If we just take the basics about God, that would be enough to infer that heaven will be:
But God is so gracious He has also described heaven...
It is a place of celebration and feasting!
After a prolonged betrothal, the time has finally come to celebrate the Son's marriage to His bride, the Church. Here their relationship will be fully realized and include a "marriage supper" (Isaiah 62:5 and Revelation 19:6-9).
As a Bridegroom, Christ has gone to prepare this home for us, and its sheer grandeur defies human language!
This is why John and Ezekiel both use the word "like" so many times. They are trying to describe beings and things that don't have an equivalent in our world (Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4:2-3). This is why Paul tells us it is not humanly possible to even imagine what good things God has waiting for us (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Don't tell anyone: But I've thought that. Maybe you have too.
My visions of heaven don't have the stereotypical pink, puffy clouds, and harps, but they are mostly...blank and a little blasé. Like a child convinced that going on vacation to Yellowstone will be boring. But the child needn't worry because they know their parents and can trust them. Similarly, we needn't worry because we know God:
1. He is the Creator -- without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1). Are you bored with the creation you can see now? No? Well, you won't be in heaven either.
2. God is our Father and He desires to give us good things (Matthew 7:11) beyond what we can think or imagine.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” -- 1 Corinthians 2:9
3. Christ came to gives us abundant life (John 10:10). And since He is eternal, life is not confined to the here and now. If we are trusting God for earthly satisfaction, trusting Him for heavenly satisfaction naturally follows. But if we are not really trusting God for temporal joy, trusting Him for eternal joy is next to impossible.
I almost threw it away -- the last cheerio in the bag. It was surrounded by oat dust and I actually had to dip my arm into the bag to extract it. As I did, I thought of Christ, the Good Shepherd, going back for the 100th sheep.
Whether that sheep was surrounded by wolves, teetering on the edge of canyon, or trapped in a thicket -- Jesus goes the distance to go back for the one.
Jesus came back for me. You. Pastors. Teenagers at Sunday School. The sick and the broken. The drug addict, sex addict, work addict. The atheist, narcissist, philosopher, He goes back for each us. That's worth remembering and pausing in worship.
Motives for crimes are easy -- money, sex, revenge...and little else. But motives for our actions toward God are complex, often we don't even know them ourselves. And even if we do know why we are doing something (or think we know), we really can't change our core motivations. Our motives simply reveal our heart.
For example, if I study my Bible because it makes me look smart in Sunday School -- I can't just flip a switch to make that not true...because pride is my sin nature. And I can't just stop studying my Bible -- because those are the words of life. So, what do I do?
Only One Person can change our "whys" and that's Jesus. He not only knows our deepest, darkest reasons -- but even better, He is able to reveal them to us and then remove our motives and replace them with His perfect purposes.
And if you are thinking, "Wow! Is that a process or what?" You nailed it. It's a miracle -- God's miracle that He chooses to work out in our lives through Christ. Is it any wonder then that we must abide in this relationship with Christ (John 15)? Not with merely all the "God-things", but in seeking relationship with Christ, asking for Him to change us and submitting to His hand as He does whatever He wants. As the old song says, "There's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
"I do all the "things" -- but I am not experiencing God." This is the sentiment I think most experiencing God books are trying to address. Someone who desires a deeper relationship with God, but the things they are trying aren't working.
And some books say, stop doing the things.
Some say, just keep doing the things.
Other books say, do different things.
But once ensuring we know Jesus as Savior, many authors don't say anything about our ongoing relationship. Our relationship with God is pictured as a marriage. Just as marriage can't be sustained by merely consistently checking off the marriage checklist. Neither is a relationship with God healthy merely because we check off the spiritual checklist.
Certain things must be present to have a healthy marriage. They demonstrate and contribute to the health of the marriage. But these "things" are not the relationship. The same is true spiritually. We go to church and serve, and study our Bibles and pray, not because these things are the relationship -- but because we have a relationship already. The things are important, but it's less about the things and more about the reason that we do them. Motive is invisible, sometimes imperceptible (even to the individual), and absolutely key.
A while a woman may or may not know if a man is just going through the motions...God absolutely does.
Whole books have been written on experiencing God. Many of us read the titles and envision tricks and tips to feel His presence, ways to hear and discern His voice, and secrets to enjoy spiritual disciplines that, honestly, sometimes are dry and boring.
Could the problem be that we are seeking the experience of God, without a relationship with God?
Is our issue that we want to enjoy the high of God, without a day-by-day walk with God?
Maybe we are seeking to know of God, without our lives being transformed with God?
So, maybe before seeking to experience God, we should ask -- no beg -- Him to grant us a desire to grow in relationship with Christ.
We, as the human race, crave experiences. Lots of us even have lists.
I want to:
Visit the Taj Mahal
Tour the White House
Kiss an alligator
And we check these things off with a self-satisfied smile.
The problem is that we like to try to do this with people and with God.
I want to:
Be friends with...INSERT NAME.
What we really mean is that we want to experience being married or having kids or being their friend. We want to enjoy their love and company and the purpose they provide our lives. We want to benefit from their connections, money, boat and RV.
We are thinking about all the good things.
Not, I want to love them when we have no money, they lose their job or their health, and we have to move to Fairbanks, AK.
Not, I want to be there when they are screaming and so much goop is coming from their nose, they vomit.
Not, I want to be a good friend when their mom dies, or they are going through cancer treatment or substance abuse counseling.
That's not what we want to experience.
But that is what a relationship is -- it's a life, not an experience.
“The system can handle a little bit of these things.” I still remember this phrase from one of my childhood movies, “Down the Drain”. You likely never saw it. It was basically an infomercial on the importance of water in everyday life and how to care for our water supply. If you're thinking: "You did not have very many videos growing up" – you are correct!
But that phrase about the system is very applicable to our spiritual lives too. The Christian life is sustained by abiding in Truth (John 15), not basking in lies. Often, we eat a heavy diet of worldly philosophy and entertainment, and then we wonder why we are spiritually sick and struggling. This is like dumping chemicals into the water supply and wondering why the fish and flowers die. The system -- whether physical or spiritual -- can only handle a little bit of these things.
But unlike our physical water supply, limited and easily contaminated, our Savior is the well that never runs dry. He is unlimited and cannot be overcome by any sin or addiction. This is why Jesus calls us to return to Him -- not merely sorry for our sins, but submitted to His Lordship. And He will faithfully forgive and provide us the strength to live the Christ-like life.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” – Romans 8:22
All of creation groans within itself, waiting for God to restore it to the perfection. And if all creation groans, we also groan.
Job groaned under the intensity of his suffering – that God permitted.
Lot groaned over the wickedness that surrounded him – that God allowed.
Jeremiah groaned under the burden of God’s judgement – that God gave.
Christ groaned receiving the full weight of human suffering, human wickedness, and God’s judgement – that God laid on Him.
Today our spirit’s groaning is evidence that the world was not created this way. It is proof that we were not created for this world. Our groaning directs us to cry out to Christ. The One Who has taken all of humanity’s groaning upon Himself and left hope in place of the pain.
So when we groan, we weep as those who know joy is coming. We cry out to our Savior in full assurance of His victory over sin, doubt, suffering, and death. We respond to sin in love, knowing sin cannot bring anything but death, but Christ brings life and peace – and we were saved in this hope (Romans 8:24)!
We think of history as a single entity. Thousands of years, we compress into a single short word. And yet we realize that time is ultimately short and will come to a close. Giant volcanos will eventually explode. WWIII will break out sooner or later. Nuclear holocaust. Incurable pandemic. Mass extinction will happen at some point. Unless Christ returns before that.
But many of us (irrationally) think our personal time is long. I’ve got lots of good years left – unless the above things occur. I will be healthy – or live in constant anxiety. I will do. I will pursue. I will succeed.
It’s a farce. Christ may come tonight. This very hour.
WWIII may touch off before we wake up tomorrow bringing chaos in its wake.
But whether they do or not, our days – be they 100 years or 100 hours – are short and are given by God.
Just as time itself is short -- and given by God.
This reality is an urgent call for us to wake up and use our time for Christ, engage our world and communities while it is yet today. So, today, what are you doing?
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.