Where Will Christians Really Spend Their Eternity?

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Where Will Christians Really Spend Their Eternity?

James R. Aist

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:3)

I don’t know about you, but somehow I got the impression years ago that when we Christians die and go to heaven, our permanent residence will be in heaven with Jesus, not here on this earth. It would be as if our death would amount to a one-way ticket from earth to heaven, somewhere out in the vastness of the cosmos. Perhaps singing “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through” may have had something to do with this perception. Or maybe it was “Won’t it be wonderful there” or “I’ll fly away“; hymns about being away from this earth and with Jesus in heaven (somewhere else) forever. And its true: when we die, we will go to be with Jesus in heaven forever. But, that’s only part of the story of our journey from earth to our final destination. The rest of the story is, arguably, even more glorious and exciting than the beginning. Let me explain.

This journey of mankind began, of course, when God created Adam and Eve and placed them into the Garden of Eden. God was with them there, and their future would have been life everlasting with God on the earth. But, through the temptation of Satan’s lies, sin entered in and brought with it a spiritual separation of mankind from God (i.e., spiritual death). And that’s the way it was for thousands of years; Satan appeared to have been successful in destroying God’s utopian plan for mankind on the earth. Now the only way for mankind to dwell forever with God was to believe in God (and His promised Messiah), die, vacate the earth and go to heaven, where God was.

There was just one problem, however: the “sin problem.” And Satan knew it. He thought he had succeeded in permanently separating mankind from God spiritually. But God had a solution to this sin problem all along. So, in the fulness of time, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, so that we would not end up in hell, but have everlasting life with God in heaven. That’s fantastic, wouldn’t you say?

But wait. As things stand now, Satan still has succeeded in separating mankind from their rightful, God-given home; namely, planet earth. So here’s where it gets really exciting. When God gives the signal, Jesus will return to the earth with us and defeat Satan and all other evildoers. Then, He will set up His eternal kingdom where? Right here on a renewed planet earth, where it all started! From that time forward, God’s victory over Satan will be complete; we will have returned with Jesus to reclaim the earth as our permanent residence! So its really a round trip, you see. We win, and Satan loses!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

 

 

Letting God Be God

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Letting God Be God

James R. Aist

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

I don’t know about you, but I have had a difficult time surrendering everything – I mean everything – to the sovereignty of God. Now, I’m not talking about mental assent only; even that’s hard enough at times. No, I’m talking about mental assent plus the “no strings attached” submission and obedience to God’s sovereign will that makes mental assent genuine. This “letting God be God” is what I want us to think about for the next few minutes, and it’s one of the most important matters that we need to settle with God, once and for all, as discussed elsewhere (click HERE).

God has made it abundantly clear who is in charge, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does in heaven and on earth (Psalm 135:6).” He also commanded us to relax and let Him be God, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” And how do we let Him do this? By trusting God to know best how to accomplish His will on earth and getting out of His way so that He can do it without our interference!

The Apostle Paul addressed this issue head on, saying “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18, italics mine).” In other words, whatever happens to you, accept it as God’s sovereign will for you; He has allowed it, so maintain an attitude of thanksgiving toward God regardless of what comes your way. Now, I know this is a hard saying, but we have several good examples in the Bible where this high regard for the sovereignty of God in the face of severe testing is illustrated for us: 1) Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:20-22);” 2) Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s instruction, and would have gone through with it (Genesis 22:1-3); and 3) Jesus said, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:41-43).” Submitting ourselves to God’s sovereign will does not mean excusing ourselves when the going gets rough! After all, “For he who is called in the Lord while a servant is the Lord’s freeman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s servant. You were bought at a price. Do not be the servants of men. Brothers, let every man, in whatever condition he is called, remain there with God (1 Corinthians 7:22-24, italics mine).”

So then, what’s in it for us? Well, how about peace with God? I submit that peace with God comes when we accept, with joy, all that He allows to happen to us. Moreover, can we agree that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (John Piper)?” And, that is why we were created in the first place, to glorify God (click HERE).

Finally, to balance out this discussion, let me point out that I am not suggesting that God wants us to just accept every evil thing that comes our way without asking Him to come to our rescue, if that is His will. No, we are instructed to Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).” That’s exactly what Paul did regarding his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), and it’s what Jesus did concerning the kind of death He was about to suffer (Mathew 26:39). And, sometimes, like both Jesus and Paul, God may say “No.” But, I believe, God is always pleased that we asked and glorified by our asking, regardless of the answer. Furthermore, by asking in sincerity and humility, we are demonstrating that we are willing to accept whatever God’s sovereign will is in the matter. So, let us not be among those who “…have not because you ask not (James 4:2).”

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE.)

The Mechanics of Prayer

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The Mechanics of Prayer

James R. Aist

“Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” – (Matthew 6:10)

In the model for prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples, Jesus said “…your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is a powerful prayer that all born-again Christians can agree on. Won’t it be wonderful when that prayer is fully manifested on the earth, when Jesus comes and removes all wickedness and all evildoers? But, what are we to do in the “here and now”? Is there some way that we can call down the will and the power of God to deal with our needs and troubles in this fallen world until Jesus comes again? The answer, of course, is yes, we can pray. Many true and helpful things have been said and written about prayer, but, out of all that, what I want us to focus on for a few moments is the mechanism of prayer, or, how prayer works. And there are some very clear prerequisites for effectual prayer given in the Bible.

The most overarching prerequisite for effectual prayer is righteousness. James declared that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” (James 5:16). And John strongly confirms this point: “We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). So, be diligent to obey the will of God, especially to accept God’s invitation to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. That brings us to the second prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Concerning God, John wrote, “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). For our prayers to be effective, we must pray according to God’s will, which He will reveal to us if we are listening. We really wouldn’t want it any other way, would we? To pray effectively, then, we must pray with the heart and the mindset of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Next, let’s consider some things Jesus had to say about effectual prayer.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus said this to His disciples “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are assembled in My name, there I am in their midst.” Thus, praying with at least one “prayer partner” is the third prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Now, let’s turn to something Jesus said to His disciples that speaks more directly and instructively about the mechanics of prayer per se. He said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). When one reads this verse in the immediate context of Matthew 17-19, it becomes obvious that in verse 18, Jesus is giving us an insight into how prayer works: we continue the process by praying to God in heaven (binding and loosing on earth) according to His revealed word to us; then God answers from heaven (binding and loosing in heaven) and accomplishes on earth what we prayed for. Moreover, we see this same insight concerning binding and loosing on earth identified as “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’ use here (Matthew 16:19) of the exact same phraseology that He uses in Matthew 18:17-19 identifies this binding and loosing on earth as relating specifically to prayer.

What, then, are “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”? They are not hand tools (keys) by which the gates of heaven are locked and unlocked, as some have imagined. Rather, in view of Jesus words referenced above, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are best understood to be insights into to the mechanism by which God’s will is to be accomplished on earth. Put another way, this is how we can get the will and the power of God applied to our earthly needs. So, taken together, these verses indicate that, in order for us to have God’s power applied to our needs on earth through prayer, we should 1) discern the will of God as He reveals it to us, 2) enlist at least one other believer to agree with us in prayer, and 3) pray according to God’s will. Then God in heaven will do on earth, for us, whatever we asked. And this, according to Jesus, is how the will of God will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The critical – and, perhaps, most insightful – aspects of all of this for our present consideration is that God initiates the process by revealing His will to us, and He has given it to us to then respond with prayer so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10)! Pastor Adrian Rogers put it this way: “True prayer must be mandated by heaven. I’m convinced that the only prayer that gets to heaven is the prayer that starts in heaven. We close the circuit when we pray in faith in the name of Jesus.”

But what happens when we don’t know God’s will in a particular matter of concern to us? Do we just refrain from praying altogether? Or, has God made provision for us to pray effectively anyway? Yes, He has. Paul states in, Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Here, Paul explains that, when we don’t know how to pray as we ought about a matter, the Holy Spirit (in us) intercedes for us with groanings. Jesus, who searches the heart (Revelation 2:23), knows what the Holy Spirit is groaning about concerning the matter, and He intercedes for us (Romans 8:34), conveying our concern to the Father, according to the Father’s will. So then, when we don’t know for sure what the Father’s will is in a matter, we should pray anyway, knowing that the Holy Spirit and Jesus will partner to convey to the Father a request from us that is in accordance with God’s will.

To summarize briefly, God first reveals His will to us. In response, we pray to God for help, according to His will. From heaven, God hears and responds to our request, unleashing His power on earth on our behalf. In this way we cooperate with God in accomplishing His will on earth. We have the very “keys of the kingdom of heaven” in our hands, and it is up to us to follow through with prayer, as Jesus taught us to do. God never leaves us to fend for ourselves, but is “… our refuge and strength, a well-proven help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). So, let’s be sure to do our part in this process; that is, listen, and then pray believing.

Recommended reading:

Nee, Watchman. 1995. The Prayer Ministry of the Church. Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. pp. 35-37.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

An Ocean Experience

Coquillages à Fadiouth, SénégalAn Ocean Experience

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

The sight of the ocean slamming against the barrier and licking the sand in its hungry reach was fascinating.  I remember walking along Carolina Beach many years ago and marveling at such a vast body of water. I was so close to it, yet safe on solid ground.

When I looked far out to the horizon, as far as I could see, I could hardly believe that I was seeing only part of it, it was so immense.  Just beyond where the ocean meets the sky, I could see the roundness of the earth, betraying the earth’s spherical shape.   There was nothing to obscure the view of endless sky over endless water.  Both were awe-inspiring and breathtaking.  I would often sit on the large rocks on shore, silently observing the awesome power of the ocean as it crashed into the boulders and bluffs at water’s edge. Suddenly, I saw a school of whales performing their acrobatics far from the shore, leaping out of the water and splashing violently back into it, one after another.  I could only wonder where they came from and where they were going. The whole experience left me spellbound.

The next day, I set about to experience the ocean in other, more interactive ways. First, I decided to try my luck at fishing. With a little help from the pros, I began to cast my line for fish.  They promised me that I would catch some fish, and, sure enough, I did! While I may not have broken any length or weight records, these were my fish, and I was proud of my results! After that, I went hunting for sea shells on the beach. Before long, my plastic bag was bulging with the many shells that I found on the sand after the waves had washed over the shore during high tide. What a beautiful assortment of shapes, sizes and colors I had collected! I thought to myself, “These will make perfect souvenirs to remind me of my visit to the beach.”

My trip to the ocean was an interesting and memorable adventure for me. And, how grateful I was to have had an opportunity to experience, first-hand, some of the natural wonders that my Creator provided for me to enjoy! I couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to go to the beach and enjoy another ocean experience.

(For more articles by Angie Brown, click HERE)