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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?
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.
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)
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...
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.
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
Sermon Central Staff
HOW TO GIVE THANKS IN THE MIDST OF LOSS
When you've lost something or someone precious, it is easy to forget that "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away." He doesn't owe us a reason.
John Claypool was a pastor in Louisville, Kentucky many years ago. He and his wife lost their daughter, Laura Lou, to leukemia. He later explained his loss by telling a story from his childhood.
During WWII his family didn't own a washing machine, and since gas was rationed, they couldn't afford to drive to a laundry. Keeping their clothes clean became a challenge. John's neighbor went into the service and his wife moved in with her family. They offered to let John's family use their Bendix wringer washer while they were gone. They reasoned it would be better for it to be used than to sit rusting on the porch.
John helped with the family's laundry, and he said he developed a fondness for that old green Bendix. When the war ended his neighbors returned, and they reclaimed their washing machine. Over the course of the war, young John had actually forgotten the machine was loaned to them, so when the neighbors removed it, John was upset and angry that they would take his washing machine. His mother sat him down and said, "John, you must remember that the washing machine never belonged to us in the first place. That we ever got to use it at all was a gift. So, instead of being mad at it being taken away, let us use this as an occasion to be thankful that we ever had it at all."
John Claypool would say years later he struggled with the death of eight-year-old Laura Lou, until he remembered that old green Bendix. He wrote: "When I remember that Laura Lou was a gift, pure and simple, something I neither earned nor deserved nor had a right to; and when I remember that the appropriate response to a gift, even when it is taken away, is gratitude, then I am better able to try and thank God that I was ever given her in the first place." (Steps of a Fellow Struggler)
That's exactly how Job felt. He knew every good thing in his life had come from God, and God had the right to take anything away. That's the kind of attitude that will keep you from becoming bitter when you face loss.
(From a sermon by Fred Markes, Praise God, 8/30/2011)
A little boy and his father visted the country store, upon leaving the store the owner of the store offered the little boy some free candy. "get a hand full of candy", the merchant said to the boy. The boy just stood there looking up at his father. The owner repeated himself, "Son get a hand full of candy, it’s free." Again the boy did not move continuing to look up in the face of his father. Finally, the father reached into the candy jar and got a hand full of candy and gave it to his son. As they walked back home, the father stopped and asked his son why he did not grab a hand full of the free candy. The boy with a big smile ...
Origin of Taps -
“Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When the captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.
The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted. The captain had asked if he could have a group of army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But, out of respect for the father, they did say he could have one musician play.
The captain chose a bugler, and he asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform. This wish was granted, The haunting melody we now know as “Taps,” used at military funerals, was born.
Source: Pulpit Helps (July 2001) article written by:
Diane O. Sides
Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO
My brother served his first parish in Massillion, Ohio, as an associate pastor, with the late Pastor Maurice "Mo" White. Pastor White was a very large, strong and vibrant man. During one Lenten season, one of the older, but faithful members of the church came with her husband to an evening Lenten service. As they were leaving the service, the woman somehow fell down the outside flight of steps and broke her hip. For some unknown cause, she did not recover from the hip surgery and died in a few short days. Pastor White stood with the bereaved husband by the casket the night before the funeral. Many people came to offer their sympathies. Some were saying to the sorrowing husband,"God must of had a plan for this, so accept it." Another said,"It was God?s will and we must live by it." Still another said,"Somehow God planned this to test your faith!!" And still another said,"There is a sliver lining in every cloud, you will find God?s reason behind this eventually."
Pastor White left that funeral home filled with a very strong emotion of anger at the "babbling", as he put it, he heard that evening. He went to the study and rewrote the beginning of his funeral sermon.
Pastor White began his funeral sermon with this phrase:"My God does not push old ladies down church steps!!!" Then he proceeded to explain that God cannot be blamed or accused for all the brokenness of this world. If God is the author of death, how, how can He be at the same time the author of life as shown through the resurrection we celebrate each Sunday and especially on Easter. Is God the God of the living, or the God of the dead? You cannot have it both ways.