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Archive for the tag “Kingdom of God is Near”

From Here to Eternity

The question asked in our small group on Tuesday night was “Do you think about eternity?” Actually, I have to say “yes” especially this week. This is the twenty-third anniversary of a friend’s death. On that morning, she woke up in good spirits with excitement to do something she enjoyed doing. She loved to parachute and on that day she jumped into eternity. Her tragedy became one of my turning points in my life. Because of my friend’s death, I began the journey to find Jesus and make my life secure in Him.

About fifteen years ago, I struggled with thoughts of my death. When I would lie down at night, I would wrestle with the thoughts of heaven and hell. Well, more like be terrified with the thoughts of hell. I don’t remember what else was going on in my life at that time. I don’t know why Satan was tormenting me about those things. Eventually, I was reassured of my security in Jesus and hell was not going to be my eternal dwelling place. Jesus said He was going to make a place for me where He is (John 14:1-2), and I believed His Word to be true.

As I was contemplating this topic this week, a conversation with a college friend came to mind. Back on that day, I was questioning her involvement in church. She went to church but she was not a Christian. She said she knew she was going to hell, and she had already bought her air conditioner. Her comment unnerved me. How could she joke about something like that? I knew that was the place I didn’t want to spend my eternity. I had heard enough about hell that I didn’t want to end up there.

A study was quoted on Sunday in my pastor’s message that around 75% of the (American) population believes there is a heaven, but only 40% believes there is a hell. My pastor said that what you believe about eternity shows how you will live your life. If you believe there is no hell, then there are no consequences to your wrongdoing (sins). However, the default for everyone’s eternity is hell. Since Adam and Eve made the mistake of believing Satan’s word over God’s, hell has been our destiny. Because of the original sin, from that point on our fellowship with God was broken; and we have no right to be in His presence.

I have heard it said “How can a loving God send people to hell?” However, it should be said “How can a loving God not provide a way out of hell!” He provided a way out by sending His Son Jesus to restore our relationship with God. Jesus exchanged our cloak of sinfulness for His cloak of righteousness. And by His righteousness, we are allowed into the presence of God Almighty – Holy and Righteous One. It’s not by our goodness, because we don’t have any; but the goodness of Jesus.

I know lots of “good” people in this world that say they are going to heaven because of their good deeds. But it’s not about being good but being holy. Why would a holy God allow unholy people in His presence? He wouldn’t. Through His grace and mercy, Jesus shows us a different standard. Yes, Jesus is good, but He is also holy and righteous and a perfect representation of God the Father. Through Jesus, we become holy and righteous and are given the right to join Him in the Kingdom of God.

One of the stories written in the Gospels (found in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8) tells of Jesus healing a man (or two) from a legion of demons. The demons knew Jesus and they knew their fate. Yet, the demons begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs instead of going into their eternal torment (“Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”). In James 2:19, the passage mentions that the demons believe in the one true God and they shudder. We are told in Luke 12:5 Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.

Our loving God wants us to spend eternity with Him. His desire is for all of us to be with Him in His Kingdom. Hell is total separation from Him. His desire is for all of us to walk with Him today – from here to eternity. Like He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, He has made a way for us to have that kind of relationship today. But this is our choice. While we are on this earth, we decide about eternity now. We will not be given an option after we die.

From what I understand, the death rate of all people is 100%. We are so concerned with our few years here on earth, but we should really be concerned with our eternity; and the eternity of our family and friends. There maybe someone you know that needs to know the Good News today because tomorrow they may be jumping straight into eternity. Do you think about eternity?

“The time promised by God has come at last!” (Jesus) announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:15 (NLT)

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Still the Message

Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!” John the Baptist was given this message before the ministry of Jesus began. He was the one who called from the wilderness to bring about the change of heart for those who would hear and heed the word. Jesus had the same message. It might have been stated a bit differently. He spoke of forgiveness of sin to those who came for healing. The sick and hurting came in large groups for healing. But Jesus always looked to their hearts first to find their true sickness. He offered forgiveness and told those who came to Him “Go and sin no more!” The same message of repentance – turn away from your sins, and you will receive the Kingdom of God. Overcome that thing that holds you back. For the one who overcame, many promises were given. When Jesus taught the large crowds He ended His teachings with this phrase: “For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

In Jesus’ time, the message was verbal. No one had ten copies of scrolls that they kept on their nightstand or coffee table to show those who entered their dwelling how “spiritual” they were. They went to the Temple to learn from the scholars. No one carried a scroll around to read while waiting for the next caravan to come around to take them to the mall to shop. It was all by the word of mouth that people were taught. So when Jesus said, “for those who have ears” He meant everyone that was listening to the sound of His voice. Pay attention – this is important to grasp the understanding you will need to enter the Kingdom. He said the way to the Kingdom is narrow and only a few would enter by the narrow gate.

I was listening to someone speak about the seven churches in Revelation on Sunday morning. I had a few thoughts that came to mind as they were speaking that I took note of and wrote them down. The first thought was: these letters were sent to churches – believers. I know it’s pretty obvious. Jesus wasn’t pointing out flaws or giving encouragement to non-believers. He had a message to give His followers. He had to get them back on track if there were going to fulfill His mission. Jesus gave every church a directive and a promise. Every church was called to repent of their deeds and for those who overcame their “issues” a promise was given. I have a red-letter Bible (meaning that the words that Jesus spoke are printed in red). Every word in this section of Revelation chapters two and three are in read letters. John wrote down what Jesus instructed to the seven churches. After Jesus gave the direction to each church, Jesus ended each letter “for those who have ears, let them hear.”

The message reminded me also when Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus. Jesus was transfigured before them and they were overwhelmed with His glory. Peter being Peter started talking nonsense about building shelters for Moses and Elijah. God interrupted Peter telling them to listen to His Son (Matthew 17:5). Pay attention, boys! Jesus’ words were important to record. If they were important to write then they must be important to remember and obey. Listen! For the Kingdom of God is near.

Do we get that in this day and time? Are we so far removed from the message that we fail to hear the truth behind it? Would Jesus still give us this message today? The word today should still be repent for the kingdom of God is near. For believers today, the kingdom is already here – the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Even more today, we should pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. For those who have ears to hear: Pay attention! Repent! Set ourselves apart from the worldly pursuits and pursue holiness! This is not a message we like to hear. But we’re all called to do just that. Our lives matter here on earth to bring glory to Jesus. But it takes a pure heart and a willing spirit and a renewed mind. It’s still the same message today. Pay attention to what the Lord is saying today.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20

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