Let’s Think about Heaven
April 20, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going."
5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
9Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!
Our topic and our title for today is “Let’s Think about Heaven.” The scripture we have before us today is very, very precious. Picture a treasure chest, won’t you? A strong, well-banded treasure chest. You open the lid, and there are all kinds of jewels in it, blue ones and red ones, green ones and clear ones, sparkling in the light. Every gem in the treasure chest is one you can pick up and hold up to the light and examine, and it fills you with joy and awe as you examine it.
The scripture that we have before us this morning is one that I hope you’ll take home with you and read over and over. These are gems to examine. Among those gems are some that I’d like to talk about with you. The fourteenth chapter of the book of John is a treasure chest unto itself. If you ever want to read ideas about heaven, this is the place to go. It’s worth reading over and over and over, and no matter how long we spend studying it, there will always be new beauty and spiritual insight to be gleaned from it.
I would like to talk with you today about words of Jesus about heaven. Let’s take a look at the beginning of the fourteenth chapter of John. Hear these words from the lips of our Lord and Savior.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Isn’t it something that the first thing that Jesus says to us, to those of us who follow Him, is “please don’t worry”? “Don’t let your heart be troubled,” said Jesus. When you think about the time to come, when you think about your loved ones, when you think about yourself going to Him at the end of life, don’t let your heart be troubled. There is more in store than the eye has ever seen. And that’s the first assurance that Jesus wanted to give us, that there is a continuity to life that is endless, and our hearts should rest assured in Him.
He goes on to say, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Make the choice to believe; make the choice to have faith, and your life will have a light that it cannot have any other way. Believe in God, the creator spirit. Believe in Jesus, God with us. “Believe in God, believe also in me,” He said.
He went on to say the following gem: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” I kind of like the old translation, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” What did He mean when He said that? Well, check it out! Look at these glorious windows to the beauty of spring. Is not this life a mansion? Is not the world that He has given us unspeakably, outrageously beautiful? It is! But Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” There are many expressions of reality. There are many phases that we can go to. Well, it’s kind of hard to wrap our minds around the plurality of it, but what it does say is that there is more to life than meets the eye. There is more to God’s kingdom than the earthly kingdom that we see.
Why doesn’t Jesus talk about heaven more? Why doesn’t He describe it in more detail? I think it’s because it is so wondrous and so magnificent, He didn’t want us to want to go there too soon. He wanted us to appreciate the mansion that is this world to its fullest. But, He is also saying, there is more than this. “In my Father’s house, there is more than the eye can see.” And that is our blessed assurance.
He goes on to say, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” And we can trust Him for that. He said, “I go” – I’m leaving this mansion to go to the other one – “to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you also may be. And someday, I will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be, too.” The one clear and unmistakable promise that we have from the Lord about heaven is that that’s the place where He is. And if He is there, our hearts are complete. Heaven is the place where Jesus is. He takes us to be where He is.
So, in talking about heaven, He admonishes us not to be afraid. He reassures us that there is more to life than meets the eye. And He reassures us that He is there and will be with us forever.
I’d also like to touch on one more verse. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one cometh unto the Father but by me.” What does that mean? Does that mean that everyone else is excluded from heaven? Friend, it is good to be a Christian, because as Christians we have the blessed assurance of life everlasting, as stated clearly and unmistakably here in John 14. But I also believe that there is a “wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.” Can I read you a little bit of hymn 121?
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice
That is more than liberty.
If our love were but more simple
We should rest upon God’s word,
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the presence of the Lord.
There is the mercy of God to which all His children – all His children – are enclosed and enveloped and included. But there is an assurance, a blessed assurance, that comes with being a Christian that gives our hearts peace and light and assurance. And we cling to it. Jesus is the way, the gateway, to the Father. He is the embodiment of truth. He is the life everlasting. And when we open our hearts to Him and invite Him into our hearts, we have that blessed assurance. We unite with our ancestors in the faith. We unite with people all around the world of different languages and different cultures in the blessed assurance of Jesus Christ as our gateway to God. And in this faith, we have rest and we have confidence in everlasting life.
And so, my dear friends, I hope you treasure this scripture. I hope you read it over and again. And as you open your heart to the Lord, as you invite Him to be your Lord and Savior, take this promise and this assurance with you, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski