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Sunday Night Live Sermons

THE PROMISE OF A HEAVENLY HOME
John 14:1 - 8

1st September 2002

Fathers Day is a good time to think of the significance of fathers and the home. It is also a good time to think of our heavenly Father and our Heavenly Home. The trouble is that these days neither has a place in the busy lives of so many people.

In one family mum agreed to let the kids get a guinea pig (hamster) if the children promised to take care of it. They had to give it food and water every day and clean out his cage. They agreed. They bought a guinea pig and named him Danny. But a few months later it was clear that the children were not holding up their end of the bargain and mum was feeding, watering and cleaning. So mum called the kids together and explained that she had arranged a new home for Danny. She was surprised at how well they took the news, though they did express some concerns. One child said, Another said, "He's been here a long time - we'll miss him." "Maybe if he wouldn't eat so much and be so messy we could keep him." Finally mum said, "OK, it's time to take Danny to his new home. Go get the cage." The response was a burst of tears and shouts: "Danny? We thought you said 'Daddy'!"

The facts about missing fathers in Australian families are very serious. A recent report from The Fatherhood Foundation spells them out. Everyone knows some sole mother struggling to bring up a family of children without a husband and father in the home. We applaud the mother's faithfulness, but deplore the impact of a fatherless home. Divorce, separation, and single parenting, cause more and more children to live without fathers.

85% of single parent families are fatherless families. Father absence has been shown to be a major disadvantage to the well being of children. Bryan Rodgers of the Australian National University says: "Australian studies with adequate samples have shown parental divorce to be a risk factor for a wide range of social and psychological problems in adolescence and adulthood, including poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, psychological distress, delinquency and recidivism, substance use and abuse, sexual precocity, adult criminal offending, depression, and suicidal behaviour." Here then is a sampling of the evidence: Absent fathers bring poverty. A recent study of 500 divorcees with children five to eight years after the separation found that four in five divorced mothers were dependent on social security after their marriages dissolved. Figures from Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research show that family break-up, rather than unemployment, is the main cause of the rise in poverty levels in Australia. Absent fathers lower educational performance. A study of Australian primary school children found that in every area of educational endeavour: language; mathematics; social studies; sport; class work, sociability and popularity; and attitudes to learning), children from married heterosexual couples performed better. The study concludes with these words: "Married couples seem to offer the best environment for a child's social and educational development". Absent fathers increase crime. In a discussion of rising crime rates in Western Australia, a recent book reported that "family breakdown in the form of divorce and separation is the main cause of the crime wave".

Absent fathers increase drug abuse. Children who have watched their parents separate are more likely to use illegal drugs than those whose parents stay together. Absent fathers increase mental health problems. From nations as diverse as Finland and South Africa, a number of studies have reported that anywhere from 50 to 80 per cent of psychiatric patients come from broken homes. Absent fathers increase homelessness. Two Melbourne Universities concluded that children whose biological parents stay together are about three times less likely to become homeless. Absent fathers increase child abuse. A 1994 study of 52,000 children found that those who are most at risk of being abused are those who do not live with both natural parents. Mr Brian Burdekin, our Human Rights Commissioner, reported a 500 to 600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.

Absent fathers cost Australia $3.5 billion annually. Each separation costs society some $12,000. Australian industry loses more than $1 billion a year due to family breakdowns. With the rise of absent fathers Australia and the Western world has caused a marked rise in social problems. The brunt of these problems have been borne by children. We owe it to our children to do better.

"Home" is one of the most beautiful words that you could ever find. There are 600 homeless youth in the heart of Sydney, with nowhere to sleep except in derelict buildings, at the back of factories, in garbage disposal units, and even in some of our Mission bids for recycled clothing!

Most good words are four-lettered: love, hope, care, work, duty, give, glad, glow, warm, sing, kiss, wife, life, but the best of all, I think, is "home". We each have within our hearts that which longs for home. Those of us whose childhood was unhappy or who have not had a home of love, know that there is an emptiness, an awful vacuum, across which emptiness is written the letters H.O.M.E. A good home is every person's right, but not everyone's attainment. Those who have it claim it to be their richest possession.

If we care so much about home in the physical sense, why is it we do not care about home in the spiritual sense? Secular people have little time for a heavenly home. Yet this is one of the great promises of Jesus. It distinguishes a Christian from a non-Christian. The Christian is different because of the promise of a heavenly home, heaven, the ultimate home.

1. A CALM PREPARATION.

Because Jesus knows our concerns about death and dying weakness, He is quick to reassure us. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you." 14:1,2 When we face death we need that calm assurance. Jesus starts at the point of our fear and says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." He immediately gives us a prescription for relief. "Trust in God; trust also in Me." God is the answer to your troubles. Trust in God is the answer when you are upset. Belief in God is the answer to your fears. Then He said, "I am going there to prepare a place for you." Jesus is the One who goes ahead of us.

The Book of Hebrews calls Him the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. The pioneer - the One who goes to heaven before us to make all things ready. Then, as if to meet any further questioning, Jesus says, "if it were not so, I would have told you." He was always honest. He told His disciples they would be persecuted and life would be difficult. He said there would be slanders and untruths. He was honest about our victories and ultimate glory with Him. "I am going there to prepare a place for you." I wonder how many Australians believe that? This month, the August 12, 2002 issue of "Newsweek" contains a cover story about heaven. Its poll says, 76 percent of Americans believe in heaven. If more Australians believed they would make a calmer preparation.

2. A CERTAIN PROMISE.

He was preparing to go, but He said, "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." 14:3 There is no clearer statement of the second coming of our Lord than that promise. "I will come back." He could not be more definite. It was not only a promise; it was a declaration of His purpose. "I will come back, and take you to be with me." The purpose of His coming was to remove every obstacle between God and us; to remove the guilt, the stain and the consequence of sin, to enable us to go to God to receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. The purpose of His return is to "take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." That is His purpose and His promise: that you might have His presence in His Father's home forever. The promise of a heavenly home is our hope and our destiny.

3. A CLEAR PROCEDURE.

Jesus said, "You know the way to the place where I am going." But Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."v3-6 Christ Jesus is not only the Way, He is the Truth about the Way, and the Life of the Way. To know Him is all you need to know about getting there. "No one comes to the Father except through Me." He is the only way.

He is still the way, in spite of the fact that people took Him and nailed Him to the Cross, not realizing that the Cross would become a signpost that pointed to heaven. He is the truth, in spite of the fact that it looked as though evil had conquered when they placed Him in the tomb, rolled the stone against it, set a seal, and placed a guard. But, "Vain the watch, the stone, the seal, Christ hath burst the gates of hell."

"I am the life," said Jesus, even though His enemies thought that they had taken that life and snuffed it out and buried it beneath a rock, for "up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes." Jesus became the true and living way to heaven, and there is no other way to the Father, except through Him. As Peter preached: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 I do not know the details of heaven as our home. One day we shall, in the meantime we only catch glimpses. Like Paul, "now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Heaven will be resplendent, I am sure. But only this week I caught of glimpse of how resplendent. In Revelation 21, I read: "The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass." John was imaging the preciousness of heaven, but I wondered: "Why didn't he include more valuable stones like diamonds and rubies?"

For a scientific reason people did not know in the days of John who wrote those words. These stones are all anisotropic in pure light. John says there was no light by sun or moon, but a purer light of the radiance of God. These stones are the twelve which, when viewed in pure light produce all the colours of a rainbow in an infinite variety of patterns whatever their original colour. When placed in that order they produce the most perfect colour spectrum imaginable! All other precious stones are isotropic - that is, they lose their colour under pure light such as can be manufactured in a laboratory. John's stones in pure light break into all the colours of the rainbow in an infinite variety of patterns.

I looked at the stars on a clear night and thought: "If the underneath of Heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be like?" Through faith in Jesus Christ we shall know for ourselves. Through our faith in Jesus, we shall be with our Father in our heavenly home forever!

REFERENCES.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.