What’s a good sign that a person wants to go Heaven, and will like it there?

Church is good for you
Find a church that doesn’t have the problems that you complain about

The Dina tweeted this column by Matt Walsh yesterday, and I am not sure how much I agree with it, but I found it very interesting.

Matt writes about how most American Christians think that they will go to Heaven either because 1) they have done “good” things or 2) you have faith in Jesus (without letting your faith in Jesus impact your life in any way that goes against your self-interest). He doesn’t think that either of those really mean that you will fit into Heaven.

He writes:

We do good things, we reassure ourselves. We believe. We’ll be fine. But “believing” and being a generally nice guy don’t matter on their own. What matters is to love Christ. If I don’t love Christ but I still give to charity because it makes me feel good, I’m no closer to Heaven than I would be if I were a bank robber. And if I don’t love Christ but I still believe that He exists and He is Lord, I am no closer to Heaven than I would be if I were an atheist. In fact, I’m probably much further away (“Even the demons believe”).

[…]Heaven is not for those who merely believe in God or perform wonderful deeds in His name, but for those who truly wish to do nothing but love and serve Him for all eternity. In other words, Heaven is for those who actually want to go. And we only want to go to Heaven if we want a life that is completely consumed by Christ and nothing else. If we want a life that is only partly Christ, we don’t want Heaven. We may as well admit it now while there’s still time: We don’t want Heaven.

If Christ is not even close to our primary joy in life, how can we go to a place where He is the only joy? If we are content to make Christ only a part of our lives here, how can we go to a place where there is no life but Him?

[…]Many of us think we desire Heaven because we imagine it as a place of self-centered pleasure. We believe that the happiness of Heaven is much like the happiness we find on Earth. So, if we enjoy eating good food, watching movies, playing sports, whatever, we fantasize that Heaven will be like some sort of resort where we can eat all the cheesecake we want and have access to an infinite Netflix library and maybe toss the pigskin around with Johnny Unitas on a football field in the clouds. And if this is the only kind of happiness we desire — a selfish, indulgent kind of happiness — then we clearly do not desire the happiness of Heaven.

[…]John Henry Newman once suggested that our attitude towards church is a pretty good indication of how much we really desire Heaven, and how much we’d actually enjoy it if we went there. As he pointed out, we cannot expect to find happiness in Heaven if we detest going to church, praying, and reading the Bible. If we find religion to be a crashing bore, and are stimulated only by what is selfish and secular, how do we think we’ll fare in a place where the only things we really love are obliterated, and the one thing we always avoid must now be the center of our existence forever?

If all the things that are purely about God in this life are, to us, dull and uninteresting, and all we do is bide our time until we can get back to the TV, then Heaven would be torture. There would be no leaving God to get back to the TV. It would be only God always. If we find little appeal in spending even a few minutes with God now, how can we expect that we’ll find any appeal in spending infinity with Him?

This is the problem with people who say they don’t pray, attend church, or read Scripture, but they go on walks instead, or spend time with their families, or go to the beach, and that’s where they “find God.” It’s true that God can be found in all of those things, but you can also enjoy them without thinking about God at all. There are only a few activities in life that are purely, solely, and inevitably about God and God only, and those are the activities many Christians enjoy least of all. Most of us can’t stand to worship the Lord unless it’s in the context of some relaxing and entertaining recreational activity, yet we still claim to desire Heaven.

No, it’s not Heaven we want. It’s a vacation.

I have always railed against the feminized church and pious anti-intellectual man-blaming pastors, but that was only because those were the only churches and pastors I had encountered. After moving a few months ago to a red state, I started attending a new church, based on their past apologetics-oriented activities, and the intellectual ability of the pastor. Since trying this new church, I’ve found it no problem at all to show up every Sunday for the service and for Sunday school. And I don’t feel anything awful about it.

I’ve been really blessed lately, red state, great new job, and achieving financial independence at last. I wanted to reconnect with God and so I went out and found a decent church. The whole point of me going there was to hear the hymns, think about the sermons, and read the parts of the Bible that I don’t normally read. I wanted a refresher on the character of my Boss, so that I could make better decisions that would respect him.  Jesus has been my Boss a long time. It never hurts to go back and find out what the Boss is like.

Dina and all my friends are happy that I am going to church. And I hope all my friends understand now why I wasn’t going much before. The problem was that there were no churches where I used to live that had intelligent pastors AND that were hosting apologetics events AND that equipped members of the flock to engage in public debates with atheists. This church does those things.

It doesn’t hurt that I get to wear a shirt and tie, or that the worship service has so many great classical hymns that don’t blow out my eardrums (I really hate dark churches with loud contemporary music!). Of course I was going to go to church, people – I just had to find a good one first. And that was their problem to solve, not mine.

4 thoughts on “What’s a good sign that a person wants to go Heaven, and will like it there?”

  1. Thank you for another good post and congratulations for finding a church where you are happy. There was a long period in my life when I didn’t attend church either and for some of the same reasons that you have stipulated in your post. But I would caution about seeking a church simply because it comports with our political, intellectual or emotional preferences. I think that the most important thing is to find a community of people in Christ with whom you can engage, and love and be in relationship with. I suspect that most of us will not like heaven, because it will be a place where we will have to be with people and love people who are different from us. The best apology for the church is not an intellectual argument but a community of reconciled believers who truly love one another as Christ commanded.

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  2. Isn’t this whole notion of “going to heaven for all eternity” a misunderstanding to begin with?

    The focus of the gospel isn’t going to heaven, the place of disembodied souls. The focus of the goapel is resurrection, here on earth.

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  3. You have several good points here.

    I was going to mention that James Montgomery Boice used to ask people why God should allow them into Heaven, and inevitably there were two major responses (“Why wouldn’t He … He’s good right?” and “Let me give you my spiritual resumé of awesome things I’ve done….”)

    And even if they were Christians, they might invoke Jesus as a “‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card” — which of course is a lack of understanding of Romans 6:1ff and sanctification as following justification.

    And of course, there is sometimes a misunderstanding of Heaven and Hell. One might posit the question, what is the primary characteristic of Heaven and also that of Hell?

    Well, the answer to this is very important and it solves a lot of other ‘problems’ (e.g., “Wouldn’t we lose all freedom in Heaven?” “Why would an omnibenevolent God send someone to Hell?”)

    The primary characteristic of Heaven is the presence of God, being in eternal fellowship with God.

    The primary characteristic of Hell is the absence of God.

    Being in eternal fellowship with God, He will empower us such that believers will be able to obey him perfectly. And we see glimmers that God is able to give freedom in obedience: for instance, believers have freedom of vocation, freedom in what Christian books to read, freedom in how to glorify God (e.g., one may be a Christian plumber, another may be a Christian filmmaker), and so on.

    But it also answers how those who want nothing to do with God — well, as C. S. Lewis puts it, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.'”

    Being in fellowship with God, we will realize the difference between us (the creature, the created) and the Creator, and realize his greatness and we will want to worship him.

    So what does this make our present reality, this side of eternity? Well, one of the best descriptions (IMHO) is that this life is a training ground for the next life: eternity.

    Paul uses the metaphor of training a few times (soldier, farmer, athlete). We might turn our attention to athletes because it seems everyone understands some aspects of it and enjoy some things about it (the Olympics, international football/soccer, Major League Baseball, ice hockey and basketball finals that are occurring, American football, etc.)

    Sometimes training isn’t fun. It’s grueling. There was a story about the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” that coach Herb Brooks made sure that the American team was the best conditioned team. They were perhaps not the most skilled team — but they would be the best conditioned team. There were times the players questioned the coach’s choice of times of conditioning them. In the end, their training paid off. Usually at the end of any game and any sport, people are not going to be as fast, as fresh as the beginning. The Soviet team had 18 shots on goal in the first period, then 12 in the second, and 9 in the third.

    There was a major sports contest earlier this year (not to anger any fans of the side that lost) and it appeared that one team had a significant advantage over the other team. One sports analytics website posited that the first team had over a 99% chance to win at several points. But the other team came back and won, making people think they were watching four different teams. Only later, several sportswriters remembered how the coach of the other team worked his team even after the regular practice and had them run to the hills and back. The training paid off.

    As Christians, we’re told we’re not training ourselves in futility. We’re training ourselves for a purpose. And as one historical document puts it, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

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