When Heaven Celebrates
Just Like Jesus
Max opens this chapter with this thought: “In one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, Luke 15, he tells three stories. Each story tells of something lost and something found. A lost sheep. A lost coin. And a lost son. And at the end of each one, Jesus describes a party, a celebration. The shepherd throws the party for the lost-now-found sheep. The housewife throws a party because of the lost-now-found coin. And the father throws a party in honor of his lost-now-found son.”
He continues with the parables: “The point is clear. Jesus is happiest when the lost are found. For him, no moment compares to the moment of salvation. Max quotes verse 10: There is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life”.
Note what Christ is looking for, “a change of heart and life”. Based on my study of the scripture, I believe baptism is a condition of salvation. There is nothing in the water itself that saves us but the act of obedience does. A change of heart and life is also essential. Whatever your beliefs on salvation are without committing to the necessary changes in your heart and life, your other actions may be for naught. Christ is not looking for a single action of baptism but also an absolute commitment to him. For most people this requires some change in your lifestyle and attitudes by yielding your will to his.
A number of people believe in the doctrine of “once saved always saved”. You can find many discussions on this subject on the internet. I do not believe that once you are saved you are always saved so Luke 10 also applies the Christian who departed from his/her commitment to Christ. A condition of returning to Christ is having the change of heart and life then there will be the joy Luke 15:10 describes.
Max writes: “How do we explain such joy? Why such a stir? You’ve got to admit the excitement is a bit curious. We aren’t talking about a nation of people or even a city of souls; we are talking about joy when one sinner changes his heart and life. How could one person create that much excitement?”
Max continues: “When a soul is saved, the heart of Jesus becomes the night sky on the Fourth of July, radiant with explosions of cheer. Can the same be said about us? Perhaps this is one area where our hearts could use some attention.”
In church services, we talk about the plurality of people being saved which is to be expected. If you want to have the personal feeling that this is about YOU, go to the internet and search for the song, “When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind” sung by the Florida Boys. Listening to this song and/or reading the words gives me that feeling of a very personal love and relationship with Jesus.
Some people have a problem with the term in describing Jesus as “my personal Lord and savior”. Maybe it appears egotistical. I don’t use the term but don’t have a problem with it. No one else can be saved for me nor can anyone else build my relationship with Christ. When I pray about sin, they are my sins he died for. When I pray about serving the Lord, it’s my service not anyone else’s.
Max suggests that Jesus and his angels excitement is created by them knowing what heaven holds for us. “They can’t wait to see your face when you arrive. Better still, they can’t wait to see you.”
Matt writes: “Of all the blessings in heaven, one of the greatest will be you. At last, you will have a heart like his. You will be just like Jesus. Heaven is populated by those who let God change them.” This change is not an instantaneous event. You don’t go from whatever you were at the time of your commitment to having a heart like Jesus. But you will have an attitude and desire to turn away from sin. You will be a work in progress daily having to recommit. Satan will be working against you. Ask God to help you as you face off with the evil one.
Max continues: “There is yet another reason for the celebration. Part of the excitement is from our arrival. The other part is from our deliverance. Jesus rejoices that we are headed to heaven, but he equally rejoices that we are saved from hell.”
As I think about Jesus’ joy when we get to heaven, I also think about what he suffered through for us to be in heaven with him. He experienced immense mental anguish when he prayed in the garden for God to deliver him from what he was about to experience. The crowd mocked and cursed him which was mental cruelty. Then from the cross before he died, he asked God why he had forsaken him.
The pain Christ suffered is almost unimaginable: Isaiah wrote in 52:14: "... Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--". They spit in his face, hit him with their hands/fists, flogged him with whips that had bones or stones tied in the ends. Nails or spikes were driven through his hands and feet. He hung from the cross, which was excruciating, when thirsty, they game him vinegar to drink then speared him in the side.
I believed God suffered right along with Jesus. Imagine watching your own child as he suffered the anguish and pain then to hear him ask you why you abandon him. After this horrible few hours, no wonder a celebration is held as we commit our hearts and lives to God and Jesus.
Max: “According to Jesus hell knows only one sound, ‘the weeping and gnashing of teeth’ Matt 22:13. From hell comes a woeful, unending moan as its inhabitants realize the opportunity they missed. What they would give for one more chance. But that chance is gone (Hebrews 9:27).”
Max states that after the sinking of the Titanic that on shore the names of the passengers were posted in two columns---saved and lost. “God’s list is equally simple”.
Max uses 2 Corinthians 5:16 (Phillips translation) as a basis for his next point: “Our knowledge of man can no longer be based on their outward lives”. Max’s point is that our ledger with God does not have unnecessary columns such as wealth, education, and color of our skin because these are irrelevant. God looks to see if we are more like Jesus.
As Max closes this chapter, he challenges us: “ Ask God to help you have his eternal view of the world. Every person you meet has been given an invitation to dinner. When one says yes, celebrate! And when one acts sluggish, stir him up and urge him to get ready. It’s almost time for the party, and you don’t want him to miss it.”
I’ve written before that when we give an account of our lives to God, there are two questions that concern me: “Who is a Christian because of you? And who is not a Christian because of you?”
A few questions for you to think about: has there been a celebration over you because you have been baptized and made a change of heart and life? Is there another celebration in heaven coming when you die? If not why?
Some Christians will answer they hope there is a celebration in heaven when they die because they are headed there. By using the word hope that indicates there is doubt in their mind. What’s creating the doubt? Probably some part of them believes they must earn heaven. “I’m not sure I’ve been good enough!” Others who have not made the necessary change and commitments to a relationship with Christ really have no basis for any expectations. Have confidence in God’s promises!
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
An additional thought:
“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”
― Max Lucado