Subject: God’s Plan for Sharing
Dr. George Sweeting, chancellor emeritus, Moody Bible Institute, states, “On July 20, 1969, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon. Commander Neil Armstrong uttered the now famous words, ‘One small step for man-one giant leap for mankind.’ But as incredible as that journey was, an event is coming that will leave mankind gaping in wonder.” Of course, Dr. Sweeting refers to the “Rapture: The Catching Away of the Church” as he titles chapter 4.Mary Irwin, whose husband, astronaut James Benson Irwin, traveled to the moon, co-authored a book with Madalene Harris, titled The Moon Is Not Enough: An astronaut’s wife finds peace with God and herself published by Zondervan in 1978. Colonel Jim Irwin wrote several books to include his autobiography titled To Rule the Night and another titled Destination: Moon. In his writings Irwin shares his spiritual experience occurring on the U.S. Apollo 15 space mission. He spent 67 hours on the moon after a three day journey. After landing on the moon on July 30, 1971, followed by a good night’s sleep, Jim Irwin and David Scott “deployed a four-wheeled lunar roving vehicle, or ‘moon buggy,’ and it took them farther from their ship than any previous lunar astronauts had ventured.”The following information comes from the High Flight Foundation website: “Astronaut Col. [Jim] Irwin [(1930-1991)] saw earth as few men have. He felt the awesome presence of God and experienced first hand evidence that showed how intricately God cares for us. Because of the extraordinary life changing event he came away from the moon flight with a profound sense of responsibility to all mankind. His famous quote ‘Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon’, has been heard around the world echoing the deep transformation that took place in his soul.
To share his experience High Flight Foundation was formed in July 1972 to enable Colonel Irwin and his family to encourage others to take a leap of faith and experience the Highest Flight possible with God.”
Allow me to share an excerpt from my gospel tract titled “The Highway to Heaven”: “Probably you’ve heard the phrase, ‘All roads lead to Rome,” but all highways don’t lead to heaven. Historians tell us of the elaborate highway system that crisscrossed the Roman Empire. The Apostle Paul often traveled the Roman Road, known as the Appian Way, bearing the precious news of salvation.
Some would tell us that all highways lead to heaven. [Dr. W. A. Criswell (1909-2002) writes,] ‘They say we are all striving to get to the same place. The Buddhist goes his way, the Mohammedan goes his way, the Shintoist goes his way, the Confucianist goes his way, the Taoist goes his way, and all the other faiths go their way. We are all striving for the same thing and going to the same place. They say if a man is sincere in his Judaism, or sincere in his Islamic faith, or in the veneration of his ancestors, as is a good Confucianist, or whatever he is, he is just as certain of heaven and as certain to be saved as the Christian who looks in faith to the blood of Christ. This attitude is almost universally accepted.’ (W. A. Criswell, Basic Sermons on the Cross (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990) p. 25.)
It sounds open-minded to say that everyone will get the prize, that everyone will win the race, that all roads get to the top of the mountain. It has a generous benevolent feel to it. But, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me,” (John 14:6).”
Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), pastor emeritus, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, reminds us, “There is a time when you were not. There never will be a time when you will not be.” For millions of people the journey from here to eternity is a short one but for Methuselah it lasted for 969 years.
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , English logician, mathematician, photographer and novelist, especially remembered for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Our journey from here to eternity will end in heaven or hell. Since we know from the Bible that the journey to hell requires no special plan, we will trace the journey to heaven from start to finish.
I. Beginning the journey.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” We read in Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”There are two views of justification as Luke records two men went to the temple to pray. “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,’” (Luke 18:9-14). We conclude that one man went home satisfied with himself the other went home justified before God.We find the phrase “the just shall live by faith” in four separate passages of Scripture, namely, Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. This phrase “the just shall live by faith” was the watchword of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and others about 500 years ago. Ten years ago Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists signed a joint declaration that reads in part, “Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.” After sharing this declaration in his column titled “Practicing What We Believe”, Dr. Bob Terry also states, “The issue is vital, for it is the difference between heaven and hell. There is no more important issue in life than one’s relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
II. Continuing the journey.
Paul the apostle writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3a, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”. Bobby McFerrin released his hit song in September 1988 titled “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, while God in Holy Scripture tells us “Be holy; for I am holy”. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness.” Maybe you are thinking didn’t Jesus use the word “makarios” which means “happy” in His oft quoted Sermon on the Mount? Please note some take these words of Jesus out of context to form a humanistic philosophy.The Ira F. Stanfill (1914-1993) song titled “Happiness is the Lord” captures the essence of Jesus’ words:
“Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord.
Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.
Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start;
I’ve found the secret, it’s Jesus in my heart!
Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the living,
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord,
Happiness is the Lord,
Happiness is the Lord!”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe, former pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, shares in a sermon about three aspects of sanctification, namely positional, practical and perfect. Positional sanctification is when you trust Christ you are set apart and made holy. Practical sanctification is the element related to our daily life as a believer. Perfect sanctification refers to the day when Jesus comes and we will be like him. Also a prolific writer, Dr. Wiersbe, provides further explanation in his Expository Outlines on the New Testament, where he writes, “Sanctification in Scripture is three-fold: (1) positional — the Christian is taken out of the world and seated with Christ, (John 17:16); (2) practical — the believer has a day-by-day victory over sin and grows in holiness and in likeness to Christ; (3) perfect — “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is,” (1 John 3:1-3).”Rev. Andrew Murray (1828-1917), author of Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, explains, “The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard, lest unconsciously what was begun in the spirit be perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected.” Paul writes in Galatians 3:1-3, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”The Holy Spirit of God is our traveling companion. From Romans 8:9b we read, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:15-18). Paul writes, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” (Ephesians 4:30).
III. Finishing the journey.
Paul writes in Romans 8:30, “whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Here we find these two words in the same verse “justified…glorified,” (Romans 8:30). In his hymn titled “Amazing Grace,” John Newton (1725-1807) states, “’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far / and Grace will lead me home.” For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ it ends in glory! Daniel the prophet writes, “At that time Michael shall stand up, / The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; / And there shall be a time of trouble, / Such as never was since there was a nation, / Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, / Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, / Some to everlasting life, / Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine / Like the brightness of the firmament, / And those who turn many to righteousness / Like the stars forever and ever,” (Daniel 12:1-3).Luke shares the following about the apostle Paul, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God,’” (Acts 20:17-24).“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you,” (Hebrews 13:17).
Paul also writes to Timothy, his son in the ministry, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing,” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Paul reminds us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul writes to those in Corinth, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire,” (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).
Mary B. Slade (1826-1882) closes her hymn “Footprints of Jesus” with the following lyrics, “Then at last when on high He sees us, / Our journey done, / We will rest where the steps of Jesus / End at His throne.”
Jesus tells us to “Enter by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and confined is way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matthew 7:13-14). In Luke 13:24 He offers this warning: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” There are two roads, the broad and the narrow, one leads to heaven and the other leads to hell.In his song titled “The Road Leads Home” Dr. James M. Gray (1851-1935), former president of Moody Bible Institute, shares the following in the chorus, “For the road leads home, / Sweet, sweet home! O who would mind the journey / When the road leads home? O who would mind the journey / When the road leads home?”Steve Green begins his song titled “Find Us Faithful” with the following line, “We’re pilgrims on the journey / Of the narrow road / And those who’ve gone before us line the way / Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary / Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace. . .”
John Oxenham the pseudonym of William Arthur Dunkerley (1851-1941), penned a poem titled “The Ways”:
“To every man there openeth
A choice of ways to go;
And the high souls take the high road
And the low souls take the low,
And in between on misty flats,
the rest drift to and fro;
But to everyone there openeth
A highway and a low,
And everyone decideth
The way his soul shall go”
Dr. John Phillips wrote a book titled I’ll Take the High Road developed as a study course for the Emmaus Correspondence School founded in 1942. From the Table of Contents we discover the following chapter titles, “Being Born Twice”, “Being Sure of Heaven”, “Keeping in Touch with God”, “Knowing Your Enemies”, “Submitting to the Spirit”, “Sharing Your Faith”, “Knowing God’s Will”, “Coping with Problems”, “Looking for Companionship”, “Building the Home”, “Exploring the Bible”, and “Enjoying the Fellowship”.Will hereafter for you end in heaven or in hell? Will you be glorified or horrified? If you are not born again or born from above, it is my prayer that you will repent of your sin and believe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is for your salvation. Everyone needs Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior on the journey from here to eternity.
Pastor at First Baptist Church, Spanish Fort, AL
Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey is pastor of First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama where he has served since 2004. Kirksey was called to the ministry after high school graduation in 1979 and has been a pastor for over twenty five years. He has served churches in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
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