What’s Heaven Like?

Lately I’ve been preaching on what the Bible teaches regarding Heaven, Hell, and life after death. The Christian life is always a balancing act – this is especially true when it comes to the balance between our focus on Heaven and our focus on life here and now. Sometimes you hear the phrase: “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good” – which applies to a type of Christian who seems so focused on spiritual and heavenly things he/she does very little to help people on this earth. No one likes this type of person. Yet I agree with C.S. Lewis that when you study the people who have thought the most about Heaven – you find that they also did a lot to improve life here on earth for others. This is why it is good for us to learn about the promises God gives us in his word about what to expect after we die.

In preparing for my sermons I came across a beautiful and Biblical description of Heaven by a French Reformed theologian, humanist, and poet named Simon Goulart (1543-1628). Goulart was a contemporary of John Calvin and part of the Protestant Reformation of his time. It was an era when life was short, but the strong vision of Heaven that pastors preached about helped give hope to people as they faced plagues and persecution and other challenging circumstances. Here is Goulart’s description that I found very helpful for contemplation and meditation:

“The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians.

This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed, from death itself.

They will receive in heaven glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies. They will be delivered from all pain and suffering.

They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all His goodness, His infinite joy, with which He will satisfy all their thoughts and desires. They will see Him and contemplate Him face-to-face, without any clouds to obscure Him.

They will learn of God’s wisdom with regard to the creation and redemption of His elect by means of Jesus Christ, and the reasons for all His all-powerful and wondrous works.

The eternal Father will disclose His burning and unspeakable love for them, which He demonstrated by sending His Son into the world to draw them from death into eternal life.

His children will be moved by His gracious work, filled with wonder, contentment, and ineffable delight, and will love their heavenly Father with a burning love, submitting themselves fully to His wisdom with eager joy.

And they will submit to Him as their only sovereign and greatest good. And they will rejoice with continuous joy in His presence, magnifying His glory, singing of His goodness along with the holy Angels and the entire Church triumphant.

There they will see Jesus Christ, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the faithful who have preceded them, including their family members and friends who died in repentance and faith.

This entire company together, with one heart and voice, will recall the goodness and infinite blessings God has shown them, celebrating with songs of thanksgiving the praises of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus eternal life is the end and fulfillment of all good things for which God has purchased us through His Son.

This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage. This is the treasure that we should unceasingly desire. This is the hour and the blessing to which all the plans and efforts of our lives should be inclined. This is our true country, our permanent city, in which our citizenship has been acquired by the merit of the death of Jesus Christ. This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death. This is the safe refuge and the beautiful harbor toward which we sail amidst so many waves and storms that constantly trouble the world. This is the blessed land where we will dwell by means of death.” –Simon Goulart (1543-1628), Christian Discourses XXVIII, 322-327.

New Year & A New President

We are perched again at the beginning of a new year. Many of us Image result for donald trump presidentfind ourselves at the beginning of a new year hoping for a lot of things – hoping that some things will be the same and hoping that some things will be different. I know that I hope 2017 will be better than 2016 for myself, for my loved ones, and for the church I serve. Yet I also know that each year seems to have both blessings and hardships – sometimes a lot more of one than the other, but this is to be expected.

2017 seems to have a lot more ‘unknowns’ for us due to the inauguration of a new president on January 20th. There have been a lot more ‘unknowns’ with the election of Donald Trump than around the election of mostly ‘career politicians’ to the office of the presidency over the past many years. For some people the unknowns bring a sense of excitement and for others these unknowns bring a sense of fear and even hysteria.

Followers of Jesus are called upon to be people of hope and faith, rather than people of fear and anxiety.  When we grow in Christ we spend less energy running around as if our hair is on fire because we trust God’s providence in all situations.   Of course we must take politics seriously since political realities are part of the human condition which impact human life – but we must not give politics too much importance in our lives since this is a sign that we are falling into a subtle form of idolatry.

Remember that God’s word calls us again and again to put our hope and faith in the Lord rather than in human institutions. I love this clear counsel given in Psalm 146:

2I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God.

As you read these verses from the Psalms it is clear that putting our trust, our hope, and our faith in the Lord is an essential part of living what is called a “blessed” life. When we put our trust in human institutions we will tend toward the twin core sins of anxiety and idolatry. As followers of Jesus we need to model to the world that the one who is sitting in the Oval Office does not have as big of an impact on our lives as the One who is on the throne in Heaven.

So let’s look toward 2017 with hope and faith instead of with fear. Let us pray for our nation and for a new president who surely needs our prayers (whether he knows it or not). And let us pray for one another as we serve Jesus together as the one who is (as we sing in the Easter hymn) the “Lamb upon His throne,” the “Potentate of Time” and the “matchless King through all eternity.” He is the One who is worthy of our hope and trust no matter what life brings our way.

Pastor Jim’s Blog