In a recent sermon, Pastor Pope revealed a saying that he uses somewhat like a daily mantra: heaven is better. On the surface, most of us probably believe that saying is a no brainer. Those of us who believe in heaven believe that it is paradise, so of course, it must be better than here on earth right?
Pastor Pope noted that heaven is a place where we’ll find peace, love, and freedom from the strife that we find in this world. That’s undoubtedly true, but what’s often unspoken is the fact that there is a lot that we love about this world that won’t be in heaven.
The world is full of things that tempt our flesh. Our society offers plenty that is either sinful or could lead us to sin, like drugs, gambling, and a variety of sexually immoral acts. These things can take us off the righteous path, yet we all still have difficulties giving them up. Again, many of us believe that heaven is better, but how much can we really believe that if we so enjoy the things that are not of heaven? The Bible specifically tells us not to love those things.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. – 1 John 2:15
Most believers acknowledge that there are bad things in the world in which we enjoy indulging. However, we also understand that many of those things are dangerous and destructive and can bring us to ruin on both physical and spiritual levels.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. – Titus 2:11-12
Once we come to accept Jesus as our Savior, we begin to understand what must be done. We have to take the advice given by Paul in the above scripture and begin to discipline ourselves and move away from the sinful offerings of the world. Heaven isn’t just better. It’s eternal, so it shouldn’t be that harsh of a trade to give up things that will end us to make it to a destination where we will last forever.
However, a problem exists. Not everything we love about this world is bad. Not all of its trappings are sinful. Here is where our perception of Heaven and reality collide. When we see heaven portrayed in TV shows or movies, it’s often shown as a place that has all the things that we love about Earth with none of the bad things. That’s our idea of a paradise, but that’s not what the Bible tells us about Heaven. It’s not simply a place where we get to indulge in Earthly pleasures forever, even if those particular pleasures are not sinful.
Consider sex within the confines of marriage. That is not a sinful act. In fact, one might argue it is a gift from God. It is, after all, the method that allows us to maintain the bonds of marriage and build a family from that marriage. So, engaging in it and enjoying it is certainly not wrong, but just how much should we love it? Certainly not so much that we can’t give it up. Heaven may be better, but it won’t be a place where sex happens, in or out of marriage. Jesus stated the following when asked a question about how marriage would work in Heaven:
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. – Mark 12:24-25
We can assume from Jesus’ statement that when we reside with the Lord in eternity, most of the physical pleasures that we love so much here on Earth will be things of the past whether they are good or bad.
That’s why the Bible warns us to transition away from our love for worldly things. The problem isn’t that everything in this world is destructive or that God wants us to abstain from every pleasurable thing about the world. The problem is that we are supposed to be using this life to prepare ourselves for the life to come. If we get too attached to earthly trappings along the way, they will turn from temporary pastimes to stumbling blocks and prevent us from enjoying what God has provided for us in both worlds.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:17
We have to remember that no matter how wonderful some of the things in this world might be, they are all temporary. We shouldn’t place our focuses on things that seem good for the moment but are destined to turn to dust.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
We have to allow ourselves to be transformed. That doesn’t mean we have to give up everything we love in this world. It means that we have to learn to live in this world according to God’s will. That will likely mean that we have to sacrifice some things. We may be able to continue to partake in other things, but, more importantly, by growing according to God’s will, when it’s time to put this world and everything in it behind us, we will be prepared and capable of doing just that.
Any of us can say “Heaven is better,” but if we don’t believe the gospel we will never make it there. When we truly believe the gospel, we will strive to live like citizens of Heaven and pilgrims of Earth.
Sermon: “To Love Your Soul, You Must Deny Yourself” by Everett Pope