Eyes on the Prize

To change the world, we simply walk with a few others toward Jesus. Who in your life is the Holy Spirit leading you to connect with more meaningfully?


Morning! My name is John McCormick, Leader of Renovation U which is our Bible & Theology classes we offer in the summers.
I am so excited to be with you guys again! 
Last time I spoke we talked about how everything began back in the garden of Eden
We covered how sin entered the world and how everything fell apart
But today I want to talk about how everything finishes
The happily ever after if you will 
What do we think Heaven is like?
I want to start today by trying something with you guys
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your happy place
Might be fishing on the lake
Might be out in the woods or in the hustle of the big city
Might be at your house group
Or the most likely: in a Renovation U class
Whatever it is, go to your happy place for a moment
Okay you can open your eyes for a second
Now I’m sure that while you were imagining that, it felt good right?
You were happy to be there and it’s a place you wish you could be all the time
As Americans with our busy stressful lives, we spend a lot of time thinking about our happy places
It’s a way for us to escape from the pressure of this life and a way for us to relax and recharge!
It’s awesome to have a place where we feel safe and stress free (and even better when we get to be in it!) 
Now I want to you to close your eyes again
This time, I want you to imagine what Heaven will be like
Take a second and try it
What did you see and feel?
Was it like your happy place or maybe even the same?
Did it feel relaxing and stress free?
Even better, did it seem exciting or fun?
When you were thinking about heaven it might have seemed something like this:
Show picture of angel sitting on a cloud
These 2 angels are sitting on the cloud looking bored and that caption is: “I miss stress”
Or maybe you saw something like this
Show picture of pearly gates
This is an image of the Pearly gates of Heaven
Fun game for later, google “Pearly Gates” and count how many images come up that don’t look like pearls in any way!
Or maybe you saw something different
This is what I saw
Show picture of a chocolate fountain
This is an extremely fancy chocolate fountain
Some people in the room just started salivating, and you are my people! 
Regardless of what you saw, was it as good of an experience as your happy place?
Or perhaps did it not seem as good?
Was it stress-free and relaxing or exciting and fun? Or both?
Or perhaps nothing came to mind when trying to imagine it!
One of the most interesting problems that we have as Christians in America is that we have a poor (or no) understanding of what Heaven is like
Our culture tells us that it isn’t satisfying or that it is boring
That picture of the guy on the cloud playing harp is what we are told it is
An endless existence of being bored sitting on a cloud
Our culture also makes us think that we won’t have any fun in heaven either
We will have to be content doing “righteous” things which aren’t as interesting as what we can do on earth
Or we hear the opposite that doing what you want here on Earth is more fun
I want to spend some time with you today talking through what the Bible says about Heaven and how understanding Heaven can change our perspective on our lives!
What does the Bible say about Heaven?
So, what does the Bible say about Heaven? Do we really know much about it?
What’s fascinating is that the word “heaven” appears over 600 times in the Bible
And yet how often do we not pay attention when we read it?
We read right past it without giving it another thought
But what we miss is super exciting news about what’s in store for us!
Let’s look and see what the Bible says about Heaven in a few places
John 14: 2-3
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.
Isaiah 65:25
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
What’s fascinating is that when we imagine Heaven, we often picture a “spiritual” place
Or we might imagine ourselves in a place totally unlike our world
Or we think of a disembodied ghost flying around
And we think that we’ll float around or maybe look like an angel and have wings in our back and a halo above our head
But what we read is that it’s a physical place where we’ll be
It’s like a house with many rooms
It’s a city with walls and gates and houses
And we have physical bodies like the ones we have today
But we will get an even better version that Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians that has been glorified and will never grow old or die
Even Animals will be there and will hang out without eating each other
What’s even more interesting is that while we will spend some time in Heaven when we die waiting for Jesus to come back, our final destination will be a new Earth!
Check this out in Revelation:
Revelation 21: 1-4
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The Heaven that we look forward to will be a new Earth where we live!
We imagine this place that’s in the clouds and spiritual, but in fact it’s like the Earth we know!
The trees, rivers, and fruit that we are used to will still be there in Heaven!
Check it out: Revelation 22: 1-2
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
Chapter 21 in Revelation tells us that there will be a city (the new Jerusalem) in the new Earth where we’ll live
This city will be where God will rule from and where we will be together with him, how amazing is that!
As a lover of maps, I have to share with you the measurements that we find here and show you just how big this city will be
I did some of the math conversions for you, because I don’t think anyone can do the math from Stadia to miles in their heads
This is how it’s described in Daniel: 1400 miles wide, 1400 miles deep, and 1400 miles tall
That means its surface area is 1,960,000 square miles
And its entire volume is 2,744,000,000 cubic miles
Here’s how big that City would look like on Earth today if it were in the US and completely flat
Show New Jerusalem on Map image
That’s massive right! It covers over half of the mainland US
This city isn’t just flat though, it’s also extremely tall, look at it in 3D
Show New Jerusalem on Globe image
There aren’t even human structures to compare this city to it is so massive!
Keep in mind that the edge of space is generally considered to be 80 miles above sea level
So this city might also be in outer space, how cool is that?!?!
I need you all to humor me just one more time and close your eyes
This time I’m going to read you a passage from this chapter and I want you to imagine it
Revelation 21: 18-19, 21, 23
The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp
But way more awesome than its size or what it is made of is that God himself will be there
We will be able to spend every minute in his presence, think about this for a second
This is the one who spoke a word, and everything came into being in an instant
This is the one who radiates brilliant light and will outshine the sun
This is the one who promises to wipe away every tear
This is the one who loved you so much that he sent his Son to save you
He is waiting for you! He’s cheering you on in the race that is our lives
You’re not an afterthought to him, Jesus went ahead to prepare a place for you in that city to be with him!
And the new earth that he is making a place for you in will be radically transformed!
All the broken things that we deal with every day won’t be there
Going to the new earth isn’t about escaping this broken world and going to be somewhere completely different
It isn’t a do-over because our world is too messed up and full of sin
It’s about taking this earth, people, environment, animals, etc. and restoring them to what they were at creation!
God said that everything was good in the beginning!
And in Revelation God says that He is making all things new!
Think about it, all we’ve ever known is our world where everything is twisted by Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden
Imagine a world with no cancer, no aches and pains, no heartbreak, no war, no child slavery, no sex trafficking, no corruption, and on and on and on
All the things that we hate in this world that are so wrong won’t be there
Even non-Christians have this longing in their hearts for peace and freedom from these things
Think about your friends that don’t know Jesus, they long for these things just like we do!
But they don’t know the hope that Jesus brings and the freedom that He brings
This is insanely good news that we should be sharing with them!
All the broken things will be fixed and made new, but what about what is here on earth that is already beautiful and good?
Remember with me for a second, remember a time where you saw something incredibly beautiful
I’m talking about something that just takes your breath away
When Ashley and I were on our honeymoon, we were on a cruise and stopped at Grand Cayman in the Caribbean
We had booked going out to a beach for the day to relax
We found out that the beach wasn’t on the main island, so we had to take a boat to get to it
When we got there, we walked off the pier onto the beach and sat down and looked out
I remember seeing this beautiful blue ocean stretching out as far as the eye could see
Cozy warm white sand under our feet
The sun shining down without a cloud in the sky
And a gentle breeze keeping us cool
It felt like paradise, one of those moments where everything is perfect
Friends, those amazing moments are just a glimpse of what views on the new earth will be like
But there you’ll be able to experience and enjoy it without stress weighing you down
You won’t have sickness or obligations or crushing work schedules to hold you back
And even better, we’ll get to experience everything as God originally intended
And even better than that, we’ll get to go experience those things with Him!
Imagine touring the world with the one who created it!
Just think of all the hidden places that He will show us that no one has ever seen!
Every moment is beautiful, and every moment is better because we are with Him!
I don’t think there is a better way of putting it than what Jesus says to the thief dying on the cross next to him:
Luke 23:43
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 
While being in paradise is all fine and good, but what makes it truly amazing is that we are there with Jesus! 
What Heaven means for us today
That all sounds really good doesn’t it?
And that is just a tiny glimpse of what the new earth holds for us
People fear they will be bored, but you will need all of eternity just to experience all the wonders God has in store for you there!
With all of that in mind, let’s talk about what this means for us in our lives today and how it can change our perspective
What I want us to see this morning is that we will see our lives totally differently if we keep our eyes on the prize which is being with Jesus forever!
Whenever I hear messages like this, I love them because they answer a lot of questions, but at the same time they also seem to raise just as many questions.
If you’re in that same spot, that’s awesome!
Dive into the Bible and spend time reading what it says about Heaven and the New Earth
I would also recommend reading a book by Randy Alcorn called “Heaven”
Put up the Randy Alcorn Heaven image 
When we spend time thinking about our future home with Jesus, it changes our perspective of our lives here on Earth
The Apostle Paul compares our lives to a race here on earth
1 Corinthians 9: 24-25
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 
Our “race” is to stay focused on following Jesus and living our lives how he tells us to in the Bible
That includes letting go of what we want and following what he wants
It means following his plan for our life instead of trying to make our own
And if we truly follow, serve, and love Him, then eternal life with Him is the prize waiting for us at the finish line
As runners in the race, we are trying to stay on the path that the Bible lays out for us
We have obstacles in our way along that path that we trip over
And there are distractions on the side (our sin) that want to pull us off
And each of our paths are unique just like how God’s plan for each of us is unique
But the end goal, the prize, the finish line, is the same
If we complete the race and follow him to the end, He is waiting for us
Using Paul’s analogy, think about someone preparing for the Olympics
They train super hard for many years (sometimes decades) to be able to compete
They work hard at it every single day and with a singular focus
Usually they start training at a very young age too!
But why? Why do they go through so much for it? Why do they spend time training and obsessing over it?
Because the prize is worth it
Reaching the finish line and getting the Gold is worth it
For us, being with Jesus in heaven and on the new earth is prize waiting at the end
And friends it. is. worth. It.
But our reward isn’t just a few minutes of glory and joy, it’s an ETERNITY!
Let’s focus on the future we have with him forever rather than the moment we have on the earth!
And what you’ll find is that if you keep your eyes on the prize, you’ll find that everything else fades out, and that if you don’t everything becomes a lot more difficult
We’ll talk more about that in House Groups this week
Briefly, what I can tell you from personal experience, is that keeping my eyes on the prize has made a profound impact on my life!
When I’m thinking about being physically present with Jesus and am focused on that, I feel so joyful!
I think about being with Jesus and getting to ask him all the impossible questions that I have and watch him answer them with ease
I think about climbing huge mountains with him and seeing amazing vistas
I think about hanging out with my Christian friends from this life but IN HEAVEN and getting to spend time together talking about all the incredible things we’ve done with Jesus!
And when something bad happens, if I focus on the prize, the sadness and difficulty is bearable because I know it’s only temporary
As Christians, we’re able to get through difficult phases of life because we KEEP our eyes on the prize. 
How did you make it through hard times in school? 
Because you kept your eyes on the prize…of graduation or of getting a future job!
How were you able to make it through when you got the flu, broke your leg, or lost your job? 
Because you kept your eyes on the prize! You knew the flu would pass, your leg would heal, you’d find another job…so you kept going!
And as Christians, even when we face deep things that feel like they’ll never pass…a broken heart, a chronic illness, a loss of a child…
How is it that THE CHRISTIAN keeps going when others lose complete hope in life?? 
It’s because we, as Christ Followers, keep our eyes on the ULTIMATE PRIZE – Being with Jesus!
And your trust in Him will allow you to endure anything. 
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18) – NIV 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Friends, keeping your eyes on the prize changes everything!
If we live our lives following Jesus, he promises us a home for eternity that will be so amazing
And this life with all its struggle is only for a blink , just a moment
And then it’s forever in paradise
Even death is just a momentary suffering, here’s how Randy Alcorn puts it in his book “Heaven”
For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.
If we keep our eyes on the prize, if we really focus on being with Jesus as our goal, then I promise you it will change everything
So, run the race, keep your eyes on the prize, and get excited about the joy that we will have with him forever
Let me pray

Copyright: John McCormick
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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