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BEYOND Heaven's DOOR
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneADMISSION at the Door
Not all those who say "You are our Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven. MATTHEW 7:21
I MAKE no claims to being a good golfer, but I readily confess to being a golf addict. If you know of a twelve-step program for the condition, sign me up. "Hi, I'm Max. I'm a golfaholic." I love to play golf, watch golf, and on good nights, I even dream golf.
Knowing this will help you appreciate the extreme joy I felt when I was invited to attend the Masters Golf Tournament. A pass to the Masters is the golfer's Holy Grail. Tickets are as scarce as birdies on my scorecard. So I was thrilled. The invitation came via pro golfer Scott Simpson. Each player is given a certain number of passes, and Scott offered Denalyn and me two of his. (If there was ever any question about Scott's place in heaven, that gesture erased the doubt.)
So off we went to Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, where golf heritage hangs like moss from the trees. There you find the green where Nicklaus sank the putt. The fringe where Mize holed the chip. The fairway where Saranson hit the approach shot. I was a kid in a candy store. And like a kid, I couldn't get enough. It wasn't enough to see the course and walk the grounds; I wanted to see the locker room. That's where the clubs of Hogan and Azinger are displayed. That's where the players hang out. And that's where I wanted to be.
But they wouldn't let me.
A guard stopped me at the entrance. I showed him my pass, but he shook his head. I told him I knew Scott, but that didn't matter. I promised to send his eldest child through college, but he didn't budge. "Only caddies and players," he explained. Well, he knew I wasn't a player or a caddie. Caddies at the Masters are required to wear white coveralls. My clothing was a dead giveaway. So I left, figuring I'd never see the clubhouse. I had made it all the way to the door but was denied entrance.
Many people fear the same will happen to them in heaven. They fear being turned away at the door. A legitimate fear, don't you think? We're talking about a pivotal moment. To be turned away from seeing golf history is one thing, but to be refused admission into heaven is quite another.
That is why some people don't want to discuss heaven. It makes them nervous. They may be God-fearing and church-attending people but still nervous. Is there a solution for this fear? Need you spend the rest of your life wondering if you will be turned away at the door?
According to the Bible, it is possible to "know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13 MSG). How? How can any of us know for sure?
Curiously, it all has to do with the clothing we wear.
Chapter TwoA STRICT Dress Code
Friend, how were you allowed to come in here? You are not dressed for a wedding. MATTHEW 22:12
JESUS TOLD the parable of a king who planned a wedding party for his son. Invitations were given, but the people "refused to come" (Matt. 22:3). The king is patient and offers another invitation. This time the servants of the king are mistreated and killed. The king is furious. The murderers are punished, the city is destroyed, and the invitation is re-extended, this time to everyone.
The application of the parable is not complicated. God invited Israel, his chosen ones, to be his children. But they refused. Not only did they refuse, they killed his servants and crucifid his Son. The consequence was the judgment of God. Jerusalem was burned, and the people were scattered.
As the parable continues, the king offers yet another invitation. This time the wedding is opened to everyone"good and bad" (Matt. 22:10), or Jews and Gentiles. Here is where we non-Jews appear in the parable. We are the beneficiaries of a wide invitation. And someday we will stand at the entryway to the king's castle. But the story doesn't end there. Standing at the doorway is not enough. A certain wardrobe is required. The parable ends with a chilling paragraph.
And the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who was not dressed for a wedding. The king said, "Friend, how were you allowed to come in here? You are not dressed for a wedding." But the man said nothing. So the king told some servants, "Tie this man's hands and feet. Throw him out into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain." (matt. 22:1013)
Jesus loved surprise endings, and this one surprises ... and frightens. Here is a man who was at the right place, surrounded by the right people, but because he wore the wrong clothing, he was cast from the presence of the king.
"Wrong clothes? Max, are you telling me that Jesus cares what clothes we wear?"
Apparently so. In fact, the Bible tells us exactly the wardrobe God desires.
"But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and forget about satisfying your sinful self " (Rom. 13:14).
"You were all baptized into Christ, and so you were all clothed with Christ. This means that you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:2627).
This clothing has nothing to do with dresses and jeans and suits. God's concern is with our spiritual garments. He offers a heavenly robe that only heaven can see and only heaven can give. Listen to the words of Isaiah: "The Lord makes me very happy; all that I am rejoices in my God. He has covered me with clothes of salvation and wrapped me with a coat of goodness" (Isa. 61:10).
Remember the words of the father when the prodigal son returned? He wanted his son to have new sandals, a new ring, and what else? New clothes. "Bring the best clothes and put them on him" (Luke 15:22). The father wanted the son to have the best clothing available.
Your Father wants you to have the same.
Chapter ThreeFIX YOUR Wardrobe
Live in him so that when Christ comes back, we can be without fear and not be ashamed in his presence. 1 JOHN 2:28
MOST OF us could use some help with our wardrobes, but this discussion of clothing has nothing to do with what the store sells you. It has everything to do with what God gives you when you give your life to him. Let me explain.
When a person becomes a follower of Christ, when sins are confessed and the grace of Jesus is accepted, a wonderful miracle of the soul occurs. The person is placed "in" Christ. The apostle Paul described himself as "a man in Christ" (2 Cor. 12:2). When he described his colleagues, he called them "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 16:3 NIV). The greatest promise is extended not to the wealthy or educated but to those who are "in Christ." "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1 NIV, emphasis mine). John urges us to "live in him so that when Christ comes back, we can be without fear and not be ashamed in his presence" (1 John 2:28).
What does it mean to be "in Christ"? The clothing illustration is a good one. Why do we wear clothes? There are parts of our body we want to hide.
The same can be true with our spiritual lives. Do we want God to see everything about us? No. If he did, we would be fearful and ashamed. How could we ever hope to go to heaven with all our mistakes showing? "The true life," Paul wrote, "is a hidden one in Christ" (Col. 3:3 PHILLIPS).
Let's take this a step further.
Let's imagine how a person who isn't wearing the clothing of Christ appears in the eyes of heaven. For the sake of discussion, envision a decent human being ... we'll call him Danny Decent. Danny pays his taxes, pays his bills, pays attention to his family, and pays respect to his superiors. He is a good person. In fact, were we to dress him, we would dress him in white.
But heaven sees Danny differently. God sees what you and I miss. For every time Mr. Decent sins, a stain appears on his clothing. For example, he stretched the truth when he spoke to his boss yesterday. He was stained. He fudged, ever so slightly, on his expense report. Another stain. The other guys were gossiping about the new employee, and he chimed in. Still another. What God sees is a man clothed in mistakes.
Unless something happens, Danny will be the man in the parable, the one without the wedding garment. The wedding garment, you see, is the righteousness of Christ. And if Danny faces Christ wearing his own decency instead of Christ's goodness, he will hear what the man in the parable heard: "'You are not dressed for a wedding.' ... So the king told some servants, 'Tie this man's hands and feet. Throw him out into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain'" (Matt. 22:1213).
What happens if Danny changes his clothes? What if he agrees with Isaiah, who said, "Our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6 NIV)? Suppose he goes to Christ and prays, "Lord, take away these rags. Clothe me in your grace." Suppose he confesses the prayer of this hymn: "Naked, come to thee for dress, helpless, look to the for grace."
If he does, here is what happens. Jesus, in an act visible only to the eyes of heaven, removes the robe of stains and replaces it with his robe of righteousness. As a result, Danny is clothed in Christ. And, as a result, Danny is dressed for the wedding.
To quote another hymn: "Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne."
Chapter FourCOLOR Matters
They will walk with me and will wear white clothes, because they are worthy. REVELATION 3:4
GOD HAS only one requirement for entrance into heaven: that we be clothed in Christ.
Listen to how Jesus described the inhabitants of heaven: "Those who win the victory will be dressed in white clothes like them. And I will not erase their names from the book of life, but I will say they belong to me before my Father and before his angels" (Rev. 3:5).
Listen to the description of the elders: "Around the throne there were twenty-four other thrones with twenty-four elders sitting on them. They were dressed in white and had golden crowns on their heads" (Rev. 4:4).
And what is the clothing of the angels? "The armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses" (Rev. 19:14).
All are dressed in white. The saints. The elders. The armies. How would you suppose Jesus is dressed? In white?
You'd think so. Of all the people worthy to wear a spotless robe, Christ is. But according to the Bible he doesn't.
Then I saw heaven opened, and there before me was a white horse. The rider on the horse is called Faithful and True, and he is right when he judges and makes war. His eyes are like burning fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him, which no one but himself knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Rev. 19:1113)
Why is Christ's robe not white? Why is his garment dipped in blood? Let me answer by reminding you what Jesus did for you and me. Paul said simply, "He changed places with us" (Gal. 3:13).
He did more than remove our coat; he put on our coat. And he wore our coat of sin to the cross. As he died, his blood fl owed over our sins. They were cleansed by his blood. And because of this, when Christ brings us to heaven, we have no fear of being turned away at the door.
Speaking of being turned away at the door, I'm sure you are dying to hear whether I made it into the locker room at the Masters Golf Tournament. Well, I did.
The day prior to the tournament, the golfers play an exhibition round on a par-three course. It is customary for the golfers to give their caddies the afternoon off and invite friends or family members to take their places. Well, Scott invited me to be his caddie. "Of course, you'll have to wear the white overalls," he explained.
And, of course, I didn't mind. Snicker.
That afternoon, I made my way to the clubhouse. And through the same door, walking past the same guard, I stepped into the golfers' inner sanctum. What made the difference?
Simple. I was wearing the right clothes.
Chapter FiveTHE BRAND-NEW You
There is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:23 NLT
SUPPOSE YOU are walking past my farm one day and see me in the field crying. Concerned, you approach me and ask what is wrong. I look up and extend a palm full of seeds in your direction. "My heart breaks for the seeds."
Between sobs I explain, "The seeds will be placed in the ground and covered with dirt. They will decay, and we will never see them again."
As I weep, you are stunned. You look around for a turnip truck, off which you are confident I tumbled. Finally, you explain to me a basic principle of farming: out of the decay of the seed comes the birth of a plant.
You kindly remind me: "Don't you know that you will soon witness a mighty miracle of God? Given time and tender care, this tiny kernel will break from its prison of soil and blossom into a plant far beyond its dreams."
Any farmer who grieves over the burial of a seed needs a reminder: a time of planting is not a time of grief. Any person who anguishes over the burial of a body may need the same. We may need the reminder Paul gave the Corinthians: "There is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back" (1 Cor. 15:23 NLT).
Between the death of the body of a Christian and the return of our Savior, Scripture assures us that the soul is living, but the body is buried. This is an intermediate period in which we are "away from this body and ... at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8).
Upon our physical death, our souls will journey immediately to the presence of God while we await the resurrection of our bodies. And when will this resurrection occur? You guessed it. When Christ comes. "When Christ comes again, those who belong to him will be raised to life, and then the end will come" (1 Cor. 15:2324).
What does Paul mean, "those who belong to him will be raised to life"? What will be raised? My body? If so, why this body? I don't like my body. Why don't we start over on a new model?
Come with me back to the farm, and let's look for some answers.
If you were impressed with my seed allegory, I stole the idea from the apostle Paul. The fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians is the definitive essay on our resurrection. He wrote:
BUT SOMEONE MAY ASK,
"How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have?" Foolish person! When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow. And when you sow it, it does not have the same "body" it will have later. What you sow is only a bare seed, maybe wheat or something else. But God gives it a body that he has planned for it.
1 Corinthians 15:3538
In other words, you can't have a new body without the death of the old body. Or as Paul said, "When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow" (v. 36).
A friend told me that Paul's parallel between seeds sown and bodies buried reminded her of a remark made by her youngest son. He was a first grader, and his class was studying plants about the same time the family attended a funeral of a loved one. One day, as they were driving past a cemetery, he pointed and said, "Hey, Mom, that's where they plant people."
The apostle Paul would have liked that. In fact, he would like us to change the way we think about the burial process. The graveside service is not a burial but a planting. The grave is not a hole in the ground but a fertile furrow. The cemetery is not the resting place but the transformation place.
Chapter SixTHE ULTIMATE Triumph
No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 CORINTHIANS 2:9
MANY PEOPLE assume that death has no purpose. It is to them what the black hole is to spacea mysterious, inexplicable, distasteful, all-consuming power. Avoid it at all costs. And so we do all we can to live and not die. God, however, says we must die in order to live. When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can grow (1 Cor. 15:36). What we see as the ultimate tragedy, he sees as the ultimate triumph.
And when a Christian dies, it's not a time to despair but a time to trust. Just as the seed is buried and the material wrapping decomposes, so the fleshly body will be buried and will decompose. But just as the buried seed sprouts new life, so the body will blossom into a new body. As Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain of wheat; but if it dies, it brings a good harvest" (John 12:24 PHILLIPS).
Excerpted from BEYOND Heaven's DOOR by Max Lucado Copyright © 2013 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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