Getting Fit for Heaven Jesus is fit for heaven. April 5, 2015

Mark 16:1-8

I like Star Wars. But I think George Lucas and the Jedi have got it wrong. The Jedi spend all their lives studying the Force and bringing peace to a galaxy far, far away. At the end of “Return of the Jedi,” we see an apparition that is supposed to be Obi-wan Kenobi. In the digitally-enhanced version, Luke and Leia see the spirits of Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, and Obi-wan Kenobi. It is cool bit of computer-enhancement to get that scene to look right.

Now, I like Star Wars. It is an iconic American movie. But it gets life after death wrong. It is not only our spirits that live after death. Our bodies will be raised after death. How do I know this fact?

For it was an angel who first told Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome about Jesus being raised from the dead. With Jesus not being dead anymore, then we who follow him realize that Jesus is fit for heaven. If we believe that Jesus is the alive Son of God, then as we follow Jesus, we too will get fit for heaven. We do not get fit for heaven on our own. Jesus gets us fit for heaven.

The interesting thing about getting fit for heaven is that there is more to it than believing Jesus is the Son of God who was raised from the dead. Say I give you a gift of bicycling clothes, you surely can wear them. It is not the clothes, however, that get you fit for riding 30, 50, or 100 miles. Oh, we might look good in our bicycling clothes. But looking good won’t get us anywhere. We have to get out on the NRT or the road to get fit for a long bicycle ride. Our lung capacity has to become accustomed to sending oxygen to our entire body over a long ride. Our legs have to become ready to keep on pushing those pedals, even when we have gone farther than we have before on the trail.

I have been riding on the road or on the trail for almost a month. I know my average speed and the number of miles I have rode. I also know that I am not even close to being ready for the Tour de France anytime soon! But I am trying to live as a cyclist, even though I know I am not a great cyclist. This is like living as a Christian. I can call myself a Christian all I want, but unless I am living by faith in Christ and loving like Christ, I am no better than this mannequin. For we see that she has the look of a cyclist, but she is not a cyclist. She will not win a cycling race for she has no capacity, no fitness for cycling. This mannequin cannot have fear of Christ or place faith in Christ. But we can place our faith in Christ.

When Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome visited the tomb of Jesus, they ran away for they were scared. It is only later that we know their faith in Christ being raised is lived. They were part of the early church that lived, spoke about, and loved the faith that made them be fit for and have fitness for heaven. This being fit for and having the fitness for heaven is the same for us.

It all starts with placing our trust in Jesus Christ. We know that we have to overcome our sin, that is be obedient to God, but we cannot do that on our own. Even if we were obedient to God from now till our death, we can do no extra credit work to make up for our past sins. We also know that since God has not sinned, for he is holy, that God is not required to make up for our sins. The only way our sin can satisfactoryily be removed is by the one who is both God and man. It was by God’s grace that Jesus, who is both God and man, can and does make up for sin. As we place our faith in Christ, we are made right before God, that is justified before God, or fit for heaven. As we live our faith in Christ, we are made holy before God, that is we are become sanctified like God, or to say it another way, we gain the fitness to be with God.

John Wesley said this about salvation and being holy:

“The righteousness of Christ is, doubtless, necessary for any soul that enters into glory. But so is personal holiness, too, for every child of man. But it is higly needful to be observed that they are necessary in different respects. The former is necessary to entitle us to heaven; the latter, to qualify us for it. Without the righteousness of Christ we could have no claim to glory; without holiness we could have no fitness for it.” (Kenneth J. Collins, A Faithful Witness: John Wesley’s Homiletical Theology, (Wesley Heritage Press, Wilmore, Kentucky; 1993), p. 196-197)

If we are to follow Jesus after we leave our graves, then we have to do more than just look like Christians. We can live like Jesus. Jesus was without sin, so we start to sin less. Jesus was holy, so we take in all the holiness that we can. Jesus lived as though the kingdom of heaven was around him. So, we start living as though the kingdom of heaven is around us.

There will be people who tell us that we need not do all the “churchy” things. But it is living by faith in Christ that matters. We cannot let the distractions of this world leave us unprepared for the next version of the world, when God’s kingdom will be fully evident. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for life in hell! All the evil in this world is not comparable to the holy life we can have with God in his kingdom.

“So it would be wrong for good to allow evil to have veto power. Hell cannot terrorize heaven with its threats and its refusal to accept grace. This is what we will clearly understand in heaven, and that is why hell will not be able to undermine our happiness.” (Jerry Walls, Heaven, Hell, & Purgatory, (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 2015), p. 158)

The sin we have in our life has to die. By the grace of God through the resurrection of Christ we can know that sin no longer has control of our lives. By the grace of God through the resurrection of Jesus we can live holy lives so that we can be in God’s kingdom for the rest of time, and even beyond time.

How then shall we live? We do not run away from the empty tomb. It need not frighten us. The story of Jesus’ rising from the grave was eventually told by Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome. But the story of Jesus’ resurrection was also lived by those women and the disciples.

How then shall we live? We live holy lives by learning God’s ways and caring for our neighbors. We learn God’s ways as we spend time with God by reading the Bible, listening to God as he answers our prayers, encouraging our families to worship God with us, and giving to the ministries of the church. We care for our neighbors by speaking of our faith in Christ, giving them food and water for their bodies and their souls, and treating them as we would want to be treated.

What does this mean for us today? We choose one aspect of learning God’s ways that we have not done before and we add it to our daily living. We choose one aspect of caring for our neighbors that we have not done before and we add it to our daily living.

For Jesus did not die and rise from the grave so we could look like this mannequin. Jesus died and rose from the grave so that we could be fit for heaven. Jesus died so that we could have the fitnesss for living with our holy God!

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