Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Month: May 2010

(Part 4) Heaven: Living 'here' in light of 'there'

“Only two things are sure in life: death and taxes,” so goes the famous saying.

A story is told of the famed philosopher Diogenes. He was looking intently at a large collection of human bones that were piled one upon the other. Alexander the Great stood nearby and became curious about what Diogenes was doing.

Diogenes replied, “I am searching for the bones of your father, but I cannot seem to distinguish them from those of the slaves.” Alexander got the point: All are equal in death.

Death has been called “the great equalizer.”

It afflicts the young and the old.
The weak and the strong.
The king and the commoner.
The rich and the poor.
The educated and the ignorant.
Both male and female.
And people of all colors.

Death has no favorites. From the moment of birth, human beings are moving steadily towards death. Current estimates are that at least 53.4 million people die every year (or 102 every minute) throughout the world. One day I will also die (unless Jesus comes back first). So will you.

Let me ask you the following question: Are you ready to face death? Are you afraid of death? Does the thought of it bring fear into your heart? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there is absolutely no reason to fear death!

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

As believers in Jesus Christ, we can be confident that heaven awaits us on the other side. Heaven will be eternal, not temporal. Heaven will last forever and ever and ever and ever and ever…and ever! As the well-known line in Amazing Grace says,

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.”

Imagine living for 10,000 years! How old are you now? I’m almost 50. If this was heaven, I would still have another 9,950 years before reaching the 10,000 year mark. And to think that after 10,000 years, we will have just barely begun!

This is why it is so important that we remind ourselves that, “life on earth is the preface to the book, the warm up to the concert. Heaven is the main event!” (Randy Alcorn)

This is also why Scripture refers to life on earth as “momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:16), a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14), a “breath” (Job 7:7), and “our days on earth are as a shadow” (Job 8:9).

The Psalmist sums it up well when he writes in Psalm 39

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (vv. 4-5)

Compared to eternity, life on earth is like the blink of an eye or the snap of a finger. Scripture tells us over and over to remember “how brief life on earth is” when compared to “eternity!” When we do this, it gives us perspective. It allows us to view our troubles, afflictions, trials and temptations through the lens of eternity.

(Part 3) Heaven: Living 'here' in light of 'there'

“I say the tragedy is how you’re gonna spend
the rest of your nights with the light on
so shine the light on all of your friends
when it all amounts to nothing in the end
I won’t worry my life away . . .”

– Lyrics to ‘The Remedy” by Jason Mraz

Did you catch that? “When it all amounts to nothing in the end.”

This line from the ultra-popular Jason Mraz song sums up what so many people in our culture today believe about life after death. They think that there is no afterlife and that if there is a heaven, it is supposed to be here on this earth – right now.

For many secular people, this world is all there is. A good example is media mogul Ted Turner. In an article published by World magazine several years ago, Turner gave the following summation of this humanistic philosophy:

“Christianity is a religion for losers. You will do a lot better at saving yourself than praying to somebody to save you. I think the savior is right here. With our current technology, we can save ourselves.”

Scripture says that, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Those that have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will be judged for their sin and will spend eternity separated from God in hell. Those of us that have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will not be judged for our sin – because we trusted Christ to save us from our sin (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:21-31)!

Some of you reading this (if you’re old enough) may recall Schlitz Beer. Do remember their slogan?

“You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.”

Contrary to the famous Schlitz Beer ad, scripture actually says that you go around twice in life. What you decide about Jesus Christ while on earth in this life, in this world, will determine where you will spend eternity in the next world!

Scripture goes on to say that how we live our lives as believers in Jesus Christ here and now (on earth) will determine how we will live then and there (in heaven) (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

Any individual holding to the philosophy that “it all amounts to nothing in the end” will naturally develop certain resulting characteristics, or life habits. One example of this is greed. Someone once said:

“Greed is the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard.”

When you and I realize that this world is not all there is—that the next world, heaven, is our real home—we begin to realize that all that we have, are, and accumulate must be seen as resources by which we can influence and impact people for the world to come.

The Apostle Paul must have been thinking about people like Ted Turner and others when he wrote:

“For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere.” (Philippians 3:18-21 NLT)

The story is told of an elderly missionary couple that arrived at their home port after years of faithful service. At the dock, an ambassador and his wife who had returned on the ship with them were surrounded by a crowd. Roses were bestowed on his wife as photographers’ flashes exploded, and an attentive, admiring press and public hung on every word as he spoke of the joy of serving his government and coming home. As the missionary couple walked unnoticed through that crowd, the wife, with hot tears streaking down her face, wondered out loud to her husband, “Why is it that we have given our whole lives to Christ and yet there is no one here to honor us and welcome us home?” Her understanding husband, reaching beyond that lonely moment, said to her, “Honey, we’re not home yet.”

I love what Randy Alcorn has written about the reality of heaven as our “real home”…

“Heaven is our real home. Home is acceptance, security, rest, refuge, deep personal relationships, great memories. Home is where your treasure is. If heaven is your home, then your mind and heart and treasure will be there also.”

Until next week, my prayer for you is…

“May the LORD bless you and keep you;
may the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
may the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
(Numbers 6:24-26)

(Part 2) Heaven: Living here in light of there

Do you ever get tired of this world?

It’s dashed dreams and broken promises . . . suffering and injustices . . . the pain and hurt and disappointment?

When we grow weary of this world, there’s a good reason. It’s because we’ve been made for another world. This isn’t heaven. This isn’t our final home.

In heaven, there will be no more evil or demonic influence. No more broken promises. No more injustice, pain or violence. No more disagreement and heartache. Bottom line: there will be no more sin. That’s the world that awaits us as believers in Jesus Christ.

Scripture captures this thought well when it says:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1, 3-5a)

Martin Luther saw this present world clearly when he wrote the following line in his well-known hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

“This world with devils filled should threaten to undo us.”

If we are not careful, we can forget that we live in a fallen place in the midst of a fallen race. This world has been marred and scarred by sin. As one scholar has insightfully noted: “If we understood the depth of the Fall we would be surprised that anything good could possibly ever happen to us on this earth.”

Contrary to what some people believe, our world’s biggest problem is not over-population, government, the economy, poverty, political parties, oil spills, etc. Our world’s biggest problem is sin! Sin has marred and scarred this world. The sin issue is the most important crisis that needs to be dealt with.

If the sin issue isn’t dealt with and people’s hearts are not changed, then everything else we do to try and change society is simply putting Band-Aids on a cancerous wound. Dr. Joseph Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute, wrote the following about this critical issue:

“One of the most seductive forces in this kingdom-on-earth disorientation is the politicizing of the church in the last couple decades. This well-meaning effort to change society politically reflects a debilitating imbalance. Most of us think that if we had the right political influence – a messianic presence in the Oval Office and Christians on Capitol Hill – we could restore this fallen earth to its intended redemptive peace.

And while as citizens we ought to work to influence a righteous society and to hold our government accountable for righteous practices, the church’s main thrust is not political revolution but redemptive influence. Homes, neighborhoods, and schools will not be healed and crime-free until lives are changed through Christ and the values of the kingdom are lived out on a regular basis. Counting on political processes to accomplish our goals has politicized our King (would Christ really be a right-wing Republican if He were here?) and undermined the eternal cause of the gospel. We have confused the message of the Cross and the meaning of the kingdom with political agendas, and thus we have distorted the reality of Christ in both this world and the world to come.”

We must never forget that the church’s main thrust in this world is not political revolution, but redemptive influence! We live in a world that has been marred and scarred by sin…we live in a fallen place in the midst of a fallen race! Sin is the main problem and Jesus is the only solution!

Part 1: Heaven: Living Here in Light of There

“He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever.”

Today I am beginning a new  blog  in which I will share a few quotes, thoughts and reflections on various issues in life and ministry. Each post will be fairly brief and to the point and primarily filled with quotes from Scripture and other great leaders and thinkers, past and present. I have always been a fan (and massive collector) of great quotes. My hope is that you will find inspiration, encouragement and challenge, just as I have, through many of these pithy statements.

I want to dedicate this week’s post to a longtime friend and brother in Christ who just passed away a few days ago at age 50 from cancer. Jay Herold was a soft-spoken, gracious man of integrity. For many years, his wife Nancy was Director of the Children’s Ministry at the church where I pastored. Please pray for Nancy and their two daughters, Christie and Lindsey.

Back in 1999, I preached a ten-part series of sermons on heaven entitled, “Eternity: Living Our Lives With Heaven Clearly In View.” Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share an array of brief quotes, thoughts and reflections from it with you. I pray your heart will be encouraged and uplifted to daily “live here in light of there (eternity).”

Here are a few thoughts…on Heaven

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is because Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.” (C. S. Lewis)

 

“We are to view the present in light of the future; we are to see time in light of eternity; we are to look beyond sacrifice to reward; we are to bear the cross in anticipation of the crown.” (Randy Alcorn)

“Let temporal things serve your use, but the eternal be the object of your desire.” (Thomas a Kempis)

 

“When we live our lives as if this world is all that we have, life is very disappointing and even despairing. When we live our lives as if this world is all there is, questions have few answers and crisis becomes all-consuming. This present world only makes sense when we live here in light of there!” (Joseph Stowell)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

“And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim; in the light of his glory and grace.” – Lyrics to “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 NLT)

 

Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” God has placed within our hearts as humans the awareness of eternity…the internal awareness that there is something beyond this life. We are to see and interpret all of life through the grid of eternity. We are to live here in light of there!

*All Scripture quotations are taken from The English Standard Version Bible (ESV) unless otherwise noted

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