Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Joy (page 2 of 2)

What Did Jesus Say About Heaven?

Have you ever asked that question? Was it easy to find an answer?

While the doctrine of heaven may be firmly established by using the whole of the revealed will of God, it is interesting to me how little Jesus himself says about heaven–at least in its future aspects.

For the most part, when Jesus talks about heaven, he is not concerned with what it will be like, but rather, (1) How you get yourself ‘in’, and, (2) the fact that it has begun now–and we are called to live in light of that reality.

It’s almost like if you asked Jesus, ‘What is heaven like?’ he’d answer, ‘You’re asking the wrong question.’ He would correct us, ‘Don’t think about heaven as some ethereal future hope–ask whether or not you have reason to believe that it is your hope.’ And then he would add, ‘Heaven isn’t an ethereal future hope–it is a present reality that begins when you live under my kingly reign now and you begin to experience my blessings now.’

All that being said, if we query the text of the gospels, I think we can find some details about the future reality of heaven from Jesus’ teaching.

  • Heaven is a place. According to the Sermon on the Mount (in particular, Matthew 6) and John 14, heaven is an actual place–not bodiless beings floating through clouds. It is the place where God is and his presence is made known to bless.
  • Heaven is a place of treasures. Again, from Matthew 6 we learn that the treasures and rewards we store up in heaven now will never be taken from us and they will never cease to give joy.
  • Heaven is a place prepared for us. In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks of heaven as the kingdom which has been prepared for us from before the creation of the world. Again, then, we see it is a literal place where God is intent on blessing us.
  • Heaven is a place of joy and reward. Still in Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable where those who have been faithful with what they were given are commended by their master. The blessed words are this: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
  • Heaven is a place of justice. In Luke 16, while teaching an entirely different point altogether, Jesus tells the story of two men who receive a just reversal of fortunes on the other side of judgement.
  • Heaven is a place of single community. Luke 20 (cf. Matthew 22) teaches that humans will not be married or given in marriage in heaven. That being said, we are not community-less beings, but rather, we are like the angels, in fellowship with one another and ultimately, with God.

Can you think of any more places where Jesus talks about heaven? Any other details that can be gleaned from various places?

Joy in Saints

The other night as we were standing in church, singing at the beginning of our prayer meeting, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace. The songs that Joshua and our ‘Band of Brothers’ choose to lead us in worship are always theologically-rich and packed with scriptural truth, so the fact that I would be overwhelmed by grace is nothing new.

This time, however, it wasn’t because of the words that we were singing but because of the people who were singing them. All around me I could hear the voices of the saints of Grace Fellowship Church–and they were praising God for his glorious, condescending love that he shows in the gospel.

Our preaching pastor has been away on sabbatical for the past 10 weeks or so, and so much of the pastoral ministry has fallen to me. It has been my absolute delight to see how the saints at GFC have opened up their ears and their lives to me over this summer. Each of them has been a blessing to me as I’ve watched them struggle, grow, deepen in their love for Christ, wrestle with hard texts, live through difficult family situations, try to discern God’s will for their lives, endure pain, and much more.

As we sang, I heard their voices and was reminded of the myriads of things going on in each of their lives, and all the potential reasons that each of them would have to doubt God and his goodness. But by his grace, each of them stood and sang as a testimony of their ongoing faith and trust in Christ to sustain them through all seasons of this life.

His grace is truly amazing, and their singing through the seasons of their lives showed me that on Wednesday night. Even thinking about it now brings to mind a verse from one of my favourite psalms (although I’m still trying to find a psalm that’s not one of my favourites…):

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

Preaching for Consistency

Yesterday, by God’s grace, I was able to begin our summer series of sermons from the book of James. I’ve titled this series ‘A Call to Consistency.’ I figure that’s about as close as I can get to a base theme that unites all the different emphases in James. Doug Moo refers to it as ‘spiritual wholeness.’

The first message in the series introduced the book of James (author, date, recipients), and then dove into the letter’s introduction from 1:1-18. The title of the message was ‘Steadfast Joy in Suffering.’ If you like, you can download it here or listen to it directly from the flash player below.

“Fear, without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”
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