Eternity – Trusting in the Future God Has For You!

Week 10        BELIEVE    Eternity — Trusting in the Future God Has For You! 

On this Veterans’ Day Sunday – we have the privilege of taking time to remember and give thanks for the many sacrifices which men and women serving in our military have made.  We especially honor those who gave their lives protecting our nation.  My wife Penny and I grew a lot in our understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices which are made for us back in 2011-2012 – when our oldest son served an 11 month deployment with the Army Medical Corps in Afghanistan – with a Forward Surgical Team – at Forward Operating Base Shank – in the Logar Province of Eastern Afghanistan.

I can tell you that it is easy for all of us to take the sacrifices made for us by the women and men who serve our nation for granted – when it’s someone else’s son or daughter going into harm’s way.  But when it is your own child in harm’s way – you pay full attention and you appreciate much more deeply the commitment and sacrifices that are being made every day – to protect and preserve the freedom that you and I enjoy.  I believe that it is very important that all of us never forget – that freedom truly is never free.

As we honor the commitment and sacrifices being made for us every day – we also have an opportunity to think carefully about what we believe that gives our service men and women the courage they need to face danger – and what gives you and me the courage that we need to face danger.  The Bible teaches us that the foundation for being able to face danger without fear – is to have confidence in eternity.  To be able to trust that God has a good future beyond death – prepared and available to all of us.  God helps us to live without fear – by revealing Eternity to us and showing us what lies beyond the grave.  God wants to give you the power for living by knowing where you are going.

Eternity — The  POWER  of  KNOWING  Where You Are  GOING! 

How important is it – to have confidence in knowing where you are going?  Try a little experiment.  Try to picture your body – dead and being buried in the ground.   It’s almost impossible.  Even though we all know that we are going to die – every part of our psyche rebels at seeing ourselves dead.  God has wired our hearts and minds to focus on life.  God wants to help us to make the most of our lives in this world – and to have confidence that we will be raised up after death into heaven.  It’s not natural or normal for us to see our bodies decomposing as worm food.  God has placed a different vision and confidence in each of our hearts.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 (NLT)    We face many burdens.  Yet God has planted eternity in our hearts. 

As we think about where the women and men serving our nation find the courage they need to face enemies all around the world – we are reminded that we all need to plug in to the same source of courage.  We all need the power God wants to give us through faith – of knowing where we are going to spend eternity.

Hebrews 11:16    The saints of previous generations lived without fear – because they were looking forward to a better place.  They were focused on making it to our greater home in heaven.

If you believed you were going to be eaten up by worms – or tormented by the fires of hell forever – would that give you much motivation?  Of course not!  But having confidence that you will spend eternity in heaven gives you the power you need to face horrible enemies, to work through tough burdens.

Jesus reveals to us the power of knowing where you are going.  Confidence in Eternity gave Jesus the strength He needed to endure the Cross; to pay the price for all the sins of the world; and to achieve the greatest victory of all time through the resurrection. 

Hebrews 12:2     Jesus was able to endure the shame and suffering of death on the Cross – because He never lost sight of where He was headed.  Jesus trusted that He would be raised up to heaven and seated in the place of honor beside God the Father’s throne.  

This morning – as you remember, honor, and pray for the women and men serving and protecting you and our nation – God invites us to celebrate that the power they need and the power each of us needs for facing enemies and overcoming burdens – is available to us through God’s gift of eternity – the power of knowing where we are going.

  • Are You Empowered — By Knowing You Are Going to Heaven? 

Of course knowing that you are going to heaven is a great source of power and strength – but it also raises a few questions.  We all want to know, what is heaven really like?

Eternity — What Is Heaven  REALLY  LIKE?

Some people joke – heaven sounds OK, but hell would probably be more fun because that is where you get to party – while in heaven you have to behave yourself.  We need to look at that picture a little more carefully.  Hell is definitely not a big bar where everyone stays in a drunken stupor forever.  Hell is the place where only evil exists.  Try to picture times you may have been around evil.  Only evil.  Nothing good or positive.  Hell is a place of punishment and torment.  The Bible gives us a powerful picture of hell by describing the fires that never go out.  If you have ever been burned – you know that experiencing the torment of being burned for millions and billions of years – is definitely not a party.

It’s important to be clear about what you don’t want – so that you can focus on what you do want.  So what is heaven really like?  Jesus opens our minds to the awesome gift of eternity in heaven – by telling us that heaven is paradise. 

Luke 23:43     Jesus told him, Today you will be with Me in Paradise!

Take a careful look at what Jesus teaches the thief on the cross – and what Jesus wants to teach you and me.  The first lesson that Jesus teaches us about heaven – is that we get to go directly to heaven and experience all of its blessings – immediately after we die.  Jesus didn’t say – you have to spend a thousand years in purgatory, or a million years sleeping in a state of suspended animation.  What Jesus did say is – TODAY – you will be with Me in Paradise.

The second big lesson Jesus teaches us is that we will be with Him in Paradise.  One of the greatest pains we ever experience is rejection.  If you have ever had someone break up with you, been fired from a job, or gone through a divorce – you know how painful it is to be rejected.

Jesus taught the thief and all of us – that He was willing to die on the Cross – to forgive us completely.  No matter what you have done – all of your sins can be forgiven – and you can be restored and welcomed into God’s family.  Think for just a moment, what that might have felt like to the thief on the cross next to Jesus.  If you thought that going through the rejection of having a girlfriend or boyfriend break up with you, losing a job or going through a divorce is tough – imagine how bad the rejection of a cross felt.

Society told that thief – we are rejecting you completely.  We do not want you around anymore.  Not only do we not want you around – we also want to make you suffer as much as we can possibly make you suffer on your way out.  I think the thief knew a lot about rejection – which also meant that he had a huge appreciation for Jesus showing him that he could be forgiven and that God wanted to welcome him into God’s family.

The last lesson I’d like you to consider from Jesus’ words on the Cross – is Paradise.  What did Jesus mean – when He declared that heaven is Paradise?  Some people have a fear that heaven is going to be incredibly boring.  Sitting on a cloud playing a harp forever.  A church service that never ends.  Hundreds of hours memorizing the Bibl.  Jesus makes it clear that heaven is not boring.  Heaven is Paradise.

Heaven is the Garden of Eden restored.  Imagine a garden with no weeds.  A garden where there are no problems in relationships.  All of the incredible beauty of earth magnified – because there is no more sickness, no more hurricanes or earthquakes, no more tears.  Everything is perfect in heaven.  Our bodies are at the peak of their health.  We can eat anything we want and never gain a pound.  We have perfect relationships.

The Apostle Paul explains what heaven is like compared to our experiences in this world – by showing us that it is like the difference between a seed and a plant.  I have a picture of a little girl in a patch of sunflower plants to help you grab hold of this image.

1 Corinthians 15:35-42 (MSG)   Skeptics are sure to ask… “What does the ‘resurrection body’ look like?”  No one can draw a picture of our resurrection body.  We do have a parallel experience in gardening.  You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant.  There is no likeness between seed and plant.  …The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be even more dramatically different.  …This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant helps reveal the mystery of the resurrection body.  But only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever!

Another image Paul uses to help us picture heaven – is the difference between a tent and a home.  Paul wants to help you see that heaven is a more beautiful home than any human builder could ever build.  If you drive down the west side of the lake – you see some pretty impressive homes built for billionaires.  The Wegmans estate, the Golisano estate, and the Sands estate – which I am told has the added attraction of a wine cellar that is over 3,000 square feet.  Imagine a wine cellar that is bigger than most of our houses.  But no matter how huge or grand those estates are – they can’t keep the occupants from getting old and dying.  They can’t protect the people inside them from having break downs in their relationships.

So the Bible tries to help you visualize your home in heaven – which is even more beautiful and awesome than any of the estates on the West lake road – or anywhere else in this world.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 7    Our earthly bodies are like tents that will be taken down and replaced by our eternal bodies.  Our eternal bodies are homes built for us in heaven by God, homes no human hands could ever build.  We struggle with our earthly bodies that are wearing out – and we look forward to putting on our new heavenly bodies.  Through the Holy Spirit – God gives us confidence for the future – by revealing what our true home, our resurrection   bodies will be like!  …This new home – that we trust in but don’t yet have – gives us confidence in the future and keeps us going!

  • Why Are You Looking Forward to in Heaven?

 God wants to help you to know how beautiful and wonderful heaven truly is – so that you will have the courage you need to not only look forward to heaven – but to also have the courage you need to dare to be fully alive!

Eternity — Courage to Dare to Be  FULLY  ALIVE!   

When you know that you don’t have to be afraid of what tomorrow might bring – you can have the courage you need to live life to the fullest today.  Jesus was honest with all of His disciples.  Yes – you are going to face problems.  Yes – you are still going to grow old and die.  But death is not your final destination.  I am going to heaven ahead of you to prepare a new home for you – where We can be together forever.

John 14:1-3 (NCV/TM)    Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God the Father, and trust also in Me.  …I am going to My Father’s House in heaven to prepare a place for you.”

God wants to help you to make the most of each stage of your life journey.  You can deal with the problems along the way – because you know that every problem we will ever face is temporary – but heaven is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:14-18 (NCV)    God raised Jesus from the dead, and we know that God will also raise us up with Jesus.  …So we do not give up.  Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirits are being renewed every day.  We have troubles, but they are helping us to gain an eternal glory that is much greater than all of our troubles.  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Wars, Hospitals, and Funeral Homes are no fun.  But we don’t live in fear of them – because we know they are temporary.  We can make the most of every day God gives us – because God provides us with the courage we need, knowing that our final destination is Paradise with Jesus.  Heaven is not pie in the sky after we die.  Every time we experience love and joy – we are tasting a little piece of heaven – which helps us to look forward to that great day when we complete our journey and receive the completion of Jesus’ promise – This day, you will be with Me in Paradise! 

How is Eternity In Heaven — Giving You Courage to Dare to Be Fully Alive?

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