“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6(NLT)
Almost everyone who has read the Book of Acts and some of Paul's epistles has marveled at the Apostle's confidence in Christ. Paul could say: I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day. He could survey his choices and say, I'd rather be with the Lord. He was ready to be offered up as a sacrifice (martyred). Paul knew where he was going, and to what and to Whom he was going.
Have you wondered how a person can be that convinced? Some of it has to do with the fact that Paul had already seen heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). He saw the glories of heaven, but was not permitted to talk about them. As he walked in this life, Paul carried with him a picture of the next life in his heart and memory. He knew what was waiting at home.
When I am away from home at a conference or seminar, I cannot wait to get home. I know my wife and daughter are waiting for me. I can't wait for their company. I even want to see Gracie, the wonder dog, and Wellie, the Methodist terrorist! Others don't know my home, but I do; and I can't wait to get there to see them.
Our text today shows us our assurance of heaven, no matter what is happening on earth.
The context is that Jesus is talking to His disciples about leaving; He knows he is about to be arrested, taken to the authorities and crucified. The disciples are getting nervous about what is to become of them; so Jesus gives them comforting words of assurance about what is going to happen.
Jesus was going to entrust the work of the Kingdom of God to these men, and you serve better when you're sure, so Jesus tells the disciples three things about the eternal Kingdom of God…the place (new heaven/earth), the promises (what it will be like), and the person Who loves them (unendingly and unconditionally):
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? John 14:1-2(NLT)
Jesus says that He is going to thoroughly prepare a dwelling place for those of His family.
What kind of place will it be?
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church he says that we haven't even begun to imagine the wonder of God's heaven. Revelation describes gates of pearl, streets of gold, jewels and splendor everywhere. The dimensions are given, and we guess at a bunch more. But one thing is certain; it will be wonderful beyond our wildest dreams.
Revelation 22:3 says that …his servants shall serve him. The curse, or hard part, of work will be removed, and all the joy in accomplishing tasks that we love to do will be ours. (I am personally looking forward to working on my computer without the thing crashing and losing all my work!) There will be wonderful and enjoyable work to do in glory as we serve our King.
Revelation 19:1-8 is one of the greatest pictures of worship ever drawn. Handel drew his text for the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus from this passage. In Heaven we will never cease to praise the Lord.
Theologian Karl Barth loved the music of Mozart. He said in heaven the angels play Bach when God is around, and Mozart at all other times.
C.S. Lewis said he hoped heaven would be filled with good cigars that never burn up. Ed Howe once said: The few men who have managed to reach heaven must be terribly spoiled by this time.
I know being that close to the throne of God will spoil me – and I don't intend to back off one bit!
When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3(NLT)
Jesus said that he would come back. Having come once for us, he will return to receive us. That word virtually means to embrace, or draw us close.
There are a number of folks I am planning on seeing again. My grandmother, Mom and Dad will be there; I miss them.
There are countless others I've never even met that are part of my family in Christ. John Lockhart wrote:
It's an old belief that on some solemn shore,
Beyond the sphere of grief, dear friends shall meet once more.[ii]
People have told me the first thousand years or so, they just want to sit down and rest. We are going to work in heaven, but along with work that will be so satisfying, will be the ability to be at genuine rest.
That is something missing from our society these days. We get up early to rush to work to earn the money to buy our homes, feed our families so we can have a bed to sleep in, so we can get up early and rush to work....the treadmill will be missing in heaven, but I won’t miss it!
Jim Henry quotes Richard Baxter:
Rest, how sweet a word to my ears! Rest! Not as a stone at rest upon the earth but a blessed rest where we shall rest from sin but not from worship, from suffering and sorrow, but not from solace. Blessed day when I shall rest with God, perfect soul and body together – in perfect things perfectly enjoying the most perfect God."[iii]
And finally, notice please that the place and the promise are based upon:
When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6(NLT)
Jesus says we know the place and the promises. He talks about assurance that comes from faith in Him.
...is the attempt to reach up to God. Man has an instinct for God.
Wherever man is, there is an expression of that instinct, reaching up to find God. The Egyptians made their pyramids and statues. They worshipped the sun, moon and stars. Animals are worshipped, philosophies and man himself. All of it is an attempt to find God. In ancient
invented a god for childbirth. It had
the feet of a lion, shoulders and breasts of a woman, belly of a hippopotamus,
and head of a crocodile. (Try that in
the birthing suite!) Egypt
We would say we are more sophisticated than that. Well, we'd like to think we are more advanced. However, man does not change. For instance, Communism is a form of religion. It had its Bible (manifesto), its savior (Karl Marx), its prophets, heretics, even its heaven (the utopian society out yonder). Manmade religion is an attempt to create a God that doesn’t scare you.
But people need something much larger than them...a religion to consume their energy and imagination. I met a man once who claimed to be a Unitarian. I asked him to explain his faith to me. He described it as a very scholarly/ethereal study of all religions. He said: We believe its okay to believe whatever you believe. We do a lot of concerts and lectures...its kinda artsy/craftsy/fun and warmth. I asked him if his religion was sufficient to die for. He said: No. I told him I needed something important enough to die for; otherwise it wasn't sufficient enough to die with.
The point is will your religion bring you to God? In reality, no religion will. The flow (in religion) is all reaching up to God. The fact is: He can't be reached.
Since man cannot reach God, the only option was for God to reach man. A young man gets a job in a distant city, away from his family. There he gets in trouble, and is arrested.
He posts bail, goes home to his little rented room and thinks, If only my Father were here. He is wise and a good man. He could help. So the boy calls his Dad on the phone, explains the situation. The Father could give some advice, wire some money, and be done with it. But the Father tells his son, I'll be in touch. He hangs up the phone, puts on his coat, backs the car out of the garage and drives to the city. A knock on the door, a moment passes, the son opens the door, and the embraces and tears begin.
I have stood beside many graves. I have looked into the faces of hundreds of family members. There are two kinds only – those without hope, and those with assurance. Those without hope have either ignored God altogether, living their lives totally self-absorbed – or they have trusted in religious activities to reach God. In some way their goodness was supposed to impress God and make everything all right.
Those with hope found their assurance in Jesus Christ. He is the way, truth and life...the only way! Jesus is like the telephone in the story of the young man. No man calls home to the Father, except on His line. It is the only way to an untroubled heart.
Sometimes a preacher finds himself on the other side of the pulpit. That has been my lot for the past 5 weeks as I have occupied a pew while someone else broke the Bread of Life in worship. Every time that it is my privilege to listen while someone else speaks, I find it humbling to know that God will use a sermon, anyone’s sermon (including some of mine) to speak to my heart words of comfort, strength and assurance.
Two weeks ago I sat listening to Mr. Siers at Pleasant Hill share a message of hope for the poor. It struck me that, although I do not live in financial poverty as much of the world does, I am included in that category of poor because I am facing a physical mountain, over which I have no control, and can do nothing at all; I am health poor!
So, like an immigrant coming to a new country, or a homeless mother of three approaching the line at a shelter, or an accused man before the bar, Russell will have to place himself in someone else’s hands; I will have to trust an oncologist, and some technicians, but primarily God’s grace.
And like John Wesley, who, when he trusted Christ alone for salvation that fateful evening at Aldersgate Church, felt his heart strangely warmed, I find my heart and soul strangely untroubled.
Now, this untroubled heart wasn’t always that way. It is not characteristic of me to not worry about all the details and how things are going to happen. Anxiety is a natural condition for people who are control freaks; it is not an easy thing to relinquish the reins connected to my life’s horse…to let someone else drive.
But you can do that, you can let go, and let God with an untroubled heart that is at peace.
My heart wasn’t always untroubled, especially where eternity is concerned.
I knew Jesus had died on the cross, and that His sacrifice satisfied all Gods requirement for having my sins forgiven. I knew those details with my mind, but my heart wondered:
· I know that works for others…but does He really know all the stuff I did and thought?
· How is He going to do that…forgive…I have trouble forgiving others?
· Why would He do that…is this a trick?
· What’s the catch…do I have to be a missionary, go to Africa, and get eaten by cannibals?
Somehow, against the best, reasoned and intellectual human judgment and anxiety of an introverted control freak, I decided to trust God anyway.
And the more I trusted him, the bigger His love grew.
And the bigger His love grew, the more I was able to trust Him.
And through the gift of life and hard times, good times, growing times and stagnant, fallow times on the shelf, my heart has looked at what God has done and decided not to trouble itself with anything this world can throw at me.
You know, this cancer thing is just God’s gift of a test that shows me just how much peace that passes all understanding God can stuff in a preacher’s heart, or your heart!
My question to you is…do you have that calm assurance bubbling-up and overflowing your heart?
If you don’t, please trust me when I say you can have it; God wants to give you an untroubled heart!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
[i] Title image: Russell Brownworth, Thunder Struck Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway, 2006
[iii] Jim Henry, Heartwarmers (Nashville, Broadman, 1977), 92