Greg Laurie - Happiness, Hope, And Heaven
I heard about an 85-year-old couple. They were both 85. They had been married 60 years, and amazingly they both died on the same day and they went to heaven. They were greeted by saint Peter at the pearly gates. He said, "Welcome to heaven. Let me show you your mansion that God has for you". They went into this beautiful, palatial estate and he took them into the custom kitchen and then up to the master bedroom complete with jacuzzi and sauna. The old man was so excited and he said, "But wait, how much is this going to cost"? Peter said, "Are you kidding, man? You're in heaven. It costs nothing".
Then he took them outside of their palatial estate and there was this incredible golf course and basically the course would change every week sort of to be one of the great golf courses on earth and the old man said, "What are the green fees"? Peter said, "What's wrong with you? You're in heaven. There's no green fees. It's all free". And then Peter took them to this amazing sumptuous feast. All kinds of amazing food and the old man looked at it and said, "Wait, wait, where's the low-fat food and the food for people who have high cholesterol"? Peter said, "Are you kidding? We don't have low-fat food. This is heaven, you can eat whatever you want and you'll never get fat".
So the old man takes off his hat, throws it on the ground, starts stomping on his hat. Peter was looking at him and says, "Man, what's wrong with you"? The man turned to his wife and he says, "If it wasn't for your blasted bran muffins, we would've been here 10 years ago"!
That of course is not a true story. That's just a joke, but heaven is no joke. Heaven is a real place. Most people believe in heaven. In fact, 81 percent of Americans believe there is a place called heaven, 69 percent believe there's a place called hell. I read an interesting book that talked about how people who are at the end of life, people that are in the dying process have three questions they ask most commonly. They ask these questions of the clergy and they ask them also of hospice workers. Here are the three questions people ask when they come to the end of life.
1. What's going to happen to me after I die?
2. Is there really a God?
3. Will I be going to heaven?
I'm going to answer all of those questions in this message that I'm calling happiness, hope and heaven. I want to talk to you about heaven because deep down inside I think you already know it's real. You're sort of prewired to want to go there. It's almost like we have a built in homing instinct leading us to heaven. The Bible even says, "God has set eternity in the heart of each person". It was Augustine who said, "You formed us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. That's why there's a restlessness in your life. That's why those things that you get don't satisfy you in the way you hope they would.
That's why you're always in sort of a search mode. C. S. Lewis once said, "There had been times when I think I do not desire heaven, but even more often, I find myself wondering in my heart of hearts, if I've ever desired anything else". C. S. Lewis says, "It's the secret signature of each soul. The incommunicable and unappeasable want".
Reminds me of a story of a little boy that was flying his kite. It got up so high he couldn't see it anymore. The clouds were obscuring it but he still was holding on to the string. Someone said, "Boy, is your kite still on that string"? He says, "Oh yeah, its there". "But you can't see it". The little boy says, "No, but I feel its tug". I think deep down inside you feel the tug of heaven. You know there is more to life than you're experiencing right now.
Here's what Jesus says about it. "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would've told you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, you may be also and the way you know". And then Thomas said, "We don't know the way", and Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the father but by me".
Yes, heaven is real, and you know what? I know that I will go to heaven when I die. You say, "Well that's kind of arrogant isn't it"? No it's not at all. I just know it. "How do you know"? Well the Bible says his spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. I know. How many of you know that you're going to heaven? Raise your hand tonight. That's a lot of you. And there's some of you that didn't raise your hand because you're not sure, but you can know. This is called hope, and we need hope today.
Generation Z has been described by experts as the hopeless generation. Are you hopeless tonight? If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, I'm telling you, you can have hope. Don't put your hope in technology. Don't put your hope in material things. Don't put your hope in politicians. Don't put your hope even in religion. Hope has a name and it's Jesus Christ and he's here tonight with us and he's ready to change the course of your life. So I want to talk a little bit about heaven. I've always believed in heaven, of course, as a Christian. I've always talked about it in my messages and I've started thinking more about heaven especially 11 years ago. That was the day my son Christopher left this world for the next one. My son beat me to heaven, but I think about him all the time and I wonder what's he doing up there in heaven. What is heaven like? What do we do each day in heaven?
You know, we have this weird concept of heaven that is reinforced by movies and songs and we think we just sit around in heaven on big fluffy clouds and take super long naps. We wake up. Pluck our harps a little bit. Fall asleep again. There's little fat baby angels floating around us. I don't know what they're all about, but I've seen them in religious paintings, and we say, "Man, I don't know. I don't really know if I want to go to heaven".
Well that's not biblical heaven. That's not the real heaven. The real heaven, as I said, is a place. Jesus said, "I've gone to prepare a place for you". The Bible says that heaven is like a paradise. Do you remember what Jesus said when he hung on the cross and on each side of him were thieves, actually probably murderers? We might call them terrorists today because the Romans didn't crucify thieves, but they did crucify insurrectionists and that's probably what these guys were.
And one of the men realized that he was in big trouble facing eternity and he joined the other thief in mocking Jesus and saying, "Hey, you saved others, why don't you save yourself. If you're really the Son of God, come down from that cross". And then Jesus says, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". Right there, one of those men believed. Right there just like that and by the way that's how long it takes to believe. It can happen in a nanosecond. You can come in here as a nonbeliever. "I don't believe any of this. This isn't real". And all of a sudden something is said, something happens and the light goes on and you realize, wow, this is all true.
The man turns to Jesus and says, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom". And Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you today you'll be with me in paradise". What is heaven? It's a paradise. The apostle Paul was stoned on one occasion. Not that kind of stoned. I mean with rocks. He was left for dead. It's at that moment most Bible scholars believed he died and went to heaven because he did say he died and went to heaven and came back again.
And in that moment, Paul describes it later and he says, "I don't know how this happened exactly but I was seized by Christ and swept into ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I don't know if I was in my body or out of it, God knows. But I'll tell you this much. I was highjacked into paradise and I heard the unspeakable spoken and I was forbidden to tell what I heard".
Heaven is paradise. But the Bible also says, heaven is a city. You know I like to go to beautiful places like Hawaii. I've been to Tahiti - that's nice. But I like to go to cities too. I enjoy cities. I like to look at museums. I like to eat food. I like to drink coffee. I like to eat food. I like to walk around. I like to eat more food. So heaven is a city. The Bible tells us this. It tells us it's a city whose builder and maker is God.
So think about cities. Think about cities you've read about or maybe cities you've been to. Well, heaven is a city as well. Guess what? There's things to do in heaven. You can get together with loved ones who have preceded you and have died in faith and you can have meals together. You can reminisce together. You can do things together. We might even go to concerts. There's some pretty amazing musicians in heaven.
You might run into some friends and say, "Where are you guys going"? "Oh, we're going to go see handel's Messiah and handel himself is going to conduct it". "Oh, wow. I'm going to a different concert". "Where are you going"? "I'm going to go see Johnny cash. He's doing a concert right over here". "You mean the man in black"? "No. He's the man in white now". They don't wear black in heaven. Yeah, the man in white. Yeah.
You're actually saying, "Greg you think we're going to eat meals in heaven and maybe go to concerts". Yeah, I'm saying that and more. Heaven is a happy place. Heaven is a joyful place. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Are you going to heaven? You can.
I think it's possible heaven is watching us right now. You say, "What do you mean heaven is watching? Don't they have better things to do"? Well, the Bible says that there is joy in heaven in the presence of the angels over one sinner that comes to repentance. Is it possible that if someone believed in Jesus here tonight, that it had been prayed for by their grandparents or their mom and dad and maybe their grandparents or mom and dad have gone to heaven, but then you believe tonight. Is it possible that that loved one that's preceded you to heaven would know? Well listen, if a big giant party is going on next door, will you know?
Years ago I was doing a crusade and I was going to bed for the night. It was around 10:30 and I heard some music start up in the room next to me. I mean this was loud music. It was thump! Thump! Thump! It's like the walls were vibrating. I'm like what the heck is going on. What kind of a sound system do they have? And it got louder and louder.
Finally, I called the front desk and I said, "There's something going on next to me. Can you please tell them to quiet down and don't tell them I called you, okay". So then security comes up. I'm looking through my little peephole and is see them knock on the door. The door opens and I realized what was going on. A guy was having a bachelor party. He had a sound system, a dj, lights and all these people kept coming out. No wonder it was loud. They were having a party.
There's a party in heaven every time someone believes in Jesus. Why wouldn't you know about that? I think you would, you see. People say, "Will we recognize one another in heaven"? Do you think you're going to be more stupid in heaven than you are on earth? Well, maybe I should ask, do you recognize one another on earth? "No, I'm going senile". Well, it'll get better. Yes, you'll recognize one another in heaven. Yes, you'll be reunited with loved ones in heaven. It's going to be amazing.
Let me come back to those questions I raised in the beginning. Three of them. What's going to happen to me after I die? Is there really a God? Am I going to heaven? Let's take that first question. What's going to happen to me after I die? Well, your body will go into the ground, and your soul will enter the afterlife. Your soul will go on immediately into the presence of God, if you are a believer. And then ultimately, God will give you a new body.
My granddaughter Allie who is here tonight was with me the other night and she looked over at me with sort of a sad look on her face. She said, "Poppa, why do we have to die"? And I think what she was really thinking about is, "Poppa, you look like you're going to die soon". I don't know. "Poppa, why do we have to die"? And then she asked, "Why can't we just float up to heaven"?
Good question. The answer to that is because our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned: thus sin entered the human race. It was never God's intention that men and women would die. In the Garden of Eden there was no death. There was no pain. There were no tears. There were no police officers, but mankind rebelled against God because he had a will of his own and that rebellion is called sin. Because of that sin, now we have death. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, we would've never died. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, we would never get sick. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, we would not age. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, I would have hair right now. But they did.
And sin, like a disease, entered the human race and we're all born with it. We're not sinners because we sin: we sin because we're sinners. It comes naturally. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But listen, if you're a Christian, death is not the end. The Bible says the world with all of its desires is passing, but he that does the will of God lives forever. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. Whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die".
Then he followed that statement up with a question which was "Do you believe this"? I'm asking you tonight, do you believe this? I reminded my granddaughter Allie of the time we were walking on the beach and I stepped on a bee. Now, my wife kept saying, "Careful. There's bees on the beach". I thought I won't step on one, and then I stepped on one right after she said that and it hurt.
I even went to the lifeguard station. Help me! A bee sting! And I reminded her. "Remember when is stepped on that bee"? She said "Yeah". And my foot swelled up just a little bit, but I took that stinger. I said, "This is what happened when Jesus died on the cross. He took the sting of death and that is why the Bible says, 'o, grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'" death died when Christ rose. You live forever as a Christian. That's the hope that the Bible gives us.
That brings me to the second question. Is there really a God? Ha! The newsboys reminded us God's not dead. He's surely alive. There is a God and he's here tonight. I'll take it a step further. Some of you who say you don't believe in God, right now you are aware of the presence of God. You're saying, "There's something different here and I don't know what it is". That's the Lord. He's here. Jesus said, "When two or more are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of it. Jesus said, or the Bible says, "Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked man forsake his thoughts and turn to God who will pardon you".
God is near tonight. God is here tonight. God is ready to change you tonight, but you need to reach out to him and say, "Lord, I want to know you". Yes, God is real, but don't wait until you die to figure that out because then it will be too late. Every man and every woman will stand before God in what the Bible calls the Great White Throne judgement, and if your name is not found written in the book of life as it's called, the Bible says you'll be cast into the lake of fire.
Some of you are saying, "Aw, man. I was tracking with you till you said that". Hey, man, it's the Gospel truth. I'm not going to leave that part out because it's hard to swallow. It's real. I don't care if 69 percent of Americans believe in hell and more believe in heaven. Hell is as real as heaven. Hell is as eternal as heaven, and the last thing God wants is for any person to go to hell. That's why Jesus came to this earth on a rescue operation and died in our place. He came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. Yes, God is real.
One last question. People ask when they're dying, they ask ministers, they ask hospice workers, here it is: will I be going to heaven? That's entirely up to you. I heard about a preacher that was talking about heaven one night and he said to his church, "How many of you want to go to heaven tonight"? Everybody shot up their hand except one little boy. And the preacher pointed at the little boy and said, "Son, don't you want to go to heaven"? And the little guy said, "Yes, I do, but I thought you were getting a load up tonight". He didn't want to go quite yet.
But listen, if you want to go to heaven you have to be forgiven of your sin. Here's the weird thing. We think hell is for bad people. Heaven is for good people and because I'm a good person I'm going to heaven. Oh, yeah? Says who? Is this your definition of good? "Well, yes it is". We have to go by God's definition. Listen, we wouldn't know anything about heaven if we didn't read about it in the Bible. That's where we read about heaven. You can't just take heaven and come up with your own idea about it and your own way to get there.
So it's not that hell is for bad people and heaven is for good people. Listen, this is going to shock some. There's going to be some "Good" people in hell. There's going to be some "Bad" people in heaven. Let me explain. We say, "I'm a good person. I'm a moral person". Yeah but listen, as good as you are, you're not good enough to get to heaven because everyone sins and falls short of God's glory. Everyone breaks his commandments so there'll be some "Good", and I'll put that word in quotes, some "Good" people in hell that thought they were good enough to get there on their own. There's only one way to get to heaven and that is through God's son Jesus Christ who died on the cross for you.
But there's going to be some "Bad" people in heaven. Now, by bad I mean they were sinners. They did a lot of crazy stuff, but they asked God to forgive them: thus they're going to heaven. Heaven is not for good people: listen, heaven is for forgiven people. And you can be forgiven of all of your sins tonight.
Billy Graham was once doing a crusade in a small town. He wrote a letter and he wanted to mail it and so he didn't know where the post office was. He found a little boy and he said, "Son, can you tell me where the post office is"? The little guy said, "Yeah, it's right over there, sir. Just go up that block, turn right, and you'll see it". Then Billy Graham said, "Young man, I wanted you to know I'm preaching in a stadium in this city tonight and I would like you to come and hear me and I'll tell you how to get to heaven". The little boy said, "Why should I hear you talk about how to get to heaven? You don't even know how to get to the post office".
How do you get to heaven? 1. You have to admit you're a sinner. I've already pointed out the Bible says, "All have sinned and come short of God's glory". Every one of us have broken his commandments. Everybody needs forgiveness, but then the Bible says, "If you confess your sin, he is faithful and just to forgive you your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness".
Some of you are saying, "What do you mean confess? What do you mean forgive? What do you mean by cleanse"? Okay. Confess just means you agree. So let's say you and I are standing here and we say, you know, it's a nice warm night here in southern California. And you say "I agree". We agree on something. So to confess my sin means I agree with God about it. God says, "I hate sin". You say, "You know what? I hate it too".
Okay. So you agree. If you'll confess your sin, if you'll agree with God, he's faithful and just to forgive you. What does that mean? Forgive means he's going to remove it from you. But listen to this, God doesn't just forgive you of your sin, he forgets your sin as far as the east is from the west is as far as God will put your sin for you. Our God has a big eraser and he wants to use it in your life tonight. You can put your sin in your rearview mirror.
Yes, it can happen for you. You have to admit you're a sinner. Then you need to understand, Jesus died on the cross for you. What is God like? Jesus said, "He that has seen me, has seen the father". Jesus was God with a face. Jesus was God with skin on. Jesus walked this earth. He walked in our shoes. He breathed our air. He lived our lives. Then he died our death and he rose again. What is God like? He's Jesus. Jesus is God.
Who is Jesus? He walked this earth. He loved people. He forgave people. He reached out to hurting people and he died for all people including you and me. You have to realize Jesus died on the cross for you. The apostle Paul said, "He loved me and he gave himself for me". Yeah, it's true that God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son and whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. But don't forget this, Christ died for you. It wasn't nails that held him to that cross 2.000 years ago. It was love for you.
Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this than he lay down his life for his friends". He laid it down. He died in your place. So what am I supposed to do about it you ask? You need to repent of your sin. The Bible says, God has commanded people everywhere to repent. What does that even mean? It means turn from your old life. It's actually a military term, you that are in the military understand this: it means an about-face. So you're walking away from God. Now, you're going to walk toward God.
Then, you must receive Christ into your life. This is what it means to be a Christian. It's asking God himself to come and take residence in your heart. You're saying, "What do you mean in my heart? Is Jesus going to get really small and climb inside of there"? I heard about a little girl that was with her mommy and she said, "Mommy, where is Jesus"? Mommy said, "Jesus is in my heart". So the little girl put her ear up against her mommy's chest and her mommy was a little bit hungry so her stomach was gurgling and her little girl says, "Mom, it sounds like he's making coffee in there right now".
This is a word picture. When we say ask Christ into our heart what we mean is God literally comes and lives inside of you. That's why the Bible says you become a new person in Christ. Old things pass away. Everything becomes fresh and new. I love it right after it rains. For starters, everybody gets their car washed, but also you might see a rainbow. Everything is clean and fresh. That's what happens when you believe. You go from black and white to living color. You go from death and destruction to life and purpose. It can happen for you if you will say, "Jesus, come into my life and forgive me of my sin".