THE EASY LIFE TO HEAVEN
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinNovember 13, 1994
Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Mt 11:28- 30)
The Lord spoke these words to a multitude of people, who had made the way of salvation burdensome. He had just upbraided them for their disbelief in Him, despite His mighty acts. But the Lord ended His preaching with the comforting words of our text. He urged them to turn from their ritualistic practices and believe in Him. And He promised that if they obeyed His teachings, He “would give them rest and they would find peace in their souls.” (Mt 11:28 & 29)
However, at other times, the Lord gave an opposite message. He warned of hardships that would result from following Him. He told one person who wanted to be His disciple, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt 8:20) He was telling this individual that he would have to sacrifice his comfortable way of life and enter into times of uncertainties. Also, He warned His disciples that they would have to endure persecutions and torments because of their willingness to obey Him. Therefore, while the Lord promises a gentle leading to peace to those who obey Him, He also warns of struggles and trials along the way.
Certainly the Writings for the New Church give the same pair of teachings. They clearly state that temptations, or periods of doubts and fear, are inevitable, if a person strives to obey the Lord’s teachings. Anyone who has made the effort to live according to the Word, can state from experience, the deep and painful struggles they had to endure. Yet, while the Writings teach the reality of going through temptations, they also teach that living a life that leads to heaven is not so difficult. (HH 533) They state that all that is required is to comply with the Lord’s Word, because it contains Divine laws. (HH 535) And this simply involves performing one’s responsibilities as honestly and justly as possible. (AC 8121, 8122) If all that is required to live a life that leads to heaven is to be an honest, trustworthy, and moral person, why do we have to go through such struggles that take every ounce of spiritual strength we have to overcome them?
This question assumes that the Lord originally designed it this way. We sometimes think that when He created us, it was His will to have us go through difficult states. But such was not the case. The Lord’s will is that we be continually happy. He does not delight in our miseries or discomforts. The nature of the Lord’s Divine love is to be conjoined with His creation and to make us happy from Himself. (TCR 43) It was because of the fall of man, when mankind intentionally turned from the Lord and desired to live only for themselves, that caused temptations to emerge. Evils have prevailed to such an extent that the only way we can now be conjoined with the Lord is by going through states of temptations. We ourselves make the way to heaven difficult, because of our inborn tendency to regard ourselves alone. The Lord originally planned to lead us into His kingdom gently, whereby we would find it delightful along the way. But our hereditary and actual evils have complicated the very simple plan of the Lord leading us into His kingdom.
One of the ways we make the road to heaven difficult is having the idea that we must renounce every aspect of the world. (HH 228) Some people have the belief that any enjoyment or pleasure in the world is sinful and must be avoided. They think that to be a true follower of the Lord, we must live in poverty and divest ourselves from every earthly delight. But the gospel of John points out: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (JN 3:17) When a person has the idea that we can not have any enjoyments, such a person is like the Pharisees with their overbearing rules and regulations. We make the Lord’s Word have no effect on our lives if we can not find any delight in it. And the Word can only bring heavenly delights to our lives, if we are actively participating in the world. (HH 528 & 529) We need to have associations and contacts in the world if we are to perform uses from the Lord through His Word. (HH 360) In fact, we love the Lord when we strive to benefit others. The Lord taught, “Assuredly, I say to you, insomuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt 25:40) The Writings further teach that we can even pursue a comfortable and financially secure life. (HH 358) We can enjoy the benefits of a wealthy life so long as we regard the riches as a means of being useful to others and regard the Divine laws as more important than obtaining riches. (Mt 6:19 & 20) Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph are just a few mentioned in the Word who enjoyed a rich and lavish lifestyle. Yet, they were not rebuked for their wealth, because they put the Lord’s commandments as the highest priority in their lives. Therefore, we need not debase ourselves from pursuing enjoyments and pleasures in the world to follow the Lord. We can be a true follower of Him and enjoy the comforts of the world at the same time. All that is required is to regard spiritual things as more important than natural delights.
But what especially makes the way to heaven difficult for us is our tendency to do evils. Evils are especially difficult to put away when we are in the habit of doing them and find delight in them. (HH 533) In fact, resisting our tendency to love ourselves alone and the world is the only obstacle of entering heaven. (HH 359) Therefore, we must fight against loves, thoughts, and actions that we find delightful, but we know are against the Lord’s Word. And since we must fight against evil desires we find delightful, living a life that is receptive of the Lord is full of spiritual battles and struggles.
Therefore, temptations are unavoidable if we are going to be a part of the Lord’s kingdom in heaven and on the earth. Even though the Lord does not will to have temptations afflict us, He allows them for the greater good which they can produce, namely, the removal of evil loves and a closer union between the Lord and ourselves. Evils simply can not be removed unless they are seen. (HH 533) Therefore, temptations are really the exposure of our evil loves and habits, and the effort to have them removed. Only when we emerge victorious in our temptations will we be in a state of genuine good that is from the Lord. And we simply can not be in charity without going through temptations. This is why the Lord allows us to go through these hard times: so when we overcome the allurements and control of the hells, we can enjoy heavenly peace and contentment. The Lord watching us go through the hard times of temptations can be illustrated by a parent who watches his or her child in a dentist chair. Certainly, the parent does not enjoy watching the child go through discomfort and fear, while the dentist is working on the child’s teeth. But the parent allows the child to go through this difficult time because he or she can foresee the benefits it will bring to the child. The Lord also does not enjoy watching us endure times of spiritual fear and doubts while we go through them. But He allows us to endure them so that our disorderly loves can be removed, and we can enjoy a healthy and productive spiritual life. We simply can not enjoy life from the Lord until our evils are put away.
And when our evils are eventually removed, we are then in a state where we can perform genuine acts of charity or uses toward our neighbor. All that is required to be in a genuine state of charity is to live according to the Ten Commandments. (AC 3249) When the Ten Commandments are obeyed, because they were given by the Lord Himself, we are in a state of good. In fact, we love the Lord by obeying the Ten Commandments. (AC 10578) Furthermore, genuine worship of the Lord is simply learning truths from the Word and living according to them. (AC 10645) Being a spiritual person does not require a degree in theology. Instead, to be a spiritual person requires that we base our loves, thoughts, and acts upon what is taught in the Word. When this is done, truths will be discovered. The Lord will reveal them to us. And when they are so perceived, we must take the necessary steps to have them active in our lives. If this is done, our evils are put away, and we are conjoined with the Lord.
Therefore, living a life that leads to heaven is not so difficult. Anybody that has the capabilities of simply knowing right from wrong has the ability to be associated with heaven. And living a spiritual life does not mean we can not enjoy a life in this world. In fact, a genuine spiritual life that is guided by the Lord, is not separated from a natural life on earth. (HH 529) Such an individual will simply appear to others a civil and moral person. (HH 530) He will be regarded as one who obeys the laws of the country and is honest in his dealings towards others. If this is the life we strive to live, because the Lord has so taught, we are assured that we are associated with heaven. (HH 530) For the most part, we will be unconscious of our communication with the angels. (HH 530) But they will have a profound influence upon us that will gently lead us to heavenly happiness.
All that is necessary to enjoy such a fellowship with the angels is to refuse to indulge into anything that we know is against the Lord’s Word. (HH 533) The more we are in this habit, the stronger our association with heaven will become. (HH 533) This is why the Lord referred to the way to heaven as strait and narrow. Not because it is difficult, but because it is the only way to heaven.
The Lord did not make going to heaven a complicated system to figure out. He made it simple enough for everyone to understand what is required to go there. If we know the differences between what is evil and that which the Lord would have us do, we are capable of knowing how we can go to heaven. For the Lord says to all, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Mt 11: 28-30)