21 April 2008

The Value of Setting Your Affections on Heaven

by Phil Johnson

n Psalm 17:14, David describes his enemies as men whose vision is totally earth-bound—who cannot see beyond the earthly value of this life's material blessings. They are "men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes."

In other words, they are already planning how to divide the family estate among their children. That is as far into the future as they can see. They have looked no further ahead than that, and they have no higher thoughts than that. All their hopes and expectations are tied to this life and this temporal world. They are utter worldlings, with no hope of heaven, no desire for heavenly things, and no concern about eternity. In that myopic vision lies the seed of all their wickedness. They are infatuated with this world, and therefore they are enemies of God.

David's world-view was totally different. And he sums it up in verse 15—one of my favorite verses in all Scripture: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."

In stark contrast to his enemies, David's hope lay beyond the present and beyond this world. What he was looking for was something that will not come in this life. He would ultimately be satisfied, but not until he awakened in his Savior's likeness.

So the center of David's greatest hope and longing was something that can be realized only in eternity. It is not something that pertains to this life. And therefore it is not something that can be shaken by the troubles of this life.

Here is an anchor for any believer who is downcast: Keep your center of focus in eternity. Don't be distracted by the anguish and the hardship of this life. A time is coming when all of that will be done away, and we will be perfectly and eternally satisfied. Cling to that hope and press toward that goal.

Phil's signature


Chris said...

So true indeed! For a second there, I wasn't sure if I was reading another post from Spurgeon! I know we all really milked the topic of the horizontal verses the vertical perspective a few weeks back, but it is so vital a distinction in the way we view ourselves, the world, the lost, and God that we need reminding over and over again! The cares of this life and of the world's ways are so easy to find ourselves absorbed in, as I know that my perspective is often much too horizontal. But, when I discover my error, it is so refreshing to get back to the vertical once again and set my mind and heart on the eternal realm--God's realm beyond time, space, and creation--which is not merely all that matters most, but rather all that matters!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ, out of respectful curiosity, was this post somewhat motivated by Bishop NT Wright's latest writings about heaven?

FWIW, I'm not particularly enamored with Bishop Wright's writings on heaven, but he does seem to be receiving some accolades for them.

the postmortem said...

Thank you, Phil. I really needed to read this. Lately, I've been more and more convicted about areas of my life that are insufficient at best, wretched at worst. I thank God my ultimate assurance lies in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Stefan Ewing said...

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Good to see you guys getting back into the groove.

Bryan Riley said...

Is David talking about the present and the future when he says "I shall be satisfied when I awake with your likeness?"

Kim said...

This post dovetails very nicely with the exposition of Psalm 90 you did on Sunday morning.

FX Turk said...


IMHO, Wright's view of Heaven is not the problem with his recent writings: it's his view of today given that Heaven is a future material reality.

Rick Frueh said...

A stark contrast to the perspective by Rob Bell who exhorts the unbeliever and believer to live with a journey mentality and reject the destination view. The extremely sad nature of the "journey" view is that many are on a journey to a literal place of toture and separation from God eternally.

I know, that theology is from the Triassic period and is now rejected along with the reality of Nessie!

Anonymous said...

One could almost say something like...so earthly minded that they're no earthly good.

Or to put it another way, so heavenly minded that they're of great earthly good...

Rick Frueh said...

"so heavenly minded that they're of great earthly good..."

I'm still looking for that guy. I think Jesus said something about going to prepare a place for us. I thought Paul said our life is with Christ in God. I thought we were looking for a continuing city. I thought we were to live in the eternal not the temporal. I thought we were Looking for the Blessed Hope.

I thought, but that's just me.

Jeff and Karla Flora said...

When I read this post I thought of what the aged old apostle said in 1 John 3:2-3 "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."

Heavenly mindedness effects how we live today "pure".

Also I was reminded about a good book I read titled "Heaven on Earth" by Stephen J. Nichols about capturing Jonathan Edwards's vision of living in between.


Hayden said...


I think you were listening to Piper at T4G. Me too! His sermon really affected me and some of it wove itself into my Sunday School lesson.

Excellent post. Good Monday morning food.

Mitch said...

Colossians 3:1-4

1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory

Praise be to God

donsands said...

Very good exhortation we need to take to heart. Thanks.

If the world has captured your affections, then you are an enemy of God.

This can happen to any of us. It happened to David, when He was king and took a woman to himself, and killed her husband. And when he numbered the people.
Though God disciplined him, and he repented, he did experience some nasty consequences.

It's a hard discipline for me to set my affections on heaven, though I do set my mind there. I think of Christ, who died for me, and said He wants me to see His glory, and to be with Him.
And how He wants me to serve Him now, and trust Him to help me obey Him, so that I can glorify Him in loving others.
And it does seem I'm more able to love my neighbor, when my heart and mind is set on things above.
But it's a hard for me to do in this overwhelming world of temptations, and having the devil never ceasing, and carrying around this body of death, my flesh.

But I thank God for the Cross, and for Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for me.

Stefan Ewing said...

Amen, brother Don.

Our road, our ancient path has a definite end in sight, but the gate is narrow and the way is hard.

Father, have mercy on us for our sins, and grant us the grace sufficient to walk daily by the power of the Holy Spirit in the footsteps of Your Son.

Strong Tower said...

Speaking of Piper

Our Adult Bible Study is on Discipleship. And the question being asked is who is the discipler? Man or God? The focus this week and next is out of Exodus and Moses' life, a faithful disciple to the death.

Piper extends in this interview to encompus the elderly of the church. What a waste it is when life is geared to accumulation just so we might after having done all to stand and having put on the armor, but to take ourselves out of the battle, if indeed we truly spent the time. In our calling what we see reflected in Jesus' instruction to Peter should be the goal. "You follow me." This indicating what death he should die, the greater meaning however is that to death we are called to be discipled (followers), schooled in the Gospel.

Tom Ascol has been recently criticized for his call to recover the Gospel. As many know he views that in terms of a regenerate membership. What does it mean to be regenerate, to be a disciple? The goal should be that we are active in the pursuit of the high calling, to reach the mark. To retire means to sleep and to pursue rest is to deny the Lord of the Sabboth, who is our rest.

The attitude that says Jesus is the means to attain your best life here and now, is ubiquitous. It had its roots in previous generations spoiled by gratuitous providence. Or so we think of it, but Scripture tells us do do all and count ourselves unworthy. It tells us that to whom much is given much is expected. And it commends Moses' because: "He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward."

We have a charge, the Gospel trust and a duty to peform which is needful, and the only reason we remain. Should we fill our bellies on anything except his body and bloody and that to be made like him in his suffering, to be broken and spilt for others? For us to remain laborers then is Christ and to do so until that day when no man can work, when we can say it is finished, and commend our spirits into the hands of the Father who made them.

Rick Frueh said...

I heard Jesse Duplantis (heretic) say he went to heaven and came back and yet he still loves money and this world. I heard Creflo Dollar (heretic) say the only people who want to go to heaven are broke.

I read Spurgeon words, "When we get to heaven and catch our first glimpse of the Risen Christ in all His glory, we will think ourselves a thousand fools to have ever been attracted by anything on earth!".

I'm goin' with Spurgeon.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I remember years ago talking to Mrs. Sproule (wife of Dr. John Sproule, former president of Capital Bible Seminary) about a funeral she had attended and she remarked that we simply don't talk about heaven enough. I agree, but I mean a serious talk - not about whether or not my dog will get to heaven or if we will have water fights in the river of life. What will it be to see His face, to see Him as He is?

Solameanie said...


Of course you realize that some of our Emergent friends will not be happy with this post. There you go again, making people think about "pie in the sky" instead of realizing that heaven is a place on earth (Belinda Carlisle not included).

We're supposed to be missional. We're supposed to be about community. You're so focused on streets of gold that you ignore the potholes down here that need to be patched. You should listen more to the Dalai Lama and Eckhart Tolle.

Ewww. Even though that was totally tongue-in-cheek, I'm beginning to break out in hives from even writing that way in jest.

Stefan Ewing said...

Yes, you were a little too earnest in your comment there. It's infectious, isn't it? Read 2 Peter twice and call us in the morning.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

For TeamPyroManiacs, especially PolyCarp, what do you think of the following:
Values and Practices of the Emergent Village

They're so earthly-minded that they're heavenly good. Right?

Chris said...


In reference to the question: wrong.

In reference to the emergent village link, here is my humble opinion:

To those (smaller) bits throughout the "creed" that are true and/or legitimate Biblically, I believe this is merely wordlplay and/or language manipulation intended to confuse for the most part. It is scarcely believed nor practiced in a best case scenario; in the worst case scenario, these elements of truth are actually opposed quite harshly and rebelled against with unashamed mockery and revisionism.

To those many large sections that reveal an entirely horizontal, ecumenical, worldly-minded, man-pleasing, and temporal focus, I believe this is the true geography wherein that lost village actually resides spiritually: on a scorched and dry desert landscape in the middle of nowhere.

John Fitzsimmons. said...

I know this is off subject, but I was wondering if you guys know of any good apologetic material for 'proof texting'.

I've noticed that quite a number of people in christian circles have a problem with it these days. Perhaps because it's hard to argue with God's Word.

I know people can 'proof text' badly, but what other authority can we base our arguments and convictions on apart from 'rightly handling the word of truth'?

I thought you guys would have, and know of, some good stuff.

Sorry for posting off subject...

olan strickland said...

"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."

I'm afraid that many want to go to heaven not because Jesus is there and their satisfaction is in Him but because of selfish utilitarian benefits.

Some believe that heaven exists for nothing more than the happiness of man (totally man-centered) and that sex and whatever else makes man happy is going to be there: watch here.

Others however know better and realize that such a view is not the goal of the Gospel: listen here.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).

olan strickland said...

Sorry! Here is the listen here link that I meant to post.

Mike Riccardi said...

John Fitz,

I might not be able to help you anyway, but I'm just confused as to what you're asking. What is it you mean by apologetic material for proof texting? Like... stuff that says proof texting is a good idea? Or stuff that has a bunch of verses arranged according to various topics? Or something else?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks Polycarp.

I was afraid that you'd be so enamored with the statement that you'd go postmodern emerging on us.

heh, heh. ;-)

Anonymous said...

John Fitz,

I don't know what kind of apologetic material you're looking for. But something that might clear things up is understanding the objection - that "proof texting" is not, or at least is vulnerable to not being, "rightly handling the word of truth". Basically, the objection is that when people proof text, it's almost by definition pulling it out of context, and it's extremely vulnerable to being spun or misused.

Let me give an example. When I'm discussing/debating with an Arminian, it's pretty common that they'll proof text Romans 8:32 to refute particular redemption. See, it says God gave his Son for us all, therefore Jesus died for everyone in exactly the same way, QED. And they can put together a list of similar verses which have "world" or "all" in them, and think this proves universal atonement.

The problem comes when you look at what that verse and context actually says. Basically, if God gave Jesus for you, it is impossible to imagine you won't receive everything else as well (such as being foreknown/predestined/called/justified/glorified, having all things work for your good, from 8:28ff). And continuing on, no one can even bring a charge against you (8:33), and none can condemn (34), and nothing can separate you from Christ (37-39). All these are yours on one and only one condition: if God gave Christ for you.

So that leaves us with two options. Either it's an incredibly strong statement of limited atonement (hint: this is the correct choice), or it's teaching universalism. The Arminian view - that Jesus died for many who will not receive all these things, that those for whom Jesus died will be condemned, that something will separate many from the love of Christ - simply isn't a choice.

So this is a classic case of "proof texting" where, when the text is actually examined, it explicitly rules out the very thing someone is trying to make it prove! And that's why people object to proof texting, it's so open to that kind of distortion.

So for an apologetic, I guess the thing to do is insist on the "rightly" in "rightly handling the word of truth". There's nothing wrong with putting together a list of verses that talk about divorce, or evangelism, or hell, or the love of God, or the deity/humanity of Jesus, and showing that the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches something. We call that "systematic theology". But whenever that is done, it must always be with the understanding that the verse/passage is properly exegeted in context, and that using the verse in this manner agrees with its actual meaning.

Hope that helps.

John Fitzsimmons. said...

yea stuff that says proof texting is a good idea. Like the kind of in context systematic proof texting trogdor defined so well.

Maybe it was a silly question, it's just that some people seem to struggle with the idea of systematic proof texting. For example one person in a book review I read accused evangelicals of always retreating to proof texting. But I kind of thought it was a strange thing to say. For if the basis of our argument is not God's Word, then what is ou basis, and how can others judge our argument?

Chris said...

Well, I'm working on not being redundant...which is a hard thing to do when the emergents' antics and rhetoric is always the same!

Mike Riccardi said...

I think that's true. I mean... if you have anything to say apart from God's Word, I gotta be honest: I don't really wanna hear it.

I do think Trogdor broke it down extremely well. It was actually a pleasure to read.

I think, too, negative attitudes towards proof texting usually come from people who think (maybe won't admit, but think) that there are contradictions in Scripture. They get annoyed and say stuff like, "Yeah yeah. You quote your verses and I quote mine. We can do this all day." But the believer in inerrancy should not be so blasé about that. If there's someone who is using a verse that supports a view you don't take, you either need to change your view or show the person how that verse doesn't actually support that view. Otherwise, Scripture actually does contradict itself, and then we're without hope!

I would say that you shouldn't defend proof texting to people without proof texting. Because without God's own Words, you have nothing of authority.

Stefan Ewing said...

Proof texting is probably offensive to those who reject the authority and sufficiency of Scripture...except for prooftexting from the Sermon on the Mount, of course. Because that's reliable, even though none of the rest is (NOT!).

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Mike R.

Perhaps a dumb question on my part, but was the beginning of your last comment a response to my statement about redundancy, or to the prooftexting discussion before me? I'm guesing it is the latter?

Mike Riccardi said...

Yup... the latter. ;o)

Sorry for not making that clear.

g said...

Good discourse indeed as we transverse the inchanted ground. (not enchanted)

Warren Chua said...

thanks for posting this. very encouraging.
truly we should set our minds on things above.

Sarah L. said...

Thanks for your post, it made me think of these quotes by Amy Carmichael:

"Our temptations are so fierce, because our vision is so limited. We need to pray that the things that are seen shall be transparent like the pavement of heaven for clearness, so that looking through, we shall see the things that are eternal."

"...Was it that He(God) was saying something like this to us: 'This gift will say to you not once, but continually, Do not look at the things which are seen(numbers, success, but at the things that are not seen (the spiritual, that which I am doing in the souls of men and women), for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. And these alone are of eternal importance to you'?"


My understanding has been that hope for life after death is a late development in Judaism. The concept of Resurrection developed several centuries after the exile.

The understanding in the Old Testament is, that the dead descended into Sheol – where there was essentially no awareness and no contact with YHWH. YHWH was not a god of the dead.

The phrase “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness", is being interpreted though the lens of the New Testament.

The Hebrew author was saying:
I am good. My enemies are bad. Yet they seem to prosper. He calls on YHWH to put his enemies to the sword. He plans to go asleep and hopes to have a positive response from YHWH when he awakes.

threegirldad said...

In one of his many "Letters to the Editor" republished in Christian Reflections, C.S. Lewis responded to a charge of "proof-texting" by saying this:

'Text-hunting' is, of course, 'Puritanical', but also scholastic, patristic, apostolic, and Dominical.

DJP said...

Perfect, 3GD