Sunday, December 13, 2015

Love and Joy; Mentoring Eternity -- Which Eternity will you Receive

The last couple of weeks I have been talking about mentoring others in the knowledge of Eternity in Heaven. We have been learning how can we be assured of spending Eternity in Heaven with God, and how we can share that assurance with others. I also mentioned, though, that there is another type of Eternity that is not somewhere anyone would want to go. For, there are actually two very different eternities to choose from; Eternity in Hell or Eternity in Heaven. Obviously, the one that we all desire is Eternity in Heaven. But so many people do not know how to be assured of Eternity in Heaven.

As Christians it is our responsibility to increase our knowledge of Eternity in Heaven. It is also our responsibility to share this knowledge with others. Consequently, I have searched the Word of God for more information about Eternity in Heaven. In doing so, I have discovered that God has not only given us plenty of information about Heaven, but He has also given us at least ten assurances that those who are “born-again” will spend Eternity with Him. We should know what those assurances are, so that we can share them with our mentees and with others who are need to understand that they will indeed spend Eternity somewhere.

As I have shared with you the Scriptures that God has given us about the existence of Eternity and the Scriptures about His assurances that we can have a Heavenly Eternity through Christ, we have also discovered something else. We have discovered that we each have control over which Eternity we will receive. Moreover, God will not force anyone to spend Eternity with Him; rather it is simply a matter of our choice.

When we talk about Eternity, I am referring to an everlasting life that has no end. It is an existence that goes on forever throughout all time. In other words, there is no marking of time, because it is time without beginning or end. Therefore, the Eternity that we choose, will be everlasting, infinite, or without end. Moreover, through the Biblical Scriptures we have discovered that the Eternity we choose will be the place where we will stay forever; you can’t change your mind once you get there. You can’t then say, “Oh I want to go to the other place.” For Jesus told us that “… there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here (Heaven) is stopped at its edge, and no one there (in Hell) can cross over to us.– (Luke 16: 26. NLT). Therefore, we each need to choose wisely. But, even a failure to specifically choose will ultimately become the choice that you have made. For, if you fail to choose Christ and Eternity in Heaven, then you have chosen to go to the Eternity of Hell. This means that every person can know for sure before they die where they will spend Eternity. I know where I will spend Eternity, do you?

If you have chosen to believe on Christ as the resurrected Son of God who died and arose to cleanse you of all your sins while ultimately conquering eternal death, then you will indeed spend Eternity in Heaven with God and Christ. If you have, indeed, been “Saved”, God has also given you assurances of your eternal home in Heaven. Some of those assurances come through your heart and are given to you by the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers. Other assurances are given to us through Jesus Christ’s actual words while He was here on earth. Still other assurances come from the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit inspired the Disciples/ Apostles to write down for all of us. All of those many assurances, both individually and together, give each believer not only the knowledge of Eternity, but give us the assurance of where we will spend Eternity.

Eternity is not something to be taken lightly. Loving and honoring God should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, we cannot keep the knowledge of the gift of Salvation and Eternal life in Heaven to ourselves. We must share our knowledge, taken from the Holy Scriptures, with those who do not yet know Christ personally. Furthermore, if we have knowledge of the assurances that God has given us about our sins being forgiven and our eternal home in Heaven, it is our responsibility to share those assurances with others.

Now, let’s talk about the assurances that God has given us about Salvation and Eternal life. As I said before, I have discovered in the Scriptures at least ten assurances of Eternal life that God has given to those who will believe on Christ as their Savior. Four of these assurances I told you about last week. This week I will tell you about another of the assurances that God has given to us, so that we can know without a doubt that we will spend Eternity with Him in Heaven. But first, to recap: the four assurances that I discussed last week were:

Number 1). God has put the knowledge of or the awareness of the existence of an Eternity within the heart of every person. (See Ecclesiastics 5: 17). Along with the awareness of an Eternity, everyone has also been given the awareness of the existence of God. “For the Truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts.”  -- (Romans 1: 19. NLT). Furthermore, God has given every Christian the responsibility of sharing their knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world with other people so that they, too, can know Christ personally and have their sins forgiven. The choice of living for God and believing on Christ, though, is up to each one of us individually. We are to tell other people about God and His Son, but we cannot force people to accept the Truth of God or force them to believe in Jesus Christ. However, in sharing the Truth of God and reminding them of what they already know in their heart about the existence an Eternity, then perhaps they will be open to hearing about Christ. For it is only in repenting and in believing on Christ that one can enter the Eternity of Heaven.

Number 2). We have been given the assurance of an eternity in Heaven through the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Father. It is through this relationship that we receive God’s gift of Salvation. Salvation assures us of an Eternity in Heaven. But, it is also our continued relationship with Christ and the Father that gives us the strength and love to overcome this fallen world while we are here awaiting eternal life. We know this because the Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote:

“… God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!). For, He raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with Him in the Heavenly realms – all because we are one with Christ Jesus. And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of His favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us through Christ Jesus. …

Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to Him because of the blood of Christ.

He has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from Him, and to us Jews who were near. Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.”
-- (Ephesians 2: 4-7, 13, 17-19. NLT).

We are now members of God’s family and as such our bodies will be raised to life because of the resurrection of Christ. Moreover, we have been given the ability to live for Christ while we are here on earth instead of selfishly living for ourselves and the prince of this earthly world. We have also been given the assurance that because of our family relationship with God and His Son that we will someday be living with them in the “Heavenly realms”. In other words, because of Christ’s victory over sin and death, we, too, will spend eternal life with Christ and His Father. We are now members of God’s family, because we have a relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Number 3). We are assured of our Heavenly eternal life through our faith in Christ and our subsequent fruitfulness (obedience) to His Commands. For, it is through faith that we have been made righteous. Our righteousness allows us to enter God’s eternal Heaven because we have been given a new life or have been re-born into a righteous child of God’s. Our new life starts as soon as we ask Christ to come into our heart. Once we ask Christ into our heart, we begin our new life based upon our faith in Christ. Furthermore, this new life is to be fruitful, that is, it is to be a life that is obedient to the commands of Christ, including His command to love one another and to share the Gospel with the rest of the world. For, we are to bear “fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of Light (Eternity with God).– (Colossians 1: 10-12. NIV).

Notice that here again we are told that our Salvation “births us” as children of God’s. As His children, we are part of the family of God, and we have an inheritance from our Father. That inheritance gives us entrance into the Kingdom of Light, which is Eternity with God. However, as we learned last week, our position in Heaven, or our rewards, is dependent on our fruitfulness and obedience to God’s commands while we are here on earth. Are you telling others about Christ? Are you explaining to others that God loves them and wants them to spend eternity with Him? Fruitfulness is seen in “loving others as we love ourselves.” It is seen in our faith expressed in behaviors and words.

Number 4). Christ has placed the Holy Spirit within each “born again” person, and it is the Holy Spirit who guarantees and assures us that we will have everlasting life. Giving us the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us is God’s gift to us. It is the Holy Spirit Who guarantees and assures us that we belong to Christ and that Christ will do what He has promised. The Holy Spirit is like having God’s signature on a contract that He has written through His Son, Jesus Christ. For it is the Holy Spirit within each believer Who assures us that our faith is legitimate and that we are, indeed, the adopted children of God. 

The Holy Spirit also secures our place in the Kingdom of God for all eternity. To explain this, the Apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these words:
 “And now you have also heard the Truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit whom He promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.” 
-- (Ephesians 1: 13, 14. NLT).

Now, let’s discuss Assurance Number five that God has given us about Eternal life with Him.  In many ways, Assurance Number Four and Number Five go together, i.e. hand-in-hand, for Assurance Number Five also has to do with what the Holy Spirit has done in the lives of Christians. As I have mentioned, with Salvation Christians are “born-again”, which means that we become brand new people. We each have become a new person on the inside. We are a new person, because the Holy Spirit has given each Christian a new life with a new attitude and a whole new outlook on life. Within that new life, the Holy Spirit then helps each person to produce or attain the character traits of Christ. So, not only will we receive a new body when we get to Heaven, but we will have the character traits of Christ. Let’s look a little closer at Assurance Number Five.

Assurance Number Five about Eternal Life with God

Assurance Number five has to do with us receiving new bodies from Christ when He returns to take us home, but, it also has to do with a new attitude and the new outlook on life that we receive when we are “born-again”. For, it is this new outlook that leads to the subsequent joy that comes from Christ’s eternal love and from our desire to remain with Him forever. Because Christ died and arose from the grave, He gives us a new life, which includes new bodies in Heaven and a new outlook on life while we are here on earth. With the gift of Salvation, we receive a new life that desires to produce or to attain the “Fruit of the Spirit.” The “Fruit of the Spirit” is actually a list of the character traits of Christ’s that we are to acquire as re-born people who are now the eternal children of God. Let’s find out more about the “Fruit of the Spirit” and the joy that we will receive as eternal spiritual beings. But, first let’s look at the new body that Christ has given to us.

A New Glorious Body

The Scriptures tell us that those who are “truly” Saved will no longer be limited by their earthly natural bodies when Christ returns, because Christ will give us new spiritual bodies or eternal bodies that will never die. Why do we get new Spiritual bodies? Well, the Apostle Paul, through the Holy Spirit, tells us that:

We are citizens of Heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same mighty power that He will use to conquer everything, everywhere.” 
-- (Philippians 3: 20, 21. NLT).

As citizens of Heaven, we will not only have a new Home where Christ lives, but we will have new bodies as well. Those bodies will be glorified bodies like that of Christ's. So, how do we get those glorified bodies, because we know that our earthly bodies start to decay the moment that we die? Well, In I Corinthians the Apostle Paul told the Christians of Corinth that they did not have to worry about what would happen to them when they died, because when Christ came again those who had died would be resurrected with new bodies given to them by Christ. So, no matter how decayed their body was, they would get a new and better body. Moreover, Paul told them and us, through the Holy Spirit’s inspired Scriptures, that our new bodies would never decay or die again. He said,

Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies.”
– (I Corinthians 15: 43, 44. NLT).

I don’t know about you, but I am confronted every day with how weak and fallible that my earthly body can be. Even if I had a perfect human body, I would be limited by the laws of nature within this world. For example, a human can only run so fast or jump so high; not that I could ever do either very well even when I was at the peak of adolescence. I still may not be a super person in Eternity, but the Scriptures tell me that not only will my body be different, but it will not decay, nor will I be in constant pain. God will give me a transformed new spiritual body that will fit my eternal life with Him. For, “There are bodies in the heavens, and there are bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the beauty of the earthly bodies.” – (I Corinthians 15: 40. NLT).

What happens, though, to those who are Saved but who are still alive when Christ comes again? Well, the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians what He got directly from the Lord. Paul said, “I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever.”  -- (I Thessalonians 4: 15-17. NLT). 

That “forever” is Eternity. Christ will not only give new bodies to those whose bodies were in the grave, but He will also give glorified new bodies to those who are alive and caught up in the air to meet Him. Moreover, with the word “forever” the Scriptures have again assured us of having a Heavenly Eternity with God. But if that wasn’t enough assurance, the book of Revelation tells us:

Look, the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” 
-- (Revelation 21: 3, 4. NLT).

Wow! God will make His home among His people. Not only that, but with this Scripture, we have learned that we will not have to worry about sorrow and pain, hurts and disappointments, or evil. There will no longer be crying for any of life’s problems or any pain ever again. What an Eternity! What wonderful bodies we will have! So, why would people refuse to think about this kind of Eternity? Why are do some people refuse to accept Christ as their Savior? Is it “Pride” in thinking that they have all the answers and don’t need God, or is it just simple stubbornness? Someday when we get to Heaven, we will finally understand. In the meantime, we are to continue to share the Good News of Christ and Eternity with our mentees and others who need to hear about Christ.

Love and Joy: What it is and How to Share it

We cannot know everything about Eternity, but we can know from God’s Holy Word, that not only will we receive the joy of attaining new spiritual bodies, but there will also be eternal joy for those who love God and His Son, Jesus Christ. True and complete “Joy”, though, comes from love. However, because we are generally self-centered selfish beings, it is hard to understand that joy comes from loving others as we love ourselves. But, when we are “re-born” and are given a new life, we finally begin to understand what true selfless love is. Through Christ we begin to have a desire to love others and think less of ourselves. As God’s children, we are to start the process of learning about and developing “Love” while we are here on earth. For, it is through our understanding of love and in our learning how to love those who even seem to be unlovable that we can acquire the type of love that brings us the joy that God wants all of us to have. It is by loving others and the subsequent joy attained through helping others that we will experience true and complete Joy in Eternity.

 Christ explained to His followers, while He was here on earth, just how joy comes from love. He told His disciples that He was the vine and they were the branches and that they were to produce much fruit for the Lord. (See John 15. 5). Their fruit production would lead to joy. The disciples subsequent joy would come from their love of Christ and their love for others. For, in loving others enough to tell them about Christ and the Good News, even when their lives were in danger, the disciples were giving the greatest gift of love. This love would produce joy. In other words, all fruit production requires love. Love then brings us joy. For, in loving others, we are giving of ourselves. There is nothing more joyful than knowing that you have given of yourself for the Lord. Christ said:

I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey me, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father and remain in His love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you.
– (John 15: 9-12. NLT).

This brings me back to the “Fruit of the Spirit” that I mentioned earlier. True love and joy comes from developing the characteristics of Christ while we are here on earth. These characteristics of Christ’s are embodied in the “Fruit of the Spirit”. Developing Christ’s characteristics in our own lives will then lead to fruit production which comes from loving others. Then, when we produce fruit for the Kingdom of God through our deeds of love for others, we will receive joy in our hearts. However, we have to work at embodying Christ’s characteristics. They do not come automatically when we are “Saved”. Yes, we can have some quantity of His characteristics, or we may have five of Christ’s characteristics listed in the “Fruit of the Spirit” but then really need to work on the other four. No matter how many of Christ's characteristics we have, the Holy Spirit is there to help us develop and attain Christ’s other attributes or characteristics if we are willing to listen and work on acquiring them.

We live in a fallen world, so we have to constantly deal with the evil of this world as well as the evil of our sinful nature. However, when we are “Saved” Christ gives us the Holy Spirit Who will live in us. The Holy Spirit will not only comfort and guide us, but He will also help us to overcome our sinful nature and open our eyes to the evil within the world. But, we still have free choice, so it is up to us to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to overcome our sinful nature and in order to be aware of the evil that surrounds us. For, “The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just the opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us the desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from conflict.

With Salvation, though, the Holy Spirit introduces us to the character traits of Christ. Then, if we are willing to strive to encompass those traits, He will produce these characteristics of Christ’s within us. These traits are only acquired when we allow Christ to control our behaviors and actions through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as we grow in Christ’s love. So, the only way to acquire or embody the “Fruit of the Spirit” is to join our life to that of Christ’s and listen to the Holy Spirit’s directions for our life. In other words, we must come to know Christ, constantly think upon Him, and imitate His characteristics and love, as we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives and then we will receive the joy of eternal life. For,

“… when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. …”

In other words,
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross, and crucified them there.– (Galatians 5: 17, 22 -24. NLT). We can now acquire the nine characteristics of the "Fruit of the Spirit."

Certainly, we can find love and joy while we here on earth. But, it will be nothing like the love and joy we will receive in Eternity in Heaven. As Christians living here on earth, though, it is our responsibility to not only acquire the “Fruit of the Spirit”, but to share that “Fruit” or the traits of Christ’s with others whom we encounter. As Active Relational Christian Mentors, but more importantly as Christians, we are to love others as ourselves, and we are to show them the attributes or traits of Christ’s as seen within our lives, i.e. others should be able to see Christ through our loving words and behaviors.

Sometimes the only way another person will ever see Christ and want to find out more about Him, is when they see Christ in the face and behaviors of a Christian. Then, they may want to know more about what makes us so peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, loving and joyful within our spirit and in our actions. If we have the self-control acquired through listening to the Holy Spirit, they will see that there is a difference in our lives. It is then that we can tell them about Christ and Eternity in Heaven.

Completely embodying the “Fruit of the Spirit” does not come immediately upon receiving Salvation, although we immediately have the desire to live for Christ and be more like Him. To acquire all of Christ’s traits, though, we must strive to live for Him, and we must let Him control our lives. Sometimes, too, we have to work on a particular characteristic more than one of the others, because we struggle with it or we just don’t let the Holy Spirit guide us in that area. For example, if a person is very impatient, that might be an area that she needs to focus on, so that she can acquire the attribute of patience. Obviously, Christians are not perfect, so we must constantly work at living for Christ. But, we can find the love and joy that Christ wants us to have, and we can build upon that love and joy until it is time to go home to Eternity with God.

Finding Joy

We cannot imagine what the disciples were thinking as Christ told them over and over again and in different ways throughout His ministry that He would be crucified and then three days later arise from the grave. Certainly, the disciples had a hard time understanding that Christ would be killed and resurrected only to leave them to go be with His Father in Heaven until He returned again. It must have sounded like Christ was talking in circles. To make matters worse, they had just begun to understand the love and joy associated with knowing Christ as the Son of God, and now Christ was again talking to them about leaving.

Finally, some of the disciples got together and questioned each other as they asked: “What does it mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father?”  -- (John 16: 17. NIV).  The disciples wanted to know what these phrases meant. But, within these words Jesus’ had again told the disciples that He would leave them, yet at the same time He was giving them the assurance of their Heavenly Eternity. For, Jesus said He would leave and then come again to take them to be with Him and His Father.

Although Jesus wasn’t actually listening to their conversation and to the questions they were asking each other, He knew what they were discussing. So, Jesus came up to them and explained the phrase “a little while” this way: Christ said, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices,[Christ was talking about His crucifixion]. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So, with you; Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy.”  -- (John 16: 20-22. NIV). With this analogy Christ was assuring them that not only would He arise from the grave, and they would see Him then, but that they would also see Him when He returned from Heaven, and they would have eternal joy.

It was in their listening to Christ’s High Priestly Prayer, though, that the disciples finally began to get a glimpse of what Christ had been trying to explain to them. For, in praying out loud to God, His Father, Jesus prayed: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them. I have given them Your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You (Father) take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the Truth: Your Word is Truth. … Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent me. I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love you have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them.” – (John 17: 13-17, 25, 26. NIV).

The disciples had a relationship with Christ, and they had love and joy in their hearts. They had also been told that at some point they would go to Heaven to be with Christ and His Father. Although they would be sad for a little while when Christ went back to Heaven, Christ had told them that they were to share their hearts of love and joy in knowing Him along with the Good News with other people. For, they were sanctified by the Truth, and they would be protected from the evil in this world until their job for Christ was finished. Then, they would go to Heaven to be with the Lord and have an eternal relationship with Christ and His Father in Heaven.

The key to true joy is having a relationship with Christ and then sharing that relationship with Christ with others. The joy that we have in knowing Christ and in being assured of eternity is one that is based on the love of God and His Son. The Love of Christ enters our hearts when we accept Christ as our Savior, along with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is when we take that love and share it with the world that our love turns into joy. Finally, when we have been fruitful for and obedient to God, we are on our way to embodying a true love and joy that will transcend this earth and blossom as a flower in Eternal Heaven.

When we share our love of Christ with others, we are not only sharing our love and joy, but we are helping others to find God’s Heavenly Eternity too. We are teaching or explaining the difference between an Eternity in Hell and an Eternity in Heaven. How wonderful it will be to someday see all the people with whom you have shared the Truth of Salvation and the Truth of Eternity when you actually get to Heaven. What a glorious reunion that will be. You can do it. You can share the love and joy of Eternity In Heaven with those who need to hear the Truth.

You can mentor others for Christ. You can mentor others in developing the “Fruit of the Spirit”. You can mentor others in learning a new skill, or in acquiring some knowledge. However, with every person you mentor or with each help that you give to another person, you are producing fruit, and you are passing on not only love and joy in Christ, but you are passing on the existence and the assurance of an eternal home in Heaven. For, people see Christ and Eternity in your face and in your actions. Furthermore, many of you will now be able to use God’s Holy Scriptures to tell others of God’s assurances of Eternity too.

I hope you are enjoying learning about the assurances that God has given us about our Eternal home in Heaven, for Heaven is real. Eternity is real. Whether or not you get there just depends on whether or not you accept God and His Son, Jesus Christ’s Gift of Salvation. Next week I will discuss Assurance Six. In the meantime, share what you have learned with others.

May God bless each of you!

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