January 9, 2011

Heaven: My Present Contemplation

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Heaven Scripture: Colossians 3:1–4


Heaven: My Present Contemplation

Colossians 3:1-4
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

When you hear the world "home" what comes to mind? Most likely you immediately think about your place of dwelling - probably a physical structure, maybe a house or apartment or dorm room? Maybe the word triggered an emotional response of something descriptive about your family - a caring home or a broken home. How often do you think about your home? What would you call "home?"

You have no doubt heard the saying: "home is where the heart is." Well, if these words are accurate, home is the place where our thoughts frequently visit. Home is then more than just a physical place. Home is the location where we find comfort and peace and security. Home is the place, real or imaginary, where our dreams are fulfilled and our hopes are realized and our joy is maximized. We are wired to think this way, to contemplate not only a place but also a state of fulfillment. Wherever or whatever that is - that is our home.

Unfortunately for too many Christians, this pattern of thinking never leaves the temporal. Our minds are rooted on the things of this world, and we never bask in the home that God intended. Our flesh wants instant fulfillment. Preachers promise health, wealth and prosperity today. Advertisers claim just a little money can bring satisfaction now. Home is expected here, and then everyone walks away disillusioned because they are never satisfied. We will never be fulfilled until we as Christians realize that our ultimate home is heaven.

Elizabeth Elliot said it well, "Heaven is not here, it's There! If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for" (Keep a Quiet Heart).

God wants us to have a healthy discontent with this world. In his classic, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote about his experience: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world" (1960, p. 119). Until we realize this world is not our home, we will never be prepared for the one to come or understand our purpose in the one in which we live.

I would like to spend a few weeks on a topical series entitled "Heaven." Of course we will see what the Bible has to say about what heaven looks like and what its inhabitants will be doing. We'll also talk about who goes to heaven. But my primary purpose of this series is to understand how the promise of heaven for those who attain it will radically transform the way we live today. Heaven is not only a place of future blessedness. It is also present reality that we must experience now.

The apostle Paul makes this point clear in the Scripture I already read from Colossians 3. In verse 2 we are commanded to "set [our] mind[s] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." How much of the temporary things of this world consume our thoughts and attention? How many of us are more prepared to go to our earthly home than our heavenly one? How frequently did thoughts of the things here and now bring more joy than the thoughts of what is to come? What does it mean to "set your mind on the things above?" How do we do it? Why should we do it? We'll answer those questions in this series.

One reason why this way of thought is only logical is because heaven is not only our future home; it is actually our present home that we already possess. Didn't Jesus say, "The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk. 1:15) and "The kingdom of God is in your midst" (Lk. 17:21)? Are we not "blessed…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3)? Didn't Paul inform us that God has "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6)? Didn't he say that our "our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20)? So if these verses are true, I ask you, how can we not "set [our] mind on the things above" (Col. 3:2)? No wonder the Bible writers called Christians "aliens and strangers" (1 Pet. 2:11) and "strangers and exiles on earth" (Heb. 11:13)!

Often we call it a "heavenward focus." David Brainerd, that godly man and great missionary to the native Americans in western New Jersey would exclaim, "I love to live on the brink of eternity." A heavenward focus, eyes steadfastly on Christ, living each moment in light of eternity.

Do we not admire the heroes of our faith who acted in such a way? The writer to the Hebrews gives us countless examples for the sole purpose that we may follow in their steps. People like Abraham who "desire[d] a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them" (Heb. 11:16). Or Moses who "consider[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:26). It was this heavenly mindset that inspired Paul to write: "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

It is a heavenly focus than transforms ordinary people into extraordinary saints that find optimum joy and usefulness to God. Tragically some find contentment squeezing as much pleasure as possible from a sin-cursed world. They are often miserable, overly dependent on people and spectators in the churches they attend. Yet there are a select few who rightly understand that this world is not as good as it gets. They realize they are God's possession sent to do His work for the short time they are assigned to this planet. Their focus is eternity.

But pastor, "Can't we be so heavenly minded that we are no earthy good?" Answer: yes, but only if we have an incorrect concept of heaven. I would argue that those who have a healthy obsession with the things above will do in God's perspective the most earthly good. C.S. Lewis again, "The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither" (Mere Christianity).

Those who are heavenly minded are the ones who put Christ over themselves, consider the eternal state of a soul more important than one's temporary happiness and seek to live this life in the way they spend their time, energy and money in a way that will have the greatest impact for eternity. No, setting our mind on the things above is not fantasy, it is biblical and most practical, and those who choose otherwise are the true escapists "because they are vainly attempting to avoid facing eternity by hiding in the fleeting shadows of things that are only transient" (John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven, p. 51).

Let's look with the time we have remaining as to how a heavenward focus will specifically change the way we think and live today.


A heavenly focus will dramatically change our affections. Contemplating eternity will make us live for the things above as compared to the things of this world.

I enjoy working with couples prepared to be married. Often in the months prior to the wedding we spend considerable time together. I find it interesting as to how much the upcoming union influences their present decisions. Almost across the board I see a desire to impress the in-laws, a desire to complete the premarital counseling homework, a desire to show themselves completely committed to their fiancé, a desire to plan for a beautiful ceremony, a desire to establish a healthy relationship and a desire to be sure they are prepared for a lifetime together.

Rightly understanding our future in heaven should bear upon us the same affections. Am I preparing myself to stand before God? Am I ready to enter the marriage feast with the Lamb? You see, if we constantly keep these thoughts before us, our lives will dramatically change in the present.

  • I will be convicted if I spend more time on Facebook than I do on my knees.
  • I will not engage in activities that I will regret one hundred years from now.
  • I will move beyond a "me first" mentality, acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord of my life and consider others to be more important than myself (Phil. 2:3-4).
  • >I will desire entertainment that is wholesome. If that sit-com is inappropriate to be shown in heaven, maybe it is inappropriate to be shown in my family room.
  • I will devote my time and energy and money to that which is eternal in a desire to increase my heavenly portfolio. Didn't Jesus say to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Mt. 6:20)? As opposed to the man in Luke 12 who said, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry" (Lk. 12:19). Remember God's response? "You fool" (Lk. 12:20)! Materialism is a sin because it shows a greater love for the things of this world. A heavenly focus will break worldliness. As the Puritan Thomas Books said, "A man cannot look up to heaven and look down upon the earth at the same time." The Scripture says the things of this world are "passing away" (1 Jn. 2:17). And to love such things shows "the love of the Father is not in [us]" (1 Jn. 2:15).
  • I will be less consumed about my present comforts and stand more able to fight the good fight as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:3; 4:7).
  • I will persevere through persecution. Didn't Jesus in the Beatitudes say, "Rejoice and be glad [when persecuted], for your reward in heaven is great" (Mt. 5:12)? A heavenward focus is guaranteed to break the church of its weakness and fearfulness and unfaithfulness and laziness.
  • I will not grieve as the world (1 Thes. 4:13) when a loved one in Christ passes away as if death to that individual is a tragedy. Rather, I will begin to see death as a glorious promotion.
  • And these examples continue …

As a matter of fact, I do not know how an individual can make it through this world if there were no hope for a better one on the other side? The promise of a good future gives us hope and strength in the present.

The story is told about a fierce storm that was sweeping the Great Lakes. A steam tug towing a barge began to flounder. The captain and his mates took to a small boat. All night long they tossed to and fro, every instant in jeopardy of their lives. In the morning they were rescued by a passing ship. The captain afterward testified that all the long night as they were beaten and tossed by the tempest there was one thing which nerved their arms and kept their hearts from sinking in despair. It was this - shining through the darkness and the storm they saw the lights of home.

Isn't heaven that home for the Christian? Why is it so hard for us to keep our eyes on the light of our eternal home? Don't we long for a place where there is no injustice and acknowledgement of our service and reunion with our loved ones in Christ and rest from our labors and complete fulfillment in our work and beauty at every corner and Christian values upheld and a resurrected body and sin completely removed from our lives and more than anything the direct and visible presence of our God in all His glory? Doesn't knowing these things transform our perspective to live much differently in the present world? Doesn't knowing that the end will be safe and glorious inspire us to persevere in the journey? It did Paul. Listen to what he said in Romans 8:18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

This is why I am dumbfounded to rarely hear Christians talking about heaven. We talk about all the other things we look forward to: vacations and college and marriage and retirement and a new purchase. Why are we not talking about heaven? Is it because our hearts are really not there? Is it because we have a wrong conception of what will happen there? Is it because we simply love this world too much, and our choices of activities and conversations are revealing that reality?

One author captured how too many Christians think: "We feel that heaven is bearable, all right, when one has sucked dry all the pleasures of earth. We feel that, only after old age has come upon us, when life is a burden, when health has failed, when we are in the way and our children don't want us, then perhaps we should be resigned to go to Heaven. Subconsciously we look upon heaven as a scrapheap for the worn-out and useless, a king of old people's home - better than nothing but not as good as this world, with youth, health and prosperity" (John Rice, Heaven, p. 38)

What a contrast from the biblical perspective! Remember Paul's famous lines to the Philippians? "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).

Have we become too comfortable here? Have we begun to think that this world is our home? Listen to Spurgeon, "The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveler in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home."

The African-American slaves understood that. Many of our greatest songs about heaven were written by these people often poor, uneducated and abused. Yet it was the hope of heaven that helped them persevere.

I am a poor pilgrim of sorrow

I'm tossed in this wide world alone
No hope I have for to morrow
I've started to heav'n my home.

Sometimes I am tossed and driven, Lord,
Sometimes I don't know where to roam
I've heard of a city called heaven
I've started to make it my home.

(City Called Heaven)

There ain't but the one train on this track,

All night long.

Straight up to heaven and straight right back.

Do Lord, deliver poor me.

Oh freedom, oh freedom,

Oh Freedom over me.

And before I'll be a slave,

I'll be buried in my grave,

And go home to my Lord and be free.

George Faithful in his work, "Recovering the Theology of the Negro Spirituals" remarked: The eschatology of the spirituals emphasized heaven. Roughly forty percent of the compiled spirituals dealt with heaven as a primary theme. Heaven was a place of eternal praise and Sabbath rest, free from suffering and slavery. 'We'll soon be free,' one song unashamedly proclaimed… Heaven was the goal of life, the 'other shore' at the end of their arduous voyage. The sea was 'the border between the two worlds' of the living and of the spirits in traditional African belief. Perhaps merged with memories of the Transatlantic crossing, this concept merged with that of the Jordan on the border of the Promised Land. Believing slaves embraced heaven as their true home. Heaven was a place of reunion for all those separated by slavery. 'We'll meet forever more.' They would lay down their cross, pick up a robe, wings, harps, and shoes, and have enough for 'all o' God's chillun.' Heaven was a place where all their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs would finally be met."


Obviously developing a heavenward focus is not something we can simply turn on like a light switch. It is a supernatural work of God whereby He transforms our desires. It is a gift of grace, but like any other aspect of grace, God's grace empowers us to act in faith. As Spurgeon would say, "A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul."

First, if we are in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit draws us to the Bible that He inspired. He takes the verses we read and changes our worldview. I gave you many examples today. Do we think like the biblical writers? Saturate ourselves with the Bible and our hearts will be in heaven. Saturate ourselves with the world and our hearts will be on the temporal.

Second, as I have also said repeatedly we must begin to see heaven as our true home. And if "home is where the heart is" we must make the effort to do all we can to get our hearts in heaven. How do we do that? The solution is simple. Jesus taught us how in Matthew 6, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mt. 6:21). So the principle basically states that our hearts will follow our treasure, our greatest investment. So if you want your hearts in heaven, you need to invest in the things of heaven. Are you laboring in Christian ministry? Are you sacrificially giving financially to the church? Are you devoted to prayer? Are in investing yourself in the lives of other believers? Never are we to expect a great heavenly yield if your investment is primarily earthly.

And third, if you want a heavenly focus prioritize the local church. There is absolutely no way you can say that you love heaven if you have no interest in the greatest foretaste of heaven. God in His mercy has given us glimpse of our future home. Heaven is by far more perfect than the local church, but the local church is the closest thing on the planet to all the activities we will be doing in heaven: fellowshipping with the redeemed as we collectively praise and serve the Savior. If you do not have an interest for it here, I cannot imagine how you will enjoy it for an eternity there! I believe the church temporarily quenches our thirst for heaven, but the more we get involved, the more we are parched for the greater fulfillment yet to come.

Being homesick for heaven is the heart of a true believer. It goes without saying that wanting to see the fulfillment of all of God's promises and dwell forever in perfect fellowship with our Creator brings God great glory. May God give us in the weeks ahead a biblical understanding of our future home and may such an understanding transform the way we think and live today.

Let me hold lightly

Things of this earth;

Transient treasures,

What are they worth?

Moths can corrupt them,

Rust can decay;

All their bright beauty

Fades in a day.

Let me hold lightly

Temporal things -

I, who am deathless,

I, who wear wings!

Let me hold fast, Lord,

Things of the skies;

Quicken my vision,

Open my eyes!

Show me Thy riches,

Glory, and grace,

Boundless as time is,

Endless as apace…

Let me hold lightly

Things that were mine -

Lord, Thou dost give me

All that is Thine!

Martha Snell Nicholson

other sermons in this series

Mar 6


Heaven: My Everlasting Companions

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Revelation 21:1–9 Series: Heaven

Feb 27


Heaven: My True Home - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:35–44 Series: Heaven

Feb 20


Heaven: My True Home - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Revelation 21:10–27 Series: Heaven