Richard Burgess, 05.09.2021.
There must be more than this. The last 18 months have been challenging for many people, especially those have lost people near and dear to them. We have been faced with eternal realities in a way that many of us have never been before. Before covid life seemed so sure, suddenly the certainty seems to have evaporated, life is no longer as concrete as it used to be. In some parts of the world though such is an every day reality and is no respector of age.
As Christians we believe that this is not all there is. We believe that eternity is written into the DNA of every human heart. Something we see if you read the “In Memoriam” columns of the local newspaper. As Christians we believe that Christ came and brought life and immortality to light. That he came from somewhere – heaven; and lived and died in real flesh. More than that, we believe that he rose again in real flesh and then he went somewhere – he ascended into heaven. Today our hope rests upon the fact that there is a Man in the glory who has taken humanity into the heart of the Godhead… it is this that gives us hope that goes beyond the grave, that Christ in us is truly “the hope of glory,” and as Paul said, “for me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” These are not empty words, but words that have been filled out in Jesus.
A word about heaven. For too many their idea of heaven is way off beam, and consequently there is no desire or anticipation of it. For some its like an eternity long worship service (unfortunately a rather limited view of worship) … for others it seems rather ghostly, like something with no tangible reality. Others think it all sounds rather quiet and sedate (not sure where that comes from when you read Revelation), and so they wonder what will we do with all that time. Won’t it all be rather boring? I remember being in a study group years ago discussing heaven and some of it was woefully short of biblical reality – it certainly wouldn’t have created any desire to go there. Such ideas need to be rectified.
It was an all glorious view of Jesus and the heaven that he spoke of that compelled the early Church to go and tell of him, to preach the Good News, and call upon those who heard to believe in Jesus Christ and be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. Scripture speaks of a new heaven and new earth. It speaks of new bodies, true physicality. And the great thing? All that’s bad about this world will be gone. No more suffering, no more sinning, no more weeping, no more injustice, no more frailty, no more dying…
Freud said there are two things that are necessary to life, love and work – he got that right. And love and work will be part of heaven. We will experience love in all its wonder, and there’ll be jobs and responsibilities. Some wonder whether we will feel. God made us so, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise. All that is good about this life will be heightened. Augustine said that in Heaven the joy that we receive from God in our souls will “overflow” into our resurrection bodies in a “voluptuous torrent” of pleasure! I mean, wow! (If you’d like to learn more about heaven why not read, Heaven by Randy Alcorn).
The Big Question
The Big Question is, if heaven is our goal, how then should we live? Here are eight things, you could add more, but these were on my heart.
1. Believing the Good News – the staggering, outrageous, grace of God. This is our starting point. “God so loved the world that he gave his One Only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You won’t find a better offer than that this side of heaven! Have you come to know him?
2. Building on the firm foundation of God’s word – Holding fast to the truth. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are, storms come. Storms of circumstances, storms of bad news, storms of doubt… Jesus said they come whether your house is on the sand or the rock. The question is will your foundations take it, are they up to it? Maybe yours need some underpinning, life and the enemy have got the better of you, and they are not what you thought they were. Better they are exposed now and you have the chance to do some underpinning, some reinforcing. Get into the Word, study it, feed on it. Go gets some good teaching. Find someone who can help you. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:13)
3. Guarding your heart and mind – Scripture says, “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). Your heart is your most precious possession… the place of your mind, emotions and will. The enemy would like to contaminate it, to poison it with bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, among other things. When that happens you can’t think straight, your energy levels are depleted, life is a mess. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. God loves you, Jesus died for you, the Holy Spirit is here to bring the Father’s heart and healing to you. Which leads me to my next point…
4. Repenting of known sin – what ever it is we need to deal with, we need to learn to do it quickly. We believe in the grace of God, but there are some who teach that means we don’t have to say sorry to God, to repent of our sins, because what Jesus did covered it all. There truth to that, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge and confess our sins, that’s the way we grow. Parents love their children, accept them, but that doesn’t mean they never have to acknowledge it and say sorry when they do something wrong. No, we teach them to recognise their wrong, to say sorry if they have hurt someone, and through it they grow. There is no true growth in the Christian life without repentance.
5. Keeping an eye on the destination – if we don’t we’ll wander, go round in circles. Today there’s a lot of emphasis on living in the moment (and there’s a good side to that, the precious present – now is the accepted time), but the danger is, that that’s all there is. That can defeat the object of life which is to arrive at the destination. Imagine a car journey without a destination, a football match with no goals, a golf course with no end. It is the destination that gives shape and perspective to life. So Paul is able to say, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed…” (Rom 8:18), and again, “Our light affliction, which lasts but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor 4:17,18). Yes, we should enjoy the journey, but let’s not forget the destination. With an eternal goal every step of the journey has significance. The danger: going round in circles and arriving in eternity totally unprepared.
6. Keeping our eyes on Jesus – not your spouse, your family, other Christians etc. but on Jesus. People will let you down, even the best of them. The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to keep “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sat down at the right hand of God” Heb 12:2.
7. Don’t go it alone – we were made to do life together, the lockdown has emphasised that. Scripture teaches it. It talks of a family, a body, the importance of one anothering. Listen, the enemy loves to isolate, to cut you off. He knows the power of fellowship. Make sure you are a part of a church, “don’t stop meeting with others.” Grab fellowship withose who can help and inspire you, who will encourage you in the faith.
8. Stirring yourself up in God – lastly don’t become wholly reliant on others. Don’t live your life vicariously through others. Get in the habit of stirring yourself up in God. David encouraged himself in the Lord. He spoke to himself, he sang, he declared the goodness of God, he processed his life before and with God. He said, “bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name… my heart is steadfast, or fixed, I will sing and give praise…” (Psalms 103; 57; 108).
Lastly, if you have come to know Christ you are already partaking of eternal life! Rejoice in it, and live it, knowing that he has given exceeding great and precious promises for all of life this side of heaven.