Heaven: Is it Really a “Life or Death” Situation?

Where do you turn for help on important issues? Do you throw up you hands and say, “Heaven help us!” or do you research and look for an answer? For everyday situations in life, there is a ton of available advice. Bookstores all have a self-help section, and you can You Tube or Google anything to see how to do it better. There are some things, though, that you really just can’t find in a self-help book or video.

There are times in life when we encounter “a life or death situation”. We use it when the chips are down, or when things really matter. It could refer to everything from having surgery to choosing between heaven and hell. Those situations require some extra diligence because, well, they are life or death. Kiefer Sutherland ran into them on every episode of 24.

Your “Life or Death” Situation

The Apostle Paul had a somewhat curious notion about that saying; he believed that all of us are in a “life or death situation”, and that it was actually through the pain of death we are able to experience the true richness of life. He says:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21 NIV)

(This is Day 55 or so of our walk through the Bible, by the way. You’ve made it to Galatians, the first of Paul’s epistles after Corinthians, the “G” in  “God’s Electric Power Company”, an acronym to help you remember Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians!)

What About Heaven?

When you think about life or death situations, perhaps the ultimate one revolves around eternity. Is there eternal life? Is there eternal death? There has to be one or the other, don’t you think? People spend a lot of time thinking about it, although Loretta Lynn, Kenny Chesney, Allison Kraus and Mark Lowry have sung a song that says, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die”. It’s a somewhat humorous answer to a somewhat serious question: do you want to go to heaven?

heaven

If you interviewed the average person on the street and asked them what they needed to do to get to heaven, they would probably say something like, “Well, if I’m good enough, I think I’ll make it.” “If I have more good deeds than bad deeds, then I hope God lets me in.” These opinions seem logical from the human point of view about justice, and in fact most religion is based on earning God’s favor by doing more good stuff. If I just do enough for God, maybe He’ll like me enough to let me into heaven.

I’m sure that improving oneself or doing good stuff for God is a commendable thing, but Paul says here in Galatians that we have another option.

How Do You Get There?

There’s an amazing secret in this verse, one that I hear echoed in Scripture and teachings all the time. The Christian life is not about doing good, or being righteous, or even about love. It’s about being crucified. It’s about dying to your old self so that you can live in your new one. trading a physical life for a spiritual one. As Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” We are spiritual beings, not spiritual doings.

We will not find permanent joy and peace anywhere in our carnal, physical life. In this world, we can’t rehabilitate the flesh, dress it up, make it better, improve it, or serve God by being busier with it. We get this wrong in church all the time as we try to redeem culture or cash in on the latest marketing fad. Those are fleshly things which will never deliver eternal value. The only way to utilize the flesh is to crucify it and replace it. So what should you do today to improve?

Consider this advice from Jesus: “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV) When we are able to do that every day, we’ll be able to walk right past that “Self-Help” section. Stop doing things for God and start. Being. God’s.

Getting to Heaven

How do I get to heaven? Everybody wants to know.
If there’s a heaven, surely everybody wants to go!
If I am good enough, then maybe God will let me in,
But I feel sure that I am out because of all my sin.

Maybe if I lose my pride, accept the fact that Jesus died,
and let myself be crucified, then I can be reborn inside!
What Christ gives to me, He can live in me, so that I can be
Living eternally– it’s by believing and not by achieving
That we’ll be receiving and so not be grieving
That this earth we’re leaving. We live by the love of God,
Bought by the Son of God, Born to be one of God’s,
Learning the secret of Heaven by seeing this:
Not getting there on my own, but by being His.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Resurrection: is It Quantity or Quality of Life That’s More Important?

Lazarus died, and his sister Martha was upset that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him. She made a bold request: Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this?” She saith unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21-27 KJV)

(Sometimes I just have to keep some King James Version in here because I like rocking it old school. It’s what I grew up on as a Christian, and I still love its lyrical anachronisms…but I digress.)

The Devastating Delay

When Mary and Martha sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited two days before coming to them in Bethany. In the meantime, Lazarus died. It’s not hard to imagine the scene at their home as the sisters waited anxiously for Jesus to come heal their brother, only to watch him slip away. They thought they had things under control, but their plans didn’t work out. It had to be emotionally devastating.

Ever been there? Things didn’t work out like you planned, and God didn’t do what you expected Him to? Lazarus had just died, and his sister Martha was distraught. (Her tone is even a little accusative, like “why did you take so long?” Have YOU ever asked God, “WHY?” Have you ever accused God of failure?) Martha let Jesus know he could have done better.

Even so, she expresses her confidence that Jesus has such a connection to God that he can do something miraculous, perhaps even a resurrection from the dead. Jesus comforts her with the statement that her brother will someday rise again. She believes in a traditional Jewish way, that Lazarus will experience resurrection at the last day. (Resurrection was a hot topic of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees—the Pharisees believed in it, but the Sadducees did not, which I’ve always heard is why they were Sad, you see…)

Expectations Delayed are not Necessarily Expectations Denied

Jesus challenges her traditional faith and asks her if she believes in HIM. Now, her brother is dead, and she has no way of knowing, like we all do, that Lazarus will come back to life. But she looks Jesus in the eye and gives testimony to who He is. “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

resurrection

You know the rest of the story. Lazarus came back to life after three days in the grave. He experienced new birth, new life, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that Lazarus’ resurrection was not eternal. He still lived a normal life and then died. But do you think perhaps that he appreciated life a little more the second time around? That he hugged a little harder and enjoyed his friends and family a little more? Experiencing resurrection–being brought from death into life–should do that, shouldn’t it? In that sense, EVERY believer is Lazarus, able to find joy in the resurrection that changes the quality of their lives…

In this case, Jesus changed the quality of Lazarus’ life and provided a solution outside of Martha’s control. Her lack of faith was keeping her from seeing the things that are possible with God. What is your traditional faith holding you back from? What have you lost that you wish you could have back? Why wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by?

Eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is a QUALITY of life, and it has already been given to you. Look Jesus in the eye and let him know what you want. Something dear to you that you thought was lost might just come forth and live again. It might be time for a new beginning.

Eternal Musing

Will we be spending endless time just sitting on a cloud?
Will we employ eternity to sing our hymns out loud?
Or will we find that life is life, with nothing now to bind it,
Just filled with God’s eternal growth around it and behind it?
For us to learn God’s heart and mind, the riches of His love,
I think eternity itself will not be long enough…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Life Eternal: Is it the Quantity that Matters, Or is it the QUALITY?

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE”: This life Jesus mentions is eternal, and that’s what we usually focus on, isn’t it? John 3:16 says that whosoever believes on him has everlasting life. It captures our interest because it is immortal and incorruptible. It will be everlasting. For many people, Christianity is an eternal insurance policy because it offers the possibility of living after death, and who doesn’t want to live forever?

But to me, that’s not what makes Christianity so compelling. In John 10:10 Jesus describes not a quantity but a QUALITY of life: “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This type of living begins NOW, not when we die. It is yours now, in the midst of a dying, broken world. It’s a lifetime free from worry, fear, death, prejudice, injustice, hopelessness, and selfishness. It is living within the possibility of joy, peace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love. Eternal life does not erase the realities of a fallen world, but it creates new realities about how we live within it.

Puddleglum’s Logic

This eternal life does not transport us directly to heaven, but it brings heaven to us, and offers a spiritual means to navigate a carnal world. In “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis, a pessimistic character named Puddleglum is held captive by a witch in her depressing under world, which she claims is the only real world. Even though Puddleglum’s group follows the great Lion Aslan, she denies his existence and tries to seduce them into giving up.

The witch holds them prisoner in her underworld and surrounds them with false enchantments. She offers an alternative world, and suggests that Aslan and his world do not exist. Puddleglum and his friends are beginning to believe her fabrication when he rouses himself and even without full proof or certainty, makes the following declaration:

life

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.”

life

A Choice Worth Making

In times of doubt, I’ve often looked at Christianity that way. What if it is all made up? What if there’s no heaven, no eternal existence? Well, for my money the values that Jesus taught still offer a better life than everything else. Even if Jesus didn’t live on earth and die (although we know he did) and even if he was not resurrected (although the evidences strongly suggests he WAS), then it would STILL be worth living a Christian life that offers love, service, peace, and comfort.

In Puddleglum’s words, the qualities of the Christian life “lick the real world hollow”. The world calls you to anxiety, stress, and discouragement. It offers you temporary pain and temporary solutions. Jesus came so that your life could be abundant. From all that’s around you, choose abundance today. You might just find eternal life to go along with it. What do you have to lose?

The WAY, the Truth, and the LIFE

Jesus said, “I am the Life”, and it is not redundant
To think: was longer life his aim? Or life that’s more abundant?
Pie in the sky when you die by and by might matter most to some,
Eternity and what will be in all the years to come;
But rather than the quantity, the thing that means the most to me
Is life that’s lived abundantly and characterized by quality.
Jesus said, “I am the Life”, and then He came to give it.
For those of us who follow him, our job is just to live it.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread