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Do we believe that heaven will be worth the trouble and tears, the sorrows and struggles, the toiling and pain? Do we believe we will enjoy it better than this life? Are we looking forward to what God has prepared for us?
Perhaps our good days present the greatest threat to our faith: the days we feel excellent and energized, like we are masters of our own destinies. Our good days can make us lose focus on spiritual reality. As a young man before marriage, I really hoped Jesus didn’t return right then because there was so much I wanted to do and experience in this life. Do you feel that way sometimes? Is this life so captivating and pleasurable that you don’t want it to end?
The more trouble we experience, the greater a Christian’s hope becomes in a life beyond this one. In a sense, then, pain and trials are gifts of God which increase our character and our faith. “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5.3–4). Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Another danger to our faith is our fuzzy expectation for what lies beyond the veil. What will we experience when we cross the Jordan, when we sleep the sleep, when we descend into Sheol? What does our resurrection promise? Where is our hope?
What is your picture of heaven? Do you fully expect it to be awesome?
Dear Christian, in Christ Jesus you have eternal life! “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2.25). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3.16). “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.54).
This is the HOPE of every Christian. “…having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3.7). This kind of hope is an expectant certainty of gaining the promise of God. This is not the “I hope I win a million dollars in the lottery” kind of hope. It’s the “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” kind of hope. We hope by faith in the sure word of the Lord.
God wants you to KNOW you have eternal life:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5.11–13)
God create this life for us, and there are so many wonderful, beautiful, thrilling aspects to it. And this is the world under the curse of sin! How much more wonderful, beautiful, and thrilling will eternal life be, in which there is no sorrow, pain, or tears? A contemporary song explores the idea of what it will be like:
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine… (by MercyMe)
I think we should imagine. It’s going to be real for us in the not-too-distant future. It’s already real for those who have gone on before us. I have loved ones who have crossed the Jordan already; I’m sure you do, too.
God tells us He will one day destroy this current world with fire and create a New Heaven and a New Earth (2 Pet. 3.10–13; Rev. 3.12; 21.1, 10). I don’t know how He will do that or what it will look like, exactly, but the promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth does not sound like floating around on clouds strumming harps for eternity. No, I am looking forward to a robust economy with fulfilling work to do, amazing food to eat, and glorious fellowship.
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21.5)
We are told we will have a body like Jesus’ new body (1 Cor. 15.49; Phil. 3.20–21). There won’t be any marriage, but we will be like the angels of God (Matt. 22.30). We will have real bodies, and we will recognize and know one another. And we will be with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever! God once walked with Adam and Eve in the garden; He will do that once again with us. I’m looking forward to a new city with a river running through it. The Tree of Life will be bearing fruit constantly on the banks of that river (Rev. 22.1–2).
And we shall reign with Christ forever and ever (Rev. 22.5; 2 Tim. 2.12).
As we near the end of Paul’s list of things to take off and put on from Ephesians 4.25–32, we arrive at this passage:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph. 4.29–30)
Some talk corrupts truth, corrupts beauty, corrupts reputations.
One destructive form of speech is gossip, which is talk behind someone’s back with the intent of painting them in a bad light. Gossip is not motivated by love; the gossiper is not trying to aid or encourage the target of conversation. Perhaps she gossips just to score points with her hearer, who hangs on to every juicy word. Perhaps she envies those she talks about and so speaks of their faults whenever possible. At the root of gossip lies a bent and selfish heart.
Slander is closely related to gossip, comprising falsehoods intended to smear a person’s name.
Backbiting involves returning evil for evil, which we are told never to do (Rom. 12.17). Picture a dog whirling around to snarl and snap at another that nipped him.
Boasting is almost the opposite of gossip. Instead of tearing someone down by focusing on their faults, the boaster builds himself up by focusing only on his strong points, often inflating reality in the process.
Sadly, filthy language pervades our society. In Ephesians 5.4, Paul writes, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Never should filthy talk pass our lips. Filthy talk comes from filthy minds. Never should we tell a crude joke or gush foolishness. This includes “potty mouth” language, when we use words which describe baser bodily functions and toss them flippantly into sentences. There are times and places when some of these words are useful and proper. Turds  belong in the toilet and a bitch is a female dog, but how often are those words used properly? The world uses “ass” in disgustingly versatile ways. Jokes about sex and sexual acts demean men and women and throw what is lovely into the garbage.
Profanity uses words which describe holy things in flippant, common, and sometimes blatantly unholy ways. For instance, using “God” or “Jesus” or “holy” in flippant ways devalues our Lord and what is truly holy. Hopefully, we use those words often in good and right ways, but we should take care not to profane what is holy, like the world constantly does.
Instead of tearing people down, we should build them up.
Instead of speaking what is out of place, we should speak what fits the occasion.
Instead of speaking filthiness, foolishness, or crudeness, we should give grace to our hearers.
“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3.2). “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (James 3.5–6).
You have much power in that little tongue of yours. Will you edify or demolish? Will you give grace or maintain malice? Will you reply with a soft answer or a harsh word? We make this choice many times a day, and it’s a choice that has consequences!
As a final admonition, Paul finishes with, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Corrupting speech grieves God’s Holy Spirit. How often do we grieve him? Let us strengthen our hearts, ask for God’s help, and work on controlling our tongues—to the praise of his glory!
 Microsoft Word flagged the word “turd” and informed me “This word may be offensive to your reader.” Indeed.
Some “attend services” in order to be entertained by heart-tugging music and finely-tuned presentations. Some “go to church” for the social aspect of seeing friends and catching up on the latest news. Some “go to worship” to fill that important checkmark for the week.
Since God created the assembly for a special purpose, what does God want us to accomplish when we gather with the saints? I find two major objectives specifically given in God’s word.
Our churches are a continuation of the assemblies of God’s people throughout the Old Testament.
The Jews met together weekly and yearly for holy convocations:
- They remembered God’s work of creation every Sabbath, as God had rested from His work on the seventh day (Lev. 23.1-3).
- They remembered how God delivered them from Egypt in the Passover feast (Lev. 23.4-8).
- They offered the Lord of the firstfruits of their harvest in the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23.9-14).
- They sacrificed to the Lord of their year’s bounty at harvest time during the Fest of Weeks (Lev. 23.15-22).
- They praised God with trumpets and food offering in the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23.23-25).
- They afflicted themselves on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23.26-32).
- They presented food offerings for seven days and then observed an extra-special Sabbath on the eighth day during the Feast of Booths (Lev. 23.33-36).
Our assemblies today mirror those Jewish assemblies; we meet to remember God and worship Him as our great deliverer and savior, rock and redeemer.
We have little to go on, as far as specifics for how New Testament Christian assemblies looked, but we have some data. For instance, we know they...
…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. …And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2.42-47)
Some aspects of their gatherings were devoted to one another, and other aspects were specifically directed to the worship and praise of God. All, in fact, was to the praise of God, even the sharing with one another in fellowship and eating, whether it was the Lord’s Supper or their daily meals.
Paul encouraged the Corinthian brethren to earnestly desire the gift of prophecy over the gift of tongue speaking. “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14.12). That whole chapter 14 is focused on building up the brethren—edification—which is accomplished through sharing God’s word in the assembly, when the whole church had come together. Paul wrote, “Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers” (1 Cor. 14.22). What can you infer by his encouragement to desire the gift of prophecy? The assembly’s main purpose is not for unbelievers but for believers! We still hope an unbeliever in our assembly will hear God’s word shared among us in such a powerful way that “he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor. 14.24-25). Paul hopes our assemblies will drive even the unbeliever to worship God.
God’s purpose for our assemblies, though, is for the good of the Christians. In Ephesians 4.11-16, to the church God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood…” God wants spiritually mature children to be serving, and our assemblies are for teaching us to grow up in Christ.
Brethren, when we come together, let us come together to worship God and to edify one another! This is why God created our assemblies. They are not entertainment sessions, but times of joint praise and thanksgiving offered to God. We pray with, sing to, and edify one another with God’s holy word. Paul told Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13). Our aim is to build up one another in Christ, strengthen the feeble, clarify our spiritual direction, praise our God with one voice, repent of our sins, confess our faith in Jesus our Lord.
As we submit to God’s plan for our gatherings, we will see less of ourselves and more of God. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed redeemer!