Greg Laurie - How Eternity Can Bring Focus to What Really Matters
I read an interesting article in the paper this last week about some predictions made by scientist Isaac Asimov. Fifty years ago scientist Isaac Asimov predicted, "There would be electroluminescent panels that would be in common use". I think he got that one right. We have all of the retail displays, signs, and of course flat panel TVs are everywhere now. I think that was a pretty accurate prediction. "Communication will be sight and sound. You will "See as well as hear the person you telephone". That is clearly true with Skype and Google Hangout and Facetime and all of the other resources that are out there. Video chatting has become quite common.
He said, "The screen will be used not only to see the people you call but to study documents and photographs and read passages from books". That too was accurate. We have computers. We have tablet devices. Even smartphones now. So these were some pretty amazing predictions. There were other predictions he made that didn't quite come true. I read these things. I thought, "I want to read all of the predictions he made". I found the actual article that he wrote. Here are some predictions that didn't quite happen.
"Jets of compressed air will lift land vehicles off the highways. Bridges will be of less importance since cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets". Oh I wish that were true. Have you ever been stuck in traffic and just wished that you could just go right over the top of everyone. That clearly didn't happen. Maybe Isaac was watching too many episodes of the Jetsons, which was out at the time he made this prediction. Also Asimov envisioned kitchens that would produce auto meals. You wouldn't even have to make your breakfast. Your kitchen would heat water, make coffee, toast bread, scramble your eggs, and bacon. He also predicted that robots would be doing our yard work. Well I don't know about you but I don't have a robot doing my yard work. However they have these little robotic vacuum cleaners. Have you seen these? They scoot around the floor. That is fairly close.
He was a fascinating guy. He was brilliant. He wrote hundreds of books. He wrote science fiction books as well. He also was very wrong on one subject that he thought he knew about. That was the topic of heaven. He was an atheist. Isaac Asimov said of heaven, "I don't believe in an afterlife so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse". He could not be more wrong. According to scripture heaven is a real place for real people who do real things. The Bible is very clear in pointing out heaven is a city. Heaven is a country. Heaven is a garden. Heaven is a paradise. Heaven is a place. It is where we will be reunited with loved ones who have preceded us. Heaven is a place of activity, building, eating, worshipping, and much more. The Bible teaches that one day heaven will come to earth.
When we say, "I am going to die as a Christian one day and go to heaven and live there forever" that is not completely accurate. One day heaven and earth will become one. We think a lot about the afterlife. So we should. Maybe we don't think enough about it. I think we need to give a lot of thought to what is going to happen later and it will affect us in the life we are living now. Your belief in the afterlife has everything to do with how you live in the before life. You might say, "What does it matter what happens in Heaven? That is a long ways away". You don't know that. You want to think deeply about this.
Have you ever concentrated your energies on a single thing? Researching something? Wanting to learn as much as you could about some place perhaps you were going to go visit. That is what we should do with heaven. It is a place we are one day going to go visit. It is a place we are going to one day go and live in so we should be actively thinking about it. Another way you could translate this phrase that Paul gives us is think or have this inner disposition. A way to simplify it is think heaven. By the way the verb used in this verse is in the present tense so it would say keep thinking heaven. Or another way to put it. Keep seeking heaven. Put it all together. Here is what Paul is saying. Constantly keep seeking and thinking about heaven. I like that. Our feet must be on earth but our minds should be in heaven.
Sadly many of us will go a day perhaps even a week without a single thought of heaven. Ian bounds put it this way. "Heaven ought to draw and engage us. Heaven ought to fill our hearts and our hands and our conversations and our character and our features so all the world would see we are foreigners, strangers to this world". He goes on to say, "The very atmosphere of this world should be chilling to us. Noxious. Its sun's eclipsed and its companionship dull and insipid. Heaven is our native land and it is home to us. Death for us is not the dying hour but the birth hour".
Well said. As Warren Wiersbe put it, "Heaven is not just our destination. Heaven is our motivation". We want to think about what heaven will be like and think about its effect on us today. I think that those that think the most about the next life do the most in this life. You say, "Why would that be"? It is because we know life goes on. Life doesn't just stop here. We know there is a future rewards waiting for the follower of Jesus Christ. We also know there is a final judgment. A final court of arbitration. We know every sin we have committed would ultimately come out if it is not forgiven by Jesus Christ. Our belief in the afterlife affects us in this life in the way that we live and the things we do. Heaven and earth are connected.
We often think of heaven as far away. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Maybe heaven is just right next door. Maybe it is just a thin veil that separates the seeing world from the unseen world. Right now as we sit here in our comfortable pews and hear this message there is an unseen world around us. A world of God and satan. Of Angels and demons. Yes a world of heaven and ultimately hell. I don't know how far away heaven is. I know that it may be closer than we think. Heaven affects us here. What did Jesus teach us in the Lord's prayer? He taught us to pray like this. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
Jesus is clearly telling us that our lives on earth is affected by our thoughts on heaven. The Bible says, "We live our lives like a story that has already been told". Then comes the afterlife. Trust me when I tell you when you get to the afterlife and you look back on the before life you will see things far differently. You will see them from an eternal perspective. You will realize what really mattered in life was not what you bought but for what you built. What will matter is not what you have got but what you gave. What will matter is not your competence but your character. What will matter is not your success but your significance.
Let's ask ourselves a question. Why are we here in the first place? Why am I taking up space? Why am I breathing air? Why do I exist? A poll was taken among Americans and they were asked that question. Sixty one percent said, "The main purpose of life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment". We know that over half of all the population of our country thinks that life is here, that they are here to simply be fulfilled and enjoying life. Fifty percent of those that call themselves born again Christians said the purpose of life is enjoyment and self-satisfaction. Really? Do these Christians read their Bibles? If they did they would not come to that conclusion. Is the purpose of life self-satisfaction?
Let me tell you something. Living for pleasure is one of the least pleasurable things a person can do. Everybody lives for something. Everybody has something that gets them out of bed in the morning. Everyone has something that gets their blood pumping. Something that they are passionate about. What is my purpose? Why am I here? To get an answer as to how I should live on earth I have to take a quick trip to heaven.
Let's do that now in revelation 4. We are going to read verses 8-11. What we are witnessing is a heavenly worship service populated by magnificent and mysterious Angelic beings and 24 unnamed elders. Verse 8. "The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "'holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!' Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives Forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying: 'you are worthy, o Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.'"
It is hard to wrap our minds around this. I don't know who the 24 elders are. Maybe 12 patriarchs from the Old Testament and the 12 apostles from the New Testament. Clearly these elders are people that once lived on earth who have died and gone to heaven. What are they doing in heaven? They are worshipping. Why is that important to us? Because Jesus said, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". What happens in heaven should affect me on earth. What is happening in heaven there is a whole lot of worship going on. Thus I should also be worshipping the Lord. They even tell us that in verse 11. "You created all things and by your will they exist and were created".
Let me come back now to the question I raised earlier. Why do I exist? Why am I here on this earth? Answer. I am here on earth to bring glory to God. I am not here to pursue pleasure. I am here to pursue God. The purpose of the universe is God's glory not my personal happiness. This comes as a surprise to some who think that the world should revolve around them. They want to rule their own little private universe. They want to be the main character in their novel. Then suffering and pain interrupts their plans and they don't know why.
Randy Alcorn writes, "If we come to see the purpose "Of the universe as God's long term glory rather than our short term happiness then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of suffering". That is a good point. The purpose of the universe is God's long-term glory not my short-term happiness. Here is the bottom line. When you seek to fulfill the purpose you were created for which is to know, glorify, and worship God, you will find the happiness you have been seeking in life. Not from seeking happiness but from seeking God.
You say, "I don't understand what that means. Does that mean that I have to be in a 24 hour worship service"? Singing songs to God is not the only way we worship. Let me put it another way. It is entirely possible to sing songs to God and not worship at all. Worship is not just about singing. It is about the movement of the heart to the Lord. When I am worshipping the Lord that is one way to glorify him. There are many other ways to glorify God. In fact, I am told over in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's". 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God".
Whatever you do in life, glorify God with it. Be it academics, sports, business, music. You name it. Fill in blank here. Let me put another way. If you can't write "Hallowed be Thy name" over what you are doing then don't do it anymore. Am I glorifying God in the work that I do? Am I glorifying God in the free time that I have? Am I glorifying God in the friends that I choose to hang out with? Am I glorifying God with my time? Am I glorifying God with my money? Am I glorifying God with my existence? That is why I have been put here on this earth.
What does it mean to be heavenly minded? Let's go back to Colossians 3:5, "Therefore put to death your members which are on earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie one to another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge".
I want you to notice Paul is drawing on what he already said. What did he say? Set your mind on things above. Think heaven. Pursue heaven. In light of that don't pursue these other things. He identifies three sins that keep us earthbound.
1. Sexual sin keeps us earthbound. Paul mentions the word fornication in verse 5. It is from the root word porneia. This speaks of sexual immorality in general. It refers to any form of illicit sex. Extra-marital sex. Pre-marital sex. Homosexual sex. Let me simplify it for you. God's for order for sex. One woman. One man. Monogamous. Married. End of story. That is it.
2. Idolatry keeps us earthbound. He says, "Covetousness, which is idolatry". The word covet comes from two root words. To have and more. Basically to have more. It is a person who always wants more. The covetous person is never satisfied with what they have. They want what someone else has. Does that make sense? Then when they get it they don't want it anymore. It is the thrill of hunt. You can have a lot and still want more. You have so many things. But I want more. More. Some people have very little materially speaking but are completely content. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Let your life be without covetousness: be content with such things as you have. For he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'" Contentment does not come from what you have. It comes from who you know. If you like David, can say, "The Lord is my shepherd," you will also be able to say, "I shall not want". Your contentment is in your relationship with God.
3. Anger, meanness, slandering others keeps us earthbound. "Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language keep out of your mouth". The word anger speaks of a settled and habitual anger with the thought of revenge. We all get angry at times. We are not human if we don't. This is speaking of a person that has a deep seated anger. It also speaks of a person that flies off of the handle. Here is an interesting twist that you might not know from reading this translation. The word blasphemy is used. You think, "Yeah don't blaspheme God". Actually in context the original word that is used is not speaking of blaspheming God. It is speaking of blaspheming or speaking ill of others. It is called gossip.
By the way our culture trades in gossip. There are web sites dedicated to the latest gossip. We hear it. We tweet it. We text it. We email it. We post it on our Facebook page. Is it true? I don't know, but it is juicy. It is fun. Unless you are the person that is being gossiped about. Unless you are the person being lied about. I have an acronym for you in this coming year. An acronym that you can use as a grid to run things through. When you hear something about someone else, before you repeat it think of this acronym. T-H-I-N-K.
T - stands for is it Truthful.
H - stands for is it Helpful.
I - stands for is it Inspiring.
N - stands for is it Necessary.
K - stands for is it Kind.
Before you repeat that information are you sure this is true. Is it going to be helpful? Is it going to inspire someone? Is it really necessary? Is it kind? Think heaven in 2015. If you really start thinking more about and seeking heaven, which is to say, putting the Lord first in every area from the thoughts you think to the friends you choose to the way you use your time it will transform you. You are a child of God if you are a Christian. That means you are a citizen of heaven. It is time to start acting like one. Why? Because life comes and goes so quickly. Before you know it you will be standing before God.