Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Do You "REALLY & TRULY" want to go to heaven?

The title of this piece comes from a question that has been rolling around in my mind for quite some time.  The initial response from anyone and everyone is 'yes', 'sure', "who  in their right mind wouldn't want to go there?"

To seriously ask someone that question (at least someone in the south), is to receive a response that goes something like this, "Seriously? Give me a break, who wouldn't want to go there, after all, it's the "sweet by and by" with gates of pearl, streets of gold, walls of jasper, and you get a mansion!  It's a place you'll never grow old, there's no sickness, sorrow, or pain, and the greatest thing of all is that we get to see our family and friends who have gone on before us and it will be great."  Sound familiar?  All of us, at one time or another, have pondered these thoughts.

With these thoughts as a backdrop, consider this question, "Have you ever gone somewhere 'thinking' it to be one thing and you walked away disappointed because it was something entirely different?" Perhaps you rented a beach house or a mountain cottage or have gone to some town or attraction, a concert, and when you got there, it was simply not what you thought it was.  Depending on how disappointed you were, you might regret going there.  

For many, being called "Christian" is simply about missing hell and making heaven. That is their deal, they just want to go to heaven when they die, but don't want to get too bothered about it while on earth.  They don't want to be bothered with things like life-change, following Jesus, sacrifice, service, and the like, just give me the benefit without the cost.  While we say, "Salvation is free", never forget what your life cost our Lord.  He gives love, grace, forgiveness, hope, abundant life on earth, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and in return He requires our hearts, that is, our all.  By the way, heaven is only a by-product or the outcome and a life given to Him.

But all of this has caused me to wonder, "What if heaven is not like you think it is or what you think it is?  After all, you don't get a voice in what it is.  So do you still really want to go there?" There are some who will think this type of question is, almost sacrilege or at best, a dumb question, but in almost 70 years of life, my observation is that, while people say they want to go to heaven when they die, they don't really seem to have a Biblical concept of what God's heaven really is.  Additionally, they don't fully embrace down here on earth, the things of heaven. 

So that evokes questions in my limited mind.  My questions are these:

  • If I or we don't enjoy on earth the things which will be central in heaven, why would go there?
  • If the things I value and give my life and time to on earth are not going to be in heaven, why do I think I'd be happy there?
  • If I don't enjoy being together with God's people on earth, what will change in me to make me enjoy having to be with God's people all the time in heaven?

How about one more question?  Have you ever thought about what is NOT going to be in heaven? (don't be shocked)

There won't be any money in heaven.  Think about that.  You won't have money to spend because you won't need money to spend.  You won't have to buy a house to live in and you won't have a title to the house you do live in.  Furthermore, you don't get to design your house.  You don't get to buy a car. The list is endless.

But let's make this a little more painful

From my study and prayer, I don't believe there will be any ballfields in heaven, no college or professional sports, no soccer fields, no basketball courts, & no golf courses,  WOW!  This is a startling revelation for some people.  So 'are you sure this is a place you really want to go?"

Additionally, think about those who have gone on before us, specifically our families and loved ones.  While we will know them, to think that they are mom, dad, aunts, uncles, children, and the like will not be what we think it will be, rather, they will be our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  They will be there because of their personal decision to follow Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

Some will ask, "What's your point?"  My point is simply that the centerpiece of heaven is Jesus.  For the Christ-follower, the first face you will likely see is Jesus. The activities in heaven will be the WORSHIP (that means bowing down) and PRAISE (this means giving Him the glory due His name), and celebrating the presence of the Lord for all eternity!

Think about it.  Do you still want to go?  This is a serious question.  If I/we/you have to be coerced to attend worship regularly with the brothers and sisters or attend Bible Study or if attending church services is more about 'where I park', 'where I sit', 'what music I sing', 'what someone wears', or even 'who do I get to see' rather than about the Worship of the Lord God (which is what heaven is all about), why would I want to go?  

This question haunts me as a pastor, and the haunting is not about 'me'.  My desire to go to heaven is based on one truth, Jesus is there.   He is the one who has never thrown me under the bus.  He is the one who found me as a sorry sinner and saved me by changing me.  Yes, I know that family and friends will be there and we will enjoy the true fellowship in heaven forever.  Yes, I know there will be a family reunion there, but I also deeply believe it will not be the reunion found in the 'earthly family with earthly connections.'  Rather, it will be a reunion of the blood-bought family that has been redeemed by the innocent, precious blood of Jesus who died so that I could know the Father, have my sin forgiven, enjoy abundant life on earth, and (oh by the way) the reward is to get to go to heaven where all the saints dwell.  

The personal confusion I have is this, why would someone want to go to that place that doesn't really love Jesus or the family of God?  Why would someone want to go to heaven who doesn't want to be a part of the family of God known as the church?  Why would someone want to go there who finds greater joy in the temporal things of the earth than the eternal things of God?  

I love golf, but I don't think they'll be golf in heaven (anyone who has ever 3-putted believes that also).  And I'm good with that. Actually, life will probably be better without it.

But I don't believe there will be any of the 'stuff' there, that we give 4, 5, or 6 nights each week to, things which we think we can't live without.  I don't believe that anything we have made into a god down here that replaced Him in our lives, will be allowed into His heaven.  Why do I say that there are things we made into gods?  Here's why.

When the pandemic hit, the moans and groans which were heard were about what?  Oh yeah, there were a few who bemoaned the fact of church services being scuttled, but the national outcry was to restore the 'god of our day' quickly.  There is little need for me to identify this god, because we know it, bow down to it, & thought we couldn't live without it.  

Heaven is a place where the gods of this earthly life will have passed away in favor of Jehovah God, where Jesus is recognized as the 2nd Person in the trinity-the lamb slain-the lion of Judah-the victorious one, and where the Holy Spirit of God engenders an atmosphere that is highly spiritual, joyful, worshipful, and fulfilling; and it's for eternity.

If this vision of heaven doesn't appeal to you, THEN I APPEAL TO YOU to apply 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 'Test yourselves, to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?"  Only those who pass this test get to heaven.  Jesus said, "I am THE way" and there is no other.  

Earth is but Bootcamp for heaven.  And like the armed services, only those who successfully complete Bootcamp, get a station in the service.  To successfully complete life on earth means a personal relationship with Christ through repentance, confession, believing, surrendering to, and following Jesus.

So, knowing all of this about Heaven, 

"DO you REALLY AND TRULY want to go?"




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Big Miss

 It is on an infrequent schedule that I blog.  Most of the time, I keep my thoughts to myself except for spiritual occasions.  However, I write the following words because this event has garnered much attention.  These are my personal thoughts about this.

Friday, February 25, 2022

A Needed Word from Someone Else

 Without excuse, I know that I blog way too little, particularly with all the happenings, situations, and circumstances of our day.  It's like we are living the days of foretold prophecies in real time.  Whether you read the newspaper, watch the news, stay up online, OR READ THE BIBLE, they all are in harmony.  

This outbreak of unprovoked aggression on the other side of the world should serve as a catalyst of sorts or a 'cold-water in the face' type of events to awaken us to the truth, that while not likely today, this world is destroying itself because, in the whole, it has rejected creator God and His Son, Christ Jesus.  

Each day, I received many solicited (that means I 'signed-up' for them) blogs, articles, and the like through emails.  Since a preacher friend and I had an unplanned breakfast with Dr. Robert Jeffress, I have signed up for his mailings plus purchased several of his books.  He is doing a great job of preparing his people (and us) for the future.  Today, I received the following article from him.  As you will see, he gives us a Biblical perspective on the Russian-Ukraine war.  I pray it helps you as it did me.  


How Christians Should Respond to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

 

Dr. Robert Jeffress Commentary


Today marks the outbreak of military conflict of a kind and on a scale the world has not seen since World War II. We are watching a devastating invasion unfold in real time. Visceral and disturbing images stream out of Ukraine every moment, as Russian forces bombard and assault Ukrainian city centers. It can be difficult to process events like this. We need a biblical lens. So I want to remind you of some basic truths to help you navigate these extraordinary times.
 
First, wars remind us that God is sovereign over history. Nations rise and fall at His command. As God revealed to the prophet Daniel, empires would rise and fall, each failing to establish itself permanently. The kings and kingdoms of this world are like the changing of the seasons—they rise and eventually they all fall, according to God’s will (Daniel 2:21). Nothing catches God by surprise or thwarts His plans. As the Psalmist tells us, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11). The evil designs of dictators like Vladimir Putin are, in some mysterious way, turned and used by God to accomplish His greater purposes in the world: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
 
Second, wars remind us that the end is near, but they don’t necessarily mean the end is here. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an awful display of needless aggression by a glory-hungry dictator. But these events probably do not herald the end of the world. This terrible conflict is much more likely to be yet another of what Jesus called the “beginning of the birth pains” that characterize our age. There will be “wars and rumors of wars,” instances of “nation” suddenly rising up “against nation” and “kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6-8). It is true that birth pains get worse and increase in intensity as the birth approaches. We are closer now to the end of history and the return of Christ than ever before. Yet we do not know whether that return is one year or one thousand years away—it is simply not for us to know (Matthew 24:36). It may be that God allows each generation to experience such pains and tremors, not to send us into a frenzy but instead to remind us that the current order of things is temporary. In war we have a preview of what the end of the age will look like. The Antichrist’s actions will in some ways resemble the destructive and lawless actions of Vladimir Putin (1 John 2:18). The end of the age will in some ways resemble these terrible days of war and carnage.
 
Third, wars should stir us to courage in the face of evil, sympathy for innocent victims, and urgency for the Great Commission. As we seek to respond in a Christian way to these circumstances, you may be wondering what you can do. We should have courage amidst the uncertainty and evil that surrounds us. As Paul told the Corinthians: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). We should also have sympathy for the innocent victims of this unprovoked war. We should pray for a quick end to the conflict, for the safety of innocent people, and for the Christians who will surely be persecuted under Putin’s godless regime. Finally, we must have a renewed urgency for our gospel mission. Christ has told us what to do with the time we have until He returns (Matthew 28:19-20). So we need to make “the best use of the time,” sharing the gospel with as many people as possible (Colossians 4:5).
 
We do not know when this age will end, when our civilization may unravel, or even how long our own life will be. So there is no time to waste in making Christ known and sharing the eternal hope we have in Him. He promises us the only safe haven from war, in the only Kingdom that will experience unending peace.

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