The Life Everlasting, Part 4

This is the conclusion of the sermon started several posts earlier.

Turning back to the Creed we learn that our ultimate hope as Christians is not “going to heaven when I die” but the resurrection of the body. We are physical beings, God made us that way because it is His intention that we be physical. Had He wanted us to be spirits or angels, He would have made us so. And in each of us is a sort of longing for the Garden of Eden. We don’t always understand what is missing for us, but it is that blessed place God prepared for us. Eden is our home and it is the intention of God to take us back to where we belong.

So our souls and our bodies will reunite and we will have imperishable bodies. We will live in the presence of God for all eternity, embodied. It is His presence with us that will make the new creation to be heaven. We can see that in the creation account in Genesis where we find that God went to Adam and Eve in the Garden. He didn’t bring them to Himself spiritually, but He came among them. We will have bodies which are like the Body which our Lord Jesus assumed. In his first epistle John says, “… what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know when He appears, we will be like Him …”

So listening to John we know both how we will be and when these things will occur. Heaven will be when Jesus returns on the last day. On that day the entire world we know will cease to exist, replaced by a new, perfect, eternal world where Christ and His people will be together. It will be a world without sin, a world without disease, a world without sadness, a world without despair. And the lowly condition of the bodies we have will be exchanged for the glorified condition of Christ’s own body.

The writer of Hebrews says that here in this world we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. We long for the glory that will be ours as it was always meant to be, the people of God in full communion with God, pure, holy and eternal.

So the Creed has taken us from the beginning to the new beginning. It is precious to the Church and I can only say how sorry I am for our brothers and sisters who do not recite it and pray it over and again. We thank our ancestors in the faith for preserving it for our comfort and our dedication.

For earlier portions of this sermon go to these posts:

The Life Everlasting, part 1

The Life Everlasting, part 2

The Life Everlasting, Part 3

 

 

Katelyn’s Question #5

What happens to people after they die?

This is a continuation of the following posts:

Is There a God? If So, What is God Like?– Or Katelyn’s Question #1

Katelyn’s Question #2

Katelyn’s Question #3

Katelyn’s Question #4

After people die they either go to heaven or hell.  If the person was a believer of Christ, then their soul ascends into heaven to be with the Lord.  In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the repentant thief on the cross:

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

While on the other hand, if a person did not believe in Christ, then they descend into hell.  Heaven or hell is the final destination of all human beings.

Christians are described as having eternal life, thus meaning that after their physical death, they live forever spiritually in the kingdom of God.  While their body stays buried in the ground their soul goes to heaven.  One passage in the Bible which speaks of death is Ecclesiastes 12:7 which says,

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was;  and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.”

Though everyone dies, in John 11:25, Jesus says,

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

When Christ comes again, He will reunite the soul with a new body and all believers will live in the kingdom of heaven.

Fractured Families

A couple of days ago I wrote about the blessings of family — and I meant that sincerely.  However, in case you are thinking that my family is perfect, and we have great relationships with everyone — well, think again.  We’re no different than any other family this side of heaven.

My father was not a great dad.  He was never abusive, and he loved us, but he was not a good provider, and he was pretty self absorbed and neglectful. We weren’t estranged, and I forgave him, but we never enjoyed the close relationship you would hope to have with your dad.

One of my brothers is an alcoholic.  This disease has warped his personality and his ability to get along with others  It’s difficult to understand the way he behaves and thinks.  Some family members don’t want to be around him at all.

There are extended family members I never took the time to know and appreciate.  At my Aunt Lois’s funeral ( see How Aunt Lois Spent Her Time), her pastor spoke about what a wonderful Christian woman she was.  Evidently she was quick to visit the sick and homebound in the congregation with food and treats, and she taught Sunday School for over thirty-five years.  Sadly, I was “too busy” with my own life and children to spend time with her (although she invited me).

I could go on, listing my own failings and the failings of my relatives.  For now, all of our families are fractured, and sometimes we heal imperfectly and sometimes we never heal at all.  The good news?  As Christians, we get a do-over.  In heaven:

‘He (God) 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.” Revelation 21:4

When we get there, we (God’s family) will all be everything He created us to be.  We will not even remember our sinful habits and desires;  our relationships will be restored; and we will have eternity to be with one another.  If family is a blessing in the here and now, imagine what it will be like then!

The Beginning of Heaven

“Let God do with me what He will, anything He will;  whatever it be, it will be either heaven itself or some beginning of it.

William Mountford, English Unitarian preacher and author

Celebrating the Best Beginning

This song composed by David Ruis is a celebration of the best new beginning we will ever experience.  We sing it on Via de Cristo retreats.  Listening to it will cause you to long for that day when we dance with Christ on the streets that are golden!

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.”  Revelation 21:21

 

 

 

I Can Only Imagine

I just finished watching the movie, I Can Only Imagine.  I don’t think it’s an accident that the next adult Sunday School lesson I’ll be teaching is from the book of Romans and titled “The Transformed Life.” God does that to me all the time! Bart Miller’s story is one of transformation, redemption, forgiveness, hope and most of all music.  His father was abusive and angry, his mother left, and for young Bart, music anchored him, lifted him up, and gave him a dream.  I won’t say more, because you should see this film for yourself.  You’ve probably heard the song, but it’s worth another listen:

 

A Joyful Direction

The quote below comes from a sermon preached by John Donne in the early 17th century, during a time of plague.  It reminds us that our ultimate, joyful destination is an expansion and continuation of the joy we experience in Christ right now.

“Howling is the noise of hell; singing the voice of heaven. Sadness the damp of hell; rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven, and hath neglected or refused that earnest by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven as a river flows into the sea. This joy shall not be put out in death and a new joy kindled in me in heaven. But as my soul, as soon as it is out of my body, is in heaven, and does not stay for the possession of heaven nor for the fruition of the sight of God till it be ascended through air, and fire, and moon, and sun, and planets, and firmament to that place which we conceive to be heaven, but without the thousandth part of a minute’s stop, as soon as it issues, is in a glorious light, which is heaven…The true joy of a good soul in this world is the very joy of heaven. And we go thither, not that being without joy we might have joy infused into us, but that, as Christ says, ‘our joy might be full’ (John 16:24), perfected, sealed with an everlastingness. For as he promises that ‘no man shall take our joy from us’ (v. 22), so neither shall Death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it or discontinue it. But as in the face of Death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts me, I shall see the face of God (for everything shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me), so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of that valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy which shall no more evaporate than my soul shall evaporate—a joy that shall pass up and put on a more glorious garment above and be joy super-invested in glory. Amen.”7

The path is Narrow

Matthew 7:13 & 14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven?  And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.

The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.

Here on Earth.

What I’ve been given is time. Not life, not really. If I believe in what the bible says (and I do) my life, as it were, is a blink compared to the life that awaits me in a very real kingdom finer than those described in any legend or myth. Still, the time I’ve been given here is such a great gift that I can’t even grasp it. What do I do with it? How am I to spend it and with whom?

I’m still trying to work out the first question for myself and my family, and with a firm assurance I can tell you I am a terrible steward of time. I waste it, and mock it, and complain about it either dragging on too long. or flying by too fast. I often wonder what I could’ve done better in time past. Then I turn around and wonder what I can do to improve my future, and promptly begin scheming. How utterly human of me.

Why not live in the moment? Now is the best time of all. Insight is all we need, a.k.a prayers of wisdom. To remember we aren’t given a spirit of fear is to resolve to use our time wisely. We profit nothing when we fear what the future holds, or fear what some might think of our past. It does no good at all, yet it is done everyday. Certainly time should be thoughtfully and lovingly spent with a large dose of bravery in the mix. Because here on Earth we have little time to decide where we’ll be spending eternity. As to who we should spend time with . . . time will tell.

Worth Waiting For

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This has been a favorite passage of mine for a long time.  It’s easy to become depressed as we age.  We lose our parents;  our children don’t seem to need us anymore;  we can’t do the things we used to do physically, and even our mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  Paul reminds us in this letter to the Corinthian church that these things are only outer and temporary–they’re not what really counts.

What really matters is our relationship with God.  As we worship, study, pray and fellowship with other Christians, that inner nature grows stronger.  It doesn’t depend upon health, or a great job, or material possessions or other people.  God loves us as we are, and meets us where we are.  He is the one person in our life who will never change and never leave us.

Paul tells us that all the painful and frustrating losses are really just growing pains.  They are preparing us to let go of this world and ready ourselves for the next.  That new life with God will be so glorious, we won’t even miss all those fleeting things that seem so important right now.  Listen to this description of the things that will last forever:

“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with then as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Isn’t eternal life with God worth waiting for?