Sunday, June 11, 2017

Psalm 16:11 Heaven Series #6. In Heaven Will We Be Bored to Death?

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.  Psalm 16:11(NLT)
Last Tuesday when coming home from a meeting with other pastors I was listening to David Jeremiah’s Turning Point broadcast, and when he gave the title of his teaching that would be aired for Wednesday and Thursday I was absolutely astonished; he said he would be answering the question: 
Won’t Heaven Be Boring?
I have to confess that I have in the past wondered – even worried – about what might be a boring existence sitting on a cloud pew in heaven all day, every day, just strumming a harp in a worship service that lasted for all eternity. 
I’ve been waiting three months to get to this message.  In planning this series I knew this was going to be the most challenging, but also the most rewarding look at what Heaven will be like.  It’s challenging because there’s a lot of holy digging to sift through the huge pile of written stuff about Heaven.  It’s rewarding because you get to put some really wrong thinking on the chopping block and maybe see some lives changed because of a more accurate picture of Heaven.
Many people, like I was, are under the impression that Heaven will be one long slumber party, or some somber, stodgy repetitious liturgy, complete with Latin chants and old boring people being old and boring.  No fun, no way!
But this is simply ignorance; I didn’t know Heaven won’t be like that because nobody ever took the time to point out to me that, far from boring, heaven is going to be the most exciting, fascinating, fun and fulfilling experience that earth, as we know it, can never provide.
David Jeremiah’s message lived up to destroying that false image.  He said a lot over two days, but if I can just give you a sentence or two to brush the high points, this is what he taught:
The main reason Heaven won't be boring is that God Himself is not boringAnd you won’t be boring; neither will your friends be boring.  There will be so much to do, and all of it will be interesting, challenging and over-the-top exciting.  We will worship, but it won’t be because we are forced by anyone; we will worship because we just can’t get enough of hanging out with God, Jesus, the disciples and all the really interesting people of history.[ii]  
Now THAT’S Good News!
I’ve mentioned often enough in this series that I’m depending a good bit on Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.  Chapter 41 is titled Will Heaven Ever Be Boring?   He begins with a couple of illustrative quotes that give us a clue as to why so many people either publicly or privately have their doubts about even wanting to think about going to Heaven.  Consider:
A common misconception about eternity surfaced in an episode of Star Trek:  Voyager.  A member of the undying [or immortals] “Q continuum” longs for an end to his existence.  Why?  Because, he complains, everything that could be said and done has already been said and done, and now there’s only repetition and utter boredom.  He says, “For us, the disease is immortality.”  Finally he’s allowed to end his existence. 
Science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov writes, “I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more.  For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”[iii]
It’s easy to understand why some people, even church members, secretly have a problem with what’s coming after this life.  When all your information comes from a simplistic view of going through the pearly gates, getting a harp, crown, and a set of angel’s wings, and sitting on a cloud for a zillion years strumming hymns, why would anyone look forward to that kind of sterile, uninteresting and just plain booring eternity? 
When you have a wrong idea about heaven your whole pile of enthusiasm for going there could fit in a thimble. 
Truthfully, that kind of thinking about Heaven can only produce a profound hope that the whole idea of eternity is a hoax, that there is no such place.  The only other kind of hope is that, if it does exist, maybe it won’t be so bad. 
Either way, a boring Heaven is not a pretty thing!
Now, contrast all that with the happiest moment of your life.  Maybe you had a surprise birthday party; I did once when I was 16.  I was really bummed because it seemed like nobody wanted to be with me on my birthday.  Then a friend brought me to the house of another friend and there were 50 people yelling “surprise”!  It was better than ice cream to know I was loved.
There’s a word for that feeling – its joy!  And Heaven is full to overflowing with it!
Is that just wishful thinking?  No; rather it’s being faithful to what Jesus taught about living with God in Heaven.  In Matthew’s Gospel account Jesus told the story of servants of a rich man, some who were faithful to their master’s wishes, and some who weren’t.  When there was an accounting of all that was done, this is what the Master said to the faithful servants:
‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’  Matthew 25:21(GNT)
This tells us a number of things about how living with God will be.  First, he recognizes those who love Him and are willing to serve Him.  Secondly, those who are faithful in this life will be given more responsibility in the life to come.  And thirdly, faithfulness here will mean sharing in His joy then. 
What did you learn there?  Have you ever known a really bored person to be joyful?  Turn to someone and say:  When I am bored, I’m boring, not joyful!
Remember, God is anything but boring.  We are just now beginning to unlock (with the aid of computers and telescopes) some of the simpler mysteries of God’s universe.  It’s only taken us 6,000 years of civilization to figure out the baby steps of God’s ways.  We had to wait for Einstein to come along to help us understand the basics for unlocking the atom. 
By comparison with our struggle to even understand our planet, God simply spoke all we know into existence.  Do you think it will be boring to be around that kind of power, energy, light and overwhelming love?  Considering He’s already died for you…that will be better than the average surprise party for a 16 year old!
When God got done with the creative process He pronounced it to be good…very good!  Frankly, everything God’s hand touches, or is spoken into existence carries the very same nature of the One who created…not boring, joyful!
a few specifics about the joy god has planned for us

1.     Work – we will help god run the universe

In that Matthew passage Jesus tells the story of the talents, where a rich business man goes on a trip and entrusts his fortune and business dealings to his servants.  When he returns there’s an accounting, and some have done what the master instructed, and some have goofed off. 
In telling that story Jesus began with: 
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by…Matthew 25:14a(NLT)
And he ended with: 
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.  Let’s celebrate together!’  Matthew 25:23(NLT)
He was repeating for the disciples what it will be like for faithful stewards of time, tithes, talent and testimony…faithfulness in little things will result in God entrusting more and bigger things. 
And don’t forget the joyful celebration!

2.     Assurance of the joy we will experience then, based on god’s original plan for all creation

We are in for a lot of changes…all of them first class!  A first and primary change is the realization of everything we’ve ever felt is missing:
In his book Things Unseen pastor Mark Buchanan asks, Why won’t we be bored in heaven?  Because it’s the one place where both impulses – to go beyond, to go home – are perfectly joined and totally satisfied.  It’s the one place where we’re constantly discovering – where everything is always fresh and the possessing of a thing is as good as the pursuing of it – and yet where we are fully at home – where everything is as it ought to be and where we find, undiminished, that mysterious something we never found down here….And this lifelong melancholy that hangs on us, this wishing we were someone else somewhere else, vanishes too.  Our craving to go beyond is always and fully realized.  Our yearning for home is once and for all fulfilled.  The ahh! of deep satisfaction and the aha! Of delighted surprise meet, and they kiss.[iv]
Because of a sad, tragic childhood, C.S. Lewis was an atheist early in life, and quite militantly hostile towards God, God’s church, and God’s people.  It was not until his middle 30’s he finally began to be honest with himself about all that and he began to recognize the truth.  He became one of Christianity’s premier apologists, helping us to know the fulfillment awaiting us in heaven:
"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists.  A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."[v]

3.     Fun – we are hardwired for joy

Once again, from Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven:
I believe our resurrection bodies will have adrenaline and the ability to feel.  On the New Earth we may experience adventures that make our current mountain climbs, surfing, skydiving, and upside-down roller coaster rides seem tame.  Why do I say this?  It’s more than wishful thinking.  It’s an argument from design.  We take pleasure in exhilarating experiences not because of sin, but because God wired us this way.  We weren’t made to sit all day in dark rooms, watching actors pretend to live and athletes do what we can’t.  We were made to live vibrant lives.  Some of us are physically limited, and others are emotionally unable to handle too much excitement.  But those are just temporary conditions.  There’s a new world coming – and a new us.[vi]
A new world, and a new us…and all joy!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

[i] Title image: Russell Brownworth, Thunder Struck Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway, 2006
[ii] Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, radio broadcast, June 7-8, 2017
[iii] Randy Alcorn, Heaven, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2004), p.409
[iv] Alcorn, p.410, quoting Mark Buchanan in Things Unseen, (Sisters, Ore, Multnomah, 2002), p.76 (emphasis mine)
[v] (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")
[vi] Randy Alcorn, Heaven, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2004), p.429

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