John Mastin - Dells, Wisconsin - Sunday Morning, 2008

It is a natural thing with age, and the passing of time, for our bodies to become stiff and less flexible than they were when we were younger. Many of you children don’t believe that when you do many of the things that I used to be able to do and I can’t do them any more. It gets more difficult and harder to do things and there are some things I just can’t do any more. I used to be able to touch my nose with my toe but now I can’t. It is just a natural thing, a natural tendency, age. Those who work really hard at it can stay more flexible longer than those who don’t work at it and don’t make it the centre of their life. It is amazing what some older people can do but that isn’t the natural thing.

The thing that concerns me the most is my heart, not the one that is beating in here but the heart that we read about in the scripture, the heart that God wants to be His dwelling place, that heart, the place that God wants to send His Spirit to dwell in, the home and the haven for His Spirit. That is the one I am concerned about and how easy it is for it to become hard and that is not good at all. What is good for me is anything that will make my heart soft. At times when I find my heart is getting hard  and callous and cold, it is good for me, really good for me, to consider Jesus coming from His radiant throne on high, from His home in heaven, from His glorious home that He has there and that He has returned to, to try to consider what it must have cost heaven for Jesus to come here. It is not hard to talk about Him leaving heaven and coming here for about 33 and a half years and then returning to heaven. We can speak about it and not really think much about it but it sure does my heart good to consider it.

One thing we understand and that is that heaven is glorious but what it is really like, we don’t know. We are looking forward to the day when we can go there and be there forever. We have been given some glimpses, just some little glimpses, just enough to grip our hearts and to cause us to feel that I don’t want to be like any who say, “Oh yes, I want to go to heaven.” No, I want, with all my heart, to be in heaven. I don’t want to miss what God has planned in heaven. I don’t really understand what it is. I don’t understand how glorious, how wonderful it is but I don’t want to miss it and I want to be in eternity with God and I want to get acquainted with Him now so that I won’t be a stranger when I go there. I don’t want to stand on the judgement day and hear those words, “I never knew you,” and then to be shut out and shut out forever.

Jesus, when He left heaven, left home. Almost all people, sooner or later leave home. Children leave home and they strike out on their own and they live their own lives, make their own homes and so on. There are those who have left all those possibilities, to have a home and a family and all that that means, to share this Gospel with others. But in return we have received a hundredfold - a hundred homes and in fact, so many that we can’t count them. You call that a sacrifice but we don’t consider that sacrifice. A wonderful, wonderful privilege of having your homes open to us. We have left one and we have gained a hundredfold, havens to us and we don’t even have our own home. The wonderful liberty to come into your home and for you to say to us, “You make this your home - while you are here this is your home. Feel free to do whatever you wish while you are here. Just feel at home.” We don’t want to do whatever we wish, we want to be careful, we want to be considerate because this is your home and we are guests. We are grateful for the welcome but we don’t ever want to abuse that wonderful, wonderful privilege.

Jesus left His home and what kind of a welcome are we giving Him here? He has never been away from home because He has never been separated from His Father and they shared that wonderful fellowship that they want us to share in. They wanted it so much that they made this world and they put us here. They also made a way so that we could be prepared so that we could be there forever. They wanted to share it. They are not selfish, they want to share it with others. When is this all going to end? When is God going to wrap this all up and finish it? When things get so bad in this world, when things get so terrible that He has no choice but to finish it up, wrap it up and put it away? I don’t think so. My personal feeling and it is just my personal feeling, is that He made this world for a reason and that was that it would be populated with men and women that would respond to His Gospel and be prepared for heaven and home. When, and only when He feels that He has enough, will He no longer need this earth. It is not because men are so wicked that He just can’t stand it any more but because He has enough, then He will fold it all up and put it away. Before that day comes we want to be ready for His heavenly home that He has prepared for us.

Jesus left that home, He left that glory, leaving His father behind when He’s always been with Him. Leaving the angels behind when they had always been together. Wasn’t that hard? I never want to think of that as a simple thing. It was not easy for Jesus to leave His father, they had never been separated before. Some may say, “Well, it is only for 33 and a half years. After all, what is that, when time means nothing to God.” I do believe that this was an exception. It is true that God doesn’t count time as we do. He doesn’t count days and hours and minutes or even centuries. That is not what matters to God but it matters to God what He has planned and He wants it fulfilled. It will be fulfilled and it will come to its conclusion and when it is finished then it is finished and it has nothing to do with time. We are time conscious because we know that we have a limited time, only a very short time on this earth. For some it is much, much shorter than others. So we must be time conscious.

We say time means nothing to God but in this I believe it did when, for those 33 and a half years, heaven was not complete. The only time that heaven was not complete was when Jesus was not there. We all know how time can drag when you’re waiting. It just goes on and on and on when you are waiting for somebody and they don’t show up. Whatever it is you are waiting for then time just goes on and on and on. Jesus was doing the will of His father while He was here but all the time that He was absent from heaven, heaven was not complete. I do believe that was costly, very costly.

They made this time even before They created the world, that He would be gone, that He would come here and that He would give us an example. They could have done it some other way, couldn’t they? He could have just come very briefly and give His life, but then we’d have no example. It is true that the majority don’t consider His life and His example but there was a reason why He was here for those 33 and a half years and that was to be an example, to answer all questions and to leave no doubts. What is the will of God? We see it in Jesus. What is the nature of God? What is the character of God? We see it in Jesus and that is why He was here for that period of time, so that we could see those things. It was costly, very costly.

Time wore on when Jesus wasn’t there and heaven wasn’t complete. He was here and it is only right that when He came, like it tells us in Galatians 4. It says in verse 4, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law.” When the fullness of time had come. Could it have come sooner? No, when the fullness of time had come, when God knew that the time was just right, He sent His Son. He didn’t send Him too late and nor did He send Him too early. Whenever I read this verse and think about it, I think about a woman, and this has happened over and over again, who was in the field I was in when I had one of my home visits, and she was dying of cancer. A few years before, she heard the Gospel through her neighbours. They had been neighbours for years and they hadn’t got acquainted with her before but they went over, in their compassion, to visit her, to show kindness to her. It ended up that she accepted their invitation to come to Gospel meetings and it wasn’t long before she made her choice and she embraced it with all her heart. Then 3 years later when I came to that field, she was very near to the end. Oxygen 24 hours a day and able to come to the Gospel meetings only. She had a small type of oxygen cylinder that she could take with her and she could come in. They would time it to leave home so that she would get to the meeting and sit down just as we were beginning the meeting and then everyone waited till she was safely out of the door before anyone stood. That is how she could get to Gospel meetings. We visited her one day and she said, “Why didn’t God let me see His way sooner? I love it, it means everything to me, it is my life and why did He wait so long to send it to me?” All we could say was, “Well, if you look over your life, had He sent it sooner would you have received it?” She thought a bit and then she said, “No, I would have been so busy with so many other things and wrapped up in my own life and what I was doing that I wouldn’t have been ready for it.” He sent it at the right time.

God never makes mistakes and He didn’t make a mistake when the fullness of the time came and He sent Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that is how much He loved us. That is how much He loved our soul and that is how much He wants to see us in heaven and see us in a safe eternity with Him forever. So He gave His Son, the very best that He had in heaven and He left heaven incomplete for those 33 and a half years until here was Jesus giving His life here on this earth. King of kings and Lord of lords and when He found Himself in fashion as a man, what did He do? Did He do like we do and get all puffed up? "I am the Son of God, do you not know who I am?" No. He humbled Himself. When He found that He had a human nature, the human character that we have, He humbled Himself. Just like we must do if we are going to follow Him and be a child of God. Not puffed up and not saying, “Do you know who I am?”

I will tell you a little story because this is something we must take care of before life finishes or we will not be in heaven. That is pride. This thing called pride that comes in so many forms and called by so many names that sound better than pride but it is still pride - pride that makes us hard, pride that makes us get our back up when we are talked to by others or treated by others, not as we think we should be treated. Isn’t that pride? "You can’t talk to me like that. You can’t treat me like that." Jesus humbled Himself. He was never offended by what anyone said and He was the Son of God. Who am I to say that anyone shouldn’t deal with me nor talk to me in any way they want to?

Before 9/11, it was possible to take all your visitors all the way to the gate in the airport, to security. Well folks went and they got to the gate and, oh my, there was a mob of people up there. The plane had been cancelled and all the people from that flight had to get other flights and there was one girl at the counter trying to take care of all of this and it was a mess. While she was trying to handle this, there comes a man dressed in a suit and with his briefcase and he says, “Get me on that flight.” She said, “Sir, we can’t get everyone on that flight. We will do the best we can and we will get you to your destination.”  “I have an appointment and I can’t miss that. You get me on this flight.” "Sir, would you please step to the end of the line and we will take everyone in their turn. We will get you a flight and we will get you to your destination, we promise you.” He kept pushing until finally he said, “Do you know who I am?” She didn’t answer but she picked up the microphone and she said, “Folks, we have a little problem here. There is a gentleman here who doesn’t know who he is. If you could help us identify him.” He went to the rear of the line. Do you see yourself?

They say that we are wonderfully and fearfully made, this body of ours. It must be true because all it takes is a little pat on the back and the head swells. Who am I, anyway? Jesus humbled Himself and became, not a servant, but a servant of servants, He washed His disciples’ feet and they were servants. He was teaching them to be servants and He stooped down and washed their feet. Who am I that I would get upset, that I would not even want to go to the meeting because you are going there because you hurt me? Who am I? Who do we think that we are? Do we understand who we are? Can we face Jesus on that judgement day and could we live with Him forever? If we would do that now and not get victory over that now, we can’t take that kind of thing into heaven. It can’t be there. It will not be there.

There is no pride in heaven. That was taken care of a long time ago when God cast out Satan. He cast him out. Why? Proud. He thought he was going to take God’s place. He wanted to be equal with God. He was an angel and he had a wonderful, wonderful place of privilege, like the other angels - a special, special place but it wasn’t good enough for him. Pride lifted him up and he was able to influence others of the angels to rise up against God - tried to usurp the place of God. How proud can you get? So God cast him out and there is no pride in heaven Can I go in with mine? Jesus Himself, if there was anyone who could be proud, if you want to use that word - He could say, “I am the Son of God, now you listen to Me, you bow down to Me, and you do everything I tell you to do.” No, He doesn’t do that, He humbled Himself and He served. So at the right time, God sent Him to this earth to show us how to live.

When He was on trial Pilate said to Him, “You know, I have the power to crucify you. I have got power over you.” Jesus said to him, "You have no power at all because if God doesn’t want it, you have no power to do it, and if He allows it, then you will.” He had no power of himself but do you know what kind of power Jesus had? In John 10, He said this, “Therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life and I take it again. No man taketh it from me but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again. This I have received of My Father.” He wants to give you and me this same power. The same power to lay down our life. We can keep it, we do have that power. Keep it for ourselves and not give it to God but then we will lose it. Jesus said, “I have power,” and He used that power to lay down His life. They didn’t take it from Him, He laid it down.

A little illustration to help us understand that is what a sister worker told us about. She had been around sheep when she was young and she said that one time, a lamb was to be slaughtered. So they brought this lamb into the corral, separated it from its mother - there was blood in there, soaked into the ground. At the smell of blood, animals go wild and they are hard to control. Well this little lamb did run around aimlessly bleating but then it stopped. A man was waiting in the centre of the corral and there was just a little mound there in the ground. The lamb came over to the man who was going to butcher him. He came over and put his front feet on that mound. The man held the knife and the lamb leaned to the knife for his throat to be cut. There I see Jesus. He said, “I lay it down, I give it.”

It tells us that Jesus was not the only one crucified and we know that there were two crucified with Him. It was a common thing, a cruel thing, and it was invented to make it very, very painful. An extremely painful and slow way to die but He wasn’t the only one. There were others, many thousands of others were crucified but this one was different. Jesus was different from all the rest. None of those others who were crucified were not guilty of anything. I can picture them fighting, complaining, insisting on their innocence, being crucified and struggling all the way, but not Jesus. He gave Himself. When they came for Him, He said, “Here I am.”

Peter and another of the Apostles had swords and Peter pulled out his sword and he cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. Was that right? The general feeling is, “I was hurt and therefore I have the right to slaughter all those who hurt me.” Vengeance, that is the way of the world. I’ll get back at you. So Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest. I don’t think he just carefully cut it off, he was a fisherman, not a soldier. That is all he got and was he fortunate that was all he got! Isn’t he fortunate that it was only the ear and wasn’t he fortunate that Jesus was there. What would he have done had Jesus not been there? He could not run with him to the doctor. He did what he shouldn’t have done and how would he ever have made it right? Jesus made it right. He put it back on and He healed him. Then He said, “Now you  put your sword away. If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. That isn’t what I want. If My servants were of this world they would fight but they are not of this world. They are not going to fight and they are not going to defend Me.” We don’t need to defend Jesus or the word of God. God  will do that, God will take care of that. We don’t need to resist and get all upset but just follow the example of Jesus who gave Himself.

As they nailed Him to the cross, He was the only one, the ONLY one who lay there and let them put those nails in Him. Painful, beyond what we can imagine, but He did not resist. He was considered a sinner. They had lied about Him. They brought false witnesses against Him but the only way they could follow through with this was to say that He was a miserable sinner and that He deserved to die. He didn’t deserve to die and if anybody was innocent, it was Jesus. He was carrying your sins and my sins. Not today’s sins. Yesterday and the day before that, every day that we have lived and every day that we will live yet. All of your sin and all of my sin. All of men’s sins from the beginning of time till the end of time and for all time. He died that way so that you and I wouldn’t have to die the second death and be separated from God forever. He went to the cross and it was costly for heaven. They were watching, the focus of attention was all there. He died there with no-one showing any kindness, no-one showing any compassion. They were wagging their heads, mocking Him as He hanged there and the other two were suffering the same agony. They asked Him to come down and He sure could have come down. He could have called for 12 legions of angels and it would have only taken one but He remained there until He had died. All His disciples ran away. Peter denied Him. Judas had sold Him. He was alone and that was the hard part.

There was darkness for three hours and in that time He said, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He tasted death for every man so that we would not taste of the darkness which is forever. It doesn’t just go on for a few years it goes on forever and never ever ends. Separation from God - alone and then with your own regrets and never will it change. It is that awful and He tasted it for you and me. I can’t tell you what happened. Some say that God turned His face away but it doesn’t tell us that but Jesus felt alone. All alone, all help was gone and He tasted that for you and me and which awaits anyone who will not obey and who will not accept Him, who will not become a child of God, that blackness of darkness awaits such. Is a lost eternity bad? Some will make light of it.

Where we labour, there are these men, they like to joke and they mock and say, “I don’t mind if I go to hell because all my friends will be there and we will all have a great time.” Never, never, never. In the story that Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, He gives an accurate picture of what is coming. Even when Jesus was here and  separated from Heaven, He kept in touch, He was in close contact. That is why He often went up very early in the morning before it was light and He went off to be alone with His Father. He didn’t want that contact cut. He couldn’t stand it but for that period of time on the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” What was it like for God to not reach out and save Him? What did it cost heaven to leave Him there when they could have got Him down but they left Him there.

After three days and nights, God raised Him from the dead and no longer was it in the power of man. They couldn’t change anything, it was in God’s hand. He didn’t take Him down from the cross but He did something far more wonderful when He raised Him from the dead. Three days and three nights and from that impossible situation, God raised Him. From that day, everything has been in God’s hand and gone His way. These awful things that are happening in the world and what men are doing one to another - is that in the will of God? He is allowing it, He IS allowing it but that doesn’t mean that things are out of control. God is still in control.

What did Jesus say before He drew His last breath? He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave. Why did He have to forgive? Was that necessary? There is another thing that we will never take into heaven and what will keep us from being there and that is unforgiveness and bitterness. They go together and you can’t separate them. Bitterness and unforgiveness. There is never, ever, any justifiable reason for bitterness. Yes, you can get hurt, I can understand that, that is true. It is going to take a long time to get over this. Yes, we can understand that too, but not bitterness or unforgiveness. If Jesus hadn’t forgiven them, then everything would have been for naught because He could not take that into heaven. Who did Jesus set free when He forgave? Just those men that were doing that to Him? No, He set Himself free. That is what forgiveness does. Sometimes we think “They don’t deserve to be set free if I forgive them. They should suffer for what they have done.” Oh no, we’ve got it all wrong. It isn’t they who are set free. We are set free and we are a prisoner as long as we hold unforgiveness in our hearts. We have chained ourselves because we won’t forgive and Jesus had no intention of going up into eternity being chained, a prisoner. He went up free because He forgave. They didn’t show any repentance but He forgave them and He set Himself free.

Does this mean that if I am doing wickedness and I know it is wrong or I get told it is wrong, so then you just have to forgive me? Then it is all taken care of. No we are not talking about that at all. Jesus forgave those men and set himself free but they would never be set free until they repented and changed their ways. Not merely saying sorry but changing from the inside and then they would be free. The important thing is that Jesus was free and you and I would be free if we forgave. We are not saying that what they did was right but if I want to be free, if I don’t want anything over my head and keeping me back from a saved eternity then I MUST forgive. He raised Jesus on this first day of the week, on this day, to show that the plan is fulfilled and the door is open and the way is open. It is finished, it is final, it’s done, He has done His part. Now it is our part, to be true to the end, so that we can be joint heirs with Him.

In the Gospel of John 17, Jesus was praying and He said in verse 22, “The glory that Thou gavest Me I have given them that they mayest be one even as We are One. I in them and Thou in Me that they may be perfect in one and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me. I have loved them even as Thou dost love Me. Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me because Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world.” What does He want? What is He asking of His Father? I am going back now. I am returning to the glory that I had there. This long time, so it seemed, is now over and I am going back now. He also said, “If you understood that I am going back to My Father, you would rejoice. You would be happy.” He Himself was torn that He had to leave His disciples that He loved so well and had given His life for them but He couldn’t wait. It was so hard to leave but He wanted to go. Like Paul said, “I am torn between two. I have a desire to go and be with Christ but I would also like to stay with you. So we will leave the decision up to God. When the time is right and it is time to go. I want to go but I also want to stay.” You would be happy because it is a place that is waiting for you too. He said to His Father, “I want them to be there with Me and I want them to see the glory that you gave to me even before the world began.” When all this is done and everything is complete and we can all sit down together and enjoy eternity in the presence of God, that wonderful, indescribable presence of God, forever.

December 1999, does that mean anything to you? What were people thinking about? What were people talking about and what was the centre of their conversation? 2000. People were scared stiff. What is going to happen? It is all going to be ended in 2000! Some people believed it and some would do anything that was told them to prepare so that they would be ready when it did end. There were some people who had just professed, just made their choice at that time in a mission. They were at peace, they weren’t getting ready. They weren’t stirred up. They were brand new to this but they had peace in their hearts. Some people came to them and said, “Aren’t you getting ready, we are only weeks away from 2000 and terrible things are going to happen and if you are not ready you are going to be lost forever.” They were trying to work them up but they were so calm and said, “It can’t be, do you see this? The workers just gave us a convention list for 2000. So the world won’t end because we are going to have convention in March and April.” They just had confidence. It is all in God’s hand it is all going to go His way. It isn’t according to when men think its going to end. God will take care of that and He hasn’t even told Jesus when that is going to be. Now how presumptuous could we be to think we know, or believe somebody who says that he knows when even the Son of God doesn’t know. He is content to wait until God sends Him again. He is happy there in heaven and heaven is complete now.

On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came in such a visible form, it just proves that Jesus keeps His promises, because He said He would send him. He said that when He gets home He will send the Holy Spirit. So it proved those two things. He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and that He is there. He is happy and He is content. He has the glory that the Father gave to Him before the world began and I don’t suppose that He is real anxious to leave again but He is going to. The day is coming when He is coming back to claim His own. So heaven is complete now, well almost complete because it will be fully complete when God feels that He has enough from this earth to share His home in heaven with Him. It is a very costly thing for Jesus to leave heaven.

I close my eyes and try to picture in some small way what it was like when He returned and He sat down at the right hand of His Father. Did He just sit back and rest? No, He is interceding for you and for me. He is still at it and He is still labouring for you and me, anxious for the time when His Father says, “Alright now, you can go again and bring them here.” Won’t that be a wonderful day? It isn’t just a vague thing with us and we don’t just lightly say, “Well, I hope I go to heaven. I hope it all works out.” Well, it is not going to be that way. Nobody is going to be in heaven who has that attitude. We will be there because we fit into the plan of God. Because heaven was willing for that cost, to send Jesus here.

We’re grateful for everyone who will believe Him and be willing to follow Him with all their heart. Those that were willing for the experiences that will separate them from the things that will never be found in heaven, separated here, take care of it now so that they will be at home and at rest in heaven. What it cost heaven - this is just a little scratching on the surface but I will tell you what it does to my heart, it helps me to be more willing and makes me thankful. It also makes me feel very, very small that God would reach out so far to take up so little and even to want to work with it and make me one of His children. I am just grateful for what He does for my heart. I need it because it gets hard so easily. May God help us that we may be more thankful and more faithful than we have ever been before when we think of what heaven had given up for you and me, more obedient and more submissive and everything that it means to be a true child of God.