Acts America

eBook: "What Have We Really Lost?"

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Heaven: Don’t Miss It For The World

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

As I have served the Lord for these past 21 years (and may I add they have all been with my lovely wife, Beth, who was saved 2 weeks after I was) I have often been troubled why many Christians I have known have no real joy in their relationship with Christ. There seems to be so much surface zeal in the place of the true “joy of the Lord” Why do Christians who have the blessed privilege to commune with a resurrected Saviour who died for their sins, find something else to fulfill their Christian experience and joy? Why do so few seemingly have so little interest in heaven? I still do not have all the answers, but I believe I understand the reason a little better.

Now, I realize that we, as Christians, experience trials and circumstances that can be very trying. I know there are valleys in which we must walk. There are those times that we battle with discouragement and doubts and fears. But Christianity is not one long extended valley. It is one Goliath after another. Christianity is not a continual “digging out” from one bad experience to another. But even if it were, we have a living, resurrected Saviour and the promise of the word that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Thank God there are words in the Kingdom of God, such as victory, deliverance, comfort, goodness, thankfulness, fullness, power, strengthened, inheritance, liberty, justice, freedom, resurrection, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Thank God there are scriptures like, “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 4:19) “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b) Yet with all these words and scriptures and promises, many still find very little consistency in their “joy of the Lord” stirring a “hope for heaven.”

Hope That Breeds Misery

I believe we find some of the answer in 1 Corinthians 15:19. Listen to what Paul says in this verse, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." As I read this verse and meditated upon it in prayer, I saw something that, on the surface, seems impossible. But it is not impossible at all. There are two phrases here that look impossible for an individual to have said about them at the same time. It seems impossible that these two characteristics can be active in a person at the same time. Paul says man can have “hope in Christ” and, at the same time, be “of all men most miserable.” How can Paul say that an individual can have “hope in Christ” and yet be “men most miserable?” It seems to be a contradiction, an impossibility. Yet, it is the very reason many have so little joy in their lives as Christians. They have “hope in Christ,” but it only makes them “miserable.” They talk about hope, they talk about Jesus, but, for the most part, they are miserable. Paul said, “There is a hope that maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:5), but this hope makes one miserable. How can this be?

This “hope in Christ” is “in this life only.” Look at the verse again, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthian 15:9) Men are most miserable whose “hope in Christ” is “in this life only.” They have “hope in Christ”, but it is “for this life only.” These are men who have “hope in Christ” for things they want to accomplish, places they want to go. Their “hope in Christ” is that He will help them accomplish and achieve much of that which they have set their eyes upon. They have goals and achievements they desire to be met and they have “hope in Christ” that He will assist them. The only problem is that most of this “hope in Christ” is for things “in this life only.” A tremendous amount of energy and effort is directed at obtaining the “good life” here, at the expense of losing the joyous expectation of heaven in the life to come. These become miserable when this “hope in Christ” does not bring about the desired results in certain situation and circumstances. Their joy, for the most part, is dictated by their blessings or lack of in this life.

In The World And Of The World

Jesus said about His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16) Many today in the church are in the world, of the world, and consumed by the world. Paul said to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their ownselves….lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2a, 4b) Multitudes have run to the god of pleasure, pandering to their selfish desires. They have an appetite for the world and those “things” thereof, that refuse to be left unsatisfied.

As I was preparing this message for our congregation, I had a visit from a prominent Methodist minister in our area. My wife brought him to my study where I was in the middle of this message. He told me over the past few weeks the Holy Spirit had brought to his remembrance on several occasions his first missionary trip to India. He prayed and asked the Lord if there was something He was trying to tell him. He told me that he believed the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart. The Holy Spirit reminded him how the Hindu’s worship millions of gods. They worship anything from the leaves on the tree to the next person walking by and they do this consciously. But, the Holy Spirit said, those in America also worship millions of gods. The only difference is that Americans worship their millions of gods unconsciously. They unconsciously worship their material blessings, jobs, careers, food, entertainment, their abilities, appearances before men, sports, video games, internet, TV, the American dream, ministry and the list goes on. Paul said it a little stronger. “For there are many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, who walk (live) as enemies of the cross of Christ (the Anointed One). They are doomed and their fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, siding with earthly things and being of their party.” (Philippians 3:18, 19 Amplified)

Multitudes in this hour have chosen this world, and the things of this world. Their “hope for heaven” has been traded in for a hope that makes miserable. Their reality of Christianity is “in this life only.” The pleasures and conveniences here outweigh to them the hope of the world to come. Their joy, their expectation, their anticipation, their pleasures are found “in this life only.” They have become very earthly minded. The love of this world has robbed them of their “blessed hope.” Their entire lives, for the most part, are centered around “laying up treasures on earth,” instead of joyfully preparing for heaven. Listen to William Law writing over 200 years ago:

"And when the lusts of the flesh have had their last day, and the pride of life has only a dead body to nhabit, the soul of man which remains will know at last that it has nothing of its own, nothing that can say, “I do this”, or “I possess that”.

Then all that man has or does, will either be the glory of God manifested in him, or the power of hell in full possession of his soul.

The time of man’s playing with words and intellect, or grasping after positions among men or of amusing himself with the foolish toys of this vain world, can last no longer, than he is able to eat and drink with the creatures of this world.

When the time comes that he must take his leave of earthly treasure and honors, then all the stately structures which genius, learning, and proud imaginations have painted before his own eyes or those of others must bear full witness to Solomon’s “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”."

(William Law, The Power of the Spirit)

Listen to the Apostle John on his perspective of the world: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust of there of: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever,” (1 John 2:15-17)

A Hope That Causes Blindness

When people who call themselves “Christians” have a “hope in Christ” that is “for this life only”, something very destructive begins to happen in their spiritual walk. That hope not only makes them miserable, but it also brings spiritual blindness. The word “miserable” that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15:19 is only used one other time in the New Testament. I believe both of these times, it is used to speak to the church of the danger and deception of this “false hope.” We find this word “miserable” again as Jesus speaks: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelations 3:17) Here Jesus is speaking to the church. He uses the same word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15:19. Jesus says to those within this church that they are miserable. But before He tells them, He makes a profound statement. Jesus says, “And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Jesus says they are miserable and don’t even know it.

How can a person be miserable and not even know it? Jesus tells us how. He says these Christians have also become blind. The word “blind” here comes from a word that means “opaque.” This blindness causes things to become shady, dark and obscure. It causes one not to see clearly or limits one’s ability to be very observant. This blindness causes things to be easily hidden from a person. But it also means something else. It means to “envelope with smoke.” What is Jesus saying? He is simply saying that when His children have “hope in this life only,” with this riches and increase of goods, these “things” begin to act as a smoke screen which prevents you from seeing clearly what is beyond. When God’s children become earthly-minded, too much about self and the temporal things of this life, they become surrounded with a smoke screen that clouds their vision for those heavenly places. They become miserable and blind to the “blessed hope of His appearance” and don’t even know it.

Hope of Heaven Consumed By The Smoke

Multitudes in the church today have had their vision for heaven consumed. But this is not by happenchance; it is the very design and deception of the enemy. It is the deception of the enemy, the spirit of this age, which seduces the children of God, causing them to be very earthly and worldly-minded. This is all designed to cloud their vision for those things that be of heaven. This blindness deceives its victims until they are inflated with self-conceit. They become high-minded and lifted up with pride until the smoke slowly consumes them without the flames.

There is an old saying that says, “Where there is smoke, there is some fire.” This smoke that envelopes its victims with the pleasure and profit of this world is from the devil’s fire. The enemy allows this smoke to slowly penetrate into the life of its victim until the heavenly vision and heavenly anticipation are clouded over with worldly goods and worldly pleasures. The smoke from this fire is the “things of the world” that tarnish the “hope for heaven.”

This is the same deception Satan used in the Garden of Eden. He offered Eve an apple for a paradise. Eve failed to realize the hook that was in the bait. Now Satan’s apple represents the things of this world which are exchanged for the heavenly vision. Man is still failing to see the hook that is in the bait. Man is failing to see the devil’s fire behind the smoke. Multitudes of God’s children are getting caught up in the smoke of enticing television commercials and magazine ads featuring “the good life.” The latest fashions modeled by macho men and seductive women are all presenting a set of false values.

We live in a high-tech generation whose lights keep shining brighter and brighter with a spirit that says, “Get all you can now.” These bright lights have moved right into the church. Drama, plays and theatrics with all the proper costumes, sound effects and high-tech lighting have filled many sanctuaries. The “foolishness of preaching,” (1 Corinthians 1:21) has been replaced in many pulpits with the “foolishness of acting.” Many preachers have substituted hours of prayer over a message with hours of practice on all the right lines. “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God” preached by Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century has been replaced with “The Misunderstood on the Couch of the Psychologist.” Adam and Eve are still being deceived by the enemy. Paul said, “For I am jealous over you with Godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2,3) The victim may not be named Eve and the bait may not be an apple, but the enemy is still the same; and multitudes are being deceived by the smoke from his fire.

Do You Smell Smoke?

Many may read this message and become very bothered. You may possibly write this preacher off as being very narrow. But I have prayed and asked the Lord that if there is any smoke in your life, you will begin to “smell it.” Open your heart and allow God to show you how “that blessed hope” has been consumed by this deception. I believe the Lord gave me three very simple examples of how this smoke may be affecting your life. Look at them and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart:

  • Have you ever been riding down the highway and someone was burning leaves in the ditch? The smoke had crossed the highway and you could hardly see through it. But you could see enough to know that it was not very wide, so you moved quickly through it to the other side. You were amazed how quickly the smell of smoke got in your car and on your clothes, but it soon went away.

  • What about that time when you were traveling and there was a forest fire close by? The smoke had become very dense and emergency personnel were on the scene to slow you down making sure that you proceeded with caution. This time the smoke affected your breathing a little, and your vision was limited to just a few feet ahead of the car. Eventually you broke out of the smoke, but the effects were longer lasting. Your car and clothes had that “smell of smoke” and it took some effort to get it out.

  • Then there is that person who woke up to a smoke filled house. The smoke was very heavy and they were having difficulty breathing. They had to find something to cover their face, hopefully a damp cloth, as they stumbled to escape with their life. Some in the house made it out on their own; others had to be rescued; while still others were consumed by the smoke—not the fire—and lost their lives.

Where are you today? Maybe of you are traveling down the road where the leaves are burning. There is just enough “smoke of this world” to bring a few tears to your eyes and a little smell on your clothes.

There may be some of you who are having to proceed with caution. The “smoke of the world” in your life is like the forest fire. You can see the danger all around you and it is really hindering your vision. Your spiritual progress has been brought to a virtual standstill.

What about you who are recognizing your house is filled with smoke? You look around and see this “smoke of the world” has all but totally consumed your “life in Christ.” This smell of smoke has affected every part of your walk. You sense the urgency to get out, but you find yourself weak and in need of help. Your vision for those “heavenly places in Christ Jesus” has been totally consumed, and you find yourself struggling in the darkness with very little “hope.”

This Smoke Can Be Driven Away

This “smoke of the world” has affected many lives. These worldly enticements have consumed the “blessed hope” in many hearts.

Peter once knew what it was to “savour those things of the world.” Listen to what Jesus said to Peter, “But He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23) Peter also had the smell of this smoke in his life.

However, something happened to Peter. The power of the Holy Spirit changed Peter’s life on the day of Pentecost. The wind of the Spirit blew the smoke away. “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away…” (Psalms 68: 1,2a) God will arise through the power of the Holy Spirit and drive away this enemy of your soul.

The Holy Spirit is still blowing today. Cry out to Him and allow Him to drive away this “smoke of the world,” this “hope that makes miserable.” Allow the grace of God to stir a desire to say with those in Hebrews 11 “...And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13b-16)

Allow the Holy Spirit to blow fresh again in your life. Allow Him to bring a renewed vision to your daily walk of “those heavenly places in Christ” until Revelations 22:17 is a reality in your heart; “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” Embrace the grace of God today with a fresh hope that cries, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelations 22:20b) Rise up today with a fervent zeal for the Person of Jesus Christ until you can cry out with Paul, “If then you have been raised with Christ (to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead), aim at and seek the (rich, eternal treasures) that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And seet your minds and keep them set on what is above (the hingher things), not on the things that are oon the earth. For(as far as this world is concerened) you have died, and your (new, real)life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in (the splendor of His) glory.” (Colossianss 3:1-4 Aamplified)

Heaven is real, don’t miss it for this world.