Sunday, December 6, 2015

Mentoring on the Assurances We are Given about Eternity -- Part II

Christians know that we will someday live in eternity, and we will get to see Christ every day. We eagerly await the time when Christ will return to take us home. However, if we die before Christ returns that is okay too. For, Christians are not afraid to die, because we know that we have a glorious home waiting for us in eternity. But how do we know for sure that we will live forever with God?

How can you know for sure that you will live forever with God? Many times non-believers will ask Christians this question, and we need to be able to give them an answer. Actually, there are many Scriptures in the Bible that we can refer to, however, along with those Scriptures there are other assurances that God gives to those who accept Christ as their Savior. All of these Scriptures and assurances along with our faith give us the certainty that we are going to Heaven. In fact, God has given us at least ten assurances about the certainty of eternal life. All ten of these assurances give Christians both internal and factual Scriptural knowledge that as “Saved” children of God we will go to eternal Heaven. Let’s go through four of these ten assurances now so that you can share them with your mentees, your family or others who may be interested.

Assurance Number One of Our Eternity with God

God has put eternity in our hearts. (See Ecclesiastes 5: 17). God gave us His Word, i.e. the Bible, so that we can find out the Truth about this life and our life to come. Within the Holy Scriptures are answers to all of life’s questions, if we are just willing to read and study the Bible. But, Assurance Number One is found both in our hearts and in the Bible. 

I talked about this heart assurance last week, but to refresh your memory, every human has a place within their soul that longs for eternity. We instinctively know that there is an eternity because God placed that knowledge in our souls, but God also gives us Scriptures (like Ecclesiastes 5: 17) in His Word to confirm that this knowledge in our souls of eternity is not just fantasy. In the book of Matthew, Christ used a Scripture to explain to his disciples where the righteous people would go:  … the righteous to eternal life.” – (Matthew 25: 46. NIV).

Unfortunately, many people do not know how to get to eternity and still others refuse to accept the fact that the path to eternity is through God’s offered gift of Salvation and belief in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of God. Still others allow pride in who they think they are and in what they think they know to stand in the way of believing in God. So, they certainly are not going to easily believe that God sent His Son to die for their sins. How sad for those who refuse to believe, because they think they have such great intellects or that their beliefs are better than the Truth. Pride has kept many a person from finding Christ, eternity and the Truth. The Truth is this: “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. In order to see God and have an eternity in Heaven we have to have our sins forgiven and cleansed from us.

When the first man, Adam, sinned, he brought sin and unrighteousness upon all mankind. We are now all born sinners; coming into the world wanting what we want and demanding that we get our way. But, no one can enter into eternal Heaven without being cleansed of their sins. That cleansing only occurs with the blood of Christ. This blood was shed on our behalf by the Son of God who became the sacrificial Lamb of God. 

What a contrast between Adam and Christ… And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gift of forgiveness. For, this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God’s bountiful gift. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” – (Romans 5: 15-17. NLT).

Adam brought judgment and condemnation upon mankind as well as certain physical death. As a result we all sin and we all die a physical death. But what is worse is that our sin brings a spiritual death that keeps us from a righteous God who cannot look upon sin. But, God loves us and does not want even one of us to perish, so He sent His only Son to earth so that we could trade judgment and condemnation, which leads to an eternal spiritual death, for forgiveness and eternal life with God. 

Through belief in Christ as our risen Lord and Savior, we can be made righteous and receive eternal life. When we repent of our sins and ask Christ to come into our hearts, because we believe in Christ as the risen Son of God, we then want to be baptized. When we are baptized, we are acknowledging that we have died to sin, and like Christ that we have arisen to a new life. Through baptism and its symbolism of Christ’s death and resurrection we acknowledge that we have died to sin and arisen to a new life no longer trapped by the world’s sin. We have arisen to live new lives for Christ.

Sins power over us has been broken. We are no longer under sins’ power and can now through Christ and the Holy Spirit make decisions that reflect our new nature as a Christian. We also have freedom, for we no longer allow sin to control us. For, when we gave ourselves to God we were freed from the control of this fallen world through its temptations and desires. The Scriptures tell us “… that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with Him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” – (Romans 6: 3,4. NLT). This does not mean that we will never be tempted again, but it does mean that through Christ we can choose to not fall for those temptations. In other words, through Christ we can control what we do. For we have chosen Christ as our master and not sin. By consciously choosing to bury our old sinful life, we are now able to resist the temptations of sin.

The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans explained our transition from spiritual death to spiritual eternal life this way:
Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God who raised Christ from the dead, lives in you. And just as He raised Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.”
– (Romans 9: 10, 11. NLT).

We are assured of the eternity, which God placed in our hearts by both an innate knowledge of eternity and through Biblical Scriptures. The Biblical Scriptures assure us of eternity through the Words of Christ and through the words of the Apostles. But the greatest assurance comes through the transition that takes place within our souls when we ask Christ to come into our heart. For with Salvation comes a new feeling. It is the feeling of finally being made right with God. It is the feeling of a personal closeness of Christ in our life, since He now lives in us. Moreover, it is the comfort we receive from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that assures us that we will have an eternal home with God.

Assurance Number Two of Our Eternity with God

We have the assurance of an eternity in Heaven through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Father. Through His (God’s) Story, i.e. through The Word of God, which is the Bible, God has given us much information about eternity so we will easily understand the message and method of Salvation. In reading those Scriptures we discover that it is through the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Father that God assures us that we will spend eternity with Him.

Scriptures give us an explanation for our need for Salvation as well as to why Salvation is required for our eternity with God. We are told that not only is every human a sinner and that “all have fallen short of the glory of God,” but that there is a payment that has to be made for all that sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that “For the wages of sin (i.e. the payment that has to be made) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  -- (Romans 6: 23. NIV). We are also told that it is only upon our death or when Christ comes to take us home that we can receive this gift of eternity with God.

To explain God’s gift of Salvation and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, Christ was sent to earth to offer us God’s gift of a saving relationship with Christ. Christ told us that we are all sinners and that He would die for our sins, which He did. However, it is only through belief in Christ as our Savior and belief in Him as the resurrected Son of God that we can have the assurance of eternal life. This belief in Christ and the moment of Salvation or the moment that we asked Christ into our heart, means that we want to have a personal relationship with Christ. This relationship starts when we ask Christ to forgive us and come into our heart. Christ then lives within each “born-again” person. But, like any relationship we must nurture it and cherish it. For this new relationship gives us the assurance of an eternal life with God and Jesus Christ.

In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ tells all of us how to receive eternal life. Throughout Christ’s ministry, He speaks of our eternal home with God and Him. But, it is in His High Priestly Prayer in John chapter 17, that we find Christ’s specific words about the importance of having a relationship with the Son and God the Father in order to gain entrance into eternity. During this prayer, Christ prayed for his disciples and all the people who will come to believe in Him. For, Christ said in His prayer to His Father, God:
“… Glorify your Son so He can give glory back to you. For You have given him authority over everyone in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one You have given Him. and this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one You sent to earth.” – (John 17: 3. NLT).

To know God we have to start developing that relationship with Christ and God when we ask Christ to forgive us and come into our hearts. Yes, our true Salvation is entrance into Heaven. Once we are “Saved” we know for a certainty and have the assurance that we will be going to Heaven. But it is what we do with our Salvation while here on earth that determines our rewards in Heaven and the type of responsibility that we will be given in Heaven. Our relationship and our responsibility is more than just praying to God through Jesus Christ, although that is important.

Like in any relationship, there are things that we do to lovingly help the other person. We do them because we want to do them for the other person, not because we have to. There are also things that we talk about with the other person in order to understand each other and draw closer to each other. The relationship with Christ is no different. Once we recognize that we want to have a relationship with Christ and are “Saved,” we have an innate desire to help others and do good things for God’s people and the Kingdom of God. We want to help Christ’s name to be known throughout the world. Sometimes, though, we have obstacles that face us like other family members that ridicule us or friends that leave us, because we have given our life to Christ. At other times a person may simply feel that the cost of a relationship with Christ is too high. The Bible gives us an example of how hard that truly living for Christ can be and how difficult it can be to give up things in order to have and to develop and maintain our relationship with Christ. The following story about a failed relationship is found in the book of Matthew.

A rich young man came to Jesus Christ and wanted to know how to receive eternal life. After speaking to the young man about the importance of keeping the commandments and what the young man had done so far in life, Christ told him to give his riches to the poor and needy. However, the young man could not let go of his money. Christ was not saying that only the poor can enter into eternity, but He was telling the young man that his desire for God and his desire for doing what God wanted him to do had to be greater than his earthly desires, such as the desire for money, in order to enter eternity. Christ knew this man’s heart was not in the right place. Unfortunately, the young man’s desire for money was greater than his desire for a relationship with God and Christ.

The disciples, however, thought that if this good young rich man could not enter into Heaven, then who could enter?  So, the disciples said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” But Jesus responded, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”  But Peter still didn’t understand so he said, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get in return?

Leave it to “blunt” Peter to just say what was on his mind. However, Christ was not insulted. Instead, Christ said, “I assure you that when I, the Son of Man, sit upon My glorious throne in the Kingdom, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses, or brother, or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life.”  -- (Matthew 19: 21- 29. NLT).

Christ’s disciples will, indeed, receive great rewards for their relationship with Christ and for their service and obedience to God while on earth. One of their rewards will be that they will get to sit on the twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel in eternity. Our rewards in eternity will also come from faithful service and obedience to God while we are here on earth. But to be faithful in service and obedient to God we each have to first begin and then develop and maintain our relationship with Christ and the Father. The first reward we receive is the cleansing of our sins as we believe and trust in Christ. With this reward is the assurance of our eternity spent with God and Christ. However, if we are willing to make sacrifices now for the Kingdom of God, we will receive even greater rewards in eternity. If you read the Newer Testament through you will find all the different types of rewards that Christians can receive in Heaven when they truly develop a relationship with Christ by turning their lives over to Him. Service brings rewards as does sharing the Gospel message with others so that they, too, can develop a relationship with Christ and the Father.

Assurance Number Three about Eternity with God

We are assured of eternal life through our faith and our fruitfulness (obedience). Eternal life does not come just because we are “good”. For, we cannot be good enough nor can we do enough good things to get into Heaven. Sadly, many people think that because they are “good” or think that if they do many caring and kind things for others that they will get into Heaven. But, no amount of human goodness will get a person into Heaven. The only way to get into Heaven is to have faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. It is our faith in Christ and our desire to be fruitful that gets us into Heaven.
Jesus taught about faith and fruitfulness to His disciples. He told them: “Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name, and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away: the things you did were unauthorized.’” – (Mt. 7: 21-23. NLT).  In fact, it is only our faith inspired acceptance of Christ as our Savior and our obedience to Him that will gain us entrance into Heaven.

It is through our faith in and belief in Christ as the resurrected Son of God that we can receive immortality and peace. “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”  -- (Romans 5: 1, 2. NIV). Our peace is in knowing that faith in Christ has brought us immortality. Because of faith, we can enter the Heavenly Kingdom of God for all eternity. “… For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’” – (Galatians 3: 11. NLT).

The Apostle John wrote that “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children (other believers) too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey His commandments. … And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. So whoever has God’s Son has (eternal) life; whoever does not have His Son does not have (eternal) life.” – (I John 5: 1, 2, 11. NLT). So it is, indeed, in believing. i.e. in our faith and obedience and willingness to follow God’s Commandments, that gives us eternal life. Don’t turn away from Christ and the Heavenly Father. For, God has assured us that our faith and obedience will give us eternal life with Him.

Assurance Number Four about Eternal life with God

Assurance number four comes from the Holy Spirit. Remember, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. But before the Holy Spirit indwells a person, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to nudge the person into making a decision about God and His Son. Some people will listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit and accept Christ as their Savior, but others won’t. Indeed, no one is forced to believe in Christ, because we all have “free will”. However, if we do listen to the words of others who are giving us the Gospel message and if we pay attention to the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit, we can then open our hearts to receive Salvation. Once we listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and then accept the cleansing love of Christ’s blood, we are made righteous before God. It is then that we then know that we have the assurance of eternity, because Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us.

It is the Holy Spirit within each “born again” person that guarantees we will have everlasting life. The Holy Spirit guarantees our eternity with God. Not only that, but it is the Holy Spirit who guarantees that we will have new bodies at the resurrection of those who are dead at the time that Christ returns or for those who are still alive. “And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as His children, including the new bodies He has promised us. Now that we are Saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom.” – (Romans 8: 23, 24. NLT). Notice that we are told that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the future glory in Heaven. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee or assurance of our eternal and resurrected life with Christ. 

The Apostle Paul further explains the impact that the Holy Spirit has on our lives through the following Scriptures:
For we know that when this earthly tent (body) we live in is taken down – when we die and leave these bodies – we will have a home in heaven, and eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For, we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new Heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us His Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.  That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So our aim is to please Him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.”  -- (II Corinthians 5: 1-10. NLT).

I put this long Scripture in here to show you that God tells us through His Holy Spirit that we are to be with Him. The Holy Spirit shows us what a better place we will be in even if that showing is not yet visual but only in our souls and hearts. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit in us who assures and promises us (true “born-again Christians) that we have eternal life. For, Jesus told His disciples that “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). For those who have believed on Christ, the Holy Spirit assures us daily of our home now awaiting us in Heaven. Because this assurance is in our hearts, we anxiously await Christ’s return.

Unfortunately, just as Jesus said, “…some of you don’t believe Me” we have people today that won’t believe that Christ offers eternal life to all those who believe on Him. They will not see God’s eternity of love, rather they will see an eternity of death and loveless pain. But for those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are assured of our future home.

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. … God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Those who are dominated by their sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace…. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living within you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living within them are not Christians at all). … The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as He raised Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.”
 – (Romans 8: 1,3,5,6,9,11. NLT).

Be sure that you tell your mentees and others that you share your life with that God loves them and wants them to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. You can tell them, too, that those who believe on Christ are no longer afraid of dying. If Christians die before Christ returns, we know that we will go to Heaven. However, some people will not die before Christ returns. But, they, too, will see Heaven.

 “But let me tell you a wonderful secret. God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians, who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For, our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. When this happens – when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die – then at the Scriptures will come true:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – I Corinthians 15: 51-57. NLT). 

Christians are not afraid of death even if we die before Christ returns to earth, because there is no longer any sting to death, and we have the Holy Spirit in us giving the assurance of eternal life. Whether we die first or we are alive when Christ returns, all true “born-again” Christians will have transformed bodies. I don’t know about you, but I long for that perfect transformed body that has no pain, no imperfections or health problems. Christ has given us the Holy Spirit to give us this constant hope and assurance of a better life to come after we die or are transformed.

I have run out of time for this week, but I will continue later with the other six assurances that God has given us about Eternal life in Heaven. In the meantime, do some studying. Look up “eternity” in your Bible concordance. You may find other Scriptures that give you even more insight into your future with God. But if you don’t presently have the assurance of a future with God, you need to get down on your knees and pray to God. If you truly are repentant for your sins and if you truly believe that Christ died and arose for your sins and that He is now back in Heaven with His Father awaiting His time to come and call us all home, then please take a moment to ask Christ to come into your Heart.

You will be amazed at the difference in your life that a relationship with Christ and God can make. You will be surprised and happy about your internal assurance from the Holy Spirit that you are now a child of God’s. You will want to shout for joy and tell the world what Christ has done for you. If you decide to believe in and ask Christ into your heart, please send me an email to let me know so that I can rejoice with you. Then find a Christian mentor who can help you grow closer to God and Christ each and every day. Your mentor may also be able to help you find a way to serve Christ while you are here on earth.

If you are “Saved”, please think about mentoring others for the Lord. Whether you are mentoring a non-believer about Salvation or you are mentoring a Christian friend, know that you are doing a wonderful thing for the Kingdom of God. As a Christian we all can serve the Lord in some way or another, and Active Relational Christian Mentoring is an awesome way to serve. You can Do It!

May God Bless you all!

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