Focusing on Heavenly Rewards

Pastor Jay continues the series on Heaven, What is it Really Like with this week’s sermon “Focusing on Heavenly Rewards” from Matthew 6:19-21.

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We should care about heavenly rewards.

  • We should care because Jesus tells us to care.
  • We should care because it keeps our priorities straight.
  • Looking to rewards comes from faith and encourages faith.
  • We will invariably have our hearts set on rewards.
  • Common Objections don’t hold up.
    • Boasting
    • Greed
    • Works
    • Disappointment in heaven.
    • Diminishes our focus on Jesus.
    • Not authentic

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Should we seek rewards? Why?
  • What does a gift tell you about the giver?
  • What sort of gifts does God want us to care about?
  • What are the best rewards you get from your parents, teachers or friends?
  • How does it please God to set your heart on His rewards more than all others?
  • How is Jesus our greatest treasure?

New City Catechism – Week 31

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“God, Our Father, We Adore Thee”
(Hymn #324 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q31: What do we believe by true faith?

A31: Everything taught to us in the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed expresses what we believe in these words: We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 

I have yet to go to a restaurant where I loved everything on the menu. I have a few places that I go to where I enjoy almost everything they serve, but I find certain meals less appealing than others. That’s one of the nice things about places that offer a good buffet. You can pick and choose what you’d like to eat. If you don’t feel like grabbing any vegetables (and mom isn’t looking!), then go ahead without them. If you want extra meat (and who doesn’t??), then you grab some extra prime rib.

Not everything in life is quite like buffets though. Sometimes, you have to take what you don’t always love along with what you like. Driving is great, but having to follow the speed limit isn’t always what I want to do. Owning a home can be wonderful, but there is always work to be done and things to be fixed.

It’s easy to want to treat the Bible as a buffet. Take in and mediate on what we like (God is love), but ignore the passages which are more difficult (sections regarding hell). I think I’d be more prone to treat the Bible like that if I didn’t believe it was the Word of God. If it were only written by men, I’d be less inclined to accept it all.

What then do we believe as Christians? Only the parts of Scripture that we like, or all of it? What can we believe in? Are we supposed to take every part of the Bible as God-given truth? If it’s like a buffet, what part should we eat and what part should we leave? God takes the guesswork out of it. He says all Scripture is from him. We don’t have to try to pick the good from the bad.

Admittedly, that doesn’t always make it easier to read. Some parts of the Bible are really hard to work through. But there is an assurance that what is in there is there for a purpose.

-Pastor Jon

Heaven Then – Groaning for God’s Glory Pt. II

Pastor Jay continues the series on Heaven, What is it Really Like with this week’s sermon “Heaven Then – Groaning for God’s Glory Pt. II” from Romans 8:18-23.

Romans 8:18-23 (ESV)

Present Suffering and Future Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

We should groan for a completely redeemed creation in which to dwell with Him.

  • We will live in a new heaven and new earth.
    • The new heaven and new earth will be the old creation but made new.
    • The new heaven and new earth will be physical.
    • The new heaven and new earth will be free of decay.
    • The new heaven and new earth will somehow share in the glory of the children of God.
  • We will live in the new City of Jerusalem.
    • The city is incomprehensibly large.
    • The city is incomprehensibly holy.
    • The city is incomprehensibly beautiful.
    • The city is incomprehensibly happy because we will have
      • The joy of God’s presence.
      • The joy of God’s people.
      • The joy of our union with Christ.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • When you imagine eternity with Christ, do you imagine it being like earth? In what way?
  • What did God say about the original heavens and earth that he made? What does that tell us about heaven?
  • How big is the place where we will live with God? What does the scripture tell us?
  • What are some of the best things about that place?

New City Catechism – Week 30

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“My Faith Has Found a Resting Place”
(Hymn #404 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q30: What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A30: Faith in Jesus Christ is acknowledging the truth of everything that God has revealed in his Word, trusting in him, and also receiving and resting on him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Faith is a common enough term, isn’t it? You gotta have faith in your sports team. It was the subject of pop song in the 80’s. It’s the topic and title of several movies throughout the years. When asked for a definition of the word though, I think most people don’t realize what they’re really referring to.

Faith is more than mere hope. It’s not just wanting something to happen or even believing it will happen. I once heard someone describe faith as confidence in a chair to hold you since you don’t check first. That’s such a surface description of faith though.

Faith isn’t merely hope or even trust. It’s putting everything on the line for something. True faith follows with abandon when every fiber in our being says it’s a bad move to make. For the Christian, it’s trusting in God’s plan that he spelled out in his Son’s death on the cross and resurrection. It’s knowing that I cannot prove beyond the shadow of a doubt to anyone that my eternal home is isn heaven as a result of that death. It’s quite literally betting my life on God being real and not being a liar.

Faith is a huge risk. It’s putting my trust in a God whom I can’t see, and his words which I wasn’t able to hear directly.

It’s also an admittance of shortcoming. With faith in God, in his words, in his plan for salvation, and in his love for me, I’m admitting I’m not the center of the universe. I can’t do life on my own, and I certainly can’t do anything about eternity.

Where is your faith placed?

-Pastor Jon

Heaven Then – Groaning for God’s Glory

Pastor Jay continues the series on Heaven, What is it Really Like with this week’s sermon “Heaven Then – Groaning for God’s Glory” from Romans 8:18-23.

Romans 8:18-23 (ESV)

Present Suffering and Future Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

We groan for God’s final, glorious redemption of His creation through Jesus Christ.

  • We, His children, groan for complete redemption through Jesus Christ.
  • We groan for our bodies to be completely redeemed.
    • We will be resurrected.
    • We will be glorious.
    • We will be like Christ’s body.
    • We will have an absence of weakness.
  • We also groan for our hearts to be completely redeemed.
    • Our hearts will know no grief.
    • Our hearts will know no shame.
    • Our hearts will know no injustice.
    • Our hearts will know no visual impairment.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What makes you groan?
  • Why does is say creation groans? Why does is say that we groan?
  • What are some things that will be different in heaven then?
  • What do you think means that our bodies will be glorious?
  • What can we learn about our resurrected bodies from considering Christ’s resurrected body?
  • What will be different as to our hearts?

New City Catechism – Week 29

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“In Christ Alone”
(Hymn #177 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q29: How can we be saved?

A29: Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.

In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul explains concisely that we are saved by grace through faith. Grace is from God. This is God’s doing. It is a gift. Salvation is entirely from God. The grace that comes to us in the gospel is supplied by the work of Christ on the cross. We do not deserve it. We do not earn it. It is not of works or we would have bragging rights. We do not.

Faith is the means or channel through which a sinner receives that grace of God and is saved. Paul says that this too is of God. God supplies even the very faith by which we take hold of his grace.

Faith is a turning away from sin and a full turning toward Christ. It is a confidence in the gospel of Christ and the person of the savior. Faith trusts that God exists, that he is good, and that his promises in Christ are true. It is a casting of oneself wholly upon the merits of Christ and his atoning death.

Repentance accompanies genuine, saving faith. Turning to Christ always involves a turning away from our own path, our own sin, and our own lives. Repentance is not what saves us, but every one who truly comes to Christ comes with a repentant kind of faith.

When we therefore preach the gospel, the message should always be, in effect, “repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Luke 24:47)

Sin continues to be an issue for the Christian until we pass from this corrupted earthly life. The struggle with our inclination to sin is a battle that is part of the Christian life. We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” By the Spirit we are to “put to death the deeds of the sinful flesh.” The grace that saves us is a grace that must continue to work in us until Christ comes or we go to be with Him.

-Pastor Jay

Heaven Now

Pastor Jay continues the series on Heaven, What is it Really Like with this week’s sermon “Heaven Now” from Philippians 1:19-26.

Philippians 1:19-26 (ESV)

for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Heaven, as it is now, will be far better than earth as it is now.

  • We will be carried home to paradise.
  • We will have a body of some kind in that place.
  • We will experience utter goodness.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What was good about the garden of Eden?
  • What did we lose when Adam sinned?
  • What about heaven is similar to the garden?
  • What will be good about heaven?
  • How do we know heaven will be good?
  • Does a believer in Jesus have to fear death?
  • Are you sure that you believe in Jesus and are his follower?

New City Catechism – Week 28

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“How Sweet and Aweful is the Place”
(Hymn #350 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q28: What happens after death to those not united to Christ by faith?

A28: At the day of judgment they will receive the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them. They will be cast out from the favorable presence of God, into hell, to be justly and grievously punished, forever.

I once watched a guy get dumped by a girl. It wasn’t like I was trying to eavesdrop, but when things happen in a public place in a louder volume, you tend to take notice.  She made it clear to everyone within ear shot that she was disappointed in his lack of commitment to the relationship. I remember hearing something about his time spent with work, friends, etc., but it was obvious that he didn’t seem to have enough time for her, so she announced she no longer had any time for him.

If everything she was saying was the truth, I’m not sure anyone would blame her for ending the relationship. I’m assuming she tried. If that’s the case, and she really gave it an effort, who would judge her for her decision? Who expects someone to continue on in a relationship, friendship, employment, or anything similar when only one side is pushing for the relationship to work?

When we look at our relationship with God like that, it’s no wonder there is a consequence for our decision to push him aside in our life choices. That’s one of the main issues most people take with the Christian view of the afterlife. How can a loving God send someone to hell? How can those who don’t have a relationship with Christ be sent to an eternity away from him?

God has set up a time for us to be able to work on our relationship with him. Peter makes it clear in his second letter that God is being patient and waiting for his final judgment so others can come to know him (II Peter 3:9). Once that time has passed, the world will get what it has always wanted: life without God.

In a way, God is really giving unbelievers what they’ve always desired. The opportunity was given to follow him. Time will be up, and God basically says, “You didn’t have time for me, now, I no longer have time for you.” It’s the ultimate break up. But it also appears logical when we realize just how much he loves us. He is the one who literally gives his own Son for the benefit of the other. He has given us so much. It’s only fitting that we give him our love in return.

-Pastor Jon

We Don’t Know Nothin’ About Dyin’ Top Ten Things We Do Know

Pastor Jay starts the series on Heaven, What is is Really Like with this week’s sermon “We Don’t Know Nothin’ About Dyin’ Top Ten Things We Do Know” from John 14:1-6.

John 14:1-6 (ESV)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

All we really need to know about dying and about heaven are clear enough if we know Jesus.

  • We know that nothing about death should trouble our hearts.
  • We know that we can trust Jesus about all of this.
  • We know there will be plenty of room.
  • We know he doesn’t lie.
  • We know he is making all things ready.
  • We get to be with Jesus.
  • We know we have life if we have Him.
  • We know that in Him we will never die.
  • We know we are going where Jesus has already gone.
  • We know that our hope is anchored with Jesus in Heaven with God.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What troubles you most about the thought of dying?
  • How do we know there will be a place for us there?
  • When you read the passage, what words give you the greatest joy?
  • Talk about your fears and your hopes concerning heaven? Pray and take hold of the promises Jesus has given you concerning heaven.

New City Catechism – Week 27

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“All I Have is Christ”
(Hymn #389 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q27: Are all people, just as they were lost through Adam, saved through Christ? 

A27: No, only those who are elected by God and united to Christ by faith. Nevertheless God in his mercy demonstrates common grace even to those who are not elect, by restraining the effects of sin and enabling works of culture for human well-being.

Will all people receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial and saving death on the cross for sins? Through the ages, there have been many who have devoutly wished to say “yes” to that question.

Some have taken scriptures out of context to arrive at this conclusion. Others have been convinced by logical inference that a loving God must save all, because only this would fit his character. This latter view is called universalism, and some speak of this final reconciliation of all as even extending to the devil and his demons.

However, the scripture does not teach a universal salvation of all creatures. As the catechism states, “only those who are elected by God and united to Christ by faith” will reign in life through Jesus Christ.

Salvation is utterly of God, entirely by grace through faith. This sovereign choosing of God is referred to as “election” (elect means choose). All who come to saving faith in Christ are referred to as God’s elect throughout the New Testament (cf. Matthew 24:22, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, 2Tim 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1Peter 1:1, 1Peter 2:9, Revelation 17:14)

To have eternal life in Christ, we must be chosen of God and believers in Him. We cannot know that we are chosen until we know we have trusted in Christ for salvation. Those who do not believe are condemned, (not for failing to be chosen) but because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

As Paul says in Romans 5:17, this gift of righteousness is for those who “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift… through one man, Jesus Christ.” We must receive it by faith.

-Pastor Jay