Part 2

A Special Commentary on True Faith

A Special Commentary on True Faith

Heaven Is For Real In Part One of this special post on true faith we talked of the Thomas Nelson publication, Heaven Is For Real (Book) and the recent movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures of the same name, Heaven Is For Real. The message being presented by both the book and the film is one that states that to have faith one must “see, and believe, like a child.” To which I argued that a real childlike faith comes from believing without seeing. As we continue this look at true faith, recall with me the story of the Apostle Thomas.

Shortly after the resurrected Lord Jesus had begun to appear before the other ten apostles, the Apostle Thomas had stated that unless he could see with his own eyes the resurrected Christ standing before him, and unless he could touch with his own hands the scars on Jesus’ body, that he would not believe what the other ten were telling him concerning God’s Son. The Apostle Thomas refused to have faith without hard evidence, so Christ gave it to him. Let’s read, together, the words from the beloved Apostle John as he retells the story of the Apostle Thomas’ doubt:

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.’ A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:24-29)

God’s blessing will not fill us by basing our faith on evidence, but by simply believing. Our hope comes to us through God’s promises. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t just concern forgiveness of sins or eternal life. It concerns all areas of our faith — all acts of worship.

Missionaries who have surrendered to God’s calling to take His Gospel message to all parts of the earth — these men, women, and family units are placing their physical health and wellbeing on the line for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for them. Yes, they are ignoring the physical dangers of this world for the sake of Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) No, they are not listening to the “seeing is believing” Christians who would tell them to consider the safety of their own lives first, or to consider the safety of their family’s lives. No, they are simply answering a call to be faithful in what God is telling them to do, and to trust that God has their best interest in mind.

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

And God’s best interest for humanity is not based on “creature comforts,” nor is God concerned with physical abundance in the areas of physical wealth, pleasure, and power. God’s good news is not a “Prosperity Gospel,” nor is it a “Poverty Gospel” — No! God’s Gospel message is one of provision. Meeting our physical and spiritual needs on a daily basis. This creates a relationship between Creator God and created humanity.

You see, God is more concerned with the eternal plan that He has for each of us. An eternal plan to see us prosper spiritually and not be harmed. Eternal plans that will give mankind hope and a real, eternal future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Our fallen and imperfect bodies are meant for death. To try to save them while denying the opportunity to fulfill God’s plan is ridiculous. Yes, we have a responsibility to remain as healthy and well as we can be, but only to serve God’s purpose. We — our entire being (body, mind, and soul) — belong to God, and what He has planed for us must come first. Remember these words of Christ:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ‘Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 10:28-33)

Some of you are aware that I am fighting a high staged colon cancer, and that I have opted to do so through diet, natural supplements, and naturopathic treatments. I have chosen to do so, not because of personal preference, or fear of conventional treatments (a.k.a.: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery), but because God has led me down this path and I want to be faithful to act upon His calling. I have done so to the sounds of criticism and fear, which come from many people; some of whom are family members and others I count as friends.

I understand that much of this comes from their love and concern for me, and their love and concern for my wife and children. But what is so frustrating to me, is that the majority of these who are judging and being critical of my choice to follow God’s course claim to be believers in Christ. Some even serve in a church as a full-time minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A career choice that is based on the entire premiss of following the calling that God has placed upon them. Yet, as I have stepped out in faith to serve God through this trial and test, I have been met with opposition and, at times, halfhearted support. Is not God the author of all of life? Is not God capable to see His purpose fulfilled in each of us? Are we not to step out in our faith and act upon it? Conventional medicine may play its part at some point, but only if God gives me, my wife, and kids clear direction.

Bible 13 James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ had this to say, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17) How can we claim faith in Christ and not answer God’s call to fulfill His plan? No matter the situation; in all areas of our lives. How can we claim the hope of Christ if we constantly fear the things of this world? How can we expect to see Jesus welcome us into eternity if we do not allow eternity to exist in our own lives today — now — while we can still testify to others of Christ’s Gospel message?

The “evidence of things not seen” is not in a story such as Colton Burpo’s, and it’s not in acquiring physical wealth, pleasure, or power and claiming God’s blessings as a result. No! Such evidence of our faith is in our deeds — our obedience and our sacrifices. We must live a life that reflects Christ. We must live a life that acts on its faith, and its hope (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must be Christlike in all areas of our existence — the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. This is the life of a true worshiper of God.

If you claim to be a Christian — a Christ follower — and you cannot claim such faith as I have just described, then consider that you are possibly not a true believer. If you work in a church, serve in a church, or attend a church weekly and yet doubt any part of the holy Scripture’s teachings — needing evidence and proof before you can fully say you believe — then stop calling yourself a pastor, worship leader, teacher, or follower of Christ. Resign yourself to become a student of the Holy Bible — the very Word of God — until such a time as your “faith” can became real to you through your actions, and not through sight. A true worshiper of God is called to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me [Jesus Christ]. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24b-25) The cross is an instrument of pain, torture, and death. It’s not a symbol of blessing, comfort, or peace even though it is because Christ willingly endured the pain, torture, and death of the cross that we can have the assurance of God’s blessing, comfort, and peace (John 10:18).

Taking up the cross of Christ means we must expect to endure pain in this life; to be tortured from time-to-time in some way or fashion (1 Peter 4:12-14). And we must embrace the truth that death — physical death, anyway — awaits us all, but not before God says so. It is God Who has numbered our days (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16). God will keep us here until He has made us as Christlike as He possibly can (Psalm 138:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), then the hope of our faith will become reality for all of eternity.

Santa Claus 1 In closing recall with me theses words from the publisher of the book Heaven Is for Real. Thomas Nelson claims that this book will “forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.” What child has ever seen Santa Claus deliver his/her toys at Christmas and believed? What child has ever seen the Easter Bunny, the Tooth-fairy, or any other fictional character and then believed. Children trust what their parents tell them — blindly believing that what is being said is the truth. Colton Burpo didn’t believe because he saw heaven. Colton believed because his father, the Rev. Todd Burpo, taught him concerning our hope of heaven in Christ. Colton only saw what he already believed to be true. What he saw simply further confirmed his faith.

Todd Burpo, however (and his congregation), were the ones who began to truly believe in the hope of Christ because a child saw, and continued to believe. Children don’t have to see to believe. This is what Jesus was trying to teach in Mark, chapter ten. It’s the point that the Apostle Thomas — and so many others since — missed, altogether. Read with me these verses, written by John Mark:

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone [any adult] who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Do you really want to forever change the way you think of eternity? Then stop living your life from an earthly stand point and start believing and living like a child (2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:3-16). Begin worshiping God in your deeds and not just in your words (Colossians 3:17). If you choose to do so, you will experience the freedom and the joy that comes from “blind faith” — a true childlike faith in Jesus Christ. After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

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Part 1

Heaven Is For Real (Header)

Heaven Is For Real “Is there life after death? Just ask 4-year-old Colton, who emerged from life-threatening surgery with astounding details about heaven! Colton’s account includes floating away, Heaven Is For Real (Book) looking down on his dad praying in the hospital, seeing God’s throne, and meeting relatives — including his sister who died in a miscarriage (and whom his parents had never mentioned). Riveting!”

This is the product description for the Thomas Nelson publication that became a New York Times #1 best seller. Since its release in 2010, Heaven Is For Real has captivated the hearts and minds of literally thousands of people. And now, there’s the 2014 release of the movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures.

According to the publisher, the book tells the true life story of when Colton Burpo survived an emergency appendectomy. Apparently his appendix had ruptured in his body and was poisoning his system. Colton’s family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival, but they weren’t expecting the story that would emerge in the months to come. For Colton’s story — as beautiful as it was extraordinary — would detail his trip to heaven and back.

You see, the soon to be four year old Colton, began telling his parents that he left his body during surgery — and gave proof by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital during his operation. He also talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life. Colton shared events that even happened before he was born. He continued to astound his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that appeared to match the Holy Bible exactly, though he couldn’t even read yet.

With persuasive simplicity and the purity of a child, Colton talked of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus Christ, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves humanity. Colton’s story is retold, in the book, by his father (Rev. Todd Burpo) but the wording is uniquely simple to match those of a very young child. Heaven Is for Real, both the book and the movie, offers a glimpse of the world that awaits believers. A world where Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

Whether you read the book or see the film, Heaven Is for Real is said to forever change the way you think of eternity, as the story offers humanity the chance to see, and believe, like a child. I’ve not yet read the book, but I have seen the movie, and I was moved in an entirely different way.

Maybe it’s because I’m already a believer that I was not astounded by Colton’s details of heaven. As the publisher of the book indicated, nothing was disclosed (at least in the film) that could not be supported in Scripture. I realize that there are many theologians, both prominent and otherwise, who have debated the truthfulness of this father’s retelling of his son’s experience. Again, I have not yet read the book so I will not enter into that debate. No; what astounded me most about this story was that it consisted of so many “believers” (pastors and lay-persons, alike) who had to “see,” and “hear” Colton’s evidence for heaven to know that it is real.

Worship 36 What is the point of having faith in Jesus Christ — of calling ourselves Christian (someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ) — if we are not going to believe the very words of Christ regarding heaven or any other topic? Note these Scriptures, which are the very words of God’s begotten Son:

– Matthew 7:13-14 — “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

– John 14:2-3 — “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Colossian church: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

And don’t forget the words of the beloved Apostle John: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:13-17)

John the beloved, also known as “The Revelator,” went on to pen these words about heaven: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.’ [Jesus then said] ‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” (Revelation 22:3-7)

clouds 6 If our hope is in Jesus Christ, then what is the result of our hope? Why must Jesus even be our hope? God’s begotten Son must be our hope, because humanity is depraved and lost in self worship. This self-worshiping nature has doomed us to an eternal separation from our holy Creator. People are too selfish to even begin to know how to purify themselves and over come their evil essence, known as sin. It required the perfection of a true worshiper to over come the imperfections of humanity’s self-worshiping nature. That pure and perfect worshiper of God is His very own begotten Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus had to willingly lower Himself to the essence of a self-worshiping human, while all the while not participating in self worship. Christ had to live as one of us, and experience all of our hurts, temptations, and pains, and remain a true worshiper of God to become a pure and perfect blood sacrifice capable of cleaning up all of humanity’s sins. Jesus did this, and the result was our restoration to God the Father, by faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-28; Philippians 2:5-11).

But it didn’t stop there, Jesus also conquered death by rising from the grave. So not only can mankind be forgiven every selfish wrong, but humanity can embrace the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Again, as Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2b) Anyone claiming to be a Christian, especially those in the pulpits and serving as lay-persons, should be full aware of the reality of heaven, and even hell for that matter. Again let’s read the words of the Apostle Paul, this time to the Corinthian church:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For He ‘has put everything under his feet.’” (1 Corinthians 15:1-27)

Did you get that? If we truly believe that Christ is our hope beyond the grave, but do not truly believe in heaven, then we are to be pitied more so than any other religious group. Why? Because, if heaven isn’t real, then neither is Christ’s resurrection. And if the resurrection of the dead isn’t real, then we are still condemned as self-worshipers. Humanity is still lost and depraved.

Empty Tomb 1 Oh, but Christ did physically live! Jesus did physically die, and return from the grave! All praise be to our benevolent Creator, that our faith in Christ does give us hope! For our loving and merciful God made Jesus Christ to be our way to forgiveness and our way to eternal life. As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Don’t get caught up in the need for evidence, when it comes to our faith. The evidence that does exist — the evidence that does substantiate our Christian claims regarding Christ, or heaven, or anything else disclosed in the holy Scriptures — should not be the cause of our faith, but simply an edification of our belief. The “punctuation” at the end of our “sentence,” and not the “subject” of the “sentence,” itself. As the author of the book of Hebrews stated, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is believing without seeing, and not believing because you have seen.

In part two of this special commentary on true faith, we will conclude with an understanding of what real faith should look like in the everyday life of a person claiming to be a Christian — one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, God’s begotten Son.

Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.