Responsive Reading: John 5:24-40
Key Verse(s): John 5:39-40
Background Scripture: Daniel 7:9-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18
Are you willing to go to Christ so that you may have life? The life that Jesus was speaking of in this statement, as you may imagine, was not physical life. No, Jesus had heaven on His mind when He made this statement to the Jews. So, I would ask you today, is heaven on your mind? Are you willing to go to Christ so that you may have life spiritually?
Heaven Is on My Mind
Ten years ago, on the second Sunday in August, I preached my first public sermon – Heaven on My Mind. I am not sure how many of you recall this song, but Heaven on My Mind was a song that was sung by Luther Barnes and the Sunset Jubilaires; we used to sing it in the boys choir many years ago at church.
My desire to see heaven
Heaven, for me, has always been very intriguing. Since I was a little boy, and learning about heaven in the church pews, I have always thought about what heaven looks like and what it would be like to be there.
I learned that heaven was a place where good people went after they passed away from this world. I was taught that old familiar scripture – John 3:16 – that said that those who believe in the only begotten Son go to heaven and have eternal life. Through songs, I learned that when I get to heaven I would ‘get shoes’ and walk, dance, jump, and shout all over it. So, heaven sounded like a fun place and the place where you would want to end up after this life on earth.
So, I was baptized at 8 years old wanting badly to take part in communion with my mom and grandma, of course, but also wanting to be able to see heaven one day. Living with the desire to see heaven has been a major part of my life for a very long time now. I say all of this because I want you to know where I am coming from when I tell you that heaven is on my mind. Because heaven is on my mind, I have done my best to live my life in a Christ-like manner.
Others desire to see heaven
Now, something that has always bothered me is this feeling of being one of the few that truly desire to one day be in heaven. From the time I was in middle school, I have always felt as part of the minority among my peers in living with this desire for heaven.
I remember being in school and it seemingly being fewer and fewer kids that went to church and believed in God as I went from grade to grade. Nowadays, I look at the church pews and the proof is there: there are so few people my age and younger that are in the church; so few people my age and younger that fully believe in the Lord. Frankly, this troubles me a great deal as I am often left wondering why it seems that so few people don’t care about the Lord or going to heaven?
During my examination, prior to preaching my first public sermon, I was asked: why do you desire to be a preacher and what is your goal? My response to this question was that I had been called to preach by the Lord at a very young age which others of the faith, when I was a boy, could clearly see.
Secondly, my goal is the Lord’s goal, yet, I would go on to add that I wanted to reach out with the message of the Lord to those of my age and younger. Ten years later and I am still driven to share the message of the kingdom of God to whoever I can; I am also still driven to get God’s message to those of my generation and younger.
You see, heaven is on my mind and I desire to get heaven on your mind! As I said last week, there are simply too many empty husks wandering the earth as the rejection of heaven and the Lord continues to grow more and more.
A Mind for Eternity
Is heaven on your mind? The desire of going to heaven, I believe, boils down to your mindset and whether its focus is on today or tomorrow. Do you rather live for the now (this present age) or for tomorrow (eternity)?
Mindset for the present
As shown in our key verse, the Jews, specifically the religious leaders, searched the scriptures and desired heaven, however, their hearts (their mind) were more given to the world – this present age. What this meant for those religious leaders is that heaven was not on their minds; it was not truly their focus (their priority) as it should have been. We know this to have been the case because the manner in which they lived is portrayed in scripture.
On how they lived, Jesus said that the scribes and Pharisees lived in a manner so that their works could be seen by others. The religious leaders enjoyed having places of honor at feasts while also sitting in the best seats in the synagogues. If that was not enough, they enjoyed being able to walk through the marketplaces to the praises of those around them that called out to them, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ as if they were someone greatly to be praised (Matt. 23:1-6).
The scribes and Pharisees lived with a desire that is worldly rather than a desire that is heavenly; it is a desire that many people share today. You see, they would much rather be praised and exalted in this world by man rather than enjoy the praise and exaltation from the Lord in heaven.
Jesus warned them, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).” If heaven truly was on their mind, they would have chosen to follow Him and live their lives to be exalted and rewarded by the Lord. Yet, we know that the scribes and Pharisees chose to antagonize Jesus every which way He went and reject Him.
Many are the mindsets of today that are more focused on this present age than the future to come. Heaven is seemingly far from the minds of many. There is seemingly little thirst for wisdom and knowledge on life beyond our physical flesh. People seemingly rather gain the world so that they can gloat about what they have gained and be praised by others than see the Lord in His kingdom.
I tell you today that there is life beyond this flesh of ours (this physical realm)! So, why do we seemingly not desire to come to know more about what is beyond our physical life? To me, this is a thought that should push us even more to seek to learn and to know as much as we can about life that is beyond this flesh. No, I am not talking about alien life on some distant planet, moon, or far away galaxy – I am talking about life that is spiritual.
Mindset for tomorrow
Again I ask, is heaven on your mind? Are you living with a mindset to where heaven is your focus – your priority? If heaven is not your focus, we need to work on changing your mindset to where heaven becomes our focus so that we can begin living for eternity rather than this present age.
Now, some may not understand the thought of living for tomorrow – heaven and eternity – because we have been taught to live in the present. I imagine that all of us have heard this ‘encouraging’ saying: “live life as if today is your last” or “live like there is no tomorrow.” Yet, I tell you that if heaven truly is on our mind, we have to learn how to move in this present age being fully aware of what awaits us tomorrow.
Jesus said it Himself, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour (future) is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live (John 5:25).” As genuine believers, we have to understand and live with the mindset that the day of the Lord is always knocking on the door and can come at any moment.
The second coming of Christ
Jesus, I want you to understand, was speaking of His second coming. The dead, in this verse, speaks of all of those that will have died genuinely believing in the only begotten Son of God with a desire to enter into the kingdom of God. Scripture proclaims to us that both the dead in genuine faith and those living will hear Christ on that day and they will live on spiritually (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Jesus plainly tells us that the genuine believer is one who hears His word and believes in Him who sent Christ; this believer has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment (John 5:24). It is imperative that we change our focus – our mindset – to live for the hour that is coming and now is. Again, we are all knocking on the doors of eternity as Christ can come at any time!
You see, the second coming of Christ is one that is spoken of throughout scripture and it should not be taken lightly. In the book of Daniel, Daniel speaks of the night visions he had when he saw one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. To Him, Daniel said, was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. Daniel saw His dominion and it was an everlasting dominion and His kingdom would not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14).
In the words of Christ, you will see Daniel’s vision fulfilled as Jesus spoke about how He will come in the glory of His Father, in a cloud with power and great glory (Matt. 16:27; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27). Jesus then said that He will send forth His angels with a great sound of the trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds (from north, south, east, and west), from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:30-31; 1 Thess. 4:16).
You see, this is why heaven is on my mind and why I live in the way of Christ – I believe in His words! Heaven is real and Christ is coming! As we know, the Lord always fulfills His promises. One day, God is going to gather together His children – those of genuine faith – and bring us into His kingdom and we will dwell in heaven forever!
This reminds me of a song that asked the question: What will you be doing when Jesus comes? Will you hear His shout? Will you live on? These thoughts should cause those dry bones – those empty husks – to start to stir about! Heaven is on my mind today! This should call your attention to focus on how you are going about living in the world today because Christ is certainly on His way here whether you believe that to be true or not.
Mindset of the lost soul
So, those who live for the present age and not for eternity, are those that refuse to hear the Lord’s words and believe in His Son – they will not hear His call and the sound of the trumpet. Like the scribes and the Pharisees, they rather hear the exaltation of those around them than receive the kingdom of God. Now, where is the praise of man going to get you?
Again, I bring this to your attention today because compared to ancient days, where people lived with a curiosity about what happens after we pass on physically from this world, too many of us live with no thought about what comes after. Too many of us are living as if God is not watching, is not judging us, and is not going to come again! This is a mindset that is totally foolish!
Even more foolish is that some live with a mindset that they are going to make this place heaven. Again, it is said, ‘ live as if today is your last (or there is no tomorrow).’ The thought behind this saying is that you should make today your best day. However, people tend to push beyond that simple sentiment as they choose to live with absolutely no care for anything as they push for heavenly happiness on earth!
Sadly, living by that doctrine, has caused many people to blindly grind and hustle for the riches of this world in order to have heavenly happiness. Understand this: heavenly happiness cannot be found on earth through worldly gains. Sadly, what this doctrine has done to many people has done nothing but increase anxiety, stress, and worry.
Imagine for a moment trying to make this world that is polluted and corrupted by sin – greed, violence, killing, murder, pestilence, and disease a place that could be heaven. There is nothing about what I see of this world, outside of nature itself, that puts me into a heavenly frame of mind; every which way I look, I see nothing but wickedness with very little good being able to break through.
Jesus asked, “what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matt. 16:26)?” One’s soul is completely lost to be able to ignore God’s heaven for a world that barely scratches its surface. Those that end up trying to make this place their heaven gain nothing but a world riddled with corruption and sin.
Living for Heaven
Heaven is on my mind today; not this world that is corrupted and polluted by the sins of man. I encourage you today to live with a mindset that does not focus on living for this present age but lives for the day that is coming and now is.
Heaven is the focus
To live with this mindset, we must let go of the mindset of this present age that causes us to grind and hustle as if this world could be our heaven. Let us remember that Jesus encouraged us not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31,33).
Jesus encouraged all of those that would choose to follow Him to first deny ourselves – those worldly desires – and then pick up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). You see, we cannot be like the scribes and Pharisees who desired heaven but could not deny themselves in order to follow Christ to heaven; we must be willing to let go of this world and go to Christ for the better world that is to come.
Now, this will certainly sound like foolishness to many people. Genuine faith often comes off as foolishness to those of no faith. Now faith, as we know, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). There is a thought that the Lord is asking for blind faith – believing in a God we cannot see and a place that we cannot see. Yet, I tell you, our faith is not blind as some love to believe.
Paul wrote to Timothy, and us as well, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). In his second letter, Peter stated that we have the prophetic word confirmed knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20). Peter said that they did not follow cunningly devised fables but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Pet. 1:16).
Today, I tell you that heaven is on my mind because I choose to believe the eyewitness report of those that witnessed the majesty of our Lord! Heaven is on my mind today because I choose to believe in the one whose work I’ve seen before my own eyes as He has brought me a mighty long way!
Blessed are those that live for heaven
As Jesus said to the disciples, He is the way, the truth, and the life – that is to say that He is the way to the kingdom of God and life eternal in His presence (John 14:6).
Do you desire to live on in heaven? Is heaven on your mind? Let us humbly receive the Lord’s instructions so that we can live for heaven and one day enter into His kingdom. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon encouraged readers to hear (receive) instruction and be wise, and do not disdain (hate) it (Prov. 8:33).
Solomon would go on to say, “Blessed (happy in the soul) is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord (Prov. 8:34-35).” The one that is watching and waiting for the Lord and finds Christ will find life and favor!
Jesus, I want you to understand, confirmed this thought for us when He encouraged all of us to come to Him and He will give us rest (Matt. 11:28). Blessed, Jesus said, are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). Blessed, Jesus said, are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). Blessed, Jesus said, are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). Blessed, Jesus said, are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10).
Let us live not for this present age but let us live to be partakers of God’s glory in His heavenly kingdom – let us live with heaven on our minds. Heaven is on my mind today and I certainly hope that heaven is now on your mind.