Olaf Wants Summer, We Want Heaven — Or So We Think
The message at my church, Journey Christian Church, this past Sunday was about the claim “Jesus is the only way to heaven.”
Our lead pastor, Steve Phillips, examined the statement backwards–looking at “heaven” then “way” then “only” then “Jesus.” If you’ve ever struggled with that claim–either having trouble believing or understanding it, or explaining to someone else why it is true, I encourage you to watch/listen to the whole thing here:
In a very small nutshell, the question of how Jesus can claim to be the only way to heaven is usually the wrong question to ask, because we have the wrong picture of heaven. We think of it as more of the stuff we like–food, sports, friends, music, whatever–only better, and none of the stuff we don’t like.
But that’s not heaven. Heaven may include some of those things, but at the core, heaven is being in the presence of God. Jesus said,
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Heaven, eternal life, is intimate, complete, eternal knowing the Father through being in HIs presence.
There’s a problem, though. We aren’t fit to be in that Presence. Part of the reason Jesus came is to cleanse us from the sins that beset us, and He teaches us, helps us, and shapes us to be fit to live there. And He is the only One who can, the only one who has ever lived who is capable of doing so.
Of course, there are some people who don’t want to be in God’s presence. They don’t want to not sin. They enjoy it. Sin is fun. If we’re honest with ourselves, that why we all sin: because there is pleasure in it. Some people don’t want to give that up. In that case, how cruel of God would it be to force them to be with Him forever?
So, those who want to be in His presence can come to Jesus and He can work to save us from our sins and make us fit for heaven. And those who do not want to be there are not forced to be. As Dallas Willard said (and Steve quoted), “God will allow into heaven anybody who in His considered opinion can stand it!”
This way of thinking about it reminded me of Olaf’s song “In Summer” in the movie Frozen. It’s one of my favorite songs (though not the best song) in the movie. Olaf thinks summer is a combination of the stuff he already knows but better and things he’s heard about (somehow) that sound really fun/exciting. He didn’t know that he’s not able to live in summer the way he is, as a snowman.
Someone else had to make a way for Olaf to live in this place he wanted to be, because he just wasn’t fit for it otherwise. He would have melted in summer whether he knows it or not. Elsa made it so he can live there by adapting something to suit him (creating a snow cloud that floats over him all the time) so he could stand it.
If Olaf had asked, “Why does everyone want to keep me out of summer?!” we would have laughed at the silly little snowman who just didn’t know any better. But when we ask, “How could a loving God keep me out of heaven?” we’re making the same mistake Olaf did.