The second part of Wolfe’s Setting our Sights on Heaven looks at the reasons why Christians find it hard to remain focussed on their future with God. Over nine chapters Wolfe examines why we struggle: from doubts to cultural constructs of heaven, from wisdom on living in this life to the shortness of it. All the way through shepherding the reader lovingly, pointing us forward, moving our eyes upward. There was so much in these final chapters that I really didn’t know what to cover in the final couple of blog posts, so I thought that for a bit of a change I would re-read a section each night and blog on that.
Here is my first for the week.
Chapter 6, ‘Face Forward’
In this chapter Wolfe looks at our ‘orientation’, “…your fundamental orientation can either be looking backward or forward. It cannot be both.” (p. 94) He states that we all have pasts (whether good or bad),
We all carry with us memories like these, whether bitter or sweet, but some people, unfortunately, are obsessed with them. The past dominates their thinking. It consumes their energies. It determines their mood. It defines who they are. They are stuck trying to recreate the past, or to erase it, or to avenge it, or to deaden their hearts so that they no longer feel anything about it. They may even find themselves torn, feeling drawn to the past one day and then haunted by it the next. (p. 94)
His pastoral concern comes to the forefront in this chapter. He treads delicately, he is sympathetic, but he will not give any ground away. Wolfe uses the apostle Paul as our example in this. Wolfe unpacks what Paul means by “forgetting what lies behind” in Philippians 3; that it is not a failure to recall (because Paul has just described those very things and recalls his and other Christian’s sins throughout his writings in the New Testament), but it is that his orientation in life is not going backwards, but “straining forward”, pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).
Our future orientation firmly rests on Christ’s death and resurrection in the past, we do not forget them! We have been forgiven, completely, just as Paul was. Wolfe makes this clear. It is in our knowledge of our forgiven state that we can look forward with confidence and hope.
We need to remember. Pain and sorrow, as horrible as they are, point us forward to a time when there will be no more sin and no more death.
(As a side note, my one difficulty with this chapter was the exclusive use of the Westminster Confession for one whole point on God allowing Christian’s to remain in sin for a season (pp.102-3). I certainly would have appreciated some biblical input here!)