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In a Better Place

October 1, 2022

I come across many people who say things like “Well, he’s in a better place,” when one of their friends or family member passes away. It insinuates they believe in a place we call heaven. To them it’s a place after death where they will gather with all their friends and family who have passed before them. They believe when you take your last breath here, you open your eyes to a great reunion filled with peace and happiness; or maybe angels, harps, and lots of clouds; or maybe a loud raucous party with a band and plenty of laughter — but most definitely all their friends will be gathered round as they celebrate being back together once again.

They believe everything wrong in this life will then be made better. It’s heaven, after all! In that immediate moment they will be filled with bliss, hugging and loving their long-lost relatives and friends. And yet while believing in this version of the afterlife, so many also deny there is a God. How can this be? Who could create heaven but God? More importantly, are the folks that pass away truly ‘in a better place?’

Interestingly only God could create a place called heaven [spoiler alert: He did] and people can go there when they die. The sad truth, however, is many do not — and that is of their own choosing.

The question I have is why would their choice be to turn their backs to Giver of the gift? You can only claim ignorance until the moment you face Him, but in the words of an old Christian rock song: “everyone will have to choose whether they will win or lose; follow God or sing the blues; and who they’re gonna sin with.”

And that’s the real bottom line. Romans chapter 1 clearly talks about God’s fingerprints are on everything everywhere and yet people make the choice to not even consider Him, let alone surrender their hearts and worship Him. Verse 21 of that same chapter says in their refusal to acknowledge God, their thoughts became futile, and their hearts were darkened. The next verse is even more to the point:

Romans 1:22
Professing to be wise, they became fools. (NKJV)

In their ignorance they gave up wisdom for foolishness. They were forced to realize life is bigger than them and instead of turning to a God who loves them, they opted to love themselves; they chose to love the created rather than the creator. They made themselves to be as God thinking their opinions on what is right or wrong was accurate and just. Morality, to them, is subjective, and could change if it suited the moment or person. “Your truth is true for you,” may be the most ignorant and illogical claim one can make. Something is either true or it is not. And those that argue against such are in complete denial of reality.

Submitting to a higher Authority, a moral code above mankind is daunting and always leaves us in a lurch. Wanting justice towards others while justifying our own actions is definitely our human nature (and a poor one at that). Everyone wants justice for evil done against them, but no one wants justice for their own evil. That would force them to examine their lives against an absolute moral standard. How would their life measure up to a standard above their own and knowing they could never attain? Like the student nearing the end of the semester, they know the grades are coming soon and they get that gut angst wondering if they “made the grade”. If they were their own judge and jury, they’re a sure thing for heaven. But the moral standard is not flexible and is not up to each individual’s whim — where would justice be for that type of life? Foolishness. You cannot have heaven and deny the maker of it. Nor can you attain heaven without surrendering to the One who created it. God doesn’t allow trespassers.

There are only two types of people who get the golden ticket to heaven: perfect people and forgiven people. Here are a few bullet points for clarity on this train of thought:

  • All have sinned (Romans 3:23). Jesus was the only One that was perfect. You’re not.
  • The wages of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). That’s a paycheck I’d like to avoid!
  • Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 3:16-17; John 14:6). Can’t be clearer than that.
  • It’s not about good outweighing bad (Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s about faith, not works – you boaster.
  • God loves you (Romans 5:8). We so egregiously don’t deserve it which makes His grace amazing!

People often “try Christianity” for a while, but never truly surrender their heart. Romans 10:9-10 makes it abundantly clear it’s not like a 30-day money back guarantee. It is a complete surrender of you to Him. 

Romans 10:9-10
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (NKJV)

I talk to people who believe God is in the condemning business based on people’s lifestyles and choices. God is not in the condemning business, but is instead, in the redeeming business.

John 3:17 says God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. You see it’s your sin that condemns you; He didn’t need to. Apart from Jesus you have no hope. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

But in Him you can be forgiven, redeemed, restored, delivered, set free, given a new heart. A new heart that desires to serve Him from a position of gratitude and adoration – not from obligation or a change of mind. That is one of the primary differences between Christianity and all the world’s religions: the change is from the inside-outwards, not things done on the outside in order to change what’s inside.

Sadly, and tying back into the opening paragraph, when people pass away, they may not be in a “better place”. In the afterlife (which we each will face) there is only heaven or hell. God desperately desires you spend eternity with him in heaven but will not force you to go. 

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NKJV)

He loved you enough to pay the price and do everything needed so you could be forgiven and go to heaven. If you make the choice to say ‘no’ to Jesus, there is only one other option: hell. Its real, it wasn’t made for you, and it is far worse than what you’ve been told. But God made a way, and His name is Jesus. Every person alive will someday pass away. I will. You will. Your friends and family will.  Each of us will have to make a choice and that decision is inescapable because you don’t know your expiration date, but it’s coming. If you wait until after your last breath it will be too late.  The choice is yours. What will you do with it?

— Pastor Rick

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