Death is a strange thing. All of us will face it; nobody is exempt. Whether people believe in God or not our fate is marked out for us. We know we will die. It’s not a question of if, but of when. Jesus’ disciples knew he would die, but didn’t understand that he was going to die so soon.
Jesus told them that he was preparing a place for them in his “Father’s house:” “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV).
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (vs. 8). Philip didn’t understand, and Jesus reminded him that, anyone who sees Jesus has also seen the Father. Christ is not only helping prepare a place for believers, he is coming back for them to lead them there. Belief in Christ and obedience is our assurance. It’s hard to fathom how incredible Heaven will be. But, rather than get hung up on what it is like, Jesus reminds his disciples that he is the Way and they should trust that it is perfect!
There are a lot of distractions in life. As I study deception techniques that abusers use, I learn how complex their techniques are to keep people distracted and fooled. Satan is very good at distracting us, especially when we think that we are good at paying attention. Paul warned the Philippian church about people who deceive and steal away: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate flesh” (Philippians 3:2 ESV).
We need to look out for them because they are incredibly sneaky. They worm their way in and pretend to be righteous. That’s why we’re so easily fooled by them. At the same time, we are easily distracted. Our minds are not as attentive as we think they are. So Satan will use different methods for tripping us up, and we don’t even know it’s happening.
Paul’s focus is forward, looking to heaven: “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14). Straining is accurate. It is not as easy as setting the cruise control. Forgetting what is behind us and focusing on heaven requires an incredible amount of focus and energy. It requires help from the Spirit of God. It’s not easy. But we absolutely have to press on. Otherwise we will fall into the trappings of the devil.
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Last week we talked about our heavenly inheritance and how we need to be working. We get back what we put in. We cannot expect a free ride through life. But what will that heavenly inheritance look like? People who are not believers may poke fun and tell us that we believe in a mythical place that doesn’t exist. Or we believe in a mythical God who we can’t see. So how do we respond to that?
The reality is that none of us know what Heaven looks like. We don’t have a clue. And we should be OK with that answer. Paul says that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Does this mean that we blindly believe that something better is waiting for us when we die? Not at all! Faith is not blind. We know that Heaven is real. God tells us that. We know that there are breathtaking places here on the earth–exotic landscapes that exude pristine beauty. Others who have been there can describe it, show pictures, etc., but it will not fully engage all of our senses until we have physically gone there. Those places here on earth are no less real just because we have not physically been there. They indeed exist. And they are incredible parts of God’s creation.
If we know this to be true on the earth, it is equally true for Heaven. Paul says, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. . . . He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:1, 5 ESV). God has been preparing our heavenly home since the beginning. We can only imagine what heaven will be like. But we have the Spirit as a guarantee. We know Heaven to be real and incredible and peaceful. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”
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