The Unexpected Gift

March 12, 2023 

Message Big Idea

There are many ways to conceive of heaven, past and present. But God provides a clear picture in how He designed the Garden of Eden. Heaven is meant to be a physical place, sensuously delightful and eternally sacred, in which humanity and God can commune in perfect relationship. Sin corrupted this design. Yet, God is restoring His design, breaking the curse over creation and making all things new — this is the unexpected gift!

Lean In

  • Take a moment to reflect or share (if you are with others in a group setting): What are you grateful for today? What are you struggling with today?
  • Tell of a time when you were struck by natural beauty, a moment when you could not help but pause and marvel at God’s creation. Was it something small like a flower or a hummingbird? Or, was it something grand like a landscape or the night sky? Describe the feeling you experienced.

Look Down

  • Read Genesis 2:8-11 & Revelation 22:1-5
  • Take a moment to briefly retell the passages in your own words.
  • What words or phrases “jumped off the page” and intrigued you the most? Why?

Look Out

  • Pastor Mark opened his sermon discussing the portrayal of heaven (or lack thereof) in the secular imagination. Discuss how heaven is described throughout the broader cultural context.
  • Henry David Thoreau in his transcendentalist work, Walden, claims that “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” What are your thoughts on this statement? Do you agree with it in any way? Do you disagree? How so? (Leaders, reference Romans 1:20)
  • Mitch Albom, a contemporary American novelist, states in The Five People You Meet in Heaven that “Everyone has an idea of heaven, as do most religions, and they should all be respected.” He goes on to say, “That’s what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays.” Again, discuss how these statements hold a glimmer of truth while also erring in their portrayal of heaven as it truly is (Leaders, reference Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Look In

  • With references to the Genesis and Revelation passages, how are we to understand heaven from a Christian perspective (Creation – Fall – Redemption – Consummation)?
  • How does God’s design of Eden (at Creation) inform our understanding of heaven?
  • What of that vision was lost at the Fall? How is God’s design restored in Revelation (i.e., consummation)?
  • Reflect on how this countercultural understanding of heaven impacts the way you live your life right now. Does it change what you fear (“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 1 Cor. 15:55)? Does it change how you hope? Does it give peace knowing that the Lord, who did not design creation in this corrupted and fallen way, is making all things new (Rev. 21:5)?

Live It Out

  • What is one thing God seems to be asking you to do in response to this passage? (i.e., “I will ….”)
  • Who can you tell about this “I will” statement in the next 48 hours?
  • Journal about your time in God’s Word this week. Stop to listen to what He might be telling you. Celebrate His presence through His Word!
  • We currently live a place of spiritual tension: tasting joy but experiencing sorrow, knowing what was lost but anticipating what is coming, feeling heaven indwell our hearts but seeing that we do not indwell heaven yet. Spend some time meditating and praying in response to the following quote from Henri Nouwen:

    “Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.”

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