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Heaven, an Inheritance
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 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.
In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."
The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.
Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."
When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)
Will you receive Christ today?
Sermon Central Staff
NO RUNS, NO HITS, NO ERRORS
In one little Midwestern town, Miss Jones had the distinction of being the oldest resident in town. So when she died, the editor of the local paper wanted to print a little article remembering this dear old lady, except he couldn't think of anything to say when he sat down to write the article. Miss Jones had never done anything terribly wrong. She had never spent a night in jail or had ever been drunk. On the other hand, she had never done anything significant.
With this still on his mind, the editor went down to the local café, and there, ran into the local funeral director. He too was having the same trouble. He wanted to put something on Miss Jones' tombstone besides "Miss Nancy Jones, born such-and-such a date and died such-and-such a date," but he couldn't think of anything to write either.
The editor decided to go back to his office and assign the job of writing up a small article for both the paper and the tombstone to the first reporter he saw. When he got to the office, he ran into the sports editor, who got the assignment. So somewhere in some little community in the Midwest there is a tombstone which reads:
Here lie the bones of Nancy Jones,
For her life held no terrors.
She lived an old maid. She died an old maid.
No hits, no runs, no errors. (C. C. Mitchell, Let's Live!)
I'm afraid to say, "That's the way many Christians live their lives." They've never done anything terribly wrong, but they never accomplish anything significant for the Lord.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Take a Risk, 5/25/2012)
George Mueller kept praying too. When George Mueller was a young convert he began praying daily for five friends to come to know Christ as Savior. Two friends became Christians within two years of his own conversion. But it seemed as if his prayers for the remaining three friends would never be answered. But they were. One of those men was converted about ten years after Mueller’s conversion. The fourth apparently was converted shortly before Mueller’s death, in response to what was probably Mueller’s last sermon. And the fifth man was converted within a year of Mueller’s funeral. George Mueller had been praying for him for more than sixty years!
Unanswered prayer? How do we ever know for sure it will remain unanswered? Since we do not, we should always pray and not give up. Amen.
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
A few years ago I conducted a funeral for a dedicated Christian man. His wife approached me and said, “He’s the lucky one—I wish I was going to heaven today. Why couldn’t it have been me?” We don’t usually envy people who’ve died, unless we know where they’re going, and where we’re going. On his deathbed, a minister told his son, “Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling somewhat better today. But should I slip away while you’re gone, you’ll know where to find me.” Christians never say good-bye for the last time.
Joe La Rue
2 Kings 20:1-20:5
EINSTEIN AND EMMY
When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought an old two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights.
But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world’s eyes, an important person like his other guests. She was a ten-year-old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth-grade arithmetic, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help.
A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and he couldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. And then she rushed over to Einstein’s house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion – for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.”
(Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2000, Devotional E-Mail, “It Is His Joy” (located at http://www.geocities.com/palmercog/joydevo.html) (last visited April 22, 2008)).
And that’s how it is with God! From it’s very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come to his house! And we do that in this life through prayer! It’s an amazing privilege.
A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door.
It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday." Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. "Jack, did you hear me?" "Oh sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.
"Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ’his side of the fence’ as he put it," Mom told him. "I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said. "You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life," she said. "He’s the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important...Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral," Jack said.
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture....Jack stopped suddenly.
"What’s wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked. "The box is gone," he said. What box?" Mom asked. "There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ’the thing I value most, ’" Jack said.
It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. "Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said.
"I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.
Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. Mr. Harold Belser" it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside.
"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these word s engraved: "Jack, thanks for your time! -Harold Belser."
"The thing he valued most...was...my time."
Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked. "I need some time to spend with my son," he said. "Oh, by the way, Janet...thanks for your time!"
Dr. W. A Criswell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas, said on one occasion on an airplane flight he found himself seated beside a well-known theologian. He desperately wanted to start a conversation and they did get to talk. The man told Dr. Criswell about how he had recently lost his little boy through death. Dr. Criswell listened as he told his story: He said he had come home from school with a fever and we thought it was just one of those childhood things, but it was a very virulent form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your little boy. He’ll die.
And so this seminary professor, loving his son as he did, sat by the bedside to watch this death vigil. It was the middle of the day and the little boy whose strength was going from him and whose vision and brain was getting clouded said, "Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?" The professor said to his son, "Yes son it is getting dark, very dark." Of course it was very dark for him. He said, "Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?"
He said, "Yes, son, it’s time for you to go to sleep."
The professor said the little fellow had a way of fixing his pillow just so, and putting his head on his hands when he slept and he fixed his pillow like that and laid his head on his hands and sai...
In 1858, a man named John Gray was buried in old Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh, Scotland. His grave levelled by the hand of time, and unmarked by any stone, became scarcely discernible; but, although no human interest seemed to attach to it.
The sacred spot was not wholly disregarded and forgotten. For fourteen years the dead man’s faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death in 1872. James Brown, the old curator of the burial ground, remembers Gray’s funeral, and the dog, a Skye terrier called "Bobby", was, he says, one of the most conspicuous of the mourners. The grave was closed in as usual, and next morning "Bobby", was found, lying on the newly-made mound.
This was an innovation which old James could not permit, for there was an order at the gate stating in the most intelligible characters that dogs were not admitted. "Bobby" was accordingly driven out; but next morning he was there again, and for the second time was discharged. The third morning was cold and wet, and when the old man saw the faithful animal, in spite of all chastisement, still lying shivering on the grave, he took pity on him, and gave him some food. This recognition of his devotion gave "Bobby" the right to make the churchyard his home; and from that time until his own death he never spent a night away from his master’s tomb.
Often in bad weather attempts were made to keep him within doors, but by dismal howls he succeeded in making it known that this interference was not agreeable to him, and he was always allowed to have his way. At almost any time during the day he could be seen in or about the churchyard, and no matter how rough the night, nothing could induce him to forsake that hallowed spot, whose identity he so faithfully preserved.
That concludes the story of the life of Greyfriars’ Bobby. A life that was later commemorated by the erection of the statue and fountain by Baroness Burdett Coutts. The figure which was unveiled, without any ceremony, on November 15, 1873
“[16 year old] Nathan Johnson dreamed of starting a revolution for Christ. [He wrote in his diary, “God’s] will for me is to radically impact my school for Him." But before he could see the revolution become a reality, Johnson’s life was cut short by an automobile accident [after] striking a cement truck almost head-on.” 1
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”
Question: How can Paul write these verses in light of tragedy to good people?
Perhaps you have asked a similar question about your situation.
How can anything good come from my death?
How can anything good come from my sickness?
How can anything good come from rape?
How can anything good come from a drunk driver killing an entire family?
Allow me to finish this true story published in the September 6th edition of the Baptist Press:
“Despite his early death, friends and family say that God is using the tragedy to make [Nathan] Johnson’s dream a reality. Nearly 300 people have professed faith in Christ in the aftermath of Johnson’s accident, including more than 30 at his funeral [and 16 more] two nights following the funeral at the Wednesday night youth gathering…
One of Johnson’s gifts was his football ability, which he displayed as a kicker and punter for Beech [High School]. Johnson […] consistently [kicked] field goals of 45-50 yards. But [he] saw his athletic ability as a tool to win teammates to Christ […] In his journal, Nathan had written, "God has given me the gift of kicking so that I can start by winning my teammates on the football team to Christ." During his freshman year, he led two players to faith in Christ during football camp and later led a senior to faith.
Inside the front cover of this year’s team program, which is sold at every game, is a picture of Johnson in his football uniform with a message dedicating the season to him. At the top of the page is the Apostle Paul’s declaration from Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” At the bottom of the page is Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.”
The final page in the program has another photo of Johnson in his uniform with the quote from his journal about impacting his school for Christ. At the bottom of the page is a quote from Johnson’s grave marker: ‘Dude, Heaven is sweet. See you there ...’
In the aftermath of Johnson’s funeral, professions of faith have continued, and several local churches report that they baptize people weekly who say they were saved at the funeral [and] teenagers at [Johnson’s church] have been saved at several programs since the funeral.” 1
The bottom line is that God allowed something bad to happen temporarily to a great young man in order to bring much good eternally for many.
1 Roach, David. “One godly teen dies; hundreds find new life.” Baptist Press. 6 Sep. 2006. 7 Sep. 2006.