“From Here to Eternity” was a film starring Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Cliff which won 8 Academy Awards in 1954, but long before then and ever since then eternity is a subject we rarely speak about, but constantly think about. The Bible says…
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV Strong's)
he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
If we truly concentrated on eternity, the way we live our life would change!
Arthur Stace was a returned soldier from WW1, a down and out, illiterate alcoholic who became a Christian in 1930 and wondered what he could do for God. 2 years later he heard evangelist John G Ridley preach, "Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You've got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?"
From that point on, Mr Stace left for work at 5 am every day, and wrote several times the word eternity on the footpaths of the city, and over 35 years he is estimated to have written Eternity some 500,000 times, narrowly avoiding arrest 24 times. Thousands were stirred by this single word, and thousands came to Christ, even though Arthur never led anyone to Jesus himself. Years later Sydney honoured this humble man by plastering the word Eternity in his famous copperplate script on the Harbour Bridge in 2000, and at the Sydney Olympics.
Isaiah 57:15 (ESV Strong's)
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
As believers, we say we believe in eternity, in Heaven and hell, but frankly we don’t live like it! A simple, humble man like Arthur Stace can remind us that what we see today, right here, is just a fraction of eternity!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERE AND ETERNITY
We look at this world… houses, cars, mountains, sea, friends, family… they seem so real, they seem so tangible and permanent, but the Bible cautions us against focussing in temporal things…
1 Corinthians 15:53-55 (ESV Strong's)
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
This world seems so real, but it lacks longevity. We’re all going to die and it’s all going to burn, folks! Like the flowers of the field, it is here today, but gone tomorrow, and despite that fact that we know this world is temporary, we build our entire lives upon this shifting sand!
Paul did not downplay the existence or importance of the temporal or physical world, unlike Greek philosophers. He acknowledged it, lived in it and wanted to maximise it for Christ. However, he did not focus on it, for his focus was far higher than the physical.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV Strong's)
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The Greek word for look to is SCOPEO, which means, “to focus one’s eyes or attention on, to set a goal or end.” It talks about not focusing on the temporal, the light and momentary affliction which is the pain and heartache we go through in life, but to focus in the “eternal weight of glory.”
The image here is of an old scale, with our daily troubles and afflictions on one side, and the eternal glory, the forever rewards we will receive on the other. Our current pain and suffering may seem heavy right now, but when you put them in the scale, they seem light because the eternal glory far exceeds anything we can go through while on earth!
So the question is not whether you will suffer in your life, because clearly you will. The question is simply this… what will you decide to focus on?
WHAT LASTS FOREVER?
A comedian once said, “I’m going to live forever… so far, so good.” But what really lasts forever?
The things of this world seem so real because we can see them and feel them; but they are all temporal and destined to pass away. But how can you possibly begin to see the intangible, the eternal that seems invisible? The answer? Faith…
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV Strong's)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
We need eyes of faith to see that which our natural eyes cannot see, yet which is far more real and eternal that what our physical eyes see. So how can we focus on the eternal? By seeing through faith the things that are eternal. And what actually is eternal? The Bible says only 3 things…
God Himself is eternal. Therefore, His love for you is eternal…
Psalms 90:2 (ESV Strong's)
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalms 103:17 (ESV Strong's)
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
The Hebrew word for eternal is OLAM, which means without beginning or end, and comes from the word meaning concealed… so far back or forward and point is impossible to see.
2. GOD’S WORD
Isaiah 40:8 (ESV Strong's)
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
The Bible is the Word of God, truth from cover to cover, and it will stand forever! That why I want you to do our reading plan, because this is God’s Word, and like God, it is eternal. Put this into your heart, and you will begin to have an eternal perspective to live in this temporary world!
3. THE SOULS OF MEN AND WOMEN
Make no mistake, the souls of men and women live for eternity. God has placed eternity in the hearts of men, and He has made a way that we can also live with Him for eternity, or not.
Hebrews 9:27 (ESV Strong's)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
I’m not going to sugar coat this… all people, from Scott Morrison to Donald Trump, to you and I to a beggar on the streets of Delhi, every one of us faces eternity. You might say you don’t believe in eternity, but your opinion, whether you believe or not, matters little to God. He not asking your opinion. Whether you believe or not, Eternity exists, and you are part of it. The only question is, “where will you spend it?”
HEAVEN OR HELL… YOUR CHOICES CHOSE FOR YOU
No one in their right mind would choose hell, a place of eternal torment, over heaven, eternity with God. But you don’t get to choose where you will spend eternity, God does and He will judge everyone. You DO get to choose how you live your life, and the choices you make in your life, those choices choose what you face in eternity. You might not choose to go to hell, but by choosing to ignore God’s free gift of eternal life, you choose by default, and you sign your own death warrant!
Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV Strong's)
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
There are 2 ways to heaven… 1. Never sin, never tell a lie. Never be selfish, never have an evil thought, never hurt anyone. Clearly, none of us can get to heaven that way, because…
Romans 3:23 (ESV Strong's)
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
The second way, in fact only way, is to allow Jesus to take the punishment for your sins, and accept the free gift He offers you. You can have eternity with God in heaven, because…
Romans 6:23 (ESV Strong's)
the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There will be many one day who will be sent to a lost eternity without Jesus Christ in hell. It’s the broad road that leads to destruction. And when this happens, as is man’s way, they will try and blame God instead of their own foolish decisions…
Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.
Listen, don’t blame God, what more can God do? He has given the best of heaven in His own Son. If you reject His provision for you, if you say no to Jesus today, get ready for an eternity of torment and anguish in hell, no matter how nice or kind you think you are, your niceness won’t save you… you’ll be the nicest guy in hell, that’s all!
HEAVEN AND HELL
Heaven is going to be beyond description. Look outside at the mountains, the forests, the oceans and the stars. 6 days God took to create the world, but He’s been working on heaven for 2000 years… imagine how awesome it must be! It’s a perfect place, it’s a privileged place, it’s a prepared place! And Jesus is saying, “Come, join me in my house!”
John 14:2-3 (ESV Strong's)
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Heaven is where God Himself lives, and everything that goes with Him. It’s full of light, full of joy, full of music, full of laughter and love. But hell is the opposite, the absence of all that… the Bible describes the unsaved like this…
2 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV Strong's)
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Some say, “I’ll be in hell with all my mates, we’ll break open a pack of cards and drink beer and have fun.” No you won’t! Hell is just the opposite of heaven… it is everything God is not. It is pain and torment, it is darkness and fear, it is loneliness and isolation. And this torment lasts forever, without hope of rescue or relief. And perhaps the greatest torment of all is remembering every time you rejected God’s offer of life.
SO, WHAT DOES ETERNITY MATTER?
You might be saying, “You’re trying to scare me,” and the answer is, YES I AM!
2 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore, knowing the fear (KJV terror) of the Lord, we persuade others.
I know what’s coming, and so yes, I want to scare you by telling you the truth and letting you make a valid decision. I do this because I love you. If you were standing on the train tracks, with an oncoming train, is the loving thing just to let you get killed by the train, or to warn you and urge you to get off the tracks to safety. My love for you and the fear of God compels me to tell you truth!
Eternity matters, and what’s more, in the end, it’s all that matters. If most people are honest, everybody has an inkling that eternity is out there somewhere, because God placed eternity in the hearts of men. But sadly even many Christians forget about eternity and live for today, just like everyone else. In this regard, we are not only selfish and unloving towards others, but their blood will be on our hands if we don’t warn them! We might live on earth, but we rarely live in the light of eternity.
Ezekiel 3:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Church, we need to get this… This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls, right across the earth. Country club Christianity doesn’t cut it any more! If we truly have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love and compassion, then we cannot sit idly by while our friends, family, fellow Aussies and people around the world slide into the abyss of hell! Eternity should, indeed must matter to us, more than anything else! As Keith Green sang, “The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight, coz it’s asleep in the light!”
Church, it’s time to wake up. It’s time to live with eternity burned onto our retinas! It’s not enough to float through life as a Christian, to just scrape through so we can get to Heaven. No, we need our hearts moved, to get more desperate about saving others, more desperate about reaching our nation, more hungry to serve Jesus. My aim in life is to get to Heaven, and take as many people as I can with me! And I can’t do this concentrating on temporal things!
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Eternity matters, but what happens from here to eternity matters too! We have a nice church, with great fellowship and we’ve seen phenomenal growth. But it’s not enough, I want more! I don’t want a nice church, I want an ignited church! I’m praying for these seats to be filled with people desperately seeking God, and desperately seeking how to serve Him. I’m not satisfied, I want more, so should you, and there’s always more! More salvations, more baptisms, more people, more souls!
Some of you here turn up for church, semi regularly, and feel like you’ve made a connection to God. That’s great, welcome to the bottom rung of the spiritual ladder, but please don’t stay there! Stats tell us that people who consider themselves committed attend church once in 6 weeks!
I know you have a life outside of church. You work, earn money, take care of kids, watch TV. You travel away on holidays, you read good books, you have coffee with friends and life is great. But
Matthew 16:26 (ESV Strong's)
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
The one gaining the world yet losing his soul has lost sight of eternity, of what is real and what really matters in life. I confess you you, sometimes that is me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed in living that I forget to live life to the full. I now in front of you as your pastor, I repent of losing sight of eternity! It’s time I got desperate, because I have limited time remaining in my life to make a difference in this sorry, sin soaked world!
LIFE TO THE FULL
John 10:10 (ESV Strong's)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I don’t want to just live, I want to live life abundantly, I want to live my life totally for Jesus.
And I want the same for you. Stop right now, have a look at your life. What do you think about, what do you focus on. Money, friends, family… what? How can we cruise through life having fun while people are dying, 2 people every second, most without Christ, most going to hell!
If we decide to live focused on eternity, then we are going to see our lives change. Listen, our country desperately needs us to step up, and stand up for what is right and true and honourable.
If we are not focused on and investing in God, His Word and the souls of men and women, then I believe we are missing the point of why we are here and what’s worse, we have blood on our hands!
Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV Strong's)
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
We just accept what society dishes up as normal, because we are not living in the light of eternity. We can’t see eternity for the pleasures of this world, because our minds are not on eternity.
Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong's)
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON ETERNITY TODAY
I believe that God is asking us as Ignite church to choose this day whom we will serve. I believe God is calling us to shift our focus, to realign our priorities, to make a difference in our nation, and around the world. He is calling us to become salt and light in a twisted and perverted generation that desperately needs hope!
All that remains is for you to choose. I’m choosing right now to live for eternity…
Joshua 24:15 (ESV Strong's)
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, …But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Like Isaiah, when God looks for faithful people who live focussed on eternity …
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV Strong's)
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Will you join me? I look at you and I see greatness. I look in your eyes and see into your souls, and I see incredible things God can do in and through you. All it takes is for you to say, “Here am I, send me!” Many look at a block of stone and just see a rock. But Michelangelo saw greatness within that rock, and took hammer and started chipping away. In time everyone began to see what once only the sculptor saw. I don’t care what others have said about you, I see greatness if you would allow Jesus to sculpt your life.
Will you join me today? Will you stand before God and covenant with Him to focus on eternity?
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (ESV Strong's)
So whether we are at home (here on earth) or away (in eternity with Christ), we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “Oh that believers would become eternity-conscious! If we could live every moment of every day under the eye of God, if we did every act in the light of the judgment seat, if we prayed every prayer in the light of the judgment seat, if we tithed all our possessions in the light of the judgment seat, if we preachers prepared every sermon with one eye on damned humanity and the other on the judgment seat—then we would have a Holy Ghost revival that would shake this earth and that, in no time at all, would liberate millions of precious souls.”
Today I invite you to stand with me and commit to focusing on eternity.