Setting Our Mind On Heaven

Heaven, Life, Change

There was a eerie song a number of years ago called, “Is that all there is?”  It made the statement: “If this is all there is, then we might as well keep dancing.”  There comes a time in all of our lives when we ask the question: Is there more to life than what we are seeing?  This is especially true when we face times of trial.

The disciples of Jesus were facing some difficult questions; Jesus tells them that He is going away.  Then the Lord tells them that their is a traitor among them.  Then there is the talk about His Body and Blood at the Last supper.  Finally, there are those words to Peter: before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.  What is going on?  Is this how it will all end?

The disciples must have felt like their world was unraveling.  They must have felt like they were buried under a mountain of confusion. I can’t imagine the questions these guys must have been asking. (Have you ever felt that way?)

Jesus, understanding their mind-set says: “Don’t be troubled . . . Focus on where I am going and why.”  Jesus talks to His disciples about Heaven . . . something we talk too little about.

What is Heaven?

We use the word “Heaven” in our conversations but few have given much thought to what Heaven is.  Let me share with you some of what we can know about Heaven from the Bible.

It is a place of residence in the Father’s House

A couple of years ago we were visiting family and we took a tour of an exclusive neighborhood outside Phoenix.  The houses were magnificent.  We couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to live with a pool in your backyard, your own private tennis courts, enough rooms in the house so you could have privacy and quiet any time you wanted.

I read Bill Gate’s Book THE ROAD AHEAD a year or so ago and he talked about the house he was building.  It would be the height of technology.  As you walk into any room the video screen would display paintings consistent with your tastes, the music you were listening to would follow you from room to room, any television program you were watching would be playing in whatever room you were in, a phone call for you would ring in just the room where you were at.  It sounds intriguing doesn’t it?

As magnificent as these places would be most of us would prefer to live right where we are at.  Why? Because home is where your loved ones are.

Charles Spurgeon tells this story:

A little child, whose mother was dying, was taken away to live with some friends because it was thought she did not understand what death is. All the while the child wanted to go home and see her mother. At last, when the funeral was over, and she was taken home, she ran all over the house, searching the sitting-room, the parlor, the library, and the bedrooms. She went from one end of the house to the other, and when she could not find her mother, she wished to be taken back to where they brought her from. Home had lost its attractions for the child when her mother was not there. My friends, the great attraction in heaven will not be its pearly gates, its golden streets, nor its choir of angels, but it will be Christ. Heaven would be no heaven if Christ were not there. (Spurgeon p.118)

Heaven is the best of both worlds.  It is a magnificent place that would make the homes of Phoenix and Bill Gates seem like shanty’s but more than that . . . it is where the Father is.  Jesus tells us that it is the Father’s house.  And there is more, Jesus tells us that we will be with Him.  A magnificent place with those we love.

It is a prepared place for prepared people

We are told that a place will be prepared for us.

Have you ever gone to a Hotel to check in only to be told that your room was not ready yet?  Maybe worse, maybe you were told that they have no reservation for you.  Talk about aggravating!

That will not happen in Heaven.  Our place will be ready when we arrive.  The Bible tells us that the Lord “knows those who are His.”

It is important to note at this point that not everyone is going to be in Heaven. Heaven is a prepared place for PREPARED PEOPLE.  It is the common belief that you go to Heaven when you die.  Not so.  The only people who go to Heaven when they die are those who die trusting Christ alone for their salvation.

The moment you place your trust in Christ your name is written in the reservation book called, the Lamb’s Book of Life.  You don’t have to worry about arriving late and losing your reservation . . . no one arrives late (or early) to Heaven.  You don’t have to worry about computer error, sloppy bookkeeping or anything else.  Your place is ready and waiting for you.

It is the place of peace and fulfillment

Paul writes,

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.   For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor. 5:1-3)

In this life we are uneasy.  We are looking for something but we don’t know what it is.  Paul says we “groan”.

In order to quiet the groaning we try all kinds of different things:

  • we surround ourselves with material belongings in the hope of keeping ourselves entertained and distracted.
  • We will seek spiritual “highs” from any source around
  • We will seek to satisfy the groan through numerous “intimate” relationships
  • We become more active to eliminate quiet times in our lives

but the groan remains.  That sense of needing something more can be avoided for awhile but not forever.

Max Lucado, as he often does, has a great way of making the point,

Take a fish and place him on the beach.  Watch his gills gasp and scales dry.  Is he happy? No!  How do you make him happy? Do you cover him with a mountain of cash?  Do you get him a beach chair and sunglasses?  Do you bring him a Playfish magazine and martini? Do you wardrobe him in double-breasted fins and people-skinned shoes? . . . .And you will never be completely happy on earth simply because you were not made for earth. Oh, you will have your moments of joy.  You will catch glimpses of light. You will know moments or even days of peace.  But they simply do not compare with the happiness that lies ahead.  (WHEN GOD WHISPERS YOUR NAME p. 173)

Heaven is where our longing stops . . . it’s where we find what we have been searching for all our lives.

It is a place more spectacular than our imagination can envision

Listen to this description in the last book of the Bible,

21:1-5  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, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Listen to our friend, Max Lucado once again,

What a breathtaking verse! Do you see what it says? Heaven is beyond our imagination. We cannot envision it. At our most creative moment, at our deepest thought, at our highest level, we still cannot fathom eternity.

Try this. Imagine a perfect world. Whatever that means to you, imagine it. Does that mean peace? Then envision absolute tranquility. Does a perfect world imply joy? Then create your highest happiness. Will a perfect world have love? If so, ponder a place where love has no bounds. Whatever Heaven means to you, imagine it. Get it firmly fixed in your mind. Delight in it. Dream about it. Long for it.

And then smile as the Father reminds you, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.

Anything you imagine is inadequate. Anything anyone imagines is inadequate. No one has come close. No one. Think of all the songs about heaven. All the artists’ portrayls. All the lessons preached, poems written, and chapters drafted.

When it comes to describing heaven, we are all happy failures.  [WHEN GOD WHISPERS YOUR NAME p.174,175]

Enough said!

It is a place that will never fade in splendor

The first time someone drives into downtown Chicago for the first time it is an awesome experience.  The tall buildings, the beautiful lakefront, that sense of being small is a moving thing.  (Of course if you happen to arrive during the “rush hours” you will find nothing moving!)

But having been raised in Chicago I can tell you that the splendor of that experience becomes commonplace before too long.  I still enjoy looking at the skyline and continue to enjoy the lakefront but it’s not the same.  The glory diminishes.

This phenomena is true for Disneyland, Chocolate, the Ocean, a beautiful sunset and even sex.  But it won’t be true of Heaven.  Peter writes,

1 Peter 1:3,4 In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Practically, what this means is that Heaven will be just as exciting thousands of years into our stay as it was the moment of our arrival.  There will always be a new fascination for His glory, always a new appreciation of God’s beauty, a never-ending fascination with God’s eternal home.  We will never get “bored” in Heaven!

The Difference Heaven Makes to Daily Living

An understanding of what Heaven holds for those who are part of God’s Kingdom will change the way we live in the following ways,

We will be unruffled by the present struggles

Let me give you a quiz: could you endure an extended stay in the hospital if you KNEW you were going to get better?

Could you endure seeing someone you love in a coma for months if you KNEW that someday they would awake and be as good as new?

Could you endure the radiation treatments, chemotherapy, loss of hair, seeming unending vomiting and debilitating weakness if you KNEW the treatments would make you better?

I think you could.

As I said a few weeks ago, if you know how the story ends you find that you don’t get upset by the bumps along the way.  If we keep our eyes on Heaven we will find that the struggles of this world become manageable.  The annoyances of this world become insignificant.  The churning stops.

We will worship with a new depth

Hebrews 12:28,29 says,

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.

If we understand the greatness of our salvation.  If we would begin to grasp the glory of where we are headed we would easily fall on our knees in gratitude for our undeserved gift.  When we understand that we have been given an inheritance that cannot be shaken or destroyed our songs will be louder and our praise much more fervent.

No longer will we view salvation is something that just makes us feel good now.  Salvation would be seen as being much much deeper.  The song “Amazing Grace” would cause us to choke back tears of gratitude.  Discussions of Heaven would bring a glow to our face that would blind those around us . . . much like the face of Moses.

We will spend our time laying up treasures in Heaven

Jesus tells us to “lay up for yourselves treasure in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy.” Charles Spurgeon understands this well,

It does not take long to find out where a man’s treasure is, you have only to watch where his heart is. The man who makes politics his God, see how his face lights up the moment you talk about it! Here is a man whose heart is set upon business; put him in the way of making a few thousands even at the risk of losing a few more, and you have done him the greatest favor in the world. Here is another whose God is pleasure; his eye sparkles when you even mention it. One would think from such men that there is nothing worth living for but politics, and business, and pleasure. But talk to a child of God whose treasures are in heaven; the world scarce interests him. He will tell you how he has here no continuing city, how he is but a stranger and a pilgrim, how heaven is his home. And as he talks of Christ, and the promises, and the hope beyond the grave, you see that he enjoys the heavenly calm which the world knows not of. (Spurgeon p.123)

Where are you storing up your treasures?

We will make gaining Heaven our primary pursuit

In Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus says,

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The point is clear, when we catch a glimpse of Heaven we leave everything else behind and make gaining heaven our first pursuit.  There is NOTHING more important than making sure Heaven is in our future.  There is nothing that stands in the way of the person who understands what God is offering to those who trust Him . . . they will not stop until they are sure they have gained a reservation in Heaven.

What does it take?  How do we know?  What number do you call?

The road to Heaven requires three things:

  • An awareness and sorrow for your sin
  • An acknowledgment that Christ died to pay for your sin and that He rose to prove that the payment was sufficient.
  • A surrender of your life to the Master.  It’s not enough to know the right information . . . it is necessary to entrust yourself to that truth.  It means relying ONLY on Christ to provide what is needed for salvation.  It means trusting Christ for the daily direction of your life.

If you have sincerely done these things then your reservation is made.  Heaven is your destiny.  You can stop churning and fretting.  The future is certain.  The victory is sure.  You can stop looking for purpose and meaning . . . you have it in Christ.  You can now enjoy life in a way that others can only dream of.

But if you have not taken the steps above . . . may I ask “Why?”  Why are you delaying?  Why are you holding back?  There is nothing more pressing in your life.  There is nothing that can compare with the importance of this decision.  Stop procrastinating . . . be reconciled with God!  Bow your head right now and make that commitment that will change your life forever.  Please note that I mean exactly what I say, it will change your life FOREVER.

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Scripture:

John 14:1-3