By Joe McKeever
“God is faithful” (I Corinthians 10:13).
1) If you do not like change, you do not want to start following Jesus.
Jesus Christ has great plans for your life, and if you hand “you” over to Him–and continue doing so every day of your life for the rest of your earthly journey–you will find that involves change, change, and more change. We may call it growth or something spiritual like “sanctification,” but it’s all about change.
He loves you the way you are, but loves you enough not to leave you that way.
Here is how the Apostle Paul put it: “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18).
That is the plan.
You don’t like change, you say?
Then, do not come after Jesus.
He’s all about change, both throughout our earthly years and at the consummation of this age when the most massive change of all will take place. Again, the Apostle Paul: “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…. and we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52).
How come so much change there at the end? Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (15:50).
Therefore, “This perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (15:53).
So, get used to it, pilgrim. Change or die. Those are and have always been the two choices.
Don’t like change? Find yourself resisting innovations? Something inside you rebels when your leader (a pastor, your boss, the teacher) introduces a new approach, a different formula, an unfamiliar technique?
That’s actually fairly normal.
Since “He Himself knows our frame” (Psalm 103:14), the Lord knows this and accepts it as a fact of human existence. In fact, Jesus said, “No one after tasting the old wine prefers the new, for he says the old is good enough” (Luke 5:39).
It may be human, but it’s a trait of our fallen nature which we have to work against.
Those who follow Jesus Christ have to resist the deadly urge to stand still, to settle for the status quo, to resist growth, to resent innovation, to lay down speed bumps inhibiting new ways.
Remember, it was rebellious, faithless Israel that wanted to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4).
Anyone following Jesus Christ will find out in a New York minute what He meant in saying “New wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:38). The “wine” of the Holy Spirit–that is, this new thing Jesus is doing–requires a flexible container, one able to give, to change and adapt and grow and expand.
Follow Jesus faithfully and a year from now you will hardly recognize yourself, you will have changed so.
Note to pastors: You will never ever have a church made up of one-hundred percent change-lovers. There will always be those resisting innovation and growth. And, since the Lord knows this about us, you must know it about yourself and your people and not let it throw you. However, as pastor and shepherd of the flock, your task will be to continually educate your people in this regard, to keep pushing growth and advancement, and not let the nay-sayers talk you into camping out on the status quo.
“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
Second note to pastors: When members tell you they do not like new things, smile broadly and tease them about that, because they do not mean it. Repeat: They. Do. Not. Mean. It. All you have to do is look in their driveways (they are not driving 1948 Pontiacs but something much more recent), look in their living rooms (they have computers and HD televisions), and look in their closets (they are not wearing their grandparents’ clothes, but new and attractive clothing).
Clearly, they enjoy change and love new things. What they mean to say is they like change to be manageable, something they can deal with, and not all of it at once.
Rick Warren says Saddleback Church is always tweaking things, always introducing new ideas and programs, but they do not use the word ‘change.’ “I tell them we’re going to experiment with this,” Rick says. “Experiment is less threatening.”
2) If you do not love Jesus, enjoy fellowship and worship with God’s people, and appreciate serving the Lord, you would not like Heaven. So, God will not make you go.
Now, no one is saying Heaven will be an endless 11 o’clock worship service. Even the preachers would not want that! (Okay, especially the preachers!)
On the other hand, if you enjoy serving the Lord, we have good news for you. Revelation 22:3 says, “And His servants shall serve Him.” In Heaven, you will serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you don’t like serving Him, well then, the news is not so good for you.
Furthermore, the centerpiece of Heaven is Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:22). If you love Him here, you’ll love Heaven. Otherwise, not.
The primary activity of Heaven seems to be reigning with the Lord, plus worship and praise of the Lord (Revelation 19:6-7 and 22:4). I think you get the idea now.
Bottom line, if you love God’s people, are devoted to God’s Book, and doing His work in the world is your great joy, you should be right at home in Heaven.
And, if you do not love the Lord Jesus, if you do not care to read His Book, and if doing His will is not something that appeals to you, you probably should not be making plans to go to Heaven.
It would be hell for you.
So, we have good news for you. God is not going to make you go to Heaven.
Heaven is for the redeemed, the ones God has declared righteous (see Matthew 25:34-36), those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” who is Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:14).
Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people (John 14:1-6).
A convention-goer stood on a street corner in downtown New Orleans, waiting for the bus which would take him to his hotel. He had over-imbibed that day and was having trouble thinking straight. When a bus stopped for the traffic light, he stepped on, not realizing he had joined a busload of preachers and their spouses in town for their own annual convention. As the drunk took his seat, he noticed the fellow beside him reading the Bible. In front of him, two people were praying out loud. And behind him, a number of preachers and their wives were harmonizing on a favorite hymn. The man stood, lurched to the front of the bus, and asked the driver to let him off at the next corner. Later, telling a friend how he found himself on the bus among a bunch of Christians, the drunk said, “It was hell.”
C.S. Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” makes the same point, that the hell-bound would be miserable in Heaven for the simple reason that they do not fit. Given the choice of staying in the Celestial region or leaving, the group in Lewis’ story choose hell. Profound truth.
3) If you are not willing to enter Heaven through Jesus Christ, you will not be going at all.
“I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved….” (John 10:9).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Are we clear on that?
In Matthew 22, Jesus told a parable which ties this together as well as it can be done. A king gives a wedding feast for his son. When the invited guests reject his invitation, the ruler sends his servants out with instructions to “go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.”
“So those servants went into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
When every seat was taken, the servants informed the king who entered for the festivities. He surveyed his surroundings, looked over all his guests, and then spotted something out of place.
Jesus said, “He saw there a man who did not have on a wedding garment.”
Do not miss this. Although unstated, it is a given that when these replacement guests entered, the palace servants equipped each one with a wedding garment of some kind or other. (Bear in mind no one had left home that morning thinking they might be invited to the palace, so “I’d better take along my tuxedo.” This was the ultimate come-as-you-are party.)
The fellow sitting in the banquethall dressed in his own clothing had bypassed a palace servant. He had entered in his own way.
He had not come by the door.
“The king said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’”
Had he entered by the door, he would have been in good shape.
“And (the man) was speechless.” (Matthew 22:1-13) He had no excuse.
There is only one Door to Heaven and His name is Jesus.
You may believe otherwise, and you are free to believe what you please, but not and call yourself a Christian.
These are non-negotiable, irreducible, most basic aspects of the Christian faith.
–To follow Jesus means change, change and more change.
–The best way to know we will “fit” in Heaven is to love the things of the Lord now in this life.
–The only way into Heaven is through the Door, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.