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Are You Prepared for Eternity?

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Are you prepared for Eternity?

That was the question posed to me for this post. Before answering it in a blog post, I had to answer it personally. In doing that, I want to rephrase the question in two parts, which I will then address individually:

  1. Are you prepared for eternity?
  2. Are you preparing for eternity?

Are you prepared for eternity?

The first question, "Are you prepared for eternity," is to ask, "Do you know where your soul will go when you die?"

Are you going to spend eternity separated from God because you never took the steps required to restore that relationship? Those who have not taken those steps have a severed relationship with God and unless that is fixed in this life, that relationship will remain severed for all eternity. 

How do you restore that relationship in this life? How do you prepare to spend your eternity with God in heaven instead of separated from Him? You can do so by following obediently in the steps detailed for us in the Bible, God's Holy Word.

  1. Believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
    Jesus said, in John 8:24, "unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins."
  2. Confess that belief. In Matthew 10:32, Jesus assures us, "Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven." Essentially, Jesus Christ will be our advocate after we die -- He will tell God the Father, "Yes, this soul restored the relationship."
  3. Repent.
    In 2 Peter 3:9, we read, "He (the LORD) does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent."
  4. Be baptized. 
    If it weren't enough that Jesus did it (so it's good enough for me), we are also commanded to be baptized. In Acts 2:38, "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The relationship with God is restored by grace -- nothing more. These are the steps we are instructed to take in order to receive that gift. It is not forced upon us so we must demonstrate our acceptance. 

I have received God's free gift of grace. I have confessed my sin, professed my belief in God and His Son, repented for my sin, and I was baptized on April 16, 1989. I can answer the first question with, "Yes. I am prepared for eternity. I am confident that my soul will live forever with my God in heaven."

What a blessed assurance. If you aren't sure of your answer to that question, please do not wait! Consider God's gift of grace and don't delay. This weekend, WRCC is having a baptism celebration -- why not follow Christ's example and be sure of your answer as well?

Are you preparing for eternity? 

The second question, as I would like to address it, refers more to how I live my life since having accepted the gift of grace. It saved me, but did it change me

If it changed me, then it should show in how I live my life. The book of James expands on how, once we have Christ in our life, it affects not only our eternity, but these aspects of our life on earth:

  • how we handle our challenges and pain (James 1:2-12)
  • how we respond to temptation (James 1:13-18; 4;7-8)
  • how we respond to social injustices and need -- by putting our faith into action. (James 2:1-9; 5:1-6)
  • how we speak. (James 1:19-20; 26; 3:2-12)
  • how we pray. (James 4:2; 5:13-17)

It is in living out our faith as prescribed above that  we also, as instructed in Matthew 6:19-21, "lay up treasures in heaven."

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

If we place value on the things of God and His eternal kingdom instead of on the temporary things of this world, we will have those treasures forever. We work hard in this world to provide a home for our family, clothes, food, etc, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when you look at this lifetime relative to eternity, we are faced with how unimportant those things become. 

Imagine you are on an extended vacation and you arrive at your hotel before they have prepared your room for check-in. They take you to a temporary lounge to wait for your room. While there, you unpack, redecorate, and make yourself at home. In no time, they come to take you to your permanent room. Why did you waste so much energy on something so fleeting?

This world is a temporary. When we use our time, talents, and treasures to accumulate earthly treasures, those are temporary as well. But when we give our resources for Christ's sake, we demonstrate that we value Christ and that we consider other people worth more than our own comfort and preservation.

Another example that somewhat illustrates the concept of laying up treasure in heaven is compound interest. I started contributing to a 401k retirement account when I was only 19 years old and have rolled it from account to account ever since. Choosing to set aside a portion of my income for the future rather than spending it on something I wanted in the moment will pay off. 

Say, for example, I saved, or set aside, a mere $300 from a month's pay when I was 20 years old. At that time, it as worth only $300. (Actually less, after taxes.) I might have been able to buy a VCR  since I was 20 in 1995. Google it, kids.

But by investing it instead, even at a conservative interest rate of 5% , when I am 70 years old, that $300 would be worth $9,127.93, having been multiplied by compound interest over time. The VCR I could have bought in 1995 would be worthless by comparison. 

I see the work and sacrifices we make for Christ and to serve other people instead of accumulating things for our own creature comforts are compounded over time and when we get to heaven, we will find their value is immeasurable. 

Do you want to waste your effort sprucing up a temporary lounge or do you want to live in a mansion in heaven for all eternity? Do you want a VCR today or unfathomable treasures in glory?

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

So, are you prepared for eternity? If not, you can fix that immediately. Confess, repent, and be baptized.

And are you preparing for eternity? If yes, keep it up! Could you do even more?

If you are not yet laying up treasures in heaven, what are you waiting for? Get connected and find a place to help and people to serve. Start investing in your eternity today. 

The Secret of my Success

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How does your brain work? Mine may be normal or it may be funky...I’m not really certain. What I do know is that when I considered the question framed for us this week, “How do you define success?” my brain rocketed back to 1987. The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox (aka Marty McFly) was released the month before I graduated high school. I don’t really remember much about the movie, but I distinctly remember the theme song by ‘80’s hair band Night Ranger.  The chorus went like this:

Worlds collide and hearts will be broken
Over and over it's the same every day-
How can I say what has never concerned me
The secret of my success is I'm living 25 hours a day

Honestly, I went back and listened to the song again for the first time in what had to be 25 years. It features that typical, late-80’s fusion of pop rock and synthesizers. And while the chorus was catchy (the only thing I remembered), the rest of it is completely forgettable.

What strikes me about the lyrics is just the message. It just boils down to this: there’s gonna be collateral damage, but I’m not concerned. I’ve just got to hustle to make it all happen.

Seems very modern. Seems very practical. And it seems like common sense...unless your life is rooted in Jesus.

As we continue wrestling with the Terrible Advice of Jesus, we see that the economy in the Kingdom of God turns the world’s advice on its head.  In Matthew 19:21,ff, Jesus tells the man we know as the rich young ruler, If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

We know the story...the young man goes away crestfallen because he was very wealthy.  Even Jesus’ disciples struggle to realize the truth when Peter asks Jesus: “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne...everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

Success in God’s economy boils down to this: give it away. Give away whatever it is that impedes your progress to being like Jesus. And it’s not about money. Using your time, talents, gifts and abilities while elevating others above yourself is the way of the cross. Unlearning the things that make sense to us all while embracing this prayer, “More like you, Jesus. Make me more and more like you!” That's how we succeed in the Kingdom.

The world might call it terrible advice, but the truth is that embracing this way of sacrifice and service will save your life.