Tag: Heaven

HOW TO BUILD A REAL AND LASTING YOU

Who’s read C.S.Lewis’ book, “The Great Divorce”? In this stimulating novel Lewis sees some people who make it to heaven as being brilliant, vibrant beings, shining as the sun. Others are portrayed as just feint wisps: dim, almost ghost-like forms-the difference being due to the way they had lived their lives on the earth…

File:Abhar-iran.JPG

Please don’t mistake my message. I’m not speaking about a gospel of works here: salvation is by faith. However, rewards are conditional.

Socialist-minded readers will automatically recoil from the concept of “inequality” in celestial rewards, as in Lewis’ work. But like it or not, there is considerable Biblical basis for the idea that some will be greater than others in heaven. After all, Jesus said so himself. The parable of the talents is clear on this (Matthew chapter 25). And when it comes to how we act on God’s word or otherwise, Jesus said:

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NIV).

Perhaps the verse which inspired Lewis is this one:

…they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).

I’m convinced that Lewis was really onto something profound in his descriptions of post-human beings in heaven-something which we should, perhaps, consider much more than we do.

Have you ever looked at some people and seen them almost as shells only? They’re human, and they’re loved by God, but they have no depth of mind or character. They look only upon mundane, every-day things, like what they will eat for the next meal. There’s no depth of thought or concern for others, or for God, or for anything with any meaning or significance. In some ways they’re almost like animals.

How will God judge the simple and the shallow? Perhaps the first answer is “fairly”, because He’s the righteous judge. It’s not brains or knowledge which endears us to our Creator: He doesn’t look down on them like we do. It’s not material wealth or popularity, or great energy, or success, or imagination or wide experience of life, and it’s not our earthly achievements. What we drive and where we live doesn’t impress our God at all. And it’s not our humanity which God loves in us. After all, “The wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). Those who displease God are of no lasting value.

The route to God’s heart, and to a “greater” you in eternal, lasting terms is through his word, as we read in the Matthew verse. If we consider it highly, and if we seek to live it out, we are then building our own eternal nature-what will remain when the ultimate trial comes, and what will live on for ever. Our faith in God is also of utmost concern to Him. Works born of true faith is what He’s looking for in us. This is what Jesus called “fruit”.

I’m not speaking here about human works. Only what is truly Godly can last through the fire of judgment, and human righteousness without our God is not acceptable to Him. It can’t be done without Jesus Christ. Neither do I subscribe to a common view in some areas of the Church that we can’t do anything-God does it all. That’s a cop-out and it’s not what Scripture says. It’s team-work, where we live in Christ, and we apply ourselves to what we know we must do, and He works in our efforts:

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).

It’s our Godly character-that which is living in Christ, which will live on. By growing in Him, what grows will be our real, lasting, eternal self: everything else about us will be gone.

 

 

 

Advertisements

HOW MANY GODS?

In the last post of this series about the existence and nature of God, I wrote that there must be a supreme God, or the universe could not function in perfect order as it does. You only have to take one look at our “democracies” in the West to see that when you have several parties and people all attempting to govern, you have discord, lack of direction, division, arguments, corruption, and failures by the day. If there were a thousand presidents at once, we would have even more discord than we have now…

000_1040crop

If there were more than one God, or god, they would have to be in perfect accord to run the universe, in which case they would essentially be One God. The theology of all the different religions tells us otherwise: they are very different in character, personality and intentions. Even if all these gods exist, they cannot all be telling the same “truth”.

There’s a huge effort going on to convince all of us that all “gods” are equal and of equal value, and that they all are leading us essentially in the same direction. The logic goes like this:

“There are many different gods in the world, and many different philosophies, therefore it’s wrong to try to claim that your idea of God or your way to life and enlightenment is the right one or the only one. There are many roads to enlightenment, or to heaven, or to spirituality, or to God, and we are all on our own path to the same destination, whatever that may be”.puzzle

When you really reason that claim through you can only come to the conclusion that it’s nonsense! All the “gods”, isms, philosophies and religions of the world are very different, and can no more be describing the same entity and path to the same destination than can all the political parties in the world be describing the same policies and the same societal outcome. What about the group of 39 people known as “Heaven’s Gate”, who in March of 1997 beamed themselves up to a space ship hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet by killing themselves: were they on a valid path to life, heaven and enlightenment? And if you attempt to dismiss just that one group, you’re contradicting your own criticism that we mustn’t judge or discriminate.

What about those who murder others brutally in order to receive direct entrance into the presence of their god, with attendant submissive virgins and other abundant blessings- are they on a valid and acceptable path to life, heaven and enlightenment? If they are, I for one don’t want to go to there to be with them.

Reason says that some philosophies must be wrong, because they are mutually contradictory. Some atheists and agnostics have attempted to deny believers the dignity of reason. On the contrary, reason works hand in hand with faith for the true believer, and reason tells us that there cannot be at the same time one god, two gods, ten gods, a million gods, and no gods: only one of those options can be true.

11026517-spaghetti-pasta

 

What is “heaven”? Is it freedom from rebirth and oneness with Brahma, bringing the end of your distinct person-hood, or is it enjoying the company of seventy-two perpetual virgins, or hanging out on some distant planet with hyper-intelligent aliens, or being present and in continual worship of Jehovah, or joining the ranks of battle heroes in Valhalla?

Picture yourself on a road in Japan. You’re on highway 197 going west. You want to go to London England by car and you’re convinced that all roads lead to London. But you’re on an island, and twenty-five miles after passing the city of Yawatahama your car falls into the sea…plop! It doesn’t matter how much you sincerely believed that that road leads to London: it does not. You need to catch a plane or a boat, no matter how averse you are to the thought of flying or sailing. And if God is real, there must be similarly clear-cut lines between what is factual despite your sincerely-held beliefs, and what isn’t.

Getting to the point of this post, the Bible, the divine message I am personally totally convinced by, and which is supported by History, archaeology nature and reason, is very clear on the subject. God through the prophet Isaiah said:

“I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6b).

Jesus Christ said:

“I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Peter the apostle, speaking of Jesus said:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

And Jesus said:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO US

There is no middle ground in God’s universe. Too many people-even professing Christians-think that the events we celebrate at Easter are insignificant. In reality they represent the most important events in the history of mankind, and the most important truths we could ever consider…

180px-Luca_signorelli,_comunione_con_gli_apostoli,_cortona

WE CAN BE FREE FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

So many efforts have been made by enemies of the true gospel to wipe this fact from history and the minds of men. Despots, communists, atheists, politicians and even large organizations purporting to be spreading the gospel have been attempting to destroy it. Why is the sacrifice of Christ so important, and why is his death so vital?

Our sin has separated us from God, because he, being perfect, cannot tolerate sin. He can’t wink at it or ignore it and live with it. Imagine a heaven in which everyone acts as they do in our world today: it would not be heaven, would it? And contrary to popular belief here in the politically-correct twenty-first century, he doesn’t change his views to suit ours. Neither do his standards evolve-they are not “fluid”.

The end product of sin, according to Old and New Testament scriptures, is death, both physical and spiritual. This fact affects us all, no matter how good we may think we are: none of us can match up to God’s standards. God has to be true to his own nature, and he can’t deny his justice any more than he can deny his love.

However, God loved his creation, fallen though it is, and had a plan to destroy sin and ultimately its outcome, death. God’s plan was to send his son to earth as a man, and to die as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Only Jesus Christ could fulfill that mission, because only he was sinless and perfect. When he died on the cross he satisfied God’s holy justice, and paid the penalty, the “price” of our sin.

This doesn’t mean we don’t sin any more, it means that there’s nothing standing between us and our creator, except our own reluctance, and  determination to continue in sin. If we turn from our sin we’re completely forgiven and in a right relationship with God. Paul said:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).

Other religions, denominations and organizations have piled more and more requirements, laws, regulations and commitments onto their followers, claiming that these are necessary to gain God’s acceptance, or that only commitment to the organization and its rules can ensure salvation and eternal life. According to the original gospel, which I wrote about in parts one and two, this is totally false and is really an attack on the gospel, because the death of Jesus Christ has entirely paid for our sin. It’s not possible for us or for any human go-between or organization to pay the price of our sin. It’s arrogant and futile to think that we can, and it is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus said “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 26). He did NOT say “whoever believes and goes to “XYZ” church and gives at least ten percent of their income…”! I’m not saying that we can live however we want to live and get away with it-we can’t. But if we turn from sin and to him we are completely forgiven.

“According to the Scriptures…”

The Old Testament scriptures foretold the sacrifice of Christ hundreds of years before it happened. As an example, read Isaiah chapter 53.  An entire copy of the book of Isaiah, known to have been written before Christ’s life on earth, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s virtually no difference between it and what we have in our Bible today.

800px-po_vodam

OUR SIN WAS BURIED WITH CHRIST

“…He was buried…”

Jesus “became sin” for us. He was buried in a tomb, contrary to many modern attempts to write another version of his life. You don’t bury someone who isn’t dead. His disciples witnessed his death, and the Roman guard sealed and guarded the tomb, at the request of those who wanted him dead and who gloated over his death. They would have all ensured that he was dead and buried, and had the disciples attempted to claim that he was resurrected when he wasn’t, the authorities would have displayed the body for all to see.

Our sin was buried with him, and baptism is symbolic of our association with him, and with the burial of our sin and our past sinful lifestyle.

WE CAN HAVE NEW LIFE NOW, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST

“…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has been under constant attack, even from within the church. No wonder, because it’s one of the most essential doctrines, perhaps the most essential. Without it the gospel is empty. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his power over death, his divine nature, and his ability and willingness to give us eternal life with him as he promised very clearly many times. It’s the resurrection which gives us hope for the future, and which puts our earthly life into its proper context and perspective. Our present physical body is very temporary and weak, but our resurrected body will be full of eternal life force. Again, his resurrection was foretold in Old Testament Scriptures (see Acts 2: 27 – 31 and 13:34 – 37, with Psalm 16:10).

HE DEMONSTRATED HIS POWER OVER DEATH

“…and that he appeared…”

Paul listed those who had seen Jesus alive after his resurrection. Paul was the last to see him. Those who went about spreading the good news had nothing to gain except persecution and death. Yes, people do give their lives to become martyrs to other religions, but no-one will die for something he knows is untrue. Neither did they kill in order to spread their beliefs or agenda. Instead they risked and in many cases lost their own lives.

For example Paul, when converted, voluntarily gave up his position of influence and power to become a hunted and hounded man. His enemies complained that he had “turned the world upside down”. There was no timid cowering in quiet corners for Paul: he wanted to tell the world, not that he had a new set of principles and rules to teach them, but that Christ had risen from the dead, and that he had seen him. He suffered multiple attacks and attempts on his life before finally being executed–such was his conviction that the gospel was true. He was prepared to die, as they all were, because they were convinced of Christ’s resurrection, and that His resurrection ensured theirs, just as Christ had promised. The promise is available to all who accept the gospel.    

WILL EVERYONE GO TO HEAVEN?

I used to marvel at people who were convinced that everyone, except perhaps the likes of Adolph Hitler and one or two present-day politicians, and the person who stole their car stereo a few years ago, will be going to heaven….

darwin-hitler

However, I’ve been made aware in recent times that some people are certain that even Adolph will be there. No-one will be left out, because, well, God is just too loving to leave someone out. And what makes these philosophers make such statements? They think! They “think” that God will do things their way. So allow me to do a little thinking here too…

For mass murderers to make it to heaven there can be only three possible options. One is that heaven will be just like earth is now, oozing with slander, violence, murder, lies, corruption, war, snobbery, division, and just about every human weakness you can think of. Those who, in our day, murder as a way of ensuring their place in heaven would also be there. After all, they only do it because they’re so badly treated-isn’t that what we all do when we don’t have things our own way? And the murder doesn’t really matter does it, because the people they murdered would get there anyway, right?

The second option is that many people will have lost the bad part of their character, thought-processes, free-will, drives, vocabularies, prejudices preferences and proclivities, so that they would be virtually unrecognizable. Adolph would smile sweetly while kissing a buttercup, and say with gentle conviction, “I just don’t know what came over me to make me kill six-million innocents and prosecute a world war resulting in the horrible deaths of tens of millions more! I’m very, very sorry, and I promise I’ll never do it again!”

The third option is that Hitler and many others-perhaps all of us- will have lost our memories of wrongs committed while on earth. Hitler would not be in heaven, because he wouldn’t be Hitler.

If none of us are to be robbed of our own minds and memories, and so remain identifiable, along with Adolph you will see all the people who wouldn’t now choose to go to heaven if you paid them to go. Some people hate the very thought of worshipping God or mixing with “deluded”, “insane” believers, and writhe in anguish and gnash their teeth at the slightest mention of anything they can’t see with their eyes. Imagine the spiteful, nasty humor of a God who would create such a place and send everyone there, including those who never wanted to go, for ever and ever.

What about the people who “think” that God will send everyone to heaven. Where do they get their convictions from? Where is their evidence? How do they know? What is their authority? When did God tell them such a thing, and why didn’t he tell the multiplied millions who’ve lost their lives believing and attempting to spread an alternative message- a warning that there are standards to meet before gaining access to eternal life? Isn’t it rather risky to ignore the concept that there may be standards to meet, and so to fail to seek those standards?

If we “think” that God “probably” has standards matching our own, and that we, being such “good” people are bound to go there, isn’t God just like us, and so fallible, unpredictable and imperfect? Is it not possible that we are fooling ourselves? What if God is perfect, and none of us meet the standards?

If God is God he may be very different to what most of us “think” he should be like. Isn’t it just possible that a God who would and could create heaven would have his own ideas about who would qualify to go there?

Rather than thinking my own thoughts, I’ve invested my eternity in what the God of the Bible thinks, because I’m convinced that he knows. He knows much more than I do, and he knows enough and is able enough to send a message outlining his own standards, quite independent of anything we mortals may “think”.

You can read my post, “How to Go to Heaven” here…   https://nickyfisher.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/how-to-go-to-heaven/

BECOMING A KID AGAIN

While my faith is strong, there are still one or two things that trouble me about my God and the Bible…

We all have questions and issues with our faith, whether we admit it or not, don’t we? And that’s not surprising, because as finite beings we only “see through a glass darkly” as Paul put it: there are some things we just can’t know about an infinite and eternal being and the place where he lives. This is where humility comes in, because the man who thinks he should understand and prove everything about God before committing himself is putting up a giant roadblock to his own salvation, peace and happiness. That’s why Jesus said we must receive the kingdom of God as a little child:

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 NIV)

800px-Children_in_Namibia(1_cropped)

(Photo by Thomas Schoch)

It doesn’t mean we have to “check our brains at the door” as skeptics try to claim, it means that we have to admit to ourselves and to God that we don’t know much, we can’t do much without Him, and we don’t have any kind of leverage over our own mortality or with him, besides his own mercy.

So the problem I’m referring to here is kids-or rather the lack of them. If, as Jesus said, people don’t marry in heaven, does that mean there will be no children? Perhaps I-we are missing something, and perhaps we will reproduce. But the reason the thought of no children being in heaven bothers me is that I love children. Most particularly I’ve loved having my own, who’ve given me as much joy as anything in life has given me. The thought of seeing no kids in heaven, of never having kids, and having nothing but boring adults around me, really bothers me.

I’ve written about this before, and I know others have also, so the following is likely not an original thought on my part. But if you take away from an adult his fears, his hang-ups, his prejudices, his animosity and aggression, his disappointments, his selfishness, his bad habits and his grouchy attitude; if you could take out of him all the yucky mannerisms and dark, unhappy experiences he’s collected since he left the womb-it’s difficult to imagine I know-you would be left with an altogether different person, would you not? And make no mistake, that’s what will happen when you and I are transformed to be like him. Yes, we who love God want to live in his ways, but we’re still fallible, and we still need a make-over.

On that day when we’re transformed “in the twinkling of an eye”, everything bad in us will be gone, since sinful man and sinful, fallen ways, cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. We will be like Jesus, not in the sense of having unlimited power and knowledge, but in terms of our character. John, writing to believers, said:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (2 John 3:2).

If you could take away from a man or woman all those ugly ways and thoughts and habits, and the sin-nature that causes such things, then add a new heart, a new environment and the presence of a holy righteous God… you would end up with a loving, caring, light-hearted, happy, joyful, playful, warm-hearted person. Also take away that used, tired, flabby, spotty, weak, fallen physical form and replace it with a brand new incorruptible one-lean, healthy, vibrant, active, energetic, powerful and submitted to the Creator-and the person in front of you would be like a happy, well-adjusted young man or woman, as free in spirit as the most unspoiled child you can imagine.

And that’s no surprise either, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).