“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[ life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
There is something about this January that feels very much like “selah”. We have finished one season and are about to enter another and the Spirit gently says, “stop and listen”. ‘Selah’ can also be translated ‘forever’ and indeed to hear from the heavenly realm is to hear of what is forever. In these verses from Colossians 3, there is a little word that carries the power to renew our vision in this world when we stop and listen and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe it into our hearts. The word ‘is’. When our hearts and minds, (our perception) is set on the realm of the Spirit, we can live in thanksgiving for what is. But when our eyes are set on earthly things, we find ourselves living in fear of what might be.
In this information age, the world sits in a great darkness (the fear of what might be) and that darkness is broadcast across the world 24 hours a day. Multimedia companies compete to be the greatest carriers of that darkness and the nations sit imprisoned by fear. In a prison where purveyors of doom and gloom are a dime a dozen, we are called to sing a different song, for only those who have been given the Spirit to see what “is” because of Christ, can sing a song of thanksgiving and victory, the sound of the Kingdom of light. It is this knowing by the Spirit of what has been given in Christ, that empowers us to proclaim this news of what has been given, this news of whatnow is. (1Cor.2:12).
This world right now is drowning in good advice. Good advice doesn’t set hearts alight, good news does! Yes, there is a glory in the message that says, “Victory is near, get your house in order, cut back on your sinning and step up on your praying”. (2Cor.3:7-11) But look around you. Such a message cannot dispel the darkness in this world, for the message ‘victory is near, look to your behaviour’ is the message of the spirit of this world (1Cor.2:12). It’s the message that is being broadcast across the world every day; “Victory is near and here is what you need to do to save yourself.” Such a message cannot dispel the darkness in this world because it is not the light of the Gospel, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not declare what will be, if, you. It declares what now is, because He, Christ! The Gospel is not, “your glory will come one day, hang on in there and keep your eyes fixed on world events’. That’s not the gospel because it is not the promise of dawn that dispels the darkness but the dawn itself and the gospel proclaimed in the power of the Spirit is the dawn rising on the darkness (Rev.19:10). It is not the promise of glory that dispels the darkness, it is the present glory in us, that dispels the presentdarkness in the world (2Cor.3:18) and that is why right now, when the world has never seemed such a dark place, has never been so blinded and deafened by man-made light and sound, this is not the hour for the Church to be captivated by earthly events, but to be setting her eyes above, where her real life is (Col.3:1-4). To see by the Spirit is to see that the biggest obstruction to an explosion of heavenly light from the Church are not masks on faces but veils on hearts, for multitudes of believers still slumber in the shadow of the Law, rather than rise in the light of the Gospel (2Cor.3:7-18)
The Church can only rise and shine in the light of what is (Prov.13:12). This is why we are living in a season when our foundations are being exposed, for we were not called to build on what might be, but on what is and the Church needs to see again, that the power of heaven is not found in the excellence of our plans, but in the foolishness of our message. (1Cor.1:18, 2Cor.12:10). How foolish, to sing in the dark as if you are standing in the noonday sun (Acts 16:25). But to hear the Gospel proclaimed by the Spirit, is to hear that your light has come and that the glory of the Lord has already risen on you. It is to hear that in the day when darkness covers the earth and deep darkness the peoples, we can arise and shine for His glory has appeared in us. When the Church arises in the light of what is, she proclaims the gospel on earth as it is in heaven and nations come to her light and kings to the brightness of her rising (Isaiah 60:1-3). This is the rising Church, a people awakened by the light of the gospel of what is, to arise into the life that now is, the life that dawned at the resurrection; hidden with Christ in God.
If Paul and Silas had only seen as the world sees, then while lying in that jail in Philippi they would have seen themselves as ‘forsaken by God’. But in the darkness of that cell, they found themselves seeing more clearly than ever, seeing by the Spirit. That night a different sound was heard in that jail, not the cries of men forsaken by God, but the song of men hidden in God (Acts 16:25). It was a song that so resonated with a creation groaning for men to see and speak as sons of God, that the very stones around them cried out and gave up their prisoners (Acts 16:26, Rom.8:19-22). When the jailer called for light to see by, he found in their cell a light already shining! Paul and Silas did not sing in the hope that if they sang well enough or long enough, God might answer. They sang as men who carried God’s answer; Christ and were joyfully carrying that answer into the darkest places on earth. Their lives were light shining in the darkness as they lived not waiting for a better day but living in the eternal day of the Lord. They were the light of Christ dawning on those sitting in great darkness. They were not proclaiming a message of what might be, but of what is. In knowing that reality, they were not waiting for freedom, they were living in a freedom that chains or walls could not contain (2Cor.3:17). So captivated were the other prisoners, that they could not bring themselves to run back out into a world where they had never found such liberty (Acts 16:28). Once men see the liberty the Spirit brings, the pale imitations this world offers lose their power (Gal.5:16).
Selah! Let the Church hear the song of heaven; thanksgiving for what is. Let the sound of that song begin to rise over a generation who have sat in darkness. Let our song not be about a better day to come, for only the dawn dispels the darkness, not the promise of the dawn. Let us not despair at the darkness around us, for this is very day for which we were called, for what better place for the children of light, the children of what is, to shine, than a world darkened by the fear of what might be (Phil.2:15). To see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, we must preach the Gospel on earth as it is in heaven, for in heaven it is not good advice on what might be, but the good news of what is! To a world blinded and deafened by the age of information, let us proclaim what can only be seen by the Spirit, for still today at the sound of such a song, the greatest prison in the world opens, the unbelieving heart.