Your Convictions About Heaven – Dr. Charles Stanley

Don't know what to pray?  Jump start your prayer life today  with our free morning and evening prayer bookmarks.  Dr. Charles Stanley: What is your conviction about heaven? Have you thought about it? Now, a conviction is a belief that you hold by which you're willing to take a strong stand for. What do you believe about heaven? You say, "Well, I hadn't really thought about it much." Well, the truth is, most people don't think about it much. When's the last time you've heard a sermon on heaven? When's the last time you've given it any serious thought unless you were in the hospital and thought you were dying? When do you think about heaven? Not many folks think about it. Many people are very, very ignorant about it. And most people have a very, very unbiblical view of what heaven's going to be like. And so somebody says, "Well, I don't have a conviction about some things that I don't know much about." I understand that. Well, the purpose of this message is to introduce you to heaven, not to give you a complete explanation of what it's all about. Number one, you couldn't do that in one sermon or a whole book. But at least I can introduce you to heaven in such a fashion that if you're interested in going, I'll tell you how to get there and maybe give you some insights to help you to start living more like you're going there than that you intend to stay here forever. And the first thing I want to say is--about heaven, our Heavenly Father is there. And it's interesting, in Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount, you'll notice that Jesus talked about the Heavenly Father and He mentioned it six times in the Beatitudes. And then, of course, I think about fourteen times in the rest of the Gospel of Matthew. So somebody says, "Well, where is heaven?" This is the simplest answer: wherever God is. Wherever God is, because somebody says, "Is He up there, out there, down yonder?" That's not even an issue. Wherever God is, that's where heaven is even today. So our Heavenly Father's there. Secondly, our Savior, the Lord Jesus, is there. You remember when Jesus was about to ascend in that first chapter of Acts, "And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood by him. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'" So the Scripture says that Jesus, who was physical and human and heavenly, that He ascended into heaven, and they watched Him ascend into heaven. So, when you say, "Well, who's going to be in heaven? God's in heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ is there. Now, the question is: Are you going to be there? And I wonder if you can say this morning for sure, "When I die, I'm going to heaven, where God is, where Jesus is." And all through the Scriptures, God makes it very clear. And if you'll notice also in the third chapter of Colossians, the first verse says, "Therefore if any of you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." So wherever God is, Jesus is. And then, you'll remember in Romans chapter eight, in the thirty-fourth verse, He says that He's making intercession for us, and He also says it in the Book of Hebrews. And so, where is heaven? Where God is. Where God is, that's where Jesus is also. The third thing I would say about heaven is that heaven is a prepared place. And if you'll notice in John, this fourteenth chapter and second verse there, He says, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you." So listen to that. Jesus said to His disciples, and to us, that heaven is a prepared place. That is, you don't die and just float out yonder somewhere. And I hear people talking about what's going to happen to them when they die. They have no earthly idea, but the Scripture says that He has prepared a place for His children. He says, "I'm going to prepare a place for you." And then if you look in the twenty-first chapter of--look at the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation. And if you'll notice in the twenty-seventh verse, "And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying shall ever come into it," speaking of heaven, "but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." And so it's very clear what He's talking about. And then of course, listen to what the Scripture says, "And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." And so heaven is a prepared place. Not only do we have a prepared place, but that our citizenship is there. Now, what does He mean by that? Turn to Philippians chapter three, verse twenty and twenty-one. Listen to what he says, Paul speaking, he says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." And--what is he saying? He's saying these bodies will not be fit for heaven. So, what he says is these bodies are going to be transformed to conform toward the body of His glory. That is, God is going to change these bodies of ours to fit heaven. We're--our bodies are fit for earth. In order to live in heaven, we're going to have a body that's fit for that. And so, when you think about how you look and how you feel and you think, "Well, am I going to be this way in heaven?" No, you're not, you're going to be better than that. It's going to be a body that will be so transformed, it will fit perfectly in this heaven that He's prepared for us. And so, you and I can say, "Well, how are we going to get there?" Jesus is our passport to awesome heaven that we read about. And I think about a song that I grew up singing, this world is not my home, I'm just-a-passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. And on and on that song goes. Many of you remember that. Some of you do, at least. This, in other words, this earth is not our home. We're here temporarily but God's prepared a place for all of His children. So I would say, that being true, we're not to get too attached to things. If this is not our home, why should we become so attached to stuff? Have you ever looked in one of your closets and said, "What am I going to do with all of that?" all of this or all the other. This world is not my home, I'm just-a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, as the song goes. What's--what real treasures do you have? What do you own you're going to take with you to heaven? Not one single thing. It can be on your finger worth thousands of dollars or in your pocket worth a million, but you're not going to take any of that with you. And when I think about people who spend their life accumulating, got to get this, got to have that, got to have the other, and recognize that when the moment comes and their heart beats the last time, forget it, because you're not going to take it with you. And many people spend their life, invest their life accumulating in stuff, things that are very valuable earthly-wise, but that last moment, it's all over. And so, our perspective about life and death changes when we understand what heaven is going to be like. And the fact that we, listen, our citizenship is already there. So what does that mean? That means the names of the saved are recorded there. You remember when Jesus sent His seventy disciples out and they came back, what were they talking about? They said, "Even the devils are subject to us." And they were praising the Lord Jesus for the power He had given them to heal people and all the wondrous things that were going on. And you remember what Jesus said after they gave their testimony of all that had happened, He said, "You rejoice over this. That's good, but rejoice over this, that your name is written in the Book of Life." And I remember till this day for some reason, I went to see this gentleman many times when I was pastoring a little church in Danville just for the summer. And there was a fellow that everybody loved. He was sick, he'd been sick a long, long time, couldn't get out of bed. I went to see him probably about three times a week, wonderful guy. But he was lost. And I remember the day he got saved. And he and I were talking, and he accepted Christ as His Savior. I still remember for some reason walking out of his yard starting to sing this song. What's the name of the song? There's a new name written down in glory. And I remember singing that song and praising God because I'd prayed over him, prayed for him. He rejected and rejected and rejected, and finally he accepted Christ as His Savior. There's a new name written down the--down in glory and it's mine, it's mine. And you know the rest of that song. So, when you think about that and you think about that your name is recorded in heaven. Well, how is it recorded? I don't think it's recorded on a computer. I don't think it is. You say, "Well, what is it recorded on?" God's books, whatever that might be. So we can picture our names written in the Lamb's Book of Life. The issue is, are you sure when your heart beats the last time, when you're gone and nobody can do anything about it, that you're going to heaven? Absent, watch this, absent from the body, present where? With the Lord, if you're saved. So, our names are there, and the truth is that spiritually, watch this, spiritually, you're already there. Now, I want you to turn to Ephesians chapter two for a moment, and I want you to look at this passage of Scripture. Ephesians chapter two. When we say that we're already there spiritually, beginning in verse four, listen to what Paul says for us in chapter two, "But God, being," look at this, "rich in mercy," not skimpy, rich in mercy, "because of His great love with which He loved us." That is, the only way we're going to get there is His love. Now listen, "Even when we were dead," spiritually, "in our transgressions," in our sins, in our unbelief, "He made us alive," spiritually speaking, "together with Christ." It is through Christ that our life has been changed. For "by grace you have been saved." And He--listen to this. We're still down here now, but he says He, "Raised us up," spiritually, "seated us with Him," with Jesus, "in the heavenly places in Christ, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." And then that familiar verse, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves," it is a gift of God, "not as a result of our works that we may boast of." Raised us up with Him. Seated us in the heavenly places. Here's what He's saying. In the mind of God, He has a place for us. In the mind of God, it's as if we were seated with Him in heavenly places. That is, once you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, listen carefully, settled. No one's ever been saved and been lost. Because when we are saved, He says this is how sure it is, "Raised us up with Him, seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." He said, "What's God done?" He's given you eternal security that you can live with all the rest of your life. I was saved when I was twelve and, listen, seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. And the problem is we don't realize what God has in store for us. We don't even realize what He has in store for us here, in our relationship with Him. It's a relationship with Him that makes all of these things that He states very clearly in the Scripture reality. That is, when you were saved, you didn't just get saved and God say, "Well, one of these days, you're gonna die." Here's what He said. He says, "Even when we were dead in our trespasses and our sins, He made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved, raised us up," spiritually, "raised us up with Christ, seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." That is, in the mind of God, in reality, it's as good as we are already there. Any way you look at those verses, that's what it means. In the mind of God, He's already seated us in heaven. We talk about our names being written in the Lamb's Book of Life. It's better than just having your name there. He says spiritually you're there. God sees you there because He sees us in the light of our relationship to His Son, Jesus. So, when things get tough and you get down and, you know, everything's wrong, you have to remember this: Where am I from God's perspective? Seated in the presence of the Living God provided by Jesus Himself, so we have nothing to fear. You may have desires in your life, but remember this: you may have some desires in your life that'll never be fulfilled down here, but you won't have any desire that's a sanctified desire proved of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you will be needing in heaven. He--listen to this, you think about this. He not only saved us, but in the mind of God, we are seated with Christ in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That is, we are eternally secure. And listen, the better you understand that, the more you understand it, there's going to be an increasing desire for you to live a holy life because that's what He's getting us ready for. When He transcends us from this life to the next, to an absolute holy life, the battle for holiness is over. You will be absolutely totally holy. And for Him to put it in those terms, that we're seated with Him, with Christ, with Christ Jesus for all eternity. That's His way of picturing our eternal security. And so, when we talk about spiritually we're already there, go back again to Ephesians chapter one, because I think we don't realize what we have. Listen to what he says, and Paul, in this wonderful book of Ephesians, in the thirteenth verse He says, "In Him," that is in Christ, which means in our--because of our relationship to Him, because of our relationship to Jesus, having trusted Him as our Savior, "In Him, you also, after," watch this, "after listening to the message of truth," very important part, "after listening to the message of truth," which is, "the gospel of your salvation--having also believed," in Christ Jesus, "you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise." Now, think about this. The next time you get down in the dumps, you think about this. The Bible says your sins have been forgiven, name's been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. In the mind of God, it's as good as if you were seated there. And not only that, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, and He has given us a pledge, as He says in the next verse. So think about this, sometimes we may get discouraged about this, that, and the other. We need to think about what's reality? Reality is our names are there. From God's point of view, it's as good as already done. We've been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and we have become the saints of God in the presence of Almighty God for all eternity. You see, He doesn't see us the way we see ourselves. We see ourselves in this life struggling for this and struggling for that and we all go through difficulty, hardship, and pain, but we need to be ever reminded of the fact what's the reality from God's viewpoint? God says, "This is the truth about you." Now, you don't feel it right now, you don't see it right now, I understand that. This is the truth, and so He wants to remind us of the truth, not because it's going to change my circumstances today, but it's a reminder that this is not going to last. I'm going to get through this. It does not mean that I'm going to be here and God's going to be there. We're going to be in the presence of Almighty God in such a way, there's not going to be space and time like we think of it. In the mind of God, when you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, all that became a reality. And that is, when we say we're already there. The more I understand my position with Him, the clearer everything is. I may hurt. I may be having a hard time. But you know what? When I think about what God says, I don't think about that. I think about what He says. In His presence, it's going to be perfect. And when we grasp what God has already said has already happened to us, then what happens? Then I can look at the future and realize that whatever's going on now is going to be fantastic one of these days. Watch this, because, listen, God didn't put us on this earth to stay here. He didn't put you on this earth to stay here. Now, some of us live a little longer than others at times, but that's not the issue. The issue is that one of these days He's going to call our name. And people talk about God calling your number. I don't--you're not numbered. You are named, not numbered. What, number thirty-six. What does that say? That doesn't say anything. But Charles Frazier Stanley says a whole lot very clearly. Ha, ha, ha! So then, of course, the Scripture says that heaven is where our treasure is. Now, you may think your treasure is in your property, in the bank, your gold, your silver, all these things, but listen to what Jesus said in the sixth chapter of Matthew, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven," not on earth, "where neither moth nor rust destroy, where thieves do not break in or steal; for your treasure is," where it is, "there will your heart be also." Where is your treasure? You hoarding this and hoarding that and hoarding the other? Do you think your security is based on how much money you have or how much property you have or gold or silver or whatever it might be? Our treasure, listen to this, our treasure cannot be bought. Watch this, anything you bought, you can lose. Anything you can touch, you can lose. Our treasure is our relationship to Him. And all the works that we do, the right spirit and attitude and so forth, that is, God is--He has our rewards coming. That's where our treasure is, not here. "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven," things that man can't touch. So, how do you store them up? By your good deeds, by your obedience, by your holy life, by your actions of love and kindness and forgiveness and so forth. Then of course, he says our inheritance and rewards are there. And if you go back to Matthew chapter five in the Sermon on the Mount and listen to what He says in this fifth chapter and the twelfth verse, after He's given us the Beatitudes. Listen to what He says, the twelfth verse, "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward," listen to this, "for your reward in heaven is great." Your reward in heaven is great. What is that reward? It's not what I've done to be saved. And there are people who think--and now, all of us should have good works, but not to get ourselves to heaven. We do good works because we're sons and daughters of Almighty God. And we're not doing them so things will be better in heaven if I do thus and so. No. It's the natural life of a godly person who does what the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to do. We're to be godly and holy and help, love, forgive, and so forth, all of those things. And so, Jesus said our inheritance, He said, "Rejoice that your inheritance is in heaven, not here." And I think about people who are really striving. And I meet people once in a while who are really, really working at being good enough to get to heaven. It's an endless, futile attempt, because that is not what God said, "For by grace you have been saved." That's the forgiving love of God based on the death of Jesus Christ, His Son, by grace. So, look in First Peter for a moment. First Peter and this first chapter. I want you to notice something that Peter says here that I think is--applies to all of this. First Peter, first chapter and the third and fourth verses. He says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," watch this, "who according to His great mercy," not just mercy, "His great mercy has caused us to be born again." Listen to what he said. You know how you got born again? By the mercy of God. "According to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." That is, what's the basis of our hope? Not how good we are, the basis of our hope is in His resurrection. His resurrection justified, declared, assured everything He taught. "According to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven for whom you--" look at the--look at those verses. Verse three, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His," what kind of mercy? "Great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope." How do we know it's living? "Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And thus we have obtained, an inheritance which is imperishable," cannot be destroyed, "undefiled," cannot be contaminated, "will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." Listen, if you're saved, look what you've got. You don't have anything physical to match those two verses. And then the last thing I would say is our saved loved ones and friends are there. And if you remember what Paul said in Second Corinthians chapter five, and that he said, "Absent from the body and," what? "Present with the Lord." And then in First Thessalonians chapter four, and if you'll look there for just a moment, very, very familiar passage that we all like to quote. And you'll notice what the Scripture says. He says in the thirteenth verse, "Don't be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep," those who have passed on. "So that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him," when Jesus returns, "those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep," who have passed on before. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." That is, the bodies of these who've passed on. "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air so we shall always be with the Lord." So what? There's going to be a big reunion. And our loved ones who've passed on before us who've gone to heaven, Jesus says when He comes, there's going to be a big celebration in heaven. Now, the question is this: and the question is not so much what does the Bible teach about heaven, but the question is this: Are you going there? Because many people think they are and they can tell you why. And they'll list all these things that they've done, how good they are, how accepted they are, how much money they've given, how many times they've been to church, maybe been baptized two or three times, and they think that's going to get them to heaven. No way. It's by grace you're saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of anything we do, but by His awesome love. So that's just a little idea to get you started thinking about heaven. And the most important question is this: Are you going there? You say, "Well, what do I have to do to get there?" Listen to what the Scripture says. "I go to prepare a place for you. And come again to receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." There's only one way to get to heaven, by accepting Jesus Christ, believing that He's the Son of God, that His death was payment for your sin, and when you place your faith in Him as the Savior and Lord, your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and all the things we've talked about happen instantly, automatically. That's my prayer for you. Father, we love You and praise You, that You didn't give us a list of things that we had to do to get saved. We thank You that You planned it in eternity past and made it possible for us to be saved through the death of Your Son. Make this message so simple and plain, to go all over this world, for all religions and all beliefs, or whatever it might be. And then may the Holy Spirit take Your Word and interpret it clearly to people everywhere, whatever their language, whatever their background, so that they too may know what Jesus meant when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me." And Lord, give them understanding when Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have the gift of eternal life." And we pray this in Jesus's name, amen.