| Vintage Faith
| 11:13-16; 12:22 & 13:14
| Pastor Duane Smets
This is an exegetical sermon of Hebrews 11:13-16; 12:22 & 13:14. It covers the promise from God of the city to come and what it will be like, as well as the origin, intention and design of God for cities and how we as a church ought to be on mission for them. This sermon was originally preached on November 27th, 2011 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.
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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
November 27th, 2011
Faith & The City To Come
Pastor Duane Smets | Hebrews 11:13-16; 12:22; 13:14
I. The Promise: God's City
A. Hebrews 11 & The Book of Hebrews
B. Zion & What is to Come
II. The Curse: Men's Cities
A. Origins & The Biblical Story
B. Citizenship & Lackluster Provisions
Today is our final sermon in our "Vintage Faith" sermon series this fall. So far we've looked at thirteen main examples of faith. Every sermon has been titled, "Faith and the Example of _______________." But with this last and final week of the series we change things up and look at "Faith and The City To Come." Back in the middle of our series I skipped a couple verses but promised we'd come back to â€˜em, so today we do that and those verses along with a couple other key verses in Hebrews are supplying our main text for this morning. So let's go ahead and read â€˜em, pray over â€˜em and then I'll break down the plan for us all. (read texts and pray)
Alright. We're really just looking at three points today, I merely provided some sub points for us to help us understand a couple key things involved in each of our main points. So we're looking at "The Promise: God's City, The Curse: Men's Cities and The Mission: Seeking The City."
I. The Promise: God's City
To start off in talking about the promise of God's City I want to remind us of a key thing we have been saying throughout our study of chapter 11 and that is what I've repeatedly pointed out in recognizing that all the figures who get brought up in this chapter do not get brought up because of their superior moral quality of life or example. None of the people in Hebrews 11 are really heroes at all. If anything, they are merely one example after another of jacked up people like you and I, sinners, whom God has grace on in granting them faith.
But, I don't even think that's really the main reason they get brought up here in Hebrews 11...that they are brought up to be examples of sinners saved by grace. Instead, I think it has more to do with what we touched on it a little bit in the week we looked at Rahab, but nearly every single figure identified in this chapter has some major connection or relationship to the land.
Abel gets killed by his brother Cain who soils the land with his blood. Enoch is taken out of the land. Through Noah the land is cleansed. In Abraham the promise of new land and a people to live in it is given. Through his son and grandon Isaac and Jacob the family grows populating the land. With Joseph, the family of God moves away from the land to Egypt. Under Moses, they leave Egypt on a journey toward the promised land. Through Rahab they actually enter the land. And then after they are there as we looked at last week, things aren't so great in the land.
And then the chapter ends saying that was because all these people were looking for something better and we learned last week that the better was both more people (all believers throughout more time) and that the better is fulfilled by Jesus. What we didn't talk about was how Jesus fulfills it for all his people and today I'm gonna argue that what he actually does is procure the better land where he will rule and reign in its great city!
A. Hebrews 11 & The Book of Hebrews
First let's look at verses 13-16 which give us a great insight into how the chapter is geared this way, "Hebrews 11 & The Book of Hebrews." These verses are kind of a weird side note in the middle of the chapter. If you're reading straight through it and you come to these verses they sort of stop the story for a minute and give this great explanation of what he is doing in telling story after story.
So it says, "These all died in faith (all the people of this chapter), not having received the things promised (the better land), but having seen them and greeted them from afar (we'll come back to that) and having acknowledge that they were strangers and exiles on earth (so they realized the land was not going to be found on earth). For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland (we're made to have a permanent home and not be journeying forever)...." On down to verse 16, "they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (the true land comes from heaven and in it)...God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (there is a great city in this land)."
Okay, starting to feel this? Let's keep following the story in Hebrews. The book of Hebrews starts out in its very first chapter describing the incarnation, when God came to earth...he came to the land, what we're about to celebrate this Advent. Then it spends ten chapters talking about what Jesus did in the land to redeem his people there. Then we've got chapter 11 which transitions from looking backward at what Jesus did to looking forward to what he has ahead and it's focus is this better land.
Chapter 12 basically addresses the struggles involved in waiting for this land that's ahead and to encourage those suffering it gives us this glimpse into what is ahead. Check it out with me, Hebrews 12:22-24 "You have come to Mount Zion (Zion means joy, so mountain of joy) and to the city of the living God (he's not only it's designer and builder and founder but he's at it's center...it's) the heavenly Jerusalem (so not earthly Jerusalem but the one built in heaven) and to innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (that's Christians) and to God the judge of all and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect (that's all the Old Testament believers) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.
So we've got this great mountain of land, with a city of joy on it called "Jerusalem" where there is a great gathering of angels, Old Testament believers and Christians who get to be there because of Jesus. This is to what is to come and then in the final chapter of Hebrews, Hebrews 13, we're told what to do in the meantime. Hebrews 13:14-15 "We seek the city (this city) that is to come. (and we do that) Through him (Jesus) ....(by) continually offer(ing) up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Okay. So I know I just gave you this big, wide stroke of a paint brush in doing going through Hebrews and out passages that way. Normally, if we had time I'd stop and go slowly through each of these passages making sure we're interpreting each one of them rightly. However, one of the main principles of interpreting the Bible rightly is whatever is plain and most easy reading is usually correct...that most stuff is pretty self-explanatory. And I think especially with these passages it's pretty clear. You don't really need me or need the Greek to be able to see and understand that Hebrews is pretty clear...real faith looks to a land and a city, that's built by God in heaven and it's a city of joy and worship and Jesus is the one who gets us there. Is that fair? Okay.
Alright. What I want to do in talking about "Zion & What is to Come" is talk about why this stuff is in the Bible and the role and importance of biblical, faith produced imagination.
B. Zion & What is to Come
In verse 13 of chapter 11 it says of the Old Testament examples that they saw this land and city "from afar" and "greeted" it. That's a very interesting phrase and concept. Now whether it was through dreams, visions, stories from their family members, or direct communications from God himself...to be able to "see" it since it hadn't and still hasn't taken place yet required imagination.
Now, there are a ton of ideas out there about the power of imagination and it's function in human persons and society. Some say it's imagination which enables one to be a successful entrepreneur or business man because they can imagine what could be. That's definitely true of the now late Steve Jobs, he had an imagination for a products that most never dreamed could be reality. J.K. Rowling who wrote the whole Harry Potter series recently said in a speech at Harvard's graduation ceremony that "Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation...(but is) arguably (the) most transformative...(because it has) power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared."
That may be true. What I think is different about biblical imagination is that it goes one step beyond potentiality or idea in the mind and says it is actually true and exists! I think that's how the word "greeted" is function in Hebrews 11:13, that the people of faith heard (by whatever means) of the promise of God and they believed it was true and would come to pass and thereby they "greeted" it.
Now, I'll let you in on a little secret. I love fantasy. Don't tell anyone but I've always been a sucker for it, whether it's the good ole' classic stuff like Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia or the new school stuff like Harry Potter, Dresden Files, the Walking Dead, and yes I'm ashamed to admit it, I've read them all..."The Twilight Series." It doesn't matter to me whether we're talking wizards, hobbits, zombies or vampires...I love it all. I love fantasy. There is something about reading material which recognizes that there is this whole other world and reality out there that just gets me going. Don't tell anyone seriously or we're not friends anymore, especially about Twilight. I think I lose some of my man card by admitting that.
What's interesting is that from a very early age kids naturally imagine. You don't have to teach it as a parent. Almost every day my daughter wants me to play with her with her toys in her room. So I'll sit down with her on the carpet and ask her, "So what are we playing sweetheart?" And she's ready. She's got it all planned out. She's got her dolls out and is telling me their names and how we're going to play school and then there's going to be a wedding. She's got the whole thing imagined out in her head. We told her we're going on a cruise for during my Sabbatical and lately she's been telling me how her and Winnie the Pooh went on a cruise together already and she's been telling us all about what it was like and how fun it is and stuff we should make sure and do while we're on the boat. So if you need any cruise advice talk to my 4 year old daughter.
Imagination. It's a powerful thing. And I think God gave us imaginations and put things in the Bible we would have to formulate and picture in our heads because what it does for us is tap into something deep in our psyche and being that he has implanted and all the realities of eternity come to life for us and our hope, excitement, anticipation and conviction is fueled!
So what I want to do for us this morning is to invite you to imagine with me the great city of God. The Bible actually has a ton to say about it describing it. In John 14:2 Jesus told his disciples that after his resurrection he would go be with the Father to prepare a place for his people. In Revelation 21 and 22 God displays the place he has been preparing with vivid detail. Here's some nuggets straight out of those chapters.
It's called the "holy city Jerusalem" and once it's complete it descends down out of heaven and the glory of God shines all about it in a great and radiant light. It has a high protective wall all around it with twelve gates and mighty angels at each gate. It's huge and every wall is adorned with jewels and the streets are paved with pure gold that is as transparent as glass.
There is no sun or moon anymore because light shines out of the throne of God where Jesus sits in the middle of the city. A river of water flows from under his throne through the middle of the main street in the city and on both sides of the river are multiple trees of life with fruit, like the one that were in the garden of Eden.
In Revelation 18 we see that the city is meant to be a place of music, the arts, trade, manufacturing, advancing technology and family building and in Revelation 19 we see that in the city of God all those things are purified from corruption and there is great joy. There are great feasts everyone gets dressed up to go to called "the marriage supper of the lamb." And sadness, tears, pain and death are no more.
It's a phenomenal picture isn't it? Can you imagine it? Isn't there something in your heart which leaps at the sound of it? We know this is true, it's what we long for isn't it? It's why every fairytale ever told is loved by all...happily ever after! The victorious hero who makes all things new and rules the land with perfect justice peace and joy!
The beauty and wonder and scandal of the Bible is it claims it's not a fairytale but is actually true! For all those who know the favor of its king, we shall live in his land and there he will not be shamed but anyone any longer but be honored and praised among us for all of his goodness and greatness. It's a robust and full life, not only singing songs of praise before our God, but one of creativity, work, play and feasts! Heaven is life like it is now without any sin or darkness but only as it should be with joy and holiness.
Well, let's shift gears a bit and talk about the cities we have now. How they got the way they are and why they are the way they are, "The Curse: Men's Cities."
II. The Curse: Men's Cities
If the city to come is the promise of God for all who believe, then the cities and land with their faults now are a result of the curse. One of the amazing things about the Bible and something that isn't so easy to see, unless you just sat down with the Bible and read it from cover to cover is that there is a unifying story and link between every book in its pages...that it all goes together.
A. Origins & The Biblical Story
If we look at the "Origins & Biblical Story" of cities in the Bible it really began in a garden, the garden of Eden in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In the garden of Eden, God tells Adam and Eve to "fill the earth", "have dominion", "work it" and "keep it." Tons of dudes have done extensive study on this and its pretty well recognized that this is really a call to build a God-honoring, God-centered city. Adam and Eve were called by God to populate, cultivate, organize and rule.
Meredith Kline in his phenomenal book "Kingdom Prologue" writes, "Fulfillment of man's cultural stewardship (was to) begin with man functioning as (a) princely gardener in Eden. But the goal of his kingdom commission was not some minimal, local life support system. It was rather a maximal, global mastery. The cultural mandate put all the capacity of human brain and brawn to work in a challenging and rewarding world to develop his original paradise home into a universal city."
In his article "A Biblical Theology of the City" Tim Keller writes that Adam and Eve were "to bring forth the riches that God put into creation by developing science, art, architecture, and human society...City building is an ordinance of God just like work and marriage...God made the city to be a developmental tool, a form of cultural â€˜gardening' designed to draw out the riches he put into the earth, nature and the human soul at creation. Even after the fall, cities are places of â€˜common grace' though each factor also now can be used, and is, for evil purposes.
You probably have never thought of that huh? What the purpose and goal of Adam and Eve procreating and working in the garden was...a call to build a rich city. Well, if you know and have read the story in Genesis, you know what happened. Instead of exercising wise dominion and cultivating the garden Adam and Eve fall into sin and are banished from it and die. Thus one of Adam and Eve's sons, Cain, is the one who actually ends up building the first city (Gen 4:17).
Cain's city ends up getting wiped out by the flood and right after that the first city we see being built is Babel. Babel was a prototypical ancient city. They would build what's called a "ziggurat", a sort of ancient skyscraper meant to be a staircase for gods to come down to earth. It's sort of a twisted version of God's design for a city with him at the center. In Genesis 11 God destroys Babel because the goal of their city was not to have him as the center but instead to "make a name for themselves." Stealing the worship that is meant for God alone, which is the overarching purpose and goal of cities.
After Babel it's not until the time of Joshua, Moses' successor that God's people start building cities. When they do they are constructed under God's direction to be what he called "cities of refuge" meant to be protective against animals, criminals and foreign tribes. Once David, the man after God's own heart becomes king of Israel he decides to make Jerusalem his hometown. After him, in like 41 other kings there's never quite a God-centered king as David and the longing and prophecies for a David-like messiah king are born.
From David on Jerusalem becomes known as Zion, the city of God. But because of corruption in the people and the city God eventually sends the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem. After about 130 Nehemiah finally returns and goes to work rebuilding the city of God. And things are good for awhile until by the time of Jesus the city has become corrupt once again merely functioning in subservience to the Romans. In 70 AD Jerusalem is destroyed and in large due to both the words of Jesus in John 4 that he is now the geographical center of worship and of due to the message of the book of Hebrews...physical Jerusalem and Israel in the middle east no longer become a focal point for God's people since we are awaiting the city to come, the heavenly Jerusalem!
The dispensational branches of Christianity who get all hyped on end times and what's happening in the middle east with Israel and Jerusalem seem to have missed that or something. If we just stick with the text Hebrews 12:22 says it's a "heavenly Jerusalem" and Revelation 21:2 says it's "the holy city, (the) new Jerusalem com(es) down out of heaven from God" when Jesus makes the new heavens and new earth. It's not a re-make or a re-build of middle east Jerusalem. It's brand new. There's some subtle amillenialism for you eschatology nerds.
Okay back to city theology. So basically the story of the Bible is a story which starts out in a garden in the first book of Genesis. Then we see story after story of a broken people in broken cities. Then the Bible ends with Revelation, the last book of the Bible will a redeemed and healed people all gathered together in an all new garden city with Jesus, our God king at the center caring for the people, the city and receiving all worship and praise. The Bible is just cool you guys, isn't it?!!!
B. Citizenship & Lackluster Provisions
So that's the story...but before we move on to our final main point this morning I want to point out a few things about the broken cities in-between Genesis and Revelation...so "Citizenship & Lackluster Provisions."
Because of sin entering into the world we see repeatedly that cities lack the ability to fully function according to their God-given intention. I'll just point out a few things.
One, cities are meant to be places of refuge of safety for the innocent, hurting, oppressed where minorities, the poor and immigrants can find a home. Instead, because of sin, cities tend to become places of refuge for those seeking deviant lifestyles and those in rebellion who foster crime, classism and racism. Rather than being a refuge under the protection of God they become places of refuge away from God and his laws.
Two, cities are meant to be places density and diversity which put me together with others who think differently and have varied creative talents and skills. The result is that in working together, both image of God in humans and the fingerprint of God in the earth might be mined and used to create an ever progressing society which glorifies the God who gives it life and sustains it. Instead because of sin, competition, pride-full arrogance, materialism, overwork and exhaustion tends to take over our efforts as we seek to become gods ourselves.
Three, cities are meant to be places of worship where we meet God, his truth and his goodness. Instead cities have proven to frequently religiously restless as either havens for cults and false worship or centers for irreligious atheism, thinking they don't need God and can be great on their own.
We see it time and time and time again here at The Resolved here in our city, San Diego. New ones will move here for one of these reasons: (1) either they needed a new start and are escaping something from some other place; (2) their job moved them here and our city provided a promise of financial benefit and career opportunity; (3) people are spiritually seeking and looking for answers and our city seems spiritually open or there are those who are tying to get away from what they perceive as religious persecution from any one of the major religious groups.
The point that is made in Hebrews with a resounding gong is that the promises our cities offer, they can never actually provide. Let's go back to our text and I want to point out a couple things to you. Look at verse 14 & 15 of Hebrews chapter 11. Verse 14 says they're seeking a home. Everyone wants to be loved and wants to be in a place where they feel useful. But verse 15, if there were such a place on earth that could provide that, they would have gone there. There isn't such a place, verse 16 says it only exists from heaven.
If you've ever thought simply changing where you live would fix your problems you'll find or you've already found out...it doesn't, it's our hearts that need to change. Hebrews 13:14 is super clear, we're not supposed to seek an earthly city. "We have no lasting city, but we seek the city to come."
What it does is put us in a natural tension here and now where we are seeking and awaiting rest in our true homeland and between now and then that tension often creates physical hardship, social ostracism, emotional anguish, and economic deprivation...just as it did for these ancient figures of faith we've been studying.
Bible commentator, F.F. Bruce says, "Every earthly institution belongs to "the things which are shaken (Hebrews 12:27)...in none of them can the human heart find permanent rest." We live in this time between the time where we have promise but await fulfillment.
The proper biblical view of ourselves is as sojourners, travelers here in this world. Look at Hebrews 11:13 and what it says about those with biblical faith...they saw themselves as "strangers and exiles on the earth." This is the universal view of the Bible, strangers and exiles. Listen to 1 Chronicles 29:15 "We are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding." 1 Peter 2:11-12 "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation."
We are sojourners. The things of this earth, the things it offers and promises...it cannot provide them apart from the great return of our Lord who will make all things new. We cannot afford to think that this is it. What God has ahead is better and the moment we start thinking this is our home, that this is the life, that this is the long awaited land...we are in trouble. Because then we have come to love weak, frail fractions of the gifts of God as he intends them to be.
It can't be any clearer than Paul says it in Philippians 3:20, "Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Our citizenship is in heaven. That's where we belong. If you are a Christian. If you consider yourself one of God's people...then this world is not your home! You don't belong. You will always be a foreigner. It should never feel right. There should always be a holy dissatisfaction. A lingering feeling that this all falls far short. We just happen to be here for a short while. But we belong to another kingdom. The kingdom of the one true King who is to come.
I think I told you once before about the old kids song I remember singing in church when I was young. It's lyrics are so fitting.
"This world is not my home I'm just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door, and I can't feel at home in this world anymore."
This world is not our home. It's like it and it's similar in some ways, but the world to come and the city with it is far better. In C.S. Lewis's final Narnia book, The Last Battle, Aslan who is the Christ figure in the book, at the end he brings the characters of the series to his eternal homeland and here's how the book ends...
"Lucy stood with her dear friend, her oldest Narnian friend, the Faun Tumnus, looking down over the wall of that garden and seeing all Narnia spread out below. But when you looked down you found that this hill was much higher than you had thought: it sank down with shining cliffs, thousands of feet below them and trees in that lower world looked no bigger than grains of green salt...'I see' she said. â€˜This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below...Lucy looked this way and that and soon found that a new and beautiful thing had happened to her.
Whatever way she looked at, however far away it might be, once she had fixed her eyes steadily on it, became quite clear and close as if she were looking through a telescope...then she forgot everything else because Aslan himself was coming, leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty...
Then Aslan turned to them and said, â€˜You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.' Lucy said, â€˜We're so afraid of being sent away.' â€˜...No fear of that,' said Aslan. â€˜Have you not guessed? ...Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.'
As he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." The End.
This world is not our home, our citizenship is in heaven and for it we wait with a great anticipation.
The question for us then becomes, what do we do in the meantime, while we're waiting? To answer that let's wrap up and talk about a few things from our last main point, "The Mission: Seeking the City."
III. The Mission: Seeking the City
Hebrews 13:13 says we're to "seek the city that is to come." That word "seek" is an interesting word in the Greek it's being translated from. It's the same word that gets translated as "lust" in other places in the Bible. It means to enquire for, search out, diligently long for, wish for, crave and desire. We're to crave after the city of God.
So how do we do that? Well, there's some general things about how the gospel transforms our hearts and lives which enables us to transform the cities of the world we find ourselves among and then there's also some unique things I think for us here in San Diego. I'll just do them both together here.
A. Gospel Transformation Inside & Out
B. Reaching Beautiful & Broken San Diego
First, the gospel is a new message entrusted to us by Christ himself, that he has won and procured the new city for his people. He did this by being unlike Adam who failed in the mandate given to him by God. Jesus succeed and resists the temptation to garner glory for himself and instead chooses to be humiliated among his brethren even though in reality he is the true Son of heaven.
His whole life and ministry he pretty much stays away from Jerusalem but at the right time he enters into the city riding on a donkey and is hailed the king. The result is he is arrested and tried and dragged outside the city and crucified. Three days later he rises again, shows himself to hundreds of people for forty days and then before their very eyes he ascends into the heavens promising to return one day and bringing the new heavenly city of Jerusalem with him.
I mentioned Tim Keller's article on the city earlier. He says that for us, the church, between now and that time there are basically four different options or approaches for us. One is to hate and despise the cities we live in, essentially entering into a culture war and calling the church our fortress. Two, is to say that the church is the city and attempt to mirror it and become independent of it...basically creating our own city. Three, is to use the city...like scavengers we live outside the city but make supply runs into it to get what we need. Or four, to actually love the city, be in it, and seek to spread the gospel among it as one does leaven in a lumb of dough.
I like that. I think it's helpful because that's really how the gospel functions inside our hearts.
Earlier we said that cities are meant to be places of refuge. We can create an anticipation for the true city to come by being a people of refuge where the innocent, hurting, oppressed minorities and immigrants can find a home through the love and support of the community of God's people, not running away from God's laws but running to them. We're able to do this because of the gospel, because Jesus who had no home, offered up himself so that in him and at the foot of cross any one might be welcomed into his kingdom.
Earlier we said cities are meant to be places density and diversity with people using their varied creative talents and skills. We can create anticipation of the city to come by being a people who are not driven by the desire for our own personal successes but rather to please and glorify our God. We're able to do this because the gospel, because it teaches us that our achievements do not define or satisfy us. Through Jesus we've been accepted and called his own and that frees us to merely delight in making our heavenly Father happy with what he has given because we don't have to work for his approval with our performance.
Earlier we said cities are meant to be places of worship where we meet God, his truth and his goodness. We can create an anticipation for the city to come by being a people who truly and deply love our God and enjoy praising his name. The human heart cannot not worship...it always worships something but only when it is worshipping the one true God does it fulfill it's design and is it satisfied. As others see how much we love to worship and live for our God they will be drawn into that because nothing else anyone can ever find is both worthy of worship nor can really receive it.
When it comes to us here in San Diego. I've said so many times...we need some people to come with us, stick it out here and love our city. The gospel needs to be kneaded like leaven into our city. I have a vision of our city completely transformed and changed because of the gospel. I believe that on this side of the heavenly Jerusalem people and places can be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Historian Rodney Starks documents in his book covering the spread of early Christianity that the gospel triumphed in cities..."31 cities of the (Roman) empire having a population of 30,000 (or more) by the year one hundred" had become saturated by the gospel as it spread through community and social networks of family, friends and colleagues.
We need you to be here in San Diego, to live here and spread the goodness and the truth of the gospel amongst your family, friends and workplaces while we work and worship together in community as the people of God. It's what the third point of our mission statement is all about, being a "city within the city."
Saint Augustine, one of the early church fathers wrote a monumental book titled "City of God." In it he gives advice for how we are to live in our cities as we await the city to come. Here's what he says,
"The city is often divided against itself by litigations, wars, quarrels, and such victories as are either life-destroying or short-lived...it seeks bondage and vice and is inflated with pride...it desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods...(instead) the families which live by faith look for those eternal blessing which are promised and use as pilgrims such advantages of time and of earth as to not fascinate and divert them from God...(until) we are translated into the kingdom of Christ...(where we shall) enjoy that holy and most delightful city of God."
Essentially what Augustine argues is between now and then, while we are sojourners, we ought to live now in our cities according to the principles of the city of God and as we do the people of our cities will experience the transforming power of the gospel.
San Diego is a beautiful city, America's Finest City" is our city's official tagline. But it's broken because it does not worship God, he is not he center. And we are on mission to have the worship of our great God for who he is and what he has done for us in Jesus transform our city.
Well, let's conclude. I'll be really brief here in preparing us for the Lord's Supper.
Jesus died on the cross for sin outside the city so that he might bring all his people to the true and better city to come. He rose again and ascended to build and prepare the new Jerusalem city. It's coming. And we his people, anxiously await it. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says every time we receive communion in this holy ceremony we're about to partake in, that every time we do it we "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
So there's an aspect of this whole thing in which we are saying each week, Jesus is not dead, he is alive and he is coming again and when he does he's bringing with him the city of heaven. Communion is a declaration of the reality of that city and longing plea for it to arrive. In light of that, here's how I'd encourage us to respond today.
Where you've been loving this city of world, the world and its pleasure more than you've been loving Jesus and longing for the city of God...confess those areas as sin and have Jesus cleanse, change you, forgive you and once again declare over you that Jesus paid the price for your sin and has granted you citizenship in his city no matter what.
The other way I'd encourage us to respond is with some of the very last words of the Bible, how it ends in Revelation 22. It concludes with this triumphant declaration and petition, "Come Lord Jesus!" So as you come to the table today pray that with me, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Express your longing for our Lord to come again that we might see his face and enter into that great city which will come with him on his coat tails.