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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Heaven Pt 2: Home!


[The audio file is here. You might find it helpful to listen as you meander through the manuscript below. Mike]
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Heaven Pt. 2: Home! John 14:1-6 (1 John 3.1-3)
Lord God, you made us to walk with you forever, but our sin has shattered that companionship! And our rebellious hearts keep us looking for love in all the wrong places. Help us this day, as we hear your Scriptures, to have our hope for home restored and recovered; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Many years ago Anna and I lived in Turkey. We knew it was a short stay (2 years), but we knew we didn’t fully belong. We kept calling back to the United States (Morale calls), writing letters, thinking about being back “home.” We made the best of where we were, adapted to the culture, much of the food, etc., but we knew that we were Americans. It helped us keep our perspective, kept us oriented so we didn’t become something else, or breakdown in despair. The Bible, and our Lord Jesus, say the same kinds of things to us Christians.

Home is where....Jesus is! v. 2-3. This is primary to understanding heaven. Have you ever noticed that the Bible nowhere says anything about us “going to heaven” when we die. Instead, it regularly says things like v. 3 here. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:21-23); “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22-23). Illustration: I hate business trips! There was a season of my Air Force career when I would have to be away for weeks on end, holed up in a hotel. There was nothing to look forward to at the end of the day after hours of work. The phone calls to Anna and the kids were highlights, but they we rather hollow because…well, it just wasn’t being at home, because I wasn’t with them. It’s not the idea of golden streets, pearly gates, and jeweled walls that makes heaven worthy of our heart’s desire: It’s God, and it’s Christ Jesus! Home is where....Jesus is!

Our Heavenly Home ONLY because...of Jesus! v.4-6. {1} He is the One who sets us free, cleanses us, makes us fit-ones (or re-fit) for His indestructible friendship – “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”” (Rev. 5:9-10). {2} He is the One who continues to preserve us so we will finally GET home. As one example: “…but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:24‑25). “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22.31-32).
 Therefore, as someone has once said somewhere: “So then let ‘Deserved’ be written on the floor of Hell, but on the door of heaven and life, ‘The Free Gift.’” The gift and the Giver go together! Christ is everything, and He is the concrete center that brings us into His heaven. Then we will finally be able to sing Psalm 23.6 with real tranquil joy, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever”! And it will take us eternal ages upon eternal ages to fathom the fullness of this: “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Our Heavenly Home ONLY because...of Jesus!

Our Heavenly Home where...We Will See Jesus Clearly! 1 John 3:1-3, and John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Think of the child who hasn’t seen his daddy in a year... “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.27-28). Faith and hope will finally give way to only love! Though doubts cloud our faith now, then all will be certainty and satisfaction! And that means, in the words of Donald MacLeod, “Remaining fully ourselves, we will be in God, encircled by His love, secure in His embrace and sharing in the blessedness and peace which lie at His own heart. He will hug us close, enfolding us in the embrace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (“A Faith to Live By,” 326). This is what eternal life is, flourishing forever IN this embrace! Our Heavenly Home where...We Will See Jesus Clearly!

Our Heavenly Home where....We will become what we are meant to be.  1 John 3:1-3. We’ll talk more about this next week. But let me point out one thrilling aspect of this. We will all be made like Him – therefore the sin, spitefulness, anger, hatefulness, exasperation, impatience, perversities and peevishness that often mar and scar our relationships with each other – will be utterly and wholly eliminated! We will finally and fully enjoy being in fellowship with others in fellowship with Christ. Communion will finally become all it is meant to be as well! Being loved by one another and loving one another will actually grow without all of the manipulative games, without the emotional baggage that hampers us now. And all of this will be simultaneously drenched with love for Christ and Christ’s love for us! Our Heavenly Home where....We will become what we are meant to be.


Our Heavenly Home...Is to Begin Now. By that I mean that we can have eternal life now; fellowship with Christ now; communion and divine intimacy now. As Spurgeon once said: “If we do not get to heaven before we die, we shall never get there afterwards.” Many folks hope to “go to heaven.” But the very thing that makes heaven heaven – communion and friendship with Christ, as well as the total transformation that will come with it – is the very thing that some people show so little interest in. But thank God, we don’t need to wait – we can begin to taste heaven even now. John 3.35-36. We can move onto the outskirts and edges (so to speak) of heaven. I think David Wells, in his new book “God in the Whirlwind” beautifully brings out this thought in his concluding statement of his book: “When we are God-centered in our thoughts, God-fearing in our hearts, when we see with clarity what his character of holy-love is like, he begins to have weight in our lives. When that happens we become, not just occasional visitors to the eternal, but its permanent residents, its citizens. And that is when the church becomes more than just another organization but, in fact, the outpost of eternity in this wounded world” (242). Our Heavenly Home...Is to Begin Now.

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