Sunday, November 15, 2009
One of my all-time favorite songs is the beautiful ballad "Heaven Can Wait" recorded by the artist 'Meatloaf' from his classic "Bat Out of Hell" album and written by his longtime collaborator Jim Steinman. The message of the song is that the singer has found such a deep, fulfilling, passionate love in their life here on earth that, despite it's promise of eternal beauty and peace in God's presence, as far as they are concerned heaven can wait.
I'm not going to waste any time in bashing the song or it's lyrics. This is one of the most simple and timeless love songs in modern music. But it does provide an opportunity to take a closer look at one of the most wide-spread mistakes that we as humans make. The mistake is in not understanding and accepting that no matter the beauty or peace provided us by anything or anyone here on earth, it pales in comparison to what is promised in Heaven.
The vast majority of us operate within the framework of our daily lives as if this is it, that this life is the only one that we get, so we need to live it to its fullest. How many times have you heard the phrase "life is short" or "life is meant to be lived" in defense of some course of action that someone is taking.
The truth of the matter is that, while a human lifespan on earth is relatively short, our promised existence in God's presence in Heaven is eternal. And while we certainly should strive for happiness and peace in our time here on earth, and strive to spread those to others, life is not meant to be lived to the point that we experience every sensation, good or bad, in our human lifetimes.
This goes for Christians as well as those of other faiths, and certainly applies to all those with no faith system in their lives. As Christians we understand that there is much, much more beyond this human life on earth. We understand intellectually that there is a Heaven, and that its gifts and promises are far beyond any love or joy or peace that we could ever hope to attain here on earth.
And yet many Christians still lead their daily lives in ways that, when closely examined, would lead some to question the reality of our faith. The problem with human beings is that, no matter what we might say that we believe, and even what we may internally hope for, we have a difficult time grasping the truth of Heaven, the truth of eternity.
That truth is that not every Christian is going to make it into Heaven. Not every human being is going to spend eternity in God's presence in His kingdom. Jesus Christ warned human beings not to put all of your energies and efforts into this earthly existence when he said "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"
This isn't to say that our life on earth is not important. It is vitally important, particularly to the ultimate salvation of our souls. While in Heaven we will spend eternity in the ultimate joy and peace of God's loving presence, here on earth we are living within the kingdom of God. It is up to us to expand that kingdom, and to help provide as many as possible with the opportunity to save their own souls, both through our own words and our own actions.
With the coming of Jesus Christ two mellenia ago, God's earthly kingdom was realized in fullness. From that point on, men have had the perfect opportunity to reach that ultimate goal of Heaven. A road map was laid out for us by the Lord when he said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Notice that he didn't say that everyone who thinks they are a 'good guy', or who goes to church regularly, or who donates a lot to charity comes to the Father
Whatever our church, whatever our prayers, whatever our actions, we will not reach Heaven without belief in Jesus Christ as our personal savior. It is not enough to be a good person. It is not enough to go to church every Sunday. It is not enough to say a prayer when times are tough. We need to sincerely believe in the very fabric of our being in the truth of Christ's divinity, and his role as our redeemer.
Many have said over the years "if it's not good enough that I live my life the best that I can, that I'm a good person, that I treat others well, then I don't want to be a part of that religion." Fine, that's your choice. But the reality is that this is not about 'religion' or some institutionalized faith system. And the important point is not to defend the goodness of your character, but to save your immortal soul.
There are many who don't believe. Some don't believe in anything, others don't believe in Jesus Christ beyond that he may have indeed been a historical figure, a great preacher perhaps. For those people we must continue to pray that they will open their hearts and seek the truth.
One thing that I believe whole-heartedly in regards to non-believers. If they spend some time in exploring the issue, they will be inspired to truth by the Holy Spirit. Again to quote Christ: "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
God created this world and mankind for reasons and purposes known only to Him. But some things are known to us. There is a great deal of magnificence here on earth. He created us in His image and likeness, and placed us in this world of beauty and wonder. It is up to us to live our lives within this world in preparation for the next.
And yet we must always remember too that not everyone is going to make it to that beauty and majesty of eternity with God in Heaven. Jesus taught us that "the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." There are many who will experience beauty and peace and love in this life, but will then spend eternity in the hollowness, despair, and desolation of separation from God because they turned away from Him during their time on earth.
Love between human beings is one of the most beautiful things we can experience. It reflects that very love between God and man which lies at the heart of our very existence. But human, earthly love is just a taste, a small sample of what awaits in Heaven. While none of us wants to rush into Heaven, we should never think that anything here on earth can compare to what lies ahead for true believers.
Don't live your life as if Heaven can wait, as if you have plenty of time to decide on matters of faith. There is nothing here on earth that is more important. As vital as your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your home, your career, your charitable endeavors, your church experiences may be, they pale in comparison to the importance of your relationship with God.
If you disbelieve, you can seek, learn, and accept truth. If you have fallen, you can get up. If you have sinned, you can seek forgiveness. If you have made mistakes you can make ammends. But you don't have forever. You may have decades. You may have years. You may have months or weeks or days. You may only have this moment. Heaven can't wait, and neither can you.
NOTE: This is the continuation of the 'Sunday Sermon' series, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on to that below label. And as always, the title of this post is a link to more information, this time to a live version of the Meatloaf song "Heaven Can Wait"