Monday, April 28, 2008

Tickets and Treasures

Dance music will always remind me of the bus to Varna. As we rolled into the Black Seaside resort last summer, someone finally had enough of Bulgarian radio and put a CD in. Varna was great, the pirate ship fights, the late night walks to the Jazz Club, the 1950s Soviet block hotel, the beach, the salt and vinegar crisps. It's Varna i remember, not the bus. Varna is the treasure, certainly not the bus ride there. The bus was the means, Varna was the end. It was a tremendous end too.

Means and ends. Tickets and treasures. For too long my view of Christ was like this, too worldly, not Biblical enough. I've seen the cross, i've seen Jesus as the ticket, and Heaven as the treasure. I saw justification as the be all and end all, and the renewed relationship with God the Father as a nice added extra, icing on the cake of Christianity. It was as if my eyes had been closed when i'd been reading long passages of the Bible. I'd reduced Jesus, the eternal, immortal Son of God, in all His glory and majesty to a stepping stone, a ticket, a bus trip, a means, rather than the end. The Gospel was about me. My forgiveness, my eternal joy, my status as forgiven.

Isn't that plain awful? Seeing Christ as a means to an end, as someone who gets me somewhere? isn't Jesus much much more than that?

Yes He is, Christ, in His death on the cross is the ticket to Heaven, and Christ, the risen, exulted, glorious Christ is the end of Heaven. To see Him, enjoy Him and give glory to the Father through so doing is the end for which God created the world.

So yes, absolutly, Christ is the means, His is the ticket. 'No one comes to the Father except though me', '(Christ) died as a ransom for many.' Isaiah tells us that 'he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities...and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' There's no getting away from the fact that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. That Jesus, by removing all that stands in our way from a relationship with God the Father, is uniquely how we can face judgment with confidence. He is the way. Yes, He is the ticket.

But what makes Heaven so good? Jesus. In John 17 Jesus prays 'Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world' Now, that could sound to us like one of the most self centred prayers ever. Jesus wants us to be where He is so that we can see His glory. Unless there's something that makes seeing Jesus glory not a selfish thing for Him to pray but a loving thing. Psalm 16 tells us that there is a fullness of joy in His presence. So in fact seeing Jesus in His glory leads us to fullness of joy. And thats what makes Heaven Heaven. Jesus is there, and we get to walk and talk and eat and most importantly of all, worship Him forever. In this we find our joy, in the self forgetfulness that comes from seeing and worshipping Jesus for who He is.

John Piper at T4G 2008 couldn't find an analogy for a ticket that become a treasure, that is the treasure. So i don't feel bad about failing to do so. But this is the Gospel. God, is the Gopsel. It's not Heaven if Jesus isn't there. He is the ticket, and the glorious, overwhelming satisfying treasure.

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