Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

Matthew 7:20-23 – HOW TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN

Deceptively Fruitful

It is winter in Australia and the only tree we have in our backyard has miraculously borne fruit. This is remarkable since it is not a fruit tree. At first glance you would never know. It has hundreds of ripe mandarins in it’s branches. On closer inspection, the branches of a flourishing fruit tree from my neighbours side of the fence has made my tree deceptively fruitful. My tree is actually quite bare, not even a leaf. I don’t want my life to look genuine, yet in reality find that I am as bare of good fruit as my tree in winter.

Matthew 7:20-23 (NLT) in the Bible says “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Who are these fruitless people who call Jesus Lord, yet perform miracles and prophesy in His Name? Somehow they do these things and still aren’t KNOWN by Christ? On one hand Jesus says you will know a person by the good fruit of their ACTIONS. On the other hand there are those who cast out demons in His Name and perform miracles in His Name who appear to bear good fruit but who are NOT recognised by Him as His followers! Are you well-known?

According to Barna research 64% believe they will go to heaven when they die. Jesus says that there will be FEW who find their way to heaven because few have KNOWN Him on earth or are known by Him (Matthew 7:13-14). Few have come under His authority. Too many have a superficial faith. Big words, no character. Duty but no depth. Flowery prayers and floury lives. Dancing like David outwardly but disabled like Mephibosheth inwardly (2 Samuel 4, 16). Ritual without righteousness. Religion but no relationship. Sanctimonious but not saved. Bowing but not obedient. Deceptively fruitful, but inwardly bare.

In the end, it’s not going to be what I have done for Christ that counts, but what HE has done for me. It is not MY words about Him, but HIS Word applied to my life that will enable me to obey His will. 1 John 4:19 says that I love because HE first loved me. So it is not MY profession of Him that matters but HIS profession of me. It is not how much I try to do things for Him to gain points, but what HE has freely done for me by sending His Son to die for my sins.

The invitation is to know Christ as Lord, not simply mouth that He is Lord. The word “LORD” (Kurios) in the Bible signifies sovereign power and absolute authority. The kingdom of heaven IS coming under HIS authority. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT) says that the person who loves God is KNOWN and recognised by God. In John 14:15 (NIV) Jesus says “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” Loving God opens up a genuine pathway of communication and relationship with God. This relationship with God through faith in Christ informs my life and enables me to live and be fruitful in the way God intends. ARE YOU WELL-KNOWN BY GOD?

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:36-43 – WILL I SEE MY MUM IN HEAVEN? – Part 12

Will I see my mum in heaven?

I watched the news in the last few weeks as a nation reels in the horror of the aftermath of an earthquake. The devastation of a category 6 earthquake brings everything to it’s knees, buildings awkwardly buckle and crumble as if submitting to a warlord. Darkness falls like a smothering blanket over the city as the electricity grid fails. Debris falls, the dusty malformed tears of a city, the victim of a stroke. She looks contorted and twisted as she struggles in vain, convulsing with each aftershock, trying to stay alive but unable to move, her eyes wide and blinded in the dirt.

A woman is plucked from the wreckage of a collapsed building but nothing can save the twisted misshapen, struggling city from the crushing reality of over 160 deaths. Hell walks the darkened streets of Christchurch, New Zealand and faces are haunted with fear, shock and grief. Their eyes look for someone to tell them that this is not happening, but somehow they know that life will never be the same.

There was no warning. Sudden, unexpected. No-one can tell when death knocks menacingly at the door. She dies, not in the streets of Christchurch but a sea away, in Australia. There is no front page news of this devastating event. Only a lonely ad somewhere in the funeral notices of the local paper. My mum dies of a massive stroke (cerebral haemorrhage) in the early hours of the morning as Christchurch is still reeling from the aftershocks. As I hear this news I cannot believe that this has happened until my sisters and I go to view her body, and I see that she is not there. Just an empty shell. She has departed into eternity. We conduct her funeral a week later.

And all of us are left with unvoiced questions about eternity, questions we don’t really want to think about but which linger in the shadows of the mind. WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY DIE?

Jesus speaks of HEAVEN as a place where “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” and HELL as “…the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42-43 NLT).

IS MY MUM IN HEAVEN? If I am honest, I can’t answer that question. I have to leave it in the hands of God. I trust Him to make the decisions of eternity. Did my mum come into a personal relationship with Christ as her Lord and Saviour? I know that I shared with her about how Jesus died for our sins on a number of occasions. Did she ever decide inwardly to trust in Christ? I know that she would pray at night, but was she saved out of the wreckage, plucked from the roof before her life collapsed, before all that was left was shock reverberating in the emptiness of our hearts?

The world didn’t know it but it was experiencing an earthquake of unbelievable magnitude when Christ died. He was reaching out to save us from our precarious condition. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins there was an appropriate blackout that covered the earth which in the physical environment described what was happening spiritually as He was judged for my sin (Mark 15:33).

The only light that not only dispels the darkness but also causes no shadows is one that comes from within, an inner light. God is described as light and some would unkindly say of Christians that the lights are on but nobody’s home, but that’s cruel and patently untrue. No matter how odd Christians are, foolish to many, CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says “…God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The invitation is right there.

When the Bible describes those who go to heaven, it says “we will be like Him (Christ), for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). The only way Jesus can describe to me what heaven is like is to say “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). Although I can’t quite imagine shining like a celestial lightbulb, the contrast and choice is clear – DARKNESS, shell shocked and stubbornly unbelieving among the rubble of a collapsing world, or LIGHT; reaching out to a loving hand, and to salvation from the ruins of the devastating effects of my sin.

I choose LIGHT. Will I see my mum in heaven? Will I see you there?

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:24 – I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE! – Part 8

Dethroned!

He has ruled Egypt for 29 years and has no intention of resigning. Mubarak and his family are incredibly rich. Apparently they have $70 billion due to corruption, kickbacks and some legitimate business activities. His kingdom is vast. Money, prestige, power, an army.

Huge numbers of demonstrators gather in Cairo and throughout the country demanding his resignation. 18 long days of protests, millions of people, chaos in Cairo, bloodshed in the streets.

Mubarak has survived six assassination attempts, but his dictatorship has brought the wrath of Egypts masses against him. They are shouting “We don’t want to live like this, anymore!” For many days Mubarak refuses to step down. Finally on the 11th February, 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigns. Afterall, what use is a kingdom without the authority to rule over your people?

In Matthew 13:24 Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. What has heaven got to do with this discussion? A true kingdom is where the king has the authority to rule over his people. The kingdom of heaven stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth.

That term, the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, comes up a lot in the Bible, especially in the gospels. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God? And what on earth does it have to do with Mubarak?

My freedom depends on which kingdom I seek and no, by seeking the kingdom of heaven I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has nothing to do with dying (except perhaps dying to selfish ambition) and much to do with experiencing life to the full, HERE AND NOW. In John 10:10 Jesus says (NIV) “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”      

Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.

What makes it heaven is the fact that God is RULING AND REIGNING. His kingdom is His SPHERE OF AUTHORITY, so in reality, if I come under His authority, I can receive heaven or ETERNAL LIFE here and NOW as well as in eternity. The kingdom has come! It begins now!

But it doesn’t just happen! It demands protest. It demands me declaring “I don’t want to live the way I am living anymore!” It demands a resignation of the present ruler over my life. Hang on a minute – that would be me!

When God’s Kingdom, His rule and reign, is a reality in my life, then things change on the INSIDE. The UNSEEN aspects of my life are now directed by the Lord. My life becomes His throne. He calls the shots so that the kingdom functions as it should. I am no longer bound up with my outward circumstances but with serving Him.

What good to gain the whole world and build my own kingdom on the outward trappings of this world, like Mubarak, only to lose my own soul (Luke 9:25).

Matthew 6:33 says I am to “…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need.” Romans 14:17 tells me that “…the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The invitation is to be dethroned from the throne of my own making and from building my own kingdom. It is saying honestly to God, “I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE!” and accepting Christ as my Saviour and King. God bless you as you come under His authority as the Ruler of your life today.

Pastor Ross