Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

                                                                                                                                                                        6 September 2005

Getting to Heaven is Not That Hard. . . Or is It? 

Matthew 13:44-13:46

  
It was only a nickel, but the owner was able to retire on it.

 

It is one of only five nickels like it, and Ed Lee of Merrimack, New Hampshire, sold the nickel for $4.15 million dollars.

 

It is the second-highest price ever reported paid for a rare coin.

 

Speaking for the coin dealership which bought the nickel, Laura Sperber called the 1913 Liberty Head the most famous of American rare coins.

 

“Owning a 1913 Liberty Head nickel is unlike owning any other coin in the world,” she said.

 

The AP story reported: “Liberty Head nickels were minted from 1883 to 1912.

 

‘Miss Liberty’ was replaced the following year by the Indian, or Buffalo, nickel.

 

But five 1913 nickels depicting ‘Miss Liberty’ were minted illegally, possibly by a mint official.

 

They were never put into circulation and were considered illegal to own for many years because they were not regular issue.

 

The coins surfaced in the 1920s.”

 

Ed Lee bought the coin two years ago for three million dollars, so he made over a million dollars on his investment.

Not bad.

 

Ed Lee was very smart.

 

He knew a valuable coin when he saw it, and he knew the importance of making a good investment.

 

It is a modern story very much like the parable Jesus told about the pearl merchant who found a rare pearl that was very valuable.

 

He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

 

Whatever heaven is like, it is worth everything we are and own.

 

Nothing can compare with it or compete with it.

 

Even if you had to sell everything you own to get it, it would be worth it.

 

Jesus said that is the value of heaven.

What is heaven like?

 

Well, first: Heaven is a place of inconceivable blessing.

 

Where did we ever get the idea that heaven was sterile and boring?

 

Here is what heaven is not like: It is not sitting on clouds with a halo playing harps and singing hymns for all eternity.

 

It is the most interesting and exciting place in the entire universe.

 

We will be exploring and having adventures.

 

Nothing we now know even comes close.

 

No possession can compete with possessing heaven.

 

No trip can compare with going there.

 

It is beyond anything we have ever seen or imagined.

 

The Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Try your best, but your greatest imaginative and creative thought will not be able to touch what heaven will really be like — it is just too far beyond our experience and anything we have yet known.

 

The apostle Paul had some idea of what it was like, for he had a vision of heaven.

 

It was because of that vision that he said: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:21-24).

 

Better by far, indeed

Jesus called heaven a paradise in Luke 23:43.

 

“And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

I think of it as similar to the Garden of Eden before the sin of Adam and Eve.

 

They lived in a perfect paradise.

 

The Bible tells us that there will be a new earth and we will have new bodies to live on the new earth.

 

It will be a new paradise.

 

In the Garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was as friend with friend.

 

Like Eden, heaven will be a place where we live in perfect harmony with God.

 

What is heaven?

 

It is living in the presence of God, and fully experiencing the love of God in a world where there are no disappointments.

 

That reality makes us long for our heavenly home.

 

The Bible says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9).

It will be a place of inconceivable blessing and unbroken joy.

 

There will be no disappointment or pain.

 

Death will be no more.

 

Sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 51:11).

 

And God will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

What is heaven like?

 

The second thing I want to point out is that: Heaven is a place of growth.

 

I think there is a misconception that as soon as we enter heaven that we will be made instantly perfect.

 

Perhaps we get the idea from the scripture that talks about the great change that will take place in us.

 

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

 

That is a wonderful verse which speaks of the change from earthly bodies to our new bodies that will never die.

 

There is something else that will be changed — our love for God will be single-minded and without the fabrication we often have now.

 

We will be freed from the presence of sin and our own sinful nature.

But heaven will be interesting and exciting because we will never stop growing spiritually and intellectually.

 

We will understand things in new ways, for “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

 

A new understanding will be given to us that will help us to know and understand things that we could never understand here in this fallen and limited world.

 

But for all eternity, you and I will be growing and developing.

 

We will be becoming more like Christ.

 

Our character will more and more take on God’s qualities.

 

We will gain new skills and abilities to serve God and work for him.

 

There will be continuous progress and the excitement of new discoveries.

 

C. S. Lewis talked about our progressive voyage into heaven being “Farther up and deeper in.”

What is heaven like?

 

The third point is: Heaven is a place of fellowship.

 

Many people have expressed concern to me about whether they will know their loved ones in heaven.

 

Everything in Scripture, points to the reality that we will know each other, and even know each other better than we do now.

 

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

 

There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that we will not know one another.

Jesus told the interesting story of a rich man and a beggar-man named Lazarus.

 

Lazarus went to heaven after his death, and the rich man ended up in hell.

 

Then it says, “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23).

 

The rich man recognized Abraham even though he had never seen him, as well as recognizing Lazarus — even though his appearance and condition had changed radically.

 

So not only do people know each other in heaven, but people in hell know each other — and see and know people in heaven, which is part of their torment.

 

Part of what makes heaven so wonderful, are the wonderful, deep relationships we will enjoy there.

 

Part of what makes hell so miserable, is the dreadful and dysfunctional nature of the relationships there.

C. S. Lewis talked of the time in heaven when, “the faces of our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition.”

 

Why would God bring us to live in heaven, only to live in isolation, or to live apart from those we knew and loved here?

 

Our God is a God who is interested in bringing people together and having fulfilling relationships.

 

The Bible says that we are currently surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

 

This cloud of witnesses is made up of the citizens of heaven.

 

They are together in a heavenly fellowship of love, and we shall soon join them.

 

The great joy of heaven will not only be a renewed relationship with God, but renewed relationships with those we have known, loved and lost.

 

Love is the new food of heaven, and there will be plenty to go around.

 

The rich love and fellowship of believers is one of rewards of heaven.

 

And of course, this should begin here and now, for the Bible says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

The Bible says, “You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter ?1:11).

 

Who is it that will welcome you?

 

God and the host of heaven, to be sure.

 

But there in the crowd will be those whom you have loved and known before.

 

You will see them, speak to them and be joined to them — never to be separated again.

 

And your relationship with them will be more than it was before, not less.

The fourth point is: There is only one way to heaven.

 

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. . . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6).

Your way is not the way.

 

Jesus is the way to heaven.

 

To know him is to know eternal life. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

 

How do you get to heaven?

 

Ask, seek and knock.

 

You will not be refused.

 

But be sure you understand that this is not a matter of a little prayer shot up to heaven.

 

This is true seeking.

 

It is a seeking that involves the complete surrender of you.

 

It means that you will give up demanding your rights and your way, and you will begin seeking God’s way.

 

It is a giving up of yourself that you might find God.

 

God’s will now becomes your will.

 

This is necessary, for this is the way it is in heaven.

You give up seeking your own selfish pleasure and seek eternal life.

 

It means that you put God before your own self-centered needs.

 

Paul described it like this: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

 

If you want to go to heaven, you have to act like you want to go.

 

You have to live like a kingdom person to inherit the kingdom.

 

People who inherit the kingdom of heaven obey.

 

They love.

 

They forgive.

 

They trust.

 

They live for things eternal and invest in them.

 

Jesus said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

 

You can’t live in darkness and expect to inherit the kingdom of light.

 

You have to desire the things of God more than the things of the world.

 

If you really don’t want heaven you won’t find it.

You get to heaven by coming to Christ; asking for his forgiveness; wanting him to change you, and cooperating with his effort to transform your heart.

This is the hope that causes us to burst into praise with Peter who wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:3-6).

 

This is the hope that keeps us going even though we have suffered through grief and trials.

 

Vance Havner used to say, “The hope of dying is the only thing that keeps me alive.”

Gordon Zwicky won top honors in this year’s Burlington Liars Club.

 

Zwicky, who is 72, beat out 299 other people from 31 states and Canada.

 

Zwicky claimed him and his wife, Dorothy, won the lottery and decided to drive to Florida.

 

They had never been anywhere before, but their neighbor told them they would be fine as long as they paid attention to the road signs.

 

Thirty miles from home they saw a sign stating, “Clean Restrooms Ahead.”

 

Two months later they arrived in Florida.

 

By that time, they had cleaned 450 restrooms using 267 rolls of paper towels, three cases of bowl cleaner and 86 bottles of Windex.

 

They were so tired, they immediately left for home.

Thankfully, getting to heaven is not that hard. . . or is it?

 

Actually, trying hard to pay attention to all the signs and obey all the rules would be easy compared to giving up your life to experience the life of God.

 

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).                                                                            

 

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