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A famous Christian once wrote, “God became human so that humans could become God.”
This man wasn’t a Mormon.
He didn’t think that we will all become gods in heaven, because he clarified this by also saying, “The reason God became man was to give immortality to his mortal creation.”
God became human so that humans could become immortal, like God is.
Do you believe this?
Last week I met with a guy from soccer.
His sister was killed in an accident a couple months ago.
She was 17.
He said to me, “I’ve never really thought of life after death.”
“But now I’ve been thinking a lot. Where is she?”
I spoke to him about heaven.
He said he’d always struggled to believe things unless there was good evidence.
By evidence, he meant things that he could see.
I spoke to him about heaven.
I said to him, heaven is in a dimension that we can’t see.
And there are lots of real things that exist that we can’t see.
Think about what is keeping us alive right now. Oxygen.
We can’t see this. And yet we rely on it every moment to stay alive.
Everything that is observable in our universe is made up of atoms.
Atoms have never been seen with the human eye.
There are lots of things that are real that we can’t see.
Think about radio waves. These waves range from a metre to kilometres in length.
They’re used to transmit data for satellites, computers and radios.
Gravity. We can observe the effects of gravity, but we can’t see gravity.
Then there’s the Mind and Emotions. We can observe the brain and its chemical reactions, but thoughts are completely in the unseen realm.
Why am I mentioning all of this?
Because it can be easy to think like my mate. I only believe in things that I can see.
It sounds right, but it’s logically wrong. Nobody lives like this, in the real world.
We all believe in things we can’t see.
And this morning, God’s asking you to believe in something that you can’t see.
In order to do this, you have to use your IMAGINATION.
Not your imaginary imagination.
But your God given imagination, so you can enter into the reality of immortality.
A reality that you can’t yet see.
Every night before my boys go to bed, they beg us for a story.
How do we start the story?
“Once upon a time...there was a king...”
Immediately they’re hooked, and their imaginations are off.
They love it.
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
If Isaac Newton didn’t use his imagination, he would never have discovered gravity.
If you didn’t use your imagination, you’d never have found that lost phone of yours.
Although ‘findmyphone’ helps those of you who are imaginatively challenged.
For a Christian, imagination is absolutely necessary to know and enjoy God.
Because God exists in a dimension that we can’t see.
God’s home is a reality that we can’t see. HEAVEN.
says to us: “Set your minds on things that are above.”
This doesn’t mean we bend our necks and look up at the skies.
What it does mean is that we look to the reality beyond what we can physically see.
says; “Fix your eyes on what is unseen.”
Today we remember the empty tomb of Jesus. Today we remember the one event that has changed the course of history more than any other, and changed more people’s lives than any other by a long way.
God became like mortal man, so that we could become like immortal God.
God entered earth, so that we could enter heaven.
What I love about God is that he never asks us to believe something he doesn’t give good proof for.
He doesn’t say believe, just because. That’s wishful thinking.
When it comes to heaven and the spiritual realm around us, it’s really important that we understand and believe this.
He caters to our scepticism.
He invites us to LOOK and SEE what happened.
You might be sceptical this morning, and as we read this Scripture I want you to LOOK at the words LOOK and SEE in this recording of the eye witness account of what happened that Sunday morning 2000 years ago.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
And what do they get to look at? Heaven meeting earth.
2 (AND LOOK/SEE) There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from HEAVEN and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
Seeing an angel doesn’t happen every day, and it’s no wonder they responded this way.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and (LOOK/SEE), is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ (LOOK/SEE), I have told you.”
Like the disciples, we have to wait to see Jesus. But the promise is for us as it was for them. You will see him. See. Jesus says, “I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 (AND LOOK/SEE), Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Again his followers had to wait to see him, but Jesus makes the promise, “There they WILL see me.”
Jesus has gone ahead of us, not to Galilee, but to heaven.
There you WILL see him.
Believing in Jesus means having your imagination taken captive and reshaped by SEEING a new story.
says, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Unless you step out of your own world, and step into his world, you’ll remain stuck in the world of suffering and death.
Our human story didn’t have death in it when it began.
In the beginning, HEAVEN and EARTH were one.
God’s home and our home were shared together.
There was no death. God made us in his image.
He made us to be immortal like him. He provided all that was needed for us to enjoy eternal life with him.
But we didn’t want life WITH God, we wanted life WITHOUT God.
Our first parents set the pattern that we’ve all followed in since. They thought they could provide life for themselves, on their terms.
Like a fish jumping out of water, wanting life without the very thing that enables it to have life.
When they jumped away from God, they became mortal. They lost life.
When we follow in their footsteps, we show that this deception has infected not just them but all of humanity.
We’ve lost our ability to live.
We’ve lost our immortality.
Instead of heaven and earth being one, they became separate.
Like water for a fish, Heaven was the environment we were immersed.
It provided life and immortality for humanity on earth.
But since jumping out, humanity’s been gasping for air.
Flapping helplessly.
Suffocating helplessly under the rule of death.
Why does my soccer mate struggle to accept death?
Why do we hate those clichés about death?
“It’s just part of life.”
“You’ll get over it soon.”
We’re craving for the world that we lost.
We feel like we’re suffocating, gasping for air.
We’re craving for immortality once again.
We’re groaning under the weight of death.
Will we ever be free again?
Will we ever be able to breathe again?
Friends. What every one of you wishes for deep down, Jesus came to fulfil.
God joined us on earth so that we could join him in heaven.
God became like mortal man so that mortal man could become like immortal God.
How did he do this?
By joining heaven and earth together again.
On that first day that heaven and earth parted, he promised to fix it.
He promised that there would be a day we would become one again.
This is the story of the Bible.
Jesus repeatedly said while in his human body on the earth, I am from heaven.
I have come from heaven.
I’m returning to heaven, from where I came.
But first he needed to do something.
He needed to do something for us, that we couldn’t do ourselves.
He needed to enter into our condition, go through our death, and in so doing defeat death that had its foot on our necks.
In the ultimate act of shaming death, he submits himself to death, in order to defeat death.
While watching the death of Jesus, Satan and death were rejoicing, little knowing that this was the very act that would secure their defeat.
We don’t know why Jesus chose to do it this way.
However, because he did it this way, he has become the forerunner for all of us.
Even though our mortal bodies will die, we will remain alive, and will one day be clothed with a new immortal body like the one Jesus is in now, in heaven.
Jesus lunges were crushed and his breathe squeezed out so that you and I could breathe again.
His arms were stretched out, and are now stretched out.
He’s inviting you to come to him, to find your story in his story.
To see your death in his death, and see your new life in his new life.
Jesus offers his life as an alternative story to your life.
Do you want his story to be your story this morning?
Is it your story this morning?
Or do you want to remain suffocating, cut off from life, a slave to death.
Where do you imagine you’ll be going when you die?
For those who have found their life in Jesus life, they’ll be going to him.
To live the rest of eternity with him.
Sharing his immortality.
Living in an incorruptible body like his.
In the new creation.
Where heaven and earth are one again.
If your life has no connection to Jesus life, when your body dies your soul will continue suffocating, gasping for air, for all eternity, remaining under the control of death and your sin.
An existence Jesus repeatedly described as weeping, and grinding of teeth; as total darkness, as torment.
Don’t be mistaken.
For those of you who have entrusted your life to Jesus, this life is as close as you’ll ever get to hell. Be encouraged.
Our most joyful imaginations of what heaven will be like don’t even compare with what the reality is.
But for those of you who are holding on to your life, refusing to entrust it to Jesus, this life is as close as you’ll ever get to heaven.
Be warned.
Your worst imaginations of what hell will be like don’t even compare with what the reality is.
I plead with you on God’s behalf this morning, choose life, not death.
Be reconciled to God.
Believe in Jesus, who died in your place for your sins.
Who suffocated; was cut off from life, so that you could be brought back into life and breathe again, starting now, and continuing forever.
Some of you might be thinking, yeah that all sounds like a nice story, but really, are we really meant to believe in Jesus being alive today, 2000 years later? You doubt, just like those in verse 17.
“When they SAW him, they worshipped, but some doubted.”
For a long time the pressure has been on believer’s in the resurrection to defend it to the sceptical.
I’m convinced that there is so much evidence supporting the resurrection that the pressure is on the doubter’s of the resurrection to explain the facts that we have in order to convince us that it didn’t happen.
Most people who deny the resurrection of Jesus do so on grounds similar to the Jewish people in Jesus day. They either ignore or deny the plain facts. Those who actually look into the evidence nearly always change.
In verse 11-15 Matthew tells us about a dark day for the Jewish leaders.
Instead of looking at the evidence, let’s read what they did,
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Many people believed this lie, and in so doing, forfeited the eternal life that could have been theirs. They died gasping for air, because of a plain lie.
Look at these facts which are undisputed by all experts in ancient history.
Jesus died by crucifixion
Jesus was buried in a known tomb.
Jesus tomb was empty.
Jesus was seen bodily by multiple people, up to 500 at one time.
Not only this but these disciples changed overnight from being cowards to boldly declaring Jesus as risen, even to their death.
Even today, people face death with no fear in their eyes, no fear in their heart. If you’re a doubter this morning, how do you explain these things?
I realise most of you SEE where the evidence points this morning.
You believe.
But maybe you’ve got a different issue.
Why did Jesus go back to heaven?
Why can’t we be with him, and see him now?
Philip Yancey said, “The ascension represents our greatest struggle of faith...Wouldn’t it have been better if the ascension had never happened?”
I feel this. I’m sure you feel this tension too.
But Jesus said repeatedly; It’s better for us that he returned to heaven, rather than stay.
They are many reasons, and I don’t presume to know them all, but we get two of them from our passage:
1. So that He could sit at God’s right hand of power as King over all creation.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
JI Packer compares heaven to the control centre of a bustling train station.
Standing on the platform, you can’t see all tracks
You can’t sense which train should go where and why and when.
Only from the control centre, where a grand conductor can see all the trains and schedules and tracks, does each part make sense.
Another theologian calls heaven “the CEO’s office.”
From heaven Jesus rules with all authority over every world leader, over every country. He also rules with all authority in heaven.
He is the king of kings, the lord of lords.
He’s working all things together for the good of those who love him and are joined with him.
2. So that he could be with ALL his people on the earth forever.
What does he say?
LOOK/SEE! I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus returned to heaven having all authority in heaven, and from there he has given his Spirit so that heaven and earth can be one even now.
So Jesus is in heaven physically, but he is on earth spiritually. Living in every person who calls upon his name.
Remember the two commands from the beginning.
“Set your minds on things that are above.” Remember where Jesus is now physically. Remember he has all authority in heaven and on earth.
“Fix your eyes on things that are unseen.” Remember where Jesus is now spiritually. Inside of you believer. Or if you are not yet a believer, as close as one word of request.
Heaven and earth have been made one in Jesus spiritually.
What we’re all waiting for us for heaven and earth to be one physically.
But for this we have to wait for Jesus to come physically again to the earth, bringing heaven with him, to renew and recreate this world.
What is he waiting for?
For the great rescue mission to be completed. What were his final words to his followers? And to us?
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
He’ll return once people from all nations have found their life in him, for he came for all humanity, not just one part of humanity.
This is his story. This is HISTORY. Make this your story and jump in to life this morning.
God became like mortal humanity, so that you could become like immortal God.
God entered earth, so that you could enter heaven.
If you know God is speaking to you this morning, calling you to come to him, then respond to him.
And if you’re already part of his story, then set your mind fully on things that are above, not on earthly things, both now and until our faith will be sight. Our imaginations no longer be imagination, but very present and physical reality.
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