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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Matt's Messages - Forever and Ever

“Forever and Ever”
November 20, 2005


Today is the last part of a four part series on the subject of FOREVER.

The Bible says that there are only two final forever destinations for all people. Every person who has ever lived, is living, or ever will live, will “end up” in one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Both of those final destinations are FOREVER. They are eternal. They last for eternity. They are forever.

Endless, interminable, eternal, everlasting, unending, unceasing, perpetual, abiding, incessant, unstopping, forever and ever. “Forever and Ever.”

Three weeks ago, we studied the biblical teaching on our default destination which is Hell. We learned that Hell is eternal justice from God, eternal destruction by God, and eternal exclusion from God. Forever and Ever! Unless we repent and follow Jesus by faith, we will go to Hell forever and ever.

Two weeks ago, we began studying the biblical doctrine of Heaven. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of life in a new body, guaranteed. And we learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of the presence of the Lord. Forever and Ever!

And last week, we read the last two chapters of the Bible. And we saw what will not be in Heaven: Any Chaos, Any Death, Any Mourning, Any Crying, Any Pain, Any Sinners, Any Temple, Any Impurity, Any Curse. And we saw what we will do in Heaven forever and ever: Shine in the New Creation, Serve the King of Kings, and See the Face of God.

God is what makes Heaven Heaven. “When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” God is what makes Heaven Heaven. Forever and Ever.

Has this been a helpful series of sermons for you? I hope so.

The question I want to ask this morning is “What difference is this teaching going to make in our lives?”

Does “Forever and Ever” make any difference in your life or mine?

Does the biblical teaching on eternity shape our conduct, our choices, our attitudes, our lifestyles, our values, our priorities, our actions, our lives?

Does the biblical teaching on Forever and Ever make any difference in our lives?

You know, we could all enjoy hearing about Forever and Ever this last 3 weeks and then live as though Forever and Ever were not on the way!

What difference is this teaching going to make?

I want to suggest four points of practical application as we close this series. Four points to make sure we do something about what we have learned. So that we are doers of the word and not just hearers.

Here is #1. GET RIGHT WITH GOD.

Forever and Ever is coming, therefore, get right with God.

Now, we’re going to jump around the Bible this morning, but let’s start in 2 Peter chapter 3. 2 Peter chapter 3, starting in verse 3. The Apostle Peter is trying to set some people straight on a few things. Verse 3.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. [We are living in these last days.] They will say, ‘Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ [This sounds familiar doesn’t it? Some people scoff at the idea of Forever and Ever. They think it’s a fairy tale. “O, the world has always existed as it is and will always exist as it is.” But that’s not true. V.5] But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. [Noah’s time.] By the same word [God’s word!] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [This world is going to pass away.] But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. [What seems like a long time to us doesn’t seem long to Him.] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

How ironic! Some people scoff at the idea of Forever and Ever because God hasn’t brought it yet. But He hasn’t brought it yet out of patience and longsufferingness for many of them. God is waiting for the full number of His people to turn and trust Him.

What the scoffers scoff at (God’s seeming slowness to bring about Forever and Ever) is their only hope (God’s patience)!

But He will not be patient forever. The Day of Judgement is coming. It is certain. It is on the way. Therefore, get right with God.

Repent. Turn. Put your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of eternal life forever and ever. V.10

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

No one knows the day or the hour. Like a thief. You know, thieves don’t call ahead and tell you when they’ll drop in for a little stealing! They drop in when you don’t expect it.

Some of you here may be thinking that you will wait until you are a little older and a little more ready to “settle down” before you get right with God. “I’ll have time for that later.”

How do you know that? You may slip into eternity before I’m done preaching this message. Life is a vapor.

The day of the Lord will come like a thief. Get right with God! Repent.

God is being patient with you. You are an object of His wrath. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord, your Rescuer and your Master, you are in trouble. Hell is coming for you, and it is Forever and Ever.

God invites you to receive His offer of forgiveness because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on your behalf. He invites you to confess your sinful rebellion against Him and to lay down your arms in surrender. He invites you to turn from your sin and to put your trust in Jesus Christ and His Cross.

You cannot get right with God by doing good things or trying to make up for the bad things you have done. You cannot get right with God by bribing Him or trying to be a good little boy or girl. You can only get right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ and the full payment He made for your sins. He invites you today to trust in Him.

Don’t wait. Do it right now. Right where you sit, you can get right with God.

I can’t say this too strongly. Eternity rides on it. Forever and Ever is coming, so get right with God!

#2. GET READY FOR ETERNITY.

Those of us who are right with God through faith in Jesus Christ are now being readied for eternity. We don’t just say, “Thanks God for the salvation, now I’ll live how ever I want. Thanks for Heaven, God, now I’m going to live like Hell!”

No. If you are going to Heaven, you need to live like it. Get Ready for Eternity. If you are still in 2 Peter 3, look at the next verse. V.11

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? [That’s a good question. That’s the question we are asking today.] You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Get Ready for Eternity.

That means holiness. If we are looking forward to eternity in the New Heavens and the New Earth (verse 13 calls it “the home of righteousness”), then we ought to begin looking like our new home! Righteous!

We need to purify ourselves. Not to be worthy of heaven, not to earn it, but to begin looking like our Home. Our true Home is holy, and so should we be holy.

1 John 3 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

Are you going to Heaven, but you are living like Hell?

Are you harboring some sin? Some habit? Some relationship? Some secret in your life that would not fit in the “Home of Righteousness?”

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

It’s a mark of Forever and Ever Christian that he or she purifies themselves.

Confess your sins and receive cleansing from God and restored fellowship and begin to look like your true Home. Get ready for eternity.

That also means regular thought about Eternity.

Notice in these verses it says, “looking forward.” Three times in the last three verses.

V.12 “As you look forward to the day of God.”
V.13 “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth.”
V.14 “Since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” Looking forward.

Are you looking forward to Eternity?

That takes regular thought. Disciplined thought. We don’t think about Heaven by default. We think about Earth. This Earth (not the one to come).

It takes disciplined effort to think about Eternity.

The Bible calls that “setting your mind on things above.”

Colossian 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

1 Peter 1:13 “[S]et your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
That means think about it! Meditate on Forever and Ever. Don’t let this just be another sermon series, but let it become the start of a new habit–dwelling on Heavenly things.

What would that look like for you?

Read or listen to one of the Forever Resources out on the table in the foyer?
Set aside some time to do your own study of Eternity in the Bible?
Make a journal to write out your thoughts as they come to you about Forever?
Form a small group of friends to talk about it and discuss questions. Maybe use Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” and the study guide that we can download and print for you to go through it.

What would setting your mind on Eternity look like for you?

How about when you get up in the morning? Is there something you can do then to highlight Heaven? Maybe a prayer that would orient you towards Forever and Ever at the beginning of your day?

How about at the end of your day? Is there something you could do to remind yourself of eternal things when you go to bed? Some practice or discipline that you could get yourself into?

Randy Alcorn asks himself these questions:

“Do I daily reflect on my own mortality?

Do I daily realize there are only two destinations–Heaven or Hell–and that I and every person I know will go to one or the other?

Do I daily remind myself that this world is not my home and that everything in it
will burn, leaving behind only what’s eternal?

Do I daily recognize that my choices and actions have a direct influence on the world to come?

Do I daily realize that my life is being examined by God, the Audience of One, and
that the only appraisal of my life that will ultimately matter is his?

Do I daily reflect on the fact that my ultimate home will be the New Earth, where I will see God and serve him as a resurrected being in a resurrected human society, where I will overflow with joy and delight in drawing nearer to God by studying Him and His creation, and where I will exercise, to God’s glory, dominion over His creation?” (Alcorn, Heaven, pgs. 453-454).”
Are you looking forward to Eternity?

Are you thinking about seeing Jesus?
Having a new body?
Living in our new Home?

Eternity changes everything, doesn’t it?

If this is all true, it changes everything!

If it’s not, then “let’s eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But if it is true, then we need to get ready for eternity!

It changes our priorities, doesn’t it?

It means that we need to live for the next world and not this one.

Everything we see is not going to last. It’s going to burn.

Our computers, our homes, our cars, our bank accounts, our businesses, our tree-stands, our four-wheelers–they are going to melt like wax.

But eternity will be forever and ever. We need to fix our eyes on what is unseen and not what is seen. Because what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal. Forever and Ever.

That means laying up treasures in Heaven. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Randy Alcorn said in his little book, the Treasure Principle, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.”

What does your giving pattern say about what you believe about Forever and Ever?

Are you getting ready for eternity by storing up for yourself eternal rewards?

That’s a whole other sermon series, but the Bible clearly teaches that there are eternal rewards for obedience and faithfulness in this life that we will enjoy (or not enjoy!) forever and ever in the life to come.

If I believe in Heaven, I’m going to set my life on getting rewards then, not necessarily now.

“[S]tore up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy [cannot destroy!], and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Get Ready for Eternity!

The New Heavens and the New Earth are your real Home. Get ready to go Home. Live here as a citizen of Heaven. Walk by faith and not by sight.

That also means hanging on.

For some of us, the pain and suffering is so great, we just want to give up. It hurts. It really, really hurts.

But eternity will make it all worthwhile. One second of Heaven will be more than worth all the pain of this Earth.

Paul says that it’s not even worth comparing.

Remember the eternal weight of glory? It’s coming! Forever and Ever.

Your suffering will make sense! Hang on.

Get Ready for Eternity.

That means longing for Jesus’ return.

Do you long for the return of Christ?

Remember, He is what makes Heaven Heaven.

If you don’t want Jesus to Come, you don’t want Heaven to come.

Long for Christ. Cultivate a longing for Christ.

What can you do to cultivate a longing to be with Christ?

You can be with Him now in private worship and prayer.
You can join with others in corporate worship and prayer.
You can remember to pray that His will would be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

You can “watch.” The biggest biblical word for what we’re supposed to do while we wait for Jesus to return is to “watch.” That doesn’t mean to be passive. It just means that we are anticipating Him.

Will it be today? Is this the “Crowning Day?”

Will it be today? Will I get to see Jesus?

Turn to 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 7. Paul is at the end of his life and ministry. And he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [I’ve gotten ready for eternity.] Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Watch. Wait. Long for His Return.

Pray for His return! “The Spirit and the Bride says, ‘Come!’” “Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha!”

Get Ready for Eternity.

And help get others ready for Eternity.

#3. GET BUSY SHARING CHRIST. 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 1.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom [in view of Forever and Ever], I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”

Get Busy Sharing Christ.

We are all to do this. We are all to share the Good News of Jesus while there is still time. In season (when we feel like it, when the circumstances are good) and out of season (when we don’t feel like it, when the circumstances aren’t going our way). We are all to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Because Forever and Ever is coming!

And everyone is going one of two places: Heaven or Hell.

We know the truth and we have responsibility to share it.

We have the antidote for something much worse than the Bird Flu. Everyone on this Planet has the disease of sin. And there is only one cure. And time is short.

We need to get busy sharing the gospel with others.

Who do you need to talk about Jesus with this week?

Write their name down. Do it. The holidays are here. Maybe there is a conversation that you need to start. Decide now and do it.

Don’t be afraid? What can they do to you? The worst they can do is kill you! And if they do, you get to go to Heaven! Far better! You get to go Home!

And you have a New Body on the Way.

Forever and Ever is coming. We need to get busy sharing Christ.

And number 4. GET THANKFUL AND WORSHIP GOD.

Turn to Hebrews chapter 12. Verse 22. This has become one of my favorite passages this Fall. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 22.

This is a description of what is going on in this room right now. This is a description of the full reality (unseen most of it!) of what church is. Verse 22.

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks [Get Right With God]. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ [Forever and Ever is Coming!] The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. [Forever and Ever is coming.] Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

“[S]ince we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe...”

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

How about Forever and Ever in Heaven with Jesus Christ?

Living happily ever after–for real!

Next month, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is coming out. A movie adaption of C.S. Lewis’ famous Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, Aslan, is a picture of Christ.

In the last of the books, The Last Battle, it ends with this great paragraph:

“And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Forever and Ever.

We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken!

Let us be thankful.

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