Every year around Thanksgiving, I dutifully warn the members of of the church I pastor of the dangers of fruitcake. Fruitcake is of the devil! (We have fun with this every year. And inevitably, someone brings a fruitcake to one of the holiday events and tries to give me a piece.) What if I learned that heaven was just one giant, eternal, infinite fruitcake? What if somehow, I discovered that fruitcake was served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in-between meal snack. I could have it barbecued, boiled, broiled, fried, baked, or sauteed. I could choose to have it plain or with chocolate syrup or with a caramel glaze. Yet however it was prepared and presented, it would be fruitcake at its core. I hate fruitcake. If heaven were one giant, eternal, infinite fruitcake, heaven would be my hell. Why would I want to go to heaven only to be tortured by that which I have sought to avoid during my time on earth?
Heaven is dominated by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Heaven is thick with Their presence. If someone doesn’t believe in the Father, doesn’t acknowledge the Son, doesn’t follow the Spirit, why would they want to go to heaven? If someone doesn’t love Jesus on earth, why would heaven be attractive to them? It is, after all, all about Jesus. If someone avoids Jesus and His Word here on earth, hardens their heart against Jesus during this life, refuses to surrender to Jesus now, heaven will be hell for them. The One they ignore and deny and blaspheme and use as a curse word on earth is the One they will have to submit to and adore in heaven. If you hate Donald Trump and then somehow, he is appointed to be President for the next one hundred years, you’d be miserable. There would be one hundred years of protests and lawsuits and unending hatred. You would not want to live in America. If you don’t love Jesus, you won’t want heaven. And what’s more, heaven won’t want you.
Imagine that I have the best house on the street with all the bells and whistles. I have 80” TVs in every room. I’ve got Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and Brit Box – you name it, I’ve got it. I have state-of-the-art gaming stations. I’ve got a pool, heated year-round, that can hold everybody in the neighborhood. My fridge overflows with soda and candy and ice cream. My house has it all and I am generous with all I have. My house is your house. No doubt, you’d want to be there all the time. But there’s only one problem: You hate my son. My son has authority in our home, but you disobey him, curse him, and disrespect him. Guess what. You’re not welcome in my home. It’s not my animosity toward you that keeps you out. It is your animosity toward my son. If you will reconcile with my son, you’re welcome. If you will not reconcile with my son, you’re not welcome. Your relationship with my son determines whether you enter my house. I’m not keeping you from hanging out in my dream house, you are.
Maybe you think that at death, God will overrule your life choices and change your heart so that you will love Jesus and surrender to Him. You think that at death, God will transform your character to prepare it for heaven. No. That’s not how it works. That’s not how the Bible outlines afterlife issues. Your life choices will follow you into eternity. In fact, they precede you in that they determine your eternity. If you die hating Jesus, you will hate Him for all eternity. If you die loving Jesus, you will love Him for all eternity. I think it was CS Lewis who said that hell is the greatest compliment God can pay to free will. God doesn’t keep you out of heaven. You do.
I have an embarrassing confession to make. I am turning red even as I am typing this. I have never had one bite of fruitcake! It’s true. Not even one nibble. But just the look of the thing is enough to make me gag. All those moist, glistening, candied fruits embedded in thick dough peppered with nuts turns my stomach. Yet who knows, maybe I’d like it if I tried it. How can I hate what I haven’t even tried? I know. It’s pathetic. But now it is a matter of pride. I have said I have hated it and want nothing to do with it, and now I must live up to what I’ve said. Think of all the ridicule I would have to endure if I got up in front of the church and had to tell them that I was wrong about fruitcake all these years. Those wonderful people would never let me hear the end of it.
I think something like this unfolds in the hearts of those who want nothing to do with Jesus. They reason within themselves that why would they want to surrender to Jesus to be their Savior and Lord when Jesus would drain all the fun out of life? Why would they want Jesus to be Lord of their lives when they want to be lord of their lives? “No one is going to tell me what to do. No one is going to define the direction of my life except me,” is what they say in their hearts. They look at Jesus the way I look at fruitcake – with great suspicion.
David has some good counsel for this situation. “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8 You can take 10,000 words and try to describe to someone how popcorn tastes, or you can feed them a handful. One handful of popcorn in the mouth is worth more than 10,000 words in the ear. In this instance, taste trumps reason; taste overwhelms reason; taste outreasons reason. I might taste fruitcake and find that it is good, but I am certain that if you surrender to Jesus, you will taste and see that He is good. His will for you is better than your will for yourself. His plans for you are better than your plans for yourself. His love for you is deeper and higher than your love for yourself. God wants to spend eternity with you. But if you don’t love Jesus, heaven will be hell, for it is full of what you despise. Heaven is all about the love and triumph and reign of Jesus Christ. May you put your faith in Him and love Him and enjoy Him for all eternity.