I like to think about heaven. It seems the older I get, the more upwards my thoughts go. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of our reward for being faithful to Jesus. In Revelation John writes about a city with a golden street, gates of pearl and a wall with foundations of precious jewels. Have you ever thought that John uses the most precious of things on earth to describe the least of things in heaven: a street, gates, a wall. Heaven is a real place. One that has been prepared by the One who created all things. This Almighty One has promised His children a sweet rest in this heavenly abode.
One stanza of a hymn sums up heaven like this:
There’s no disappointment in heaven, no weariness, sorrow or pain. No hearts that are bleeding and broken, no song with a minor refrain. The clouds of our earthly horizon will never appear in the sky for all will be sunshine and gladness with never a sob nor a sigh. There will be no crepe on the doorknob, no funeral train in the sky, no graves on the hillsides of glory for there we shall never more die. The old shall be young there forever transformed in a moment of time, immortal to stand in His likeness, the sun and the stars to outshine. I’m bound for that beautiful city my Lord has prepared for His own. Where all the redeemed of all ages sing “Glory” around the white throne. Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven and the beauty I there shall behold. What a joy will be when my Savior I see in that beautiful city of gold.
How often do you think of this indescribably wonderful home of the saved?
With great joy my heart does leap,
When I remember my sins no more to keep.
My Father has prepared a way for me,
To enjoy forgiveness of wrongs you see.
So loving a God He is for sure,
To send His Son His blood a cure.
My sins are completely gone from His sight.
Because of Christ’s blood, I can claim this right.
His Word does tell us that now we can be,
Holy and blameless in His sight we are free.
Sin no longer has dominion over me.
I am now a saint that has been set free.
What a blessing to believe and know this truth.
That Jesus has died my forgiveness is proof.
I pray that you have come this knowledge to know,
That your sins can be removed and your life made aglow.
I’m convinced that some people do not understand the meaning of faith that saves. For example, some see faith as a blind leap in the dark. For these people evidence is not required. They say if proof is necessary, then it’s not faith. Hebs. 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen.” A blind leap in the dark faith is not rational. These people believe, but they have no basis for their faith.
Faith is only as good as its object. For instance, if I am planning to drive to Alaska and my tires are bald, absolutely no tread, but I say “I have faith they will get be there safely”; that is not faith, that is stupidity.
Saving faith is a trust, reliance, dependence upon the One who saves. It is not just a mental assent to some facts about Jesus. Many have this kind of faith, but it does not save because it is not a reliance upon another. Saving faith is in the person of Christ. He is indeed a personal Savior and we are to have a personal relationship with Him. Some seem to have a “head” knowledge of Jesus, but not a “heart” knowledge. They can quote Scripture, but their lives are out of harmony with Scripture. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys. I want to obey my Lord because I love Him. When it comes to His commandments, they are not grievous. Psalm 19 says they are sweeter than honey to the one who believes.
Eph. 2:8 says “For by grace are you saved through faith…” God offers salvation to all, but the gift must be accepted by faith. The one who is saved, is the one who in faith repents and is baptized. He is united with Christ when he is buried with Christ. After which he lives for Christ.
Col. 3:3 says “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. When, where and to what have we died? When---when we obeyed the gospel. Where---in the grave of baptism. To what---to sin in our lives. Christians are both dead and alive. Dead to the world and alive to Christ. Dead to the passing things of the earth and alive to the eternal things of heaven.
Life is what you are alive to. For example, talk with a teenager and he may come alive when you mention cars or dates or rock concerts. Talk with a sports fan and he may come alive when you mention his favorite team, like Mississippi State. Talk with a Christian and he should come alive when Christ is mentioned. Living like Christ and living to please Him should be our goal in life. We should not let worldly things occupy more of our time and energy than spiritual things. If we do, we are proving that we really are not fully alive in Christ.
Col. 3:1,2 says “If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on this earth”. While our feet must be on this earth, our heads must be in heaven. Now this isn’t to suggest that we become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. It means that the practical, everyday affairs of life get their directions from the One who is sitting at the right hand of God. It means to look at this earth from heaven’s point of view.
Where are your affections?
Did you know that there is a photograph of God in the Bible? It’s found in Col. 1:15, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible of God…” The Greek word for image is eikon. It means a precise copy. Paul is saying that Jesus is the perfect portrait of God. He is the photograph of God in our modern English language. If you want to know what God looks like, then look at Jesus. On one occasion Phillip asked Jesus to show him the Father. He said, “..he who has seen Me has seen the Father…” John 14:9
Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the express image of His (the Father’s) person. William Barclay writes that Jesus is the perfect manifestation and representation of God. When we look at Jesus, we see God healing the sick, feeding the hungry and comforting the sorrowful. This the kind of God we love and serve.
In London, England there is a statue of the British naval hero Nelson. It is very tall and difficult to see his face. In order to help people see him more closely, they made a bust of his face and placed it at eye level, this enabled others to see what he looked like. This is what the Father has done for us in sending His Son. When we come to see Jesus in the Bible, we see the image of God, the photograph of God, if you will.
Have you seen Jesus and have you loved Him for what He has done for you and revealed to you? He is indeed the image of God.
What do you consider to be the very worst prison ever? Someone may answer Alcatraz. It was indeed a terrible prison. From 1933 to 1963 it served as a Federal Prison. During that time twenty- six tried to escape but only five succeeded. Surrounded by the cold waters of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz boasted high walls, double locked doors, machine guns in the hands of the guards. It is now a tourist attraction, but some tourists have admitted that they did not find the Big House too attractive.
May I suggest that the world’s worst prison is not Alcatraz for it could only confine the body. There is a prison that can shackle the inner person. This prison can bind the soul and place it in a deep dark dungeon. Too many people are incarcerated in this prison and some will suffer eternally, if they are not released from it. It is a prison of an unforgiving spirit. In Mark 11:25,26 Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you have anything against another, forgive him, that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But, if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” l
Forgiveness is a broad subject, involving God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. You may call God’s forgiveness vertical and our forgiveness horizontal. It is God’s forgiveness of us that makes possible our forgiveness of others. When God sent His Son to die on a cross, He made forgiveness of sins possible for every human being. When a person renders obedience to the gospel and then strives to walk in the light consciously trying to keep God’s commandments, then his or her sins are forgiven. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
I Peter 2:5 says we Christians are living stones that make up a spiritual house. The house of God is also called the family of God. We are in the same family because we have experienced the same birth. There is only one way to enter God’s spiritual house and that is by a spiritual birth. Jesus said “…unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God”. (John 3:3)Verse 5 says “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Please notice there is one birth with two elements: water and the Holy Spirit. Water is a clear reference to baptism and Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit. He begets us through the Word.
This rebirth is our purification. Because we have obeyed the truth, we now have a living hope based on the living Word, which will abide forever. In chapter one Peter compares the flesh to grass. He compares the glory of man to a flower. It may have a certain beauty for a while, but it is born of corruptible seed and is not lasting. Man may boast in his wealth or education or fame or strength for a while, but it is not going to last forever.
However, because we have been born of incorruptible seed, we shall live for an eternity with the One who shed His saving blood for you and me.
Peter says because we are members of the same family, we should love one another fervently. Our love should be sincere out of a pure heart with no hypocrisy. This love for our fellow sojourners is not to be a mediocre type of love, but fervent! This means there is to be a striving with all of one’s energy. This love is not based on feelings alone, but it is a matter of the will. Peter paints a beautiful picture of the spiritual house of God. Are YOU a member of it?
When you became a Christian, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) Another way of saying this is, when you obeyed the Gospel, you were given the Spirit by God. (Acts 5:32) Someone may ask “But what does He (notice “He” not it) do for me? Let’s let the Bible speak.
1. HE INTERCEDES FOR YOU IN PRAYER.
Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”. What a blessing to know we have the Spirit to reveal the intentions of our hearts in prayer.
2. HE IS A SEAL THE WE BELONG TO GOD. Eph. 1:13 “In Him you also trusted. After you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”. This “seal” is inward and spiritual. The Spirit is proof that we belong to God.
3. HE IS A GUARANTEE OF OUR INHERITANCE.
Eph. 1:14 “Who (the Spirit) is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory”. The presence of the Spirit in our hearts is not only a certification of our being God’s children, but it is a guaranty that God will give us heaven when our lives are over. Some translations use the word “earnest” instead of “guarantee”. The Spirit then is like a down payment in which God is saying I will not leave you in the grave, but I will do as I have promised and raise you up in the last day.
Thank God for His indwelling Spirit!