Daily Devotion Friday, November 6, 2015
This week the inspiration for our Daily Devotions will be drawn from the sermon that I preached this past Sunday for All Saints' Day--a sermon on grief, loss, hope, life, heaven, Heaven and resurrection. If you would like to read the transcript of that sermon, you can click HERE. The Scripture that we used as our guide was John chapter 11--the story of Jesus raising of Lazarus from the dead.
There is an old joke that I rather like. A prominent politician and a pastor both die and arrive at the Pearly Gates at the same time. As the politician approaches, St. Peter gestures and a huge red carpet is rolled out in front of him, angels suddenly appear and begin blowing trumpets. Jesus comes to the gates and personally welcomes the politician with a warm embrace while hosts of angels cheer. The whole retinue goes inside shouting and singing.
After the noise dies down, the pastor approaches and St. Peter simply says, "Welcome my son, come on in," then goes back to writing in his big book. The pastor bristles, "Hey! How come that guy got the red carpet treatment? Jesus himself came to meet him. I've been a pastor my whole life, and all I get is a 'come on in!' What gives?" St. Peter put his hand on the pastor's shoulder and said, "Nothing personal, my son, but that's the first politician we've seen up here in fifty years. It was kind of a big deal."
The thing about that joke is that you can replace politician with just about anything: lawyer, Presbyterian, Oakland Raiders fan, you name it.
But that old joke does raise some pretty big questions, like: "Who gets to go to heaven?" and "How do I know for sure if I'm going to be there?"
I think that a lot of Christians seem to be preoccupied with the question of who's "in" and who's "out" when it comes to heaven. They spend a great deal of time and energy enumerating all of the ways that those people are "out," and expressing confidence and perhaps even a bit of pride in the certainty that they themselves are "in."
My simple answer to that very complex question about who gets in to heaven is this: "It's not up to me, it's up to God." If I was making my own list of who was "in" and who was "out," it would pretty arbitrary and totally subject to my own whims. That's why questions of eternity need to be left up to the One who stands outside of our comprehension.
In answer to that second question, "How do I know for sure if I'm going to be in heaven?" I can only testify to what I know. My faith in God and the witness of Scripture teaches me that all those who put their faith and trust in Jesus are promised new life on the other side of this one. How that works, what it looks like exactly---all of that is a holy mystery. All I know is that God redeems, saves, reconciles and makes all things new through Jesus.
Billy Graham was once asked if he was sure he was going to heaven when he died. "I hope so," he answered. That gives me some comfort. If anyone on this earth is going to heaven, I'm thinking, it has to be Billy Graham. And even he approaches that great mystery with humility.
This past Sunday we learned that "In life and death we belong to God." All of those questions that we have about what comes next, who is "in," who is "out," and all the rest of it are all in God's hands, not ours. This should fill us with incredible peace.
May you be filled today with the joy and hope of eternal life. May you share your story, your hope, your joy with a world that desperately needs light to break through the darkness. May you live in humility, knowing that eternity is in the hands of the One who not only lovingly created you, but gave up everything to redeem you, and draw you closer to himself. Grace and peace.