Living for Heaven Now

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1 Corinthians 15:58

INTRODUCTION: Today is the last message in our series about heaven. We have talked a lot about heaven these past ten weeks, and we have learned so much. There are real answers about heaven, and as we have seen, they are all found in God’s word.

But someone might ask, why spend so much time talking about heaven? That’s way off in the future. We live here on earth right now. Shouldn’t we be focused on this life rather than the next?

It’s a good question, and it is the final question we will consider in this series on real answers about heaven. Yes, heaven is in the future, although maybe not as far off as you think! But even though heaven is in the future, it makes a huge difference in how we should live now. So that’s the question about heaven we want to answer this morning. What difference does it make now? (Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 and pray.)

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Heaven is in the future, and yet it still makes a huge difference in how we should live now. If this life is all there is, if there is nothing else beyond the grave, then we will live one way. But if there is another life coming, a bigger, bolder, more beautiful life than you can even imagine, then you will live quite a different way.

Knowing about heaven gives you a whole new perspective on life here on earth. In fact, without the perspective of heaven, we will not live our lives properly here on earth. In order to live rightly, we must keep all of life in mind, and that includes eternal life in heaven.

As someone said to me earlier this week, we may not be leaving for heaven until later, but we should be living for heaven now. I like that!

The Bible tells us a number of ways your life here on earth should be different because of heaven. We are going to look at seven of them this morning. So let’s see what the Bible means by living for heaven now.

1. New affections (1 John 2:15-17)

First of all, living for heaven now means you are filled with new affections. We read in 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

One of the best ways to overcome a love or desire for something wrong in this world is to develop a greater love or desire for something good. Of course our greatest desire of all should simply be to know and love God and to honor him through his Son Jesus Christ. But since God is still the main attraction in heaven, the more we learn about heaven and long for heaven, the less we will love the things of this world.

John reminds us in this passage that the sinful things of this world are temporary. The world and its desires pass away, but the person who does the will of God lives forever.

Notice it is the sinful things of this world that we are to leave behind, not necessarily all the good things. As we’ve learned throughout this series, the good things in this world will be renewed and restored. There will be a new heaven and new earth that will last forever, and that’s where the one who does the will of God will live forever.

And so first of all, living for heaven means you are filled with new affections, with a new love and desire for the things of God.

2. New direction and focus (Colossians 3:1-2)

Secondly, living for heaven now means having a new direction and focus in your life. Look at Colossians 3 where Paul writes: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

Notice Paul uses two phrases here to talk about the person who is living for heaven now. He says you should set your “hearts” on things above, and you should set your “minds” on things above.

The word translated “set your hearts” here is a word that means “to seek something.” It’s the same word we find in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) And so when Paul tells you to set your hearts on things above he is talking about what you seek. He is saying that as a Christian you have a new direction or goal. You are no longer to seek the things down here on earth, but you are to set your heart on things above.

And then the second command is similar. “Set your minds on things above.” The word translated “set your minds” is a word that means “to think about something,” and it is phrased in such a way here that it means “to think about constantly.” And so if setting your heart on things above means having a new direction or goal, setting your mind on things above means having a new focus. As one person put it: “You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.” (J.B. Lightfoot) You’ve got heaven on the brain. You may be living here on earth, but your mind is constantly in heaven. You have been raised with Christ, and therefore you have a new focus. You are constantly thinking about God and the things of God rather than the things of earth.

Once again this doesn’t mean abandoning this world for the next, but rather living in this world in preparation for the next. Living for heaven now means having a new direction and focus.

3. New priorities (Matthew 6:19-20)

Thirdly, living for heaven now means you will have new priorities in your life. If this life is all there is, you will have a certain set of priorities. But once again, if there is another life to come, then you will have a whole new set of priorities.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

When you leave heaven out, when you remove heaven from your thinking, when your focus is on this life alone, all your priorities center on this world and this life. All of our thoughts, all of our planning, all of our finances, all of our investments – they all go into this short, brief life here on earth. We even have a phrase to justify this way of thinking: “You only live once!” Ever see the bumper sticker, “YOLO”? That’s what it stands for. “You Only Live Once.” The basic thinking is you only live once, so you might as well go for all the gusto you can while you’re here.”

The problem with that way of thinking, though, is it’s not true. You don’t only live once. You only live twice! Those bumper stickers should say YOLT, not YOLO! And you only live a short time here on earth compared to eternity in heaven. So where should your priorities be? Storing up treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal? Or storing up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal?

Where you store your treasure reveals your heart. Living for heaven now means you will have new priorities in your life.

4. New commitment to holiness (2 Peter 3:10-13)

Fourthly, living for heaven now means you will experience a new commitment to holiness. We read in 2 Peter 3: “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.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 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. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)

The “day of God” in verse 12 refers to the day Christ returns. We’ve learned from our series that a number of things will happen when Christ returns. First of all, we will receive our resurrection bodies. The bodies of those who have already died in Christ will be resurrected first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Secondly, there will be a great family reunion! We will be reunited with all our loved ones who died in Christ and actually with all the Old Testament and New Testament believers throughout all of history. And then thirdly, we will stand before God for judgment and to receive our eternal rewards. We saw that these eternal rewards correspond to our service to God in this world. In other words, wow we live now matters.

Peter reminds us that when Christ returns, this world will be judged with fire, and therefore we should live holy and godly lives as we look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. Why? Because in keeping with God’s promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

You are going to face many temptations in this life. Let’s face it, you’re going to face plenty of temptations this week! But when you keep heaven on your mind, you will experience a new commitment to holiness that will help you resist temptation.

5. New commitment to service and witness (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Fifthly, living for heaven now means you will also experience a new commitment to service and witness. Paul writes about heaven and our resurrection bodies in 1 Corinthians 15. And then after spending a whole chapter talking about these things, he closes with verse 58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

When you know that heaven is coming, you will be motivated with a new commitment to service and witness. You will want to give yourself fully to the work of the Lord. Not half-hearted service, not just service some of the time, but giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord. You will want to serve God with a whole heart wherever he has placed you – whether at church, home, work, school or your community. Why? Because you know that what you do counts for all of eternity. You know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

What is the work of the Lord? Serving Christ and others. And sharing Christ with others. You will want to serve Christ and others because your eternal rewards in heaven depend on your service in this world. And you will want to share Christ with others so that they too can share in the joys of eternal life in heaven.

Living for heaven now means a new commitment to service and witness.

6. New perseverance through trials (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Sixthly, living for heaven now means new perseverance through trials. We read these words of Paul in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Time for some basic theology. God created the world good; sin introduced pain and suffering. There is a lot of suffering in this world. But the Bible makes it clear that the suffering we experience in this world does not compare to the glory we will experience in the new heaven and earth.

Paul certainly experienced his share of suffering. Just read his resume in the Scriptures. He was flogged, stoned, beaten with rods, unjustly imprisoned, shipwrecked and left for dead. He often went without food or sleep. And yet he still persevered. Why? Because he knew heaven was coming. That’s why he was able to write these precious words in 2 Corinthians 4: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Notice Paul takes his most severe sufferings and in view of heaven calls them “light and momentary.” John Calvin writes about this verse that heaven “makes light what before seemed to be heavy, and brief and momentary what seemed to last forever.” (John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Corinthians)

Paul was able to persevere through his trials in life because he knew about heaven. And that means so can you. And so can I. Living for heaven now means new perseverance through trials.

7. New hope (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:11-14)

And then finally living for heaven now means having a new hope. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison, chained to a guard, awaiting a possible death sentence. Now that doesn’t sound like a very hopeful situation! And yet Paul was full of hope. Why? Because he was living for heaven now. As he reminds the Philippians in chapter three: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

Later on Paul would write to Titus in Titus 2: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

What is the Christian’s blessed hope? That Christ is returning, and when he comes, he is bringing heaven with him. And so no matter what happens in this life, we have hope. Living for heaven now means having a new hope. How wonderful to be able to live a life filled with hope!

CONCLUSION: Folks, heaven is coming, and it’s going to be amazing! But all this talk about heaven isn’t just about what happens later on. Knowing about heaven should affect your life right now! It should change every aspect of your life here on earth. Living for heaven now means having new affections, a new direction and focus, new priorities, a new commitment to holiness, a new commitment to service and witness, new perseverance through trials and a new hope to guide you through this life.

We may not be leaving for heaven until later, but we should be living for heaven now. Heaven is coming, probably sooner than you think! So live your life in view of eternity. Let’s learn to live for heaven now.

© Ray Fowler

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