed in supernatural healing, and he testified several times that God had delivered him out of a deadly disease to keep on ministering via direct intervention. In fact, he told the story one time of entering the pulpit, and he could see in the looking glass a big cancerous tumor on the back of his throat that vanished while he was preaching and testifying to the grace of God.
Preciousness of Heaven
And yet, all his life, from the age of 21 on, he testified that he was “seldom an hour free from pain.” One of the effects on Richard Baxter’s life is that it made him keenly aware of how short life is, how certain death is, and how precious heaven is. When he was 35 years old, he became what he thought was mortally ill. And he was on his bed, and he thought he was dying.
And he formed a habit, which as it turned out, lasted for forty years, because he didn’t die. The habit was meditating a half an hour a day on the glories of heaven. The reason he formed this habit and maintained this habit is because of the profound effect that it had on his life, keeping him awake to the things of God and to the brevity of this life. He wrote down those reflections in those days, and they became a book called The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, which is still in print three hundred years later to testify to the power of this man’s vision of what he had seen of God’s glorious hope for the believer. He commended it to us, that we would take time each day to set our minds on heaven.
This is the way he said it:
If you would have light and heat, why are you not more in the sunshine? For want of this recourse to heaven your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duty as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if your offering will not burn. . . . Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm.
Set Your Mind on Things Above
Now, that’s good advice. I think it’s the same advice that Paul gave in Colossians 3. He said, following up on last Sunday’s message, as it were,
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)
“How frequently do you set your mind on things that are above and dwell there?”
Now, I want to ask you, do you do that? Do you obey that? How frequently do you set your mind on things that are above and dwell there? How frequently do you seek the future? Do you seek the age to come? Do you look to where your life is hid with Christ in God and anticipate the glory that will be you when you come with him, and you in your true life are revealed?
We are so addicted to the world. So, I just want to invite you, with Richard Baxter, to do what he did, and every day to set your mind on things that are above. And I want you to repudiate with me a lie that goes like this: “Well, if you spend time thinking about heaven, if you dwell on the age to come, and the glories of your hope, you are going to become of no earthly good whatsoever.” Now, that’s a lie. It’s a common one.
I think exactly the opposite is the case. It’s the people who know their hope, who know that their destiny is rock-solid and sure, who know that their destiny is glorious, who are free to take risks of love, free to “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still.” I’ve got a destiny. I’ve got a future. I cannot die. Mark it. It is not the people who have that hope, who have that security, who live in that confidence, who live their lives gathering treasures on earth and ignore the needs of people.
It’s people who are free, who don’t need money, who don’t need comforts, who don’t need worldly acclaim because they’ve got it all in Jesus, who are free to take risks for others. First Peter 3:15 says, “. . . always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Now, have you ever had anybody ask you a reason for the hope that is in you? Have you had anybody look at your behavior and say, “My, what hope must be behind that behavior?” I ask you, what kind of behavior would that be?
If somebody jumps out of an airplane, you don’t jump out behind them with no parachute. Two dead people aren’t better than one. So, if somebody falls out of an airplane with no parachute on, you might jump out after them, if you have a parachute on, and you try one of those bullet dives to catch them. So they’re falling kind of loose and stopping a lot of air, 110 miles an hour, maybe, and you go bullet-like, 150 miles an hour, maybe. You might do that, because the security and the hope of this parachute free you for that kind of love — free you for that kind of risk-taking. So, if somebody’s in the airplane, and they see you about to jump, and they ask you, “What’s the reason for the hope that you have, to jump out of this airplane to try to catch somebody? What’s the reason for your hope?” You say, “The parachute. It’s called the hope of glory. The parachute, that’s my hope.” And then you jump.
Free to Change the World
Now I want to ask you, what kind of lifestyle will move people to ask you questions like that about your hope? Gathering money? No, because they’ll assume money is your hope. Gathering comforts? Comforts are your hope. Spending all your time watching television? No, television is your hope. Hope frees for a radical new lifestyle.
“People in love with heaven are the ones that are free to change this world.”
So, I want to call you with Richard Baxter, and I want to call you with the apostle Paul, if you have been raised with Christ, if your life is hid with Christ in God — out there secure. It’s done. Absolutely. You cannot die. You cannot lose. If it’s that sure, I want to invite you to set your mind on things that are above. Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated. Let your mind dwell on the glories of the age to come.
And you know what’ll happen? You will become a free person. And free people are dangerous people to the kingdom of Satan, because they don’t ask cautionary questions about what it will cost in this life. They throw that to the wind, and they love, and they sacrifice, and they go, and they serve, and they change the world — this world, of all things. Of all things, can you imagine that? People in love with heaven are the ones that are free to change this world.