But one problem we encounter—I certainly experience this every day—is that we can tend to lose our gospel ‘imaginations’ as Christians, if Christ’s coming loses our focus. We stop imagining countless friends and neighbours and strangers on that day departing on his left, to eternal condemnation (Matthew 25:41). And we stop dreaming of countless fellows at that moment on his right, hearing Christ say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father!” (Matthew 25:34)
I recognise that as finite human beings we cannot continue to be conscious of or even sustain this type of biblical vision for much of the time. At the same time, Jesus has given us these word-pictures for a reason. To listen to him and ‘hear’ his word in his parables, his descriptions, in Matthew 25, must mean more than mere understanding of the facts of heaven and hell. It is not an intellectual assent that Jesus sought to stir in his disciples when he spoke thus about the realities of his coming.
But we struggle enough not to be overwhelmed with the many, many needs in our local and global community. It’s still easier to watch the nightly news than look too long into the New Testament’s window on hell. Yet even Christ’s lure of everlasting reward has for most of us grown fuzzy and escapes our gaze.
It’s not surprising then if home missionaries and evangelistic parachurches are not amongst the top organisations getting priority on our monthly bank statement.
Church planting ministries are based on more than merely fuelling efforts to see more new churches established. Local evangelistic and church building zeal should certainly not be some Tower of Babel—not a vision of grandeur, some dream of building greatness here for ourselves.
What is the point of all this effort to start more churches? It is Jesus bringing the End and his final Judgement that is our horizon, that is the horizon for all of creation--nothing less. It is the firm, clear and real vision that we are all moving towards--Christ’s coming.
Imagine on that Day:
- Less poor sinners than we see today, going away on Christ’s left;
- More than the number of Christians we currently see, coming with us to eternal glory;
- Countless people from across our communities praising Christ for having saved them through our efforts;
- Your joy unending in the reward of joining with countless friends and strangers converted to Christ.
But practically, how do we do this more? How can we keep the End in our sights on a day to day basis? Most of my suggestions below amount to simply re-assigning little bits of time regularly to things that bring Christ coming into focus:
- Create a habit of each night and morning briefly meditating on the Final Day (e.g. think about Heaven as you go to bed at night; remember Hell as you get up in the morning each day.)
- Attend a parachurch evangelistic ministry regularly (e.g. a few times a year, or more!); e.g. just turn up to a local university AFES ministry, for example.
- Listen to key sections of the Audio Bible that give word-pictures about judgement and restoration - listening passively can help these parts of the Bible sweep over us regularly (e.g. Isaiah 34-66; the Revelation)
- Attend or start a prayer group exclusively dedicated to praying for evangelism, evangelistic ministries and conversions.
- Try an app such as PrayerMate to give you notifications each day, and set it up to remind you of the key biblical prayers from the New Testament that you reflect on before or as you pray (e.g. the prayers that Paul prayed).
Please let me know your thoughts about how to practically keep the gospel need better in-focus in our every day lives.
Let’s get behind evangelists, missionaries and church planters, for the gospel and for glory!