Sunday, November 29, 2015

He Has Set Eternity in the Hearts of Men -- Part I

We are all going to die. It is interesting, though, that when people are asked where they think they will go after they die that most people will say “Heaven.” Most people will also tell you that they think they have basically been “good” during their life, so they don’t think they will go to Hell. Isn’t it interesting that even if people have never thought about Jesus Christ or the way to get to Heaven, that they still believe that there is a Heaven? We shouldn’t be surprised, though, because the Bible tells us that:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He (God) has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.” 
-- (Ecclesiastes 5: 17. NIV).
God has given everyone an internal knowledge or a deep seated awareness of a place called Heaven. In fact, Heaven isn’t something that seems strange to us, nor is Heaven something that feels false, imaginary or made up; rather it feels natural to think about Heaven and to have a place like Heaven to go when we die. But is Heaven the only eternal place of which we have an internal knowledge and deep seated awareness?

I believe that we also have an internal knowledge of the place called Hell, because people are always weighing the goodness of their life against a life that is bad or evil. When asked about where they think that that will go after they die, most people will say Heaven, because they think they have been good. Moreover, people instinctively know when they have not been living a good life, and they know when they have done bad things. Unfortunately most people think of Hell, though, as a place that murderers and serial killers or habitually mean people will go to, and since they are not like those other bad people it cannot be a place that they will go.

As Christians, we know that even though God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” that there is only one way to get to Heaven. That one way is through Jesus Christ. Therefore, as Active Relational Christian Mentors we should want to make sure that all our mentees do not just know about Heaven, but that they know how to get there. We need to tell them that goodness is great and wonderful but that goodness and good deeds alone will not get them into Heaven. We have to tell people the Truth about how a person will either go to Heaven or Hell.

Whether we are teaching a skill, sponsoring a mentee for a better job, mentoring on some specific knowledge that we have to share, or simply encouraging or supporting a woman through friendship or counseling, we can also share our knowledge of Heaven. It is a topic that is easily talked about, because everyone has a view of what Heaven is or what it will be like. Actually, it might be easier to start a conversation about Heaven than to start with the topic of Salvation when we want to speak to someone about their eternal life. Then we can tell them how to get to Heaven; a person must truly believe on Jesus Christ as the living Son of God.

God is Eternal
As mortal humans our vision of the future is limited. We cannot see where we will be tomorrow let alone next year. Oh, we can make plans and tell our friends that we are going on a vacation next week, but our lives can change in the blink of the eye. No matter how intricate our plans are, we need to rely on God for our future. God is not limited in His vision. In fact, God can see the past, the present and the future all at the same time. He has plans that extend throughout eternity and God has a schedule for when things will happen. Furthermore, God’s plans for you are not limited to the daily things that you do or don’t do in life. Yes, God cares about our ups and downs, but He has even bigger things on His mind, like our eternal lives and our relationship to His Son.

God is eternal. He has always existed and will always exist. To the prophet Isaiah, God said: “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse My actions.” – (Isaiah 43: 13. NLT). Then David in a Psalm that tells us of God’s mercy and God’s support in difficult times ends his Psalm with these words: “Bless the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives forever from eternal ages past. Amen and amen!” -- (Psalm 41: 13). This means that God has always existed and will always exist.

But one of the most important Scriptures for me, which relates to God being eternal and forever, are the Words that God gave to Moses before Moses went back to Egypt to rescue God’s people from the Pharaoh and slavery. God had called to Moses from a bush that would not be consumed by fire. God then told Moses that He was the God of his ancestors – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After telling Moses what He wanted him to do, Moses said that the people would not believe him. How could God expect the people to believe that “God” was actually telling Moses to lead the people out of Egypt? Remember, the Israelites lived among people who had worshiped many different gods. So, Moses wanted to know what god’s name he was to use when telling the Israelites that “god” had sent him. Then, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’: and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you. … ‘This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.’”.   – (Exodus 3: 13-14. NASV). WOW! God’s name is “I AM” and it is an eternal name, for God is eternal.

It is often hard to translate exactly from one language to another, but when it is the old Hebrew language that was written without vowels it makes it even more difficult. However, whether you use the above NASV translation, the NLT translation that says “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS” or another of the other Bible translations of the above verse, the meaning of God’s Name in our language is: “I Will Always Be Who I Have Always Been.” – (p. 69 of Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible). But whatever Bible Translation is used, the name “I AM” shows not only God’s existence forever but His unchangeable nature. For, God today is the same God that appeared to Moses all those years ago, and He will be the same God tomorrow and in the future. In fact, Hebrews 13: 8 says God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

God and Eternity

God gave humans opportunities for growth, which includes opportunities for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth, while we live on this home of earth. But earth is just a temporary home. Moreover, we all are born knowing that earth is just our temporary home. But we also instinctively know that we are nothing apart from God even if we won’t admit it to ourselves. In fact, David wrote a Psalm about his realization of the brevity of our lives on this earth and his awareness that we are to live for God. David wrote, “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth for someone else. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.”  -- (Psalm 39: 4 -7. NLT). So, whether we live only moments or live to be way over a hundred years old, we innately know that this earth that God gave us to live on is but a temporary home. We are simply aliens in a strange land.

But if our home is temporary, what are we do while we are living here? Is there something specific that we are to do with our lives while here on earth? Also, how do we get to that eternity that God has placed in our hearts? Finally, are we to share our knowledge of eternity with others? Can’t they find out on their own? These are all good questions, and at some point in my blogs I will try to answer them for you using the Word of God.

Jesus Confirms Heavenly Eternity

Most people have no idea of what eternity will be like. Even Christians have a hard time understanding eternity, even though we know that we will someday be there giving everlasting love and admiration to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. So, why is it so hard for us imagine or understand our future in eternity? Well, obviously, we are mortal, and as such we have all known those who died and are no longer with us. We don’t know where their souls have gone, but we know their bodies are turning back into the dust of the earth. Christians know, though, that Jesus and the Scriptures have told us that we will indeed get to spend eternity with God.

Even the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day who were supposed to study God’s Word daily, could not understand eternity.  At one point in trying to trip Jesus up, the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage in Heaven. They wanted to know who a person would be married to if they had been married to more than one person here on earth. Jesus told them: “Your problem is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they won’t be married. They will be like the angels in Heaven. … haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. So He is the God of the living, and not the dead.”  -- (Matthew 22: 29-32. NLT).

In the above verse, Jesus told the Sadducees to remember the Scriptures and specifically the one where God said I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would not have said, “I am the God of …” if those three were dead forever. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live eternally with God. To make sure the Sadducees understood what God had meant when He said, “I am the God of …”, Jesus explained further by saying, “So He is the God of the living, and not the dead”.  Confirmation of Heaven was given through Jesus’ use of the present tense that there indeed will be a resurrection for those who are dead and an eternal life that all believers will receive.

From the Sadducees’ questions to Jesus we can see that all of us have our own idea of eternity. The Sadducees were concerned about marriage in Heaven and who they would be married to. But, Jesus in His answer to them was telling the Sadducees and us that we cannot make up our own ideas of Heaven based upon our culture, what we have done in life, or what we want out of life. Unfortunately, most people’s idea of eternal life is based upon their present life experiences and their images of what a perfect life would be like here on earth. For example, have you not heard of golfers who talk about playing perfect golf games with his/her friends in Heaven? Perhaps you have a favorite sport or activity, and you would love to be able to enjoy that sport or activity whenever you wished?  So, Heaven to you would be a place where you were able to do your sport or activity whenever you wished. Another example: I love living by a lake with plenty of surrounding hills, trees, sunshine and moments of solitude. So sometimes I catch myself saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a beautiful home next to a lake in eternity.” But we must not make up or think that our own ideas of eternity will be what Heaven is like. Heaven will be beautiful, but it is there that we will focus on glorifying God, and our focus will not be on ourselves.

We cannot think of Heaven or God in human terms. Instead, we must think more about our relationship with God, our obedience to Him, living for Christ and sharing the Good News with others than to think about what Heaven will be like. We are to have a relationship with God that will transcend our earthly bounds; one that will grow ever more dynamic and beautiful the more that we know and live for God and His Son.

How do We Receive God’s Eternal Life?

"All mankind is sitting on Death Row.
How we die or when is not the main issue,
but where [we] go after death."
-- (p. 29 Billy Graham in Quotes).

Everyone instinctively knows that there will be an eternal life waiting for them; even those who claim to be atheists. But not everyone knows how to have a Heavenly eternal life with God. Many think that their Heavenly eternal life is dependent upon being good and doing good things. Many people even work at doing “good” for other people. But, they also instinctively know that being bad and doing bad things will get them a totally different kind of eternal life that is not someplace they want to go.

The Apostle Paul told the Philippines: “For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is life here on earth.” – (Philippians 3: 17-19. NLT).  The Apostle John also tells us that we are not to live for ourselves and love this world. John said, “Do not love the world nor the things in this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. … The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  -- (I John 2: 15,17. NASV). Certainly, living for ourselves and not developing a relationship with the Father and Christ will give us a totally different eternity than the one that God wants for each of us.

Hell is the other eternity awaiting those who reject the gift of Salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Sinners who do not want help or God’s forgiveness will receive Christ’s judgment of Hell. We are all sinners from the moment of birth and we must repent and overcome the lusts of this fallen world in order to go to Heaven. Indeed, the Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – (Romans 3: 23. NASV). But, even though we are born sinners, we can still go to Heaven if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. No one has to go to Hell! It is our choice.

If you reject God’s offer of fellowship through His Son Jesus Christ, and if you reject His Son’s offer of eternal life then you will indeed go to Hell. We know this because the Bible says, “For the wages of (i.e. the payment for) sin is death (i.e. eternal forever death in everlasting fire), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – (Romans 6: 23. NASV).  But what happens if you reject Christ as the Son of God and as your Savior? Well, everyone should know that Hell is a place of eternal separation from God and His love. Actually, it is a place of total separation from all love. Hell is a painful, loveless, agonizing eternal existence. But there is only one a way to avoid Hell. It is a free will choice that everyone needs to make before they take their last breath. For if you have not chosen Christ by the time you take your last breath, you will have made your choice; you have chosen to live in eternal Hell.

The way to eternal life is to believe on the Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of God who died and arose for your sins. Romans 5: 8 tells us that God demonstrated “His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – (NASV). Then the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ “… died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again on their behalf.” – (II Corinthians 5: 15. NASV). So, to receive eternal life with Christ, all you have to do is repent of your sins and ask His forgiveness while believing that Christ died and arose for your sins. Even your life here on earth can be so much better spiritually and emotionally once you have repented and believed on Christ.

Receiving Salvation, though, does not mean that you will never have any troubles again while here on earth. For there will be many who persecute Christians. We will also have trials from this fallen world. However, God will help us through our trials if we rely on Him. But, we know that those who reject Christ and who persecute those who have given their lives to Christ will go to Hell.

We know that those who persecute Christians will go to Hell, because in speaking to the Thessalonians about God's love, the Apostle Paul also spoke about God’s rejection of those who persecute His children. When the Thessalonians were being persecuted for being a Christian or follower of Christ, Paul said “… God will use this persecution to show His justice. For He will make you worthy of His Kingdom, for which you are suffering, and in His justice He will punish those who persecute you. And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted when the Lord Jesus appears from Heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power when He comes to receive glory and praise from His holy people. And you will be among those praising Him on that day, for you believed what we testified about Him (i.e. that you believed in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of the living God who is now back in Heaven preparing a place for you, for when He comes again to receive you unto Himself.)”. – (II Thessalonians 1: 5-10. NLT).

True “born-again” Christians, i.e. those who have truly given their lives to Christ, know that Christ is preparing a place for them in eternal Heaven. In the meantime Christians have been given a commission or directive (See Matthew 28: 18-20 for the Great Commission) to share the wonderful knowledge that we have about eternal life with God and Christ. This knowledge is not something that we should keep to ourselves, nor is eternal Heaven a selective club that only a few special people can join. Our innate knowledge of eternity and Heaven is just one of God’s ways of showing us how much He truly loves all of us. However, because we are born sinners and God is holy, God cannot allow sinners in His Kingdom.  But, at the same time, God wants all sinners to repent and believe on His Son, Jesus Christ, so that everyone can be a part of His Kingdom. So, as Christians we have to tell others, i.e. our mentees, friends, relatives and even strangers of the marvelous eternal life that they, too, can have if they ask Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

Jesus is the Way to Eternal Life

One of the reasons that many people say that they do not believe in eternal life is because their lives are so miserable or terrible. They do not understand that eternity is not an extension of our lives here on earth. Rather our place in eternity is based on a single choice that we will each make. If we choose Christ, our eternal life will be a more beautiful than we can imagine, and we will have a much better life than the one we have here on earth.

A Christian’s life should be the embodiment of Christ’s life, i.e. we are to show others His goodness, His beauty, His truthfulness, His giving, and His kindness, etc. as seen through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who guarantees that we will live forever with God. In eternal life with God there is no sickness, no unkindness, no enemies, no evil, and no lies. If we look and pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s insights we can actually see the reality of the goodness of eternal life as seen through the eyes of Christ. Sure, once we accept Christ as our Savior, we still have earthly everyday choices to make. But with Christ in our hearts we can get a glimpse of eternity with God. We can see what our good choices can show others about eternity with God. When we receive and open the gift of the Salvation we can also start to make better choices with love in our hearts and with faith and trust in God. We can begin to view our earthly life from an eternal perspective.

We know that it is through Christ that we receive eternal life, because the Scriptures tell us that “… God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” – (John 3: 16. NLT). So, the first step to everlasting life is to believe that God sent Christ to die for our sins so that we can have everlasting life. This is more than just an intellectual belief in the Scriptures. This is believing in your heart that Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died on the cross taking your sins upon his shoulders. We also must believe that Christ arose from the dead. For, Romans 10:9 says “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be Saved.”  -- (NASV).

Christ is eternal life. The Apostle John started his first book, entitled The Gospel According to John, with these words about Jesus Christ: “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” – (John 1: 1-5. NLT). The Apostle John also wrote three other books in the Bible. Again, the Apostle John starts his book, I John, with words about the eternal existence of Christ. John says, “The One who existed from the beginning is the One we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This One who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that He is the One who is eternal life. …” – (I John 1: 1-2. NLT).

After temporarily giving up His Home in Heaven and by being faced with many of the temptations and many of the problems in this world, Jesus was able to understand why people were so slow to recognize what is right in front of them. Although some people would immediately see the Lordship of Jesus, others would succumb to the lies of Satan and the opinions of others rather than thinking for themselves. So, Jesus knew that many people would need a little help in recognizing that God had given them a choice to make.

Christ sent the Holy Spirit to speak into the hearts of people, because we are so stubborn. For example, one day Jesus said to a group of followers and His disciples: “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you don’t believe me.” – (John 6: 63-64. NLT). Because many people could not see that they needed a new life and a relationship with God, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to show us about our need for spiritual renewal, a relationship with Christ and about our need for eternal life. After He went back to Heaven, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to earth. The Holy Spirit reveals the Truth of our need for Christ. Of course we can reject that Truth and fail to ask Christ into our heart or fail to recognize that we need a spiritual relationship with God and Christ. But none of us can say that we weren’t given a chance through the Holy Spirit to ask Christ into our heart.

If we ask Christ into our heart, then the Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us make good choices in life, if we are willing to listen to Him. He reveals the ultimate Truth and He enables us to respond to what we have learned. Through the Holy Spirit Christ has given us a helper to show us how to live here on earth until it is time to go home to eternity with God. The Holy Spirit is also a comforter. He helps us get through trials and problems that we are afraid to face. He constantly reassures us that we have a home in Heaven ready when the time comes to go home to the Lord.

I hope that you can share your knowledge of eternity with someone who doesn’t yet know Christ as their Savior. It is important that every Christian have as much truthful information as they can in order to clearly and truthfully speak into the lives of others. There isn’t a person on earth who doesn’t know that there is an eternity somewhere awaiting them. Some refuse to accept that they will spend time one place or the other. Others through the brainwashing of liberal ideas and the lies of Satan have chosen to think that they have come from some primordial mud. However, if they would ever look into their hearts, they could see eternity there. As Christians it is sometimes easier to open a conversation about eternity than about whether or not someone is “Saved”. But even if you start with eternity, the subject of Salvation is there, because eternity requires a decision about the gift of Salvation.

Prepare yourselves with knowledge. Try to think of questions that others may ask you and then be prepared with a truthful answer. It is when we are unprepared that fear keeps us from talking about Salvation and eternity. So, don’t let the devil trip you up with by being unprepared. 
You can do it!
You can share Jesus with others!

You can become an active relational Christian mentor!

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