Heaven will not be boring

Opening:

A cleric found himself wondering whether there were any golf courses in Heaven. He even began to ask the question in his prayers. One day, in answer to his prayers, he received a direct answer from on high. 

“Yes,” said the Heavenly messenger, “There are many excellent golf courses in Heaven. The greens are always in first class condition, the weather is always perfect and you always get to play with the very nicest people.”

“Oh, thank you,” said the cleric, “That really is marvellous news.”

“Yes, isn’t it?” replied the messenger, “And we’ve got you down for a foursome next Saturday.”[1]

A few weeks ago I was running with Mercedes and we had an interesting conversation. Actually, we are having many philosophical conversations as we run. So, a few weeks ago she asked me if we will have to go to the bathroom in Heaven. I don’t have a good answer to that, though I understand the question. One of the major stressors of a five-year-old is to make sure she makes it to the bathroom in time. I remember being a child and thinking about how in Heaven I hope that we can have peanut-butter pie. I remember thinking that we could eat as much as we want without getting sick. Some of those thoughts have worn off as I’ve aged. Why don’t we think like children about Heaven anymore? Why can’t we use our imagination?

A common misconception about eternity surfaced in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. A member of the undying “Q continuum” longs for an end to his existence. Why? Because, he complains, everything that could be said and done has already been said and done, and now there’s only repetition and utter boredom. He says, “For us, the disease is immortality.” Finally he’s allowed to end his existence.[2]

Can Christians have fun? Why not?

I thought about this while reading the Little House in the Big Woods book to Mercedes:

Little House in the Big Wood Sundays chapter:

On Sundays Mary and Laura must not run or shout or be noisy in their play. Mary could not sew on her nine-patch quilt, and Laura could not knit on the tiny mittens she was making for Baby Carrie. They might look quietly at their paper dolls, but they must not make anything new for them. They were not allowed to sew on doll clothes, not even with pins.

They must sit quietly and listen while Ma read Bible stories to them, or stories about lions and tigers and white bears from Pa’s big green book, The Wonders of the Animal World. They might look at pictures, and they might hold their rag dolls nicely and talk to them. But there was nothing else they could do.

Laura liked best to look at the pictures in the big Bible, with its paper covers. Best of all was the picture of Adam naming the animals.

One Sunday after supper she could not bear it any longer. She began to play with Jack, and in a few minutes she was running and shouting. Pa told her to sit in her chair and be quiet, but when Laura sat down she began to cry and kick the chair with her heels.

“I hate Sunday!” she said.

Pa put down his book. “Laura,” he said sternly, “come here.”

Her feet dragged as she went, because she knew she deserved a spanking. But when she reached Pa, he looked at her sorrowfully for a moment, and then took her on his knee and cuddled her against him. He held out his other arm to Mary, and said:

“I’m going to tell you a story about when Grandpa was a boy.”[3] He then tells a story about his father being punished for fun on Sundays.

I don’t want to insult the past, I know they had reasons for what they did, but sometimes in our best efforts to be reverent we ruin fun. The problem with that is we make Christians look boring. It follows that we make Heaven seem boring.

Is Heaven to be boring?

Theme: Heaven will not be boring, Heaven will be fun. Heaven will have all the blessings of this life without the hardships, pain and suffering.

WHAT WILL WE DO?

We will worship the triune God.

We will rule and administrate.

We will have different positions of authority.

We may rebuild cities.

We may build homes.

Some will compose and write music.

Some will play musical instruments.

We will serve.

Some will farm.

Some will cultivate orchards.[4]

  1. It seems that Heaven is a reflection of earth, or should I say earth is a reflection of how Heaven was to be.
    1. Things God created that have been distorted by sin will be made right and perfect.
    2. We live in a fallen world, but I believe the Bible shows that Heaven will be as God intended the Garden of Eden to be before sin entered the world.
    3. We can read Revelation 21 and 22 and see the comparisons with the Garden of Eden. In the eternal Heaven, in Revelation 22 it seems that that Heaven is a reflection of the first Garden of Eden. We will see a Tree of Life again in verse 2 as there was a tree of life in the first Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). We see a river in the eternal Heaven in Revelation 22:1. We see two rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10 and 13. It does seem that the eternal New Jerusalem Heaven is going to be like the Garden of Eden was meant to be, only much better.
    4. We have purpose now and we will have purpose for all eternity.
    5. Just think for a moment about your best moments on earth. Think about your most exciting times. Think about how you felt when you first found out you were going to be a dad or a mom. Think about how you felt when were first engaged or newly married. Think about the joy, comfort and excitement on a vacation. Just think about how excited you were to get a new job or do a certain job. Just think for a moment about how much you love a certain hobby. Now imagine that joy, those feelings, that excitement going for all eternity. Imagine for all eternity doing what you love to do, but without being tired, without sickness or pain. I wouldn’t limit eternity though. You may get bored fishing for all eternity, but why would you do the same thing? What if you fished for a while and then played golf and then accomplished a task? It does seem that we will have purpose.
    6. Look with me at Luke 19:11-17: While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ 15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
    7. This is a parable of Heaven and it seems that Jesus is saying that when we are faithful we will be blessed.
    8. It seems that He is saying when we are faithful we will be blessed by helping to run the universe. We can help Jesus run the universe.
    9. There are other passages: Randy Alcorn writes: Isaiah 65: 21 suggests that we’ll build houses and live in them on the New Earth. If so, we’ll no doubt decorate them beautifully. Buildings on the scale of the New Jerusalem reflect extensive cultural advancement. Human builders will learn from God’s design, just as Leonardo da Vinci learned by studying the form and flight of birds while working on his flying machine. What will clear-thinking human beings— unhindered by sin and the barriers that separate us— be able to design and build? What would Galileo, da Vinci, Edison, or Einstein achieve if they could live even a thousand years unhindered by the Curse? What will we achieve when we have resurrected bodies with resurrected minds, working together forever?[5]
    10. He continues: Some researchers suggest that we now use only 10 percent of our brainpower. Adam and Eve could likely use 100 percent of theirs— and their brainpower was probably far greater than ours… On the New Earth, God’s gifts to us will never be lost to age, death, pettiness, insecurity, or laziness.[6]
    11. It is quite likely people will continue to compose music, write stories, discover things.
    12. Suppose people continue to explore, but now they can explore all of these new oceans. Suppose people can explore outers pace and go even further than ever before.
    13. A major point to be made is that we will have resurrected-perfect bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the resurrection, Paul writes about our resurrected bodies. I don’t know if we will be able to, but Jesus was able to walk through walls (John 20:19), Jesus was not limited by gravity (Acts 1:9). That could be because Jesus is God, but who is to say that our resurrected bodies will not have more capabilities than we have now.
    14. Randy Alcorn writes: A disembodied existence would be boring, but the reality of our bodily resurrection puts boredom to death. Imagine the animals that zoologists will research and play with or the flowers that botanists will study. Gifted astronomers and explorers may go from star system to star system, galaxy to galaxy, studying the wonders of God’s creation. If we think life on the New Earth will be boring, we just aren’t getting it. Take a closer look at God and his Word, and all thoughts that we’ll be bored in his presence will vanish.[7]
    15. We will have fun. God created fun, we didn’t create fun. When we were children, we played— with each other and with dogs and cats and frogs. We enjoyed hiding, climbing trees, sledding, and throwing snowballs and baseballs. We played nonstop, never having to go earn a living. We played just because it was fun. Is God pleased by that? Yes, because he created and values a childlike spirit (Mark 10: 14-15).[8]
  2. Let’s apply this.
    1. Look with me at Revelation 14:13: Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lordfrom now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
    2. Did you notice that? Their deeds will follow them. What we do on earth will follow us so it is best that we store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
    3. Hebrews 6:10 tells us that God will not forget the good things we do.
    4. We can look forward to Heaven. Heaven will be greater than anything we can imagine.
    5. We can share the Gospel knowing that we are inviting others to paradise.
    6. We can also know that if we have extra suffering here and now we won’t have that for eternity.
    7. Some us would love to do certain things, but can’t because of health. You can do all that and more in Heaven. If you can’t go fishing anymore, you can in Heaven. If you can’t run anymore, you will be able to in Heaven. If you can’t play golf anymore, you can in Heaven. If you can’t read anymore or travel or hear in Heaven these things will be restored. In Heaven you will be able to be active without pain. In Heaven you will be able to have energy which you cannot imagine now.
    8. I am amazed by Mercedes energy. She can move so fast! I am amazed at my young age how sore I can feel in the morning. I cannot imagine life without having to think about energy levels, but in Heaven this will be fixed.
    9. However, our experience in Heaven is determined by our faithfulness to Christ now.
    10. Remember we are saved by grace, but we will have rewards for faithfully serving Jesus.
    11. So, just like how in this life the mistakes we make now catch up to us later, it is true for all eternity. Serve Jesus faithfully now and you will have more opportunities to serve Him forever.

 

Close:

Two Christians have lived very good, and also very healthy lives. They die, and go to heaven. 

As they are walking along, marveling at the paradise around them, one turns to the other and says “Wow. I never knew heaven was going to be as good as this!”

“Yeah”, says the other. “And just think, if we hadn’t eaten all that oat bran we could have got here ten years sooner.”[9]

I love C. S. Lewis’s profound perspective in his book Mere Christianity, when he writes,

The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”[10]

We are created for another eternity. We are created for Heaven and it will not be boring.

Heaven will not be boring; Heaven will be fun. Heaven will have all the blessings of this life without the hardships, pain and suffering.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] http://jokes.christiansunite.com/Heaven/Golf_in_Heaven.shtml

[2] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7599-7602). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3] http://www.gutenberg.ca/ebooks/wilder-woods/wilder-woods-01-h.html

[4] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 153). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7599-7602). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7599-7602). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[7] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7599-7602). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7880-7883). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[9] http://jokes.christiansunite.com/Heaven/The_Healthy_Christians.shtml

[10] Ingram, Chip; Witt, Lance (2016-02-23). The Real Heaven: What the Bible Actually Says (Kindle Locations 1380-1388). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Will animals be in Heaven?

We have always had a love for animals, haven’t we?

I remember a Twilight Zone episode about a man and his dog.

Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain man who lives with his wife Rachel and his hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Rachel does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once and Hyder refuses to part with him. Rachel has seen some bad omens recently and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither Rachel, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him; they are under the impression that he has died. 

Walking along the road, Hyder and Rip encounter an unfamiliar fence and begin to follow it. They come to a gate tended by a man, who Hyder initially believes to be Saint Peter. Explaining that he is only a gatekeeper, the man explains that Hyder can enter the Elysian Fields of the afterlife. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that neither raccoon hunting nor any of his other usual pleasures can be found inside. Told that Rip cannot enter and will be taken elsewhere, Hyder angrily declines the offer of entry and decides to keep walking along the “Eternity Road,” saying, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”

Later, Hyder and Rip stop to rest and are met by a young man, who introduces himself as an angel dispatched to find them and bring them to Heaven. When Hyder explains his previous encounter, the angel tells him that the gate was actually the entrance to Hell. The gatekeeper had stopped Rip from entering because Rip would have smelled the brimstone inside and warned Hyder that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”

As the angel leads Hyder along the Eternity Road toward Heaven, the angel tells Hyder that a square dance and raccoon hunt are scheduled for that night. He also assures Hyder that Rachel, who will soon be coming along the road, will not be misled into entering Hell.

The closing narration is:

“Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once—in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.”

I wonder if our love for animals is because God created animals and He created animals as part of Eden. Look at Genesis 1:30:

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. [1]

This passage references animals in the Garden of Eden and also references the “breath of life in them.” Animals were in paradise when God first created it prior to the fall of man. In the eternal Heaven, in Revelation 22 it seems that that Heaven is a reflection of the first Garden of Eden. We will see a Tree of Life again in verse 2 as there was a tree of life in the first Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). We see a river in the eternal Heaven in Revelation 22:1. We see two rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10 and 13. It does seem that the eternal New Jerusalem Heaven is going to be like the Garden of Eden was meant to be, only much better. It would seem that since animals were in the first garden they will be with us in eternity. Let’s talk about this for a moment.

My Theme today:

Animals were created by God as part of paradise and that will continue into the new creation.

I hope this is encouraging for you.

  1. Let’s start by talking about souls. Do animals have souls?
    1. When God breathed a spirit into Adam’s body, made from the earth, Adam became nephesh, a “living being” or “soul” (Genesis 2: 7).
    2. Randy Alcorn shares: Remarkably, the same Hebrew word, nephesh, is used for animals and for people. We are specifically told that not only people, but animals have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1: 30; 2: 7; 6: 17; 7: 15, 22). God hand-made animals, linking them both to the earth and humanity. Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. (Nephesh is translated psyche in the Septuagint.) The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book Beyond Death, Gary Habermas and J. P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment . .  . that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization.
    3. So, it seems that they do have some sort of a soul.
  2. How will people and animals relate?
    1. It seems that we will relate similarly to the way we were to relate in the Garden of Eden.
    2. Randy Alcorn shares: God created us to be stewards of animals. He holds us accountable for how we treat them. “The godly are concerned for the welfare of their animals” (Proverbs 12: 10, NLT). We are caretakers for the animals, but they belong to God, not us: “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird of the mountains and all the animals of the field belong to me” (Psalm 50: 10-11, NLT). Some people regard emotional attachment to animals as a modern development. But many cultures’ historical records demonstrate otherwise. The prophet Nathan spoke to King David of the poor man who had a little lamb “who shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him” (2   Samuel 12: 3). There’s no suggestion this man’s affection for his pet was inappropriate. David, unaware the story was told to expose his own sin, angrily responded that the man who stole the precious pet deserved to die. We needn’t speculate how God might populate a perfect Earth. He populated Eden with animals, under the rule of people. God doesn’t make mistakes.
  • Will animals praise God:
    1. This is new to me. I never thought of animals praising God.
    2. Consider the psalms. Psalm 148 commands all of creation to praise the Lord, including the animals: “Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (vv. 10-13).
    3. 10-13). If in some sense fallen animals, shadows of what they once were, can praise God on this fallen Earth, how much more should we expect them to do so on the New Earth? “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150: 6)
    4. We’re told eight times in Revelation of “living creatures” in the present Heaven: “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’.  .  . The living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne” (Revelation 4: 8-9).
    5. Randu Alcorn writes about this: The word translated “living creatures” is zoon. Throughout most of the   New Testament the word is translated “animal” and is used to indicate animals sacrificed in the Temple and wild, irrational animals (Hebrews 13: 11; 2   Peter 2: 12; Jude 1: 10). In the Old Testament, the Septuagint used zoon to translate the Hebrew   words for animals, including the “living creatures” of the sea (Genesis 1: 21; Ezekiel 47: 9). In extrabiblical writings, zoon commonly referred to ordinary   animals and was used of the Egyptians’ divine animals and the mythological   bird called the Phoenix (1 Clement 25: 2-3). In virtually every case inside   and outside of Scripture, this word means not a person, not an angel, but an animal.
    6. In the book Heaven he gets into greater detail. It is amazing to think that animals will praise God alongside us.
    7. It could even be possible that in a restored creation animals can talk.
  1. Will animals be resurrected?
    1. I can get into greater detail about animals and pets, but we will stop with this part.
    2. Psalm 104 is all about animals and then we get to verse 30 and it references renewing them. This seems to mean that they are resurrected in Heaven.
    3. It seems that it glorified God more by restoring than recreating. When God makes things right in eternity it is as if God is saying, “I can show you things can be redeemed.” God will redeem all things.
    4. If animals are resurrected this means your pet may be in Heaven as well.
  2. A few thoughts:
    1. Heaven will be awesome with or without your pet.
    2. Heaven will be with God in paradise.
    3. Secondly: DON’T discourage people from grieving the loss of an animal. That is appropriate. God created animals for us and we are sad when they leave us.
    4. I believe the Bible teaches us not to abuse animals. We are to take care of them.
    5. Romans 8 teaches us that all creation is waiting redemption and this includes animals.

Close:

In many of his writings, C. S. Lewis commented on the future of animals. He said, “It seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in   themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.  .  .  . Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a ‘self’ or ego. But if any do, and if it is agreeable to   the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man— not, this time, to individual masters, but to humanity.” In The Great Divorce, Lewis portrayed Sarah Smith, a woman ordinary on Earth, as great in Heaven. On Earth she loved both people and animals. In Heaven she’s surrounded by the very animals she cared for on Earth.

In her excellent book about Heaven, Joni Eareckson Tada says, “If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with His generous character.  .  .  . Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy— utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous.  .  .  . Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on His children.”[2]

Heaven will be more amazing than anything we can imagine. Look forward to Heaven.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ge 1:30.

[2] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7430-7439). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Present Heaven (Rev. 6:9-11)

I want to share a story with you to set up why Heaven matters. As I share this I realize some of you have faced similar situations. This comes from Paul Enns’ book on Heaven.

[may summarize in my words]

After I had parked the car, Helen and I walked to the sanctuary, holding hands as we always did when we walked together. We had been husband and wife for forty-five years, yet I still felt like a newly engaged young man, smitten with love and thrilled by holding hands with the one he loves. Our pastor, Ken Whitten, became emotional and teary-eyed that Sunday evening as he spoke during the sermon of being with his father just before he died.

 Pastor Ken recalled how he told his father, “I’ll meet you at the tree of life.” I leaned over to Helen and told her, “I’ll meet you at the Eastern Gate.” She smiled and responded in agreement. After the service we visited with numerous people (as Helen loved to do) and finally walked to the car, hand in hand. I opened the car door for her, and soon we were on our way home. I was unusually tired that evening and headed for bed ahead of Helen.

 When she came to bed I was almost asleep, so I missed our nightly ritual. Before turning out the light we would clasp hands, and Helen would say, “Gutte nacht, mein schatz!” (“Good night, my treasure!”) I would respond, “Gutte nacht, mein schatze!” (“Good night, my little treasure!”)

 The next morning, as I was leaving the house to drive to Idlewild Baptist Church to teach an extension seminary class, Helen walked to the car with me—as she always did. She carried my mug of coffee, took a few sips (she wasn’t supposed to drink coffee since it made her heart act up), and then handed me the cup. She was wearing walking shorts.

“Go inside, it’s too cold,” I suggested. But I knew she wouldn’t go in. Whenever I drove away, she would always wave me off. I backed out of the driveway, and as I drove away she blew me some kisses and then waved to me.

 She was now in the street, and continued to wave until I turned the corner at the far end of the street. Our love was simple and sincere. We never got over the thrill and joy of the love we had for each other. That morning, as I taught about the bodily resurrection of Christ, I became emotional and began to cry. I couldn’t explain it. At two o’clock I finished teaching the class but stayed for another half-hour talking to the students. I arrived home about 2:45 p.m. to find the door was locked. That was unusual, since Helen would always unlock the door when she knew I was coming home. I unlocked the door and entered the house. “Helen,” I called. No answer. I called louder, “HELEN!” Still no answer. She must be working outside, I told myself. I put down my briefcase and walked into the kitchen.

 I screamed as I saw Helen lying face down on the kitchen floor. I ran to her, turned her over, but there was no movement.“HELEN, HELEN!” I shouted. I ran to the kitchen phone and quickly dialed 911, crying and screaming at the same time. The lady admonished me to calm down, so I could help Helen. I followed her instruction and gave Helen mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, pumping her chest as I was told to do. In a short time the ambulance arrived, and the men took over.

 For over an hour they sought to revive Helen. Finally, they came to me and said, “We could take her to the hospital, but the line is flat. She’s gone.” Words are incapable of describing my emotion at that moment. My beloved Helen was gone! I couldn’t begin to fathom that it had actually happened. Helen gone! I couldn’t fathom it. It’s not true! It can’t be!

 I had never gotten over the thrill of Helen. From the moment I laid my eyes on her smiling face and happy eyes, I was captivated by her. I have told people I was on a forty-five-year honeymoon. Now she was gone.

 Death is a harsh reality, one we don’t like to relate to ourselves. Helen and I had recently talked, and she had mentioned that we both have longevity in our blood, and we planned what we would do when we hit our eighties. But Helen was only sixty-five, and now she was gone from me. But death encompasses everyone. As someone has said, “Death is all-inclusive; it’s one out of one.”

 THOUGHTS OF HEAVEN That singular event has changed my life and my thinking. My thoughts are constantly focused on heaven. I’m absorbed with the thought of heaven. The thought of reunion with my beloved Helen! But that raises many questions.

What is heaven like…[1]

 That is the subject that we are going to continue. What is Heaven like?

Today, I want to talk about the present Heaven versus the eternal Heaven.

Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, often spoke of Heaven. He said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven . .  . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”[2]

So, let’s look at Heaven.

It is really difficult to talk about Heaven without looking up a lot of passages, but for flow I only want you to have to turn to one passage. I will have other passages in my notes which are in your bulletin. In Revelation 6:9-11 we see a scene of martyrs interceding in Heaven. This is a scene in Heaven and we can draw some conclusions from it.

Let’s read Revelation 6:9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

  1. Let’s start by differentiating between the two Heavens.
    1. We find in Scripture that the future Heaven is not on eternal the end of the Bible. In Revelation 21 we find the reference to the future Heaven and that is the new Jerusalem. We find other references throughout the Bible to the New Jerusalem and that is the eternal Heaven.
    2. We also find through the Bible references to the millennial reign. We find this in Rev. 20:2-6 as well as Old Testament passages. This is not the New Jerusalem, nor is it the current Heaven.
    3. When we think of passages concerning the resurrection of the body, that will be for the new Jerusalem and maybe the millennial reign. When we think of passages about Jesus wiping every tear from our eyes and no more crying, etc. (Rev. 21) that is the New Jerusalem. A lot of what we talk about for the coming weeks will concern the New Jerusalem and eternal Heaven, so today I want to talk more specifically about the current Heaven.
    4. For the rest of the message I want to draw on 5 encouraging applications about the current Heaven. I will substantiate these applications from the Rev. 6:9-11 passage and a few others.
      1. We can be encouraged that we go straight to Heaven when we die. (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23)
        1. Heaven is where God resides and we will go straight to Heaven. We can know that we go to be with God because those saints are with God and they are interceding for others.
        2. We also know in Luke 23:43 Jesus told the thief that that very day he would join Jesus in paradise.
        3. In 2 Cor. 5:8 Paul wrote about being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
        4. In Phil. 1:23 Paul also wrote about departing and joining Jesus.
        5. We go to be with God in Heaven when we die.
        6. Now, where is Heaven? Scientists at Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, among others, postulate that there are ten unobservable dimensions and likely an infinite number of imperceptible universes.[3]
        7. I find that fascinating. Heaven is in a realm that we are imperceptible to, but God is there.
        8. We see it happen in Scripture, such as 2 Kings 6:17 when Elisha’s servant’s eyes are opened in order to see God’s angels all around him.
      2. We can be encouraged that we will have consciousness in the immediate Heaven. (1 Samuel 28:16-19; Luke 9:31; 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11)
        1. We see in Scripture that we will be conscious. If we simply think about this passage in Revelation, they are conscious and they are actually interceding for the persecuted church.
        2. We also see consciousness in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
      3. We can be encouraged that we will have contact with those who have gone before us. (Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11: they worship, not one merged identity)
        1. In the Rev. 6:9-11 passage they are worshipping together. We see the people together again in Rev. 7:9-10:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne,  and to the Lamb.” [4]

  1. We see a group of people together.
  2. There is no reason to think that our when people die they are not reunited with their loved ones as well.
  3. By the way, these Scriptural examples are specific cases, it seems that Heaven is far greater than anything we can think or imagine.
  4. Worshipping Jesus is exciting, standing before His throne, but Heaven will be more than worship.
  5. Heaven will be fellowship, we see that indicated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
  6. Paul desired Heaven more than earth so it must be greater than we can think of.
  7. In 2 Cor. 12 Paul wrote of some type of near death experience and said that he saw things that he was not permitted to speak of. He also did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body.
  8. Now, is a good time for me to also say that it seems that the immediate Heaven is physical, not purely spiritual.
  9. Listen, the physical body is not bad, it is good. It is Christoplatonism to think that it is bad. Remember I shared that last Sunday. Greek philosophy, Platonism, impacted Christianity to think the physical is bad, but it isn’t.
  10. These descriptions in Rev. 6:9-11 and in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus give physical descriptions. They had voices to cry out. They were wearing white robes.
  11. “The rich man and Lazarus are depicted as having physical forms. The rich man had a tongue and a thirst that he wished to satisfy with water. Lazarus had a finger, and there was water available to him in Paradise, into which he might dip his finger. Of course, these references may be entirely figurative. But they might also suggest the possession of transitional physical forms, existing in a physical Paradise, to sustain and manifest human identity between death and resurrection.”[5]
  12. These bodies and this physical realm is still different than the New Jerusalem and the bodies are not our resurrected bodies, they may be temporary bodies, but it does seem physical.
  13. The physical can go in and out of the spiritual. We see that all throughout the Bible when God interacts with humanity. Of course God is spiritual. (John 4:24), but the angels are physical and the interact with our realm. (Hebrews 13:2; Genesis 18: The Lord’s appearance to Abraham; Genesis 19 the angels visiting Lot)
  14. We also know that God is unchanging, that does not mean that Heaven is unchanging. God can change Heaven as He sees fit. This means Heaven can be a certain way now, but then transition when the New Jerusalem comes down from earth.
  1. We can be encouraged that in Heaven we will have a memory of life on earth, otherwise we would be a different person. (Luke 16:19-31)
    1. In the passage in Luke 16:19-31 the rich man and Lazarus had memories of their life on earth.
    2. I like how Randy Alcorn points out that without our memories we would be different people.
    3. Also, in 1 Samuel 28:16-19 Saul wrongfully tries to bring up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel and Samuel remembered Saul and really was alert to what was going on.
  2. We can be encouraged that it is likely our past family members and friends are interceding for us now. (Rev. 6:9-11)
    1. We see this in Rev. 6:9-11. They are interceding for the Christians on earth.
    2. Actually their intercession is more valuable than our prayers because they are with Jesus and so they are righteous. James tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective and they are righteous or they wouldn’t be in Heaven. (James 5:16)
    3. This means they ae interceding for us, but that does not mean we should pray to them. We can pray straight to Jesus, why pray to anyone other than Jesus Who is Lord and God. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
    4. Just imagine that your friends and family are up on Heaven interceding for you, isn’t that amazing?

Conclusion:

So, we go straight to Heaven and then eventually to the New Jerusalem.

To illustrate, imagine you lived in a homeless shelter in Miami. One day you inherit a beautiful house overlooking Santa Barbara, California, and are given a wonderful job doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Many friends and family will live nearby.

As you fly toward Santa Barbara, you stop at the Dallas airport for a layover. Other family members you haven’t seen in years meet you. They will board the plane with you to Santa Barbara. Naturally you look forward to seeing them in Dallas, your first stop.

But if someone asks where you’re going, would you say “Dallas”? No. You would say Santa Barbara, because that’s your final destination. Dallas is just a temporary stop. At most you might say “I’m going to Santa Barbara, with a brief stop in Dallas.”[6] Similarly, the Heaven we will go to when we die, the present Heaven, is a temporary dwelling place, a stop along the way to our final destination: the New Earth. Another analogy is more precise but difficult to imagine, because for most of us it’s outside our experience. Imagine leaving the homeless shelter in Miami and flying to the intermediate location, Dallas, and then turning around and going back home to your place of origin, which has been completely renovated— a New Miami. In this New Miami, you would no longer live in a homeless shelter, but in a beautiful house in a glorious pollution-free, crime-free, sin-free city. So you would end up living not in a different home, but in a radically improved version of your old home. This is what the Bible promises us— we will live with Christ and each other forever, not in the intermediate, or present, Heaven, but on the New Earth, where God will be at home with his people.

On December 21, 1899, D. L. Moody awoke from sleep early in the morning and began to speak: “Earth recedes; heaven opens before me.” His son was at his bedside and thought he was dreaming and attempted to rouse him. “No, this is no dream, Will,” Mr. Moody replied. “It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” Mr. Moody continued to talk as if from another world. “Then it seemed as though he saw beyond the veil, for he exclaimed, ‘This is my triumph; this is my Coronation Day! I have been looking forward to it for years.’ Then his face lit up, and he said, in a voice of joyful rapture, ‘Dwight! Irene! I see the children’s faces!’”—referring to the two little grandchildren God had taken from his life in the past year. Moments later Moody was gone. He had entered heaven.[8]

Paul Enns writes:

IN HEAVEN

Our existence continues.

We shall never die.

We are in our new home.

Angels will escort us.

Christ will welcome us.

We will be with Christ.

We will be reunited with loved ones.

We will be home.

We will be where Jesus wants us to be.[9]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (pp. 10-11). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 352-354). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 997-1005). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Re 7:9–10.

[5] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 1443-1447). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] http://www.epm.org/blog/2015/Apr/22/present-heaven-future-heaven

[7] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 978-981). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 43). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[9] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 39). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Heaven is for Real

A man arrives at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, “Denomination?” The man says, “Methodist.” St. Peter looks down his list, and says, “Go to room 24, but be very quiet as you pass room 8.”

Another man arrives at the gates of heaven. “Denomination?”

“Lutheran.”

“Go to room 18, but be very quiet as you pass room 8.”

A third man arrives at the gates. “Denomination?”

“Presbyterian.”

“Go to room 11, but be very quiet as you pass room 8.”

The man says, “I can understand there being different rooms for different denominations, but why must I be quiet when I pass room 8?”

St. Peter tells him, “Well the Baptists are in room 8, and they think they’re the only ones here.[1]

Years ago when I moved to Alliance, okay, it has only been five years and four months, but who’s counting? Anyways, I moved from Cincinnati, though I am originally from Dayton. One day I walked in a barber shop, it was a small barber shop that a local recommended, but when I walked in I felt like I stood out like a Steelers fan in the Dawg Pound. I saw a few guys shootin’ the breeze there and one of them asked me, “You’re not from around here, are you?” I said where I was from and they made me welcome, but I will never forget walking in there. The realization hit, “No, I am new in town.” It has only been ten years since I lived in the Dayton area, but everything has changed. Sometimes I like to go to the website of the school I graduated from or check it out on Facebook because it has all changed. Nothing, absolutely nothing, stays the same. Last year, they tore down my high school and built another one. I attended the same school district from Kindergarten through twelfth grade and it is all different. I like to think back; I think I do that more as my daughter gets older. I think about what it was like when I was five and what my dad was doing, though my dad was younger then I am now when I was that age. Everything changes. So, having moved just less than four hours from home, I am amazed at people who move overseas. I am amazed at people who left Germany, or Ireland in the late 19th century to begin a new life in the States. Where are you from? Do you long to think back to the area you came from? Or, maybe you long to think back to a different age? Are you longing for something, or somewhere, or sometime? 

Paul Enns in his book on Heaven writes:

What are you looking for and longing for? In America, people sometimes long for the wrong things—and what they really want (although they don’t know it) and what they really need will remain elusive to them. Many think they need another car, a vacation home, the newest items in technology. They think the latest fashions in the shopping centers will satisfy their longings. They won’t. The longing that God has placed in our hearts is for heaven, a better place, a better country. But more specifically, it is a country of our ancestry.[2]

We may long for a place, a time, or something else, but what we are really longing for is Heaven. God created us for Heaven.

Theme:

My theme is simple: Heaven is real and you were created for it.

My application is hopefully encouraging: Long for Heaven, Heaven is paradise.

  1. Heaven is real and you were created for it:
    1. Randy Alcorn: Heaven:
    2. The sense that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured Heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. The early Finns thought it was an island in the faraway east. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed that they went to the sun or the moon after death. Native Americans believed that in the afterlife their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo. The Gilgamesh epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian fields while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.” Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal— that this world is not all there is.[3]
    3. The Roman catacombs, where the bodies of many martyred Christians were buried, contain tombs with inscriptions such as these:
    4. In Christ, Alexander is not dead, but lives.
    5. One who lives with God.
    6. He was taken up into his eternal home.
    7. One historian writes, “Pictures on the catacomb walls portray Heaven with beautiful landscapes, children playing, and people feasting at banquets.”
    8. In AD 125, a Greek named Aristides wrote to a friend about Christianity, explaining why this “new religion” was so successful: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”
    9. In the third century, the church father Cyprian said, “Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us from this place and sets us free from the snares of the world, and restores us to paradise and the kingdom. Anyone who has been in foreign lands longs to return to his own native land.  .  .  . We regard paradise as our native land.”[4]
    10. Our native land is not here, nor is it overseas. Our native land is Heaven. We were created for it.
    11. S. Lewis wrote: If our deepest desires cannot be satisfied in this world, then we must have been made for another world.” He pondered this and other truths, which led him to Christ.
    12. There’s cartoonist G. Larson’s “Far Side” which shows a guy strumming a harp on a cloud in heaven saying: “Wish I’d have brought a magazine.” Mark Twain paints the same picture in Huckleberry Finn, telling how Huck doesn’t want to go there because of how the spinster Watson has portrayed it, and because she’s certain Tom Sawyer won’t be there, so Huck doesn’t want to be there without Tom (p. 7).
    13. What a contrast to Charles Spurgeon, Twain’s contemporary, called the Prince of Preachers in the 19thcentury: “To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.” (p. 7)[5]
    14. Part of the problem is that we have an inaccurate view of Heaven. Let’s begin to change that.
  2. Heaven is a place
    1. I am beginning a series on Heaven, so I don’t want to spoil the series today, instead I just wish to set up the series.
    2. I will talk about several passages and you can look them up at home.
    3. Sometimes we think things in Heaven are only spiritual. This is not true.
    4. If things in Heaven are only spiritual then why does God use so many material objects to illustrate what we’ll have in Heaven, like “house, dwelling, clothed, rooms (Jn. 14), white robes (Rev. 6:10-11), rivers, gardens, and the tree of life in Heaven. (Rev. 2:7; 22:2) refers to the SAME Tree of Life that was physical in the Garden of Eden in (Gen. 2:9).[6]
    5. Randy Alcorn writes: Christoplatonism: Plato was “the first Western philosopher to claim that reality is fundamentally something ideal or abstract.” “For Plato . .  . the body is a hindrance, as it opposes and even imprisons the soul (Phaedo 65– 68; 91– 94).”
    6. But according to Scripture, our bodies aren’t just shells for our spirits to inhabit; they’re a good and essential aspect of our being. Likewise, the earth is not a second-rate location from which we must be delivered. Rather, it was handmade by God for us. Earth, not some incorporeal state, is God’s choice as mankind’s original and ultimate dwelling place.
    7. To distinguish the version of Platonism seen among Christians from secular forms of Platonism, I’ve [Randy Alcorn] coined the term Christoplatonism. This philosophy has blended elements of Platonism with Christianity, and in so doing has poisoned Christianity and blunted its distinct differences from Eastern religions. Because appeals to Christoplatonism appear to take the spiritual high ground, attempts to refute this false philosophy often appear to be materialistic, hedonistic, or worldly.[7]
    8. But Heaven is a real place. Jesus reminded His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
    9. In the Bible it will refer to multiple heavens: 1) the atmosphere, the universe and where God resides.
    10. Look at these Scriptures: They are in your bulletin and on the screen:

Psalm 2:4

The One enthroned in heaven laughs…

2 Cor. 12:4:

I was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

2 Cor. 5:6, 8:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

2 Tim. 4:8:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Titus 2:14:

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Matthew 6:33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

2 Peter 3:11-14:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Col. 3:1-2:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

John 14:1-2:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 

  1. Heaven is a destination,
  2. It will not be boring,
  3. It is paradise.
  • Significance of Heaven.
    1. Have you lost loved ones, you’ll see them again if they were in Christ.
    2. Are you having trouble walking or maybe you cannot walk, you will have a perfect body someday.
    3. Maybe your eye sight is failing, that not eternity, you will have renewed vision.
    4. Maybe your memory is struggling, you will know more and remember again (1 Cor. 13:9-13).
    5. Maybe you are watching a loved one suffer through something, know that this is not how God intended it. This is because of our sin-filled world. Your loved one will live again without these sufferings.
    6. Do you have trouble getting up and facing each day? Do you experience pain constantly? This will end and you will have a perfect body.
    7. Do you experience depression or mental illness? In Heaven this will be gone.
    8. Do you have a loved one that you cannot talk with because of Autism or something else? You will have conversations with that loved one in Heaven.
    9. Jesus reminded His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
    10. Heaven is hope. I have talked to the Ear Nose and Throat Doctor about certain medications for our children. Sometimes he will say, “Yea, go ahead and give that homeopathic medicine to them. It won’t cause harm and it will make you feel better.
    11. Have you ever been at a family reunion and you wanted to see and talk to so many people, but there just wasn’t time? There will be in Heaven. And, you will be able to talk to Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah and all these other people.
    12. Do you want to see your parents again? Your grandparents?
    13. In Christ Alone: No guilt in life, no fear in death…
  1. Different sources:
    1. As we talk about Heaven, I am studying from Scripture, but also several books and Bible dictionaries. Here are four of them.
    2. Randy Alcorn has two books on Heaven. One is simply called “Heaven.” The other is called “Heaven, Biblical Answers to Common Questions.”
    3. Paul Enns has a book called “Heaven Revealed.”
    4. Chip Ingram has a book called “The Real Heaven, What the Bible Actually Says.”

 

Close:

A few weeks ago a family of five died in a car accident. They were young parents, 29 years old, with three children. They were soon going to Japan as missionaries. The youngest was 2 months old. Their car was hit from behind by a semi and they died at the scene, all of them. That broke my heart. But upon further reflection, this is cause for praise. They all went to Jesus together. They could have experienced 80 years of suffering in this life, but instead they are in Jesus’ presence. They are in Heaven.

What are you longing for?

Almost two years after Meagan and I got married we moved from the farmhouse which we lived in to live with my parents. I was almost finished with college and it made more sense to live with my parents as we finished. My parents had moved to a place which cut down my drive time to school and Meagan’s drive time to work. We were both driving an hour each way. The nine or so months we lived with my parents were great, but we longed for our own place again. We longed to take our furniture out of storage and move into our own house and that day did come.

When Meagan was pregnant, both times, we longed for the day of our daughter’s birth.

But you know what we all, all of us as humans long for? We long for Heaven. We try to duplicate Heaven in our homes, malls, amusement parks, vacation destinations. We desire Heaven because we were created for Heaven.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

 

[1] http://jokes.christiansunite.com/Heaven/Shhhhhhhh!.shtml

[2] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 31). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 265-274). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 287-288). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5] Rick Sams’ sermon on Heaven

[6] Rick Sams’ sermon on Heaven

[7] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 8723-8724). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lifestyle evangelism

Introduction:

Let’s start with a music video. Play the Fruit of the Spirit VBS song video.

Chip Ingram: A Christian family is a witness:

I once heard a message by Chip Ingram where he talked about how the Christian family is a witness. He talked about a neighbor who was going through a divorce. She was in the process of moving and Chip was in his front yard passing the ball around with his children. The woman came over to him and said, “I’m done with men. I’ve been married three times [I think it was 3], but if I were to get married again I want a man who is a dad like you.”[1] This had nothing to do with a normal attractiveness to him, but that he was a dad to his children. Being a Christian is a witness. Actually, being a Christian is a witness for or against Christianity. Allowing your patterns of behavior to be shaped by Christ makes you a witness. Either you are a witness in great kindness and behavior. Or, you are a witness because of the opposite. Sometimes we are a witness because Jesus has changed us so much. Paul Dyksorn once talked about how after he became a Christian he actually liked people. He didn’t like people before that. Jesus changes us and this is a witness.

We are lifestyle witnesses.

What Is Your Biggest Sin?

Three preachers were on a non-productive fishing trip when they began to discuss various topics to pass the time. One preacher said he thought it would be nice if they confessed their biggest sins to each other and then prayed for each other. They all agreed, and the first preacher said that his biggest sin was that he liked to sit at the beach now and then and watch pretty women stroll by.

The second preacher confessed that his biggest sin was that he went to the horse racing track every so often and put a small bet on a horse.

Turning to the third preacher, they asked, “Brother, what is your biggest sin?”

With a grin, he said, “My biggest sin is gossiping.”

Submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky

[Bring up a house plant with an apply in it or hanging from it.] What is wrong with this picture? Apples don’t grow on house plants, do they? No.

Likewise, Jesus produces fruit.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:16

You will know them by their fruits. 2Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?[2]

We are known by the fruit that we produce. The Holy Spirit produces fruit.

My theme today is: The Church Has Left the Building Part III: Lifestyle Evangelism, Reflecting Christ in your life.

  1. Christians have different fruit.
    1. The fruits of the world are in Galatians 5:19-21: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God[3]
    2. We are not going to talk about these today, but know that there is a major contrast between Jesus’ people and the world. That list includes who we are without Christ. People with these characteristics do not go to Heaven. They can’t this fruit is against God. This means we must be different.
    3. The fruit of the Spirit is in Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.[4]
    4. We are going to talk about these.
    5. Living this way makes us a witness.
    6. We talked about serving others, we talked about our relationships, but just think about our lifestyle. The patterns of our lives give off certain fruits. The fruit shows if we are an apple tree or a pear tree.
    7. The idea of “putting on” certain fruits is used more often in the New Testament: Col 3:12.
    8. Notice it says the “fruit” of the Spirit. This is singular. The Holy Spirit produces one fruit and it consists of these nouns: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The fruit is singular otherwise it would say “are” as in “Fruits are,” we can’t say, “fruits ‘is.’ No, it is one fruit that the Holy Spirit gives us.
    9. Many have written that it could say, “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” This love is defined by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let’s break them down with “mental or God-ward qualities, interpersonal or other-ward qualities and general or self-ward qualities.
    10. Mental or God-ward qualities (v. 22)
      1. “Love” (Gr. agape, self-sacrificing affection for others)
      2. “Joy” (Gr. chara, deep-seated gladness regardless of circumstances)
  • “Peace” (Gr. eirene, inner quietness and repose regardless of circumstances)
  1. Interpersonal or other-ward qualities (v. 22)
    1. “Patience” (Gr. makrothymia, forbearance even under provocation)
    2. “Kindness” (Gr. chrestotes, benevolence and graciousness)
  • “Goodness” (Gr. agathosyne, constructive action reaching out to others)
  1. General or self-ward qualities (vv. 22-23)
    1. “Faithfulness” (Gr. pistis, reliability, trustworthiness)
    2. “Gentleness” (Gr. praytes, acquiescence to authority and consideration of others)
  • “Self-control” (Gr. enkrateia, ability to master oneself)
  1. Let’s take a moment to apply.
    1. We all mess up. We will all be lacking in the Holy Spirit’s work one day. We will be lacking in one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit someday. Simply own up to it and apologize. Simply tell someone that you were unloving in a comment. Acknowledge to yourself that you are lacking joy. Acknowledge and ask God to help you with peace.
    2. We all lack on at least a few aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit. It could be patience, it could be self-control, it could be goodness, it could be faithfulness or you name it.
    3. Imagine the witness if Christians were more gentle.
    4. Imagine the witness of Christians were known as those having self-control. Imagine if people thought of us as not those that are flying of the handle and ready to blow. Imagine if people knew Christians had power under control. Imagine the witness if Christians had more control in eating alone. Think about self-control.
    5. Remember the Lays potato chip commercial that used to say, “You can’t eat just one!” We need self-control with our eating and I don’t know if that is as bad of a witness as a lack of self-control with our temper or with our sexual appetites. But we need self-control. Trust me, I can lose my temper as quickly as you can, I can eat as many dips of ice cream as you can. I am working on this, I am praying about this.
    6. Imagine the witness if Christians were known as kind.
    7. Imagine if Christians were known as faithful. We need to be faithful to God and to others. Imagine if we were known as faithful to our family.
    8. Humor Inspired
      1. A preacher, who shall we say was “humor inspired”, attended a conference to help encourage and better equip pastors for their ministry. Among the speakers were many well-known and dynamic speakers.
      2. One such speaker, boldly approached the pulpit, gathered the entire crowd’s attention, and said, “the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman that wosn’t my wife!” The crowd was shocked! He followed up by saying, “And that woman was my mother!” The crowd burst into laughter and delivered the rest of his speech, which went quite well.
  • The next week, the pastor decided he’d give this humor thing a try, and used that joke in his sermon. As he approached the pulpit that sunny Sunday morning, he tried to rehearse this joke in his head. It suddenly seemed a bit foggy to him.
  1. Getting to the microphone, he said loudly, “The greatest years of my life were spend in the arms of another woman that was not my wife!” The congregation inhaled half the air in the room! After standing there for almost 10 seconds in stunned silence, trying to recall the second half of the joke, the pastor finally blurred out, “…and I can’t remember who she was!”
  1. I am listening to a series of podcasts called “Presidential.” I am listening on my phone. They are made by the Washington Post. Turns out Warren Harding had an affair, actually many of them. Many, many years after his death many love letters were found. The family released them, I think to the Library of Congress, as long as they weren’t public for something like fifty years. I don’t know whether or not he was a Christian, but imagine if Christians were known as faithful.
  2. What a witness is a Christian dad who is faithful to his wife and his children.
  3. What a witness is a Christian mom who is faithful. I was listening to someone who wrote a book which included information about the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. I am not going to diminish that they may have done a few good things, not that that offsets that many babies murdered. But she was not faithful, she ran off on her husband many, many times. He was faithful.
  4. What a witness Christians can be when the fruit of the Spirit reigns in our life.
  5. Imagine the witness.
  6. People will ask us why we are different.
  7. Maybe you already get this. Maybe you are different and people have asked.
  8. But we can always grow.
  9. Funny think about fruit, though, it only takes one bad fruit to ruin others. One Christian who cheats on his wife does more damage than 10 faithful Christians.
  10. Okay, so, don’t diminish the witness that your lifestyle can be.
  11. You are a witness when you strive to love like Jesus.

Close:

On a recent visit to two California vineyards, author Margaret Feinberg discovered that vintners must adopt a long-term approach to their work. According to Feinberg:

The first year a vintner plants shoots of vines rather than seeds because these yield the strongest vines. At the end of the first growing season, he cuts them back. A second year passes. He cuts them back again. Only after the third year does he see his first viable clusters of grapes. Serious vintners leave those clusters on the vines. For most vintners, it’s not until year four that they bring in their first harvest.

For those growing grapes for winemaking, they’ll bottle their harvest, but won’t taste the fruit of their labors until year seven or eight. Most vineyards in Napa Valley won’t reach a breakeven point for their investment until year fifteen, eighteen or beyond.

Applying these insights to her spiritual life, Feinberg writes,

Sometimes I look at my own life and wonder, Why am I not more fruitful? And why does pruning have to hurt so much? Why does cultivating a healthy crop take so long? Yet those questions circle around the here and now. God’s perspective is much different. Like a good vineyard owner, he knows how to bring about fruitfulness better than I ever will. And he is patient with me, more patient than I am with myself … [Also], as we fulfill our callings … we must recognize that like the vintner’s, our fruitfulness will not come overnight. The first harvest of our labors may not come for three or five years.[5]

We are in process God is working on us as long as we let Him.

You are a witness in living like Jesus.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] heard on Living on the Edge, Moody Radio. My summary.

2 Lit They do not gather

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 7:16.

[3] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ga 5:19–21.

[4] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ga 5:22–23.

[5] Margaret Feinberg, “Napa Valley on Leadership,” Q Shorts, http://www.Qideas.org

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People?

 

Below is the sermon from today. One thing that I did not touch on: sometimes, actually I would say most all of the time, God is working in our struggles to develop us. God is building us up and conforming us into His image.

Introduction:

Today is once again, question and answer Sunday. We are going to focus on the question “Why do bad things happen to good people”? To help minister to this need think about the hymn: It is Well with My Soul.

Show video of the story behind that hymn

It is interesting that some of our dearest hymns have been written by people who have undergone great trials.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

My theme and application:

God is in control, even when life is falling apart, we can trust Him even when we don’t have answers.

  1. Let’s start by talking about why bad things happen.
    1. We can’t answer this entirely. We can try to reason, but we can’t answer why that car accident happened to you, or that terrible crime, or whatever it may be.
    2. I cannot answer why one person suffers from Alzheimer’s and another does not. I can’t answer why to these things.
    3. I can answer why bad things happen, we’ll come back to that.
    4. First look at this passage.
    5. Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lordour God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
    6. When a parent decides to move their family from one place to another that is very difficult on the children, though they cannot understand why.
    7. I have seen other examples of how children just don’t understand. I recently heard a story about a child who was injured and getting a shot to numb the pain of the stitches. The child was told what was going on and how it would hurt for a minute, but then it would feel better. The child still reacted negatively. The child later was mad at the doctor, and even at his father, for allowing him to go through the pain, but it had to happen.
    8. Recently Abigail endured Hand Foot and Mouth disease. She had blisters throughout her mouth and throat. She would wake up screaming in pain. We could not get her to eat popsicles though they would help the pain. She just knew it hurt, she would not understand what would help.
    9. Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
      neither are your ways my ways,”
      declares the Lord.
      “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
      so are my ways higher than your ways
      and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    10. On an individual scale we must understand that God knows and we just can’t answer why something bad happened to me and not another.
    11. On an objective scale of why there is evil and tragedy, we can answer that.
    12. I want to try to answer this question as objectively as possible. Please understand, I don’t mean to be stoic and insensitive. I cannot understand how people go through what they do. I don’t understand how people endure the loss of a child or children and then write a hymn about it. I don’t understand how someone can watch their child die of cancer. I don’t understand how someone watches their spouse or relative go through Alzheimer’s. My heart breaks for these terrible situations. However, I am also very logical and my thinking is framed by a Biblical worldview and the Bible does answer the question of why bad things happen overall.
    13. In difficult times, focus on the other side of the hill. Many times while I am running I have to run up some steep hills. Many times I am thirsty while running up the hill, but I resolve not to take a drink until I get over the hill. Most always when I reach the top of the hill I get to run downhill, though you don’t know that by just looking at the hill. It is easy to focus on the hill, but it is better to focus on the other side of the hill. The other side of the hill brings relief as you have a beautify scene and can run downhill. It is similar with life, eternity is on the other side of our life.
  2. So, think about humanity freewill brings sin
    1. One person writes: What kind of world God would have made depends on what God values. According to Christianity, what God values above all is relationship. But for relationship to be meaningful, it must be freely chosen; for relationship to be freely chosen, there must be the possibility of it being rejected; and wherever there is the possibility of rejecting relationship, there is also the possibility of pain and suffering.
    2. The Bible affirms this truth from its very first pages. We find a story of people who are in intimate relationship with God, and who know what He has asked of them. But then they hear this voice in their ears, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). And they begin to doubt God. They begin to doubt that He knows what’s best for them. They begin to doubt that He isfor Ultimately, they begin to doubt what He has actually said—his word. And then they sin.[1]
    3. When sin entered the world God pursued them. God made them clothes. If you read more of those first few chapters of the Bible we see that the plan of salvation is already set in place.
    4. However, we also read that sin brought death.
    5. All of the world’s history can be summed up like this:
      1. Creation
      2. Fall
  • Redemption
  1. Restoration.
  1. We are currently living in a fallen world. We are redeemed but we are waiting on God to make things totally right.
  2. Romans 8:19 and following talk about all of creation waiting for restoration.
  3. God created a world pure and good and God said that they could eat of every tree in the garden but NOT the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17)
  4. We focus on why they could not eat of the fruit of that tree, but think about this: they could eat of every tree in the garden they wanted to, except that tree.
  5. That tree was our freewill.
  6. Our ancestors ate of the fruit of that tree and that brought the fall.
  7. Now, we freely choose good and evil.
  8. We all die because of sin.
  9. We all hurt people because of sin.
  10. We are all effected by this indirectly and directly. But now, we all are effected by at least 6000 years of human/world history falling apart. The earth is falling apart, crime is increasing and it all goes back to the fall.
  11. But this is also the goodness of God.
  12. I know that seems weird, how is God good in bad things and evil?
  13. He is good because those bad things still represent God giving us freewill. Without sin there is NO freewill. God did not create us as robots.
  14. But also even in bad things God is good because He will restore everything. He will make everything right. He will redeem the world.
  • We need to know that God suffers with us:
    1. One writes: A sixth response to the objection from suffering I take, somewhat ironically, from Friedrich Nietzsche. He wrote:
    2. “The gods justified human life by living it themselves—the only satisfactory [response to the problem of suffering] ever invented.” Nietzsche is actually writing of the ancient Greeks here, and in his bias he doesn’t make the connection to Christianity. But as a Christian, I am very pleased to agree with him and then point emphatically to the cross where Jesus died. The night before his death, as Jesus wrestled with what He knew the next day would bring, Jesus said to his friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Think about it. The God of the Universe, the Creator of all things, saying He is overwhelmed with sorrow, even to death….If you’ve ever experienced deep depression or thought about dying, Jesus is right there with you. There is no depth of agony and helplessness we can experience in this life that He doesn’t understand. At the Cross, we see the absolute uniqueness of the Christian response to suffering. In Islam, the idea of God suffering is nonsense—it is thought to make God weak. In Buddhism, to reach divinity is precisely to move beyond the possibility of suffering. Only in Christ do we have a God who is loving enough to suffer with us. The loving parent is not the one who never allows suffering in a child’s life. The loving parent is the one who is willing to suffer alongside their children. And in Christianity this is exactly what we find.[2]
    3. I am married to a woman with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). I see her suffering. She was diagnosed at 21 years old and it was a relief and made sense. But each day is a struggle. Each day Meagan does not know if she will have weakness and/or pain. A few years ago Meagan went for some three months with vision issues to the point of not being able to drive. When Meagan was diagnosed with M.S. I thought, “Okay, maybe she will have trouble walking.” I know, easy for me to say. But it is not just that. There is intense pain as well. But, for me, I could easily question why her, but I cannot question why there is M.S. M.S. exists because of the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden and so does M.D. and Alzheimer’s and cancer and autism and rape and tornadoes and everything else that is bad.
    4. BUT some day God will restore all things. Revelation 21:1-4: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
    5. In the book, “The Case for Faith” Lee Strobel interviews one scholar who notes that the people who believe there cannot be a God because of all the troubles are not the ones going through trials. The people going through the trials have the stronger faith. It is the Americans who generally are not facing the trial who struggle.
    6. I could name a few, I already have with the hymn writer of It is Well With My Soul. But what about Jon Erikson Tada? She has been a quadriplegic since 1967 and she has composed and sung songs, she has painted and written books. She has a large ministry distributing wheel chairs all over the world.
    7. A. Carson shared about a man who has had all kinds of illnesses and when I asked how he is doing he says, “Nothing a good resurrection can’t take care of.”

Close:

Think about the hymn, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw2iiQo7apE

How does one write that?

How is it that people with the most trials write the best hymns?

 

Peace in a storm

Good Morning,


A pastor had been on a long flight from one place to another. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: Fasten your seat belts. Then, after a while, a calm voice said, “We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened.” 


As he looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice of the announcer said, “We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us.” 


And then the storm broke. The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightening lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash. 


The pastor confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, “As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm. 


And then, he suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world. 


When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid.” The pastor could hardly believe his eyes. 


It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, the pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid. The sweet child replied, 


“Sir, my Dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.” 


There are many kinds of storms that buffet us. We have all known such times, but let us
remember: Our Father is the Pilot. He is in control and taking us home. Don’t worry.

Have a wonderful day. Chaplain Jim Melick

 

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] http://rzim.org/just-thinking/if-god-why-suffering/

[2] http://rzim.org/just-thinking/if-god-why-suffering/

Relational Evangelism

Introduction:

Relational evangelism:

Think about your relationships. We are all influencing other people for good or for bad. You are, we are, influencing other people.

When we think of the phrase “Relational evangelism,” the operative word is “evangelism.” If we are not sharing the Gospel with them then we really do not love them.

If we think about Phil. 2:5-11. Jesus died for our need, but what was the need? We needed salvation. He gave Himself up for us. Who are we giving ourselves up for?

I was researching this message and I was reading from the book Becoming a Contagious Christian and I was encouraged. I was encouraged because the best fertile ground for sharing the Gospel is NOT door to door evangelism, or “cold” calls. There is nothing wrong with those types, but the best fertile ground is in your relationships. If you want to be used of Jesus, be a friend. But don’t stop there. Be a friend and share Jesus with the friend.

Becoming a Contagious Christian says:

The fact is, all of us experience discomfort when someone outside our circle of friends tries to influence us about personal, significant matters. We all naturally gravitate toward people we already know and trust. Friends listen to friends. They confide in friends. They let friends influence them. They buy from friends — and that’s true of both products and ideas. So if we’re going to impact our world for Christ, the most effective approach will be through friendships with those who need to be reached. We’ll have to get close to them so they can see that we genuinely care about them individually and that we have their best interests in mind. Over time, that will earn their trust and respect.

Let’s read Luke 5:27-32:

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Theme: Build relationships and share the Gospel.

  1. Let’s talk about the passage.
    1. Jesus talks to Levi, who is also called Matthew, and says “follow me.”
    2. The man immediately follows Jesus. There are no questions asked. It could be that they had conversations previously. He drops everything and follows.
    3. When he decided to follow Jesus there was no turning back.
    4. Verse 29 shows this to be true. He was a new believer and what did he do? He decided to share this with others. He decided to have a party. We now call these parties “Matthew parties” after him.
    5. We would think he would invite the religious people to his party in order to communicate, “I am now one of you,” but that is not what he did. He invited the other tax collectors.
    6. Tax collectors were known as thieves in those days. They were known as sinners who held allegiance to Rome. The tax collectors would take from other people extra money that would not go to taxes.
    7. But Matthew invited them over.
    8. What else did Matthew do? He invited them to his house.
    9. Matthew was willing to sacrifice his own home and pretty much have them over for a barbecue.
    10. This is an evangelism principle called “barbecue first.” We are to get to know them as we share the Gospel with them and they will listen more.
    11. I look at this and think, “I must be willing to host others, non-believers in my home for the Gospel.”
    12. So, these people are now all at Matthew’s house and you know who else is there? Jesus is also there.
    13. Jesus was later called a sinner because He ate with them, so what. He didn’t care.
    14. Jesus is there and they are all telling jokes, they are eating and they are drinking. Jesus was later called a glutton and a drunkard for eating with these types, but He didn’t care, He wanted to minister. (see Matthew 11:19)
    15. I don’t know what type of jokes Jesus was telling, but I think He had a good sense of humor. Maybe He said, “Why do cows go to math? Because they need a cooooow-culator…”
    16. They are partying. They are getting to know each other.
    17. Sometimes this is tough.
    18. Guess who is coming to dinner. In Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country there was an awkward moment when Captain Kirk invited The Klingons to dine with his senior staff.
    19. Play clip of Kirk inviting the Klingons to dinner.
    20. Do we have many non-Christian friends?
    21. We are the church and the church leaves the building every week and one of the best ways that we are to be the church is in our relationship.
  2. Where do you find people?
    1. Suppose that you want to build relationships with non-Christians, but you wonder where to find people.
    2. Think about ways to get together with people you know. Are there relationships that could go deeper?
    3. People you used to know, are there relationships that you can reconnect with?
    4. People you would like to know, are there people that you can connect with but just haven’t?
    5. What about having a block party?
    6. What about having just a few neighbors over for dinner?
    7. There is also the ability to strategically shop at the same places and go inside at the gas station. Talk to the people who are at the cashier’s station. Build that relationship.
    8. Have a holiday party
    9. Have a “pie” party. This is a party where you invite people over and then they all pick up a pie on their way home from work.
    10. Go golfing with others
    11. Share everyday activities with others.
    12. Watch the game together.
    13. Make sure that you are looking to transition to spiritual conversations.
      1. Don’t wait too long to tell people you are a Christian.
      2. Don’t get drunk even if they are.
  • If people share something ask if you can pray for them.
  1. If people are commenting on scenery give credit to God.
  1. Health clubs are good opportunities to meet people.
  2. Sporting events are good opportunities.
  3. Be creative.
  4. God will use your relationships.
  5. Most people come to know Christ through relationships.
  6. You are the church, pretty soon the church will leave the building, be the church in your relationships.

 

Close:  

From Becoming a Contagious Christian

Mark learned this lesson the hard way. It happened a few years ago when our church was putting on a week-long presentation that combined contemporary music and drama to communicate Christianity to people who don’t normally go to church. He had bought four tickets for the Friday night performance, and along with his wife, Heidi, had invited another couple. But that couple cancelled at the last minute. Now it was the day of the event, and they were holding two extra tickets with no one to bring. Mark drove home from the office that evening, and as he turned into his driveway, he saw the young couple who lived next door walking on the sidewalk in front of his house. They weren’t married, had shown no inclination toward spiritual interests, and he only knew them by their first names. Still, he figured, why not give it a shot? “Hey, Scott!” he called out. “I was wondering if you two are busy tonight. You see, I’ve got these extra tickets to a concert at our church.” He quickly tried to dispel any stereotypes they might have and to convey that this would feature music they’d really like, that there would be professional-quality and up-to-date drama, good sound and lighting, and so on.

 

And then he asked if they would like to go. Push the pause button for a moment. If you think along the lines I do, you’re probably admiring the confidence Mark showed in forthrightly explaining this opportunity and inviting a couple he’d barely even met. It was the kind of thing a lot of us think about doing but find it hard to muster the needed courage. The only problem, as he found out, was that it was probably too bold and too quick. It risked the possibility of scaring them away not only from this, but also from future chances for interaction. Scott glanced shyly at his girlfriend for a moment and then looked at the ground. Somewhat awkwardly he finally said, “Um … thanks anyway, but I don’t think we’ll go this time … but, well, if you’d ever like to get together in the backyard for a barbecue, let us know.” As they walked away, Mark thought to himself, “Why didn’t I think of that? In fact, that’s the very thing I’ve been teaching in my evangelism seminars for years: you’ve got to barbecue first!”

 

As they walked away, Mark thought to himself, “Why didn’t I think of that? In fact, that’s the very thing I’ve been teaching in my evangelism seminars for years: you’ve got to barbecue first!” It’s so important that we make investments in friendships — what I sometimes call paying relational rent — in order to gain the person’s trust and respect, as well as to earn the right to talk to them about spiritual issues. Interestingly, Mark did follow up later with Scott. After a few weeks he called him and suggested that the four of them see a movie and then go out for dessert afterwards. When the night came, Mark and Heidi decided that they would not bring up topics related to church or Christianity. They knew they’d already gone too fast, and they determined to “barbecue” several times with the couple before even thinking about trying to steer the conversation into matters of faith. But to their surprise, that same night in the restaurant, Scott himself asked some questions of a spiritual nature![1]

 

So, my encouragement to all of us is that we build relationship with non-Christians and share the Gospel in the relationships. Don’t push it, but do wait for the opportunity.

 

You are the church, pretty soon the church will leave the building, be the church in your relationships.

 

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] Hybels, Bill; Hybels, Bill; Mittelberg, Mark; Mittelberg, Mark (2008-09-09). Becoming a Contagious Christian (p. 98). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.