“Just to be with Christ is all the heaven a believer wants” by Charles Spurgeon

“Oh, to think of heaven without Christ! It is the same thing as thinking of hell.

Heaven without Christ! It is day without the sun, existing without life, feasting without food, seeing without light. It involves a contradiction in terms.

Heaven without Christ! Absurd. It is the sea without water, the earth without its fields, the heavens without their stars. There cannot be heaven without Christ.

He is the sum total of bliss, the fountain from which heaven flows, the element of which heaven is composed. Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ. You shall change the words and make no difference in the sense.

To be where Jesus is is the highest imaginable bliss, and bliss away from Jesus is inconceivable to the child of God. If you were invited to a marriage feast, and you were yourself to be the bride, and yet the bridegroom were not there– do not tell me about feasting.

In vain they ring the bells till the church tower rocks and reels, in vain the dishes smoke and the red wine sparkles, in vain the guests shout and make merry: if the bride looks around her and sees no bridegroom, the dainties mock her sorrow and the merriment insults her misery.

Such would a Christless heaven be to the saints. If you could gather together all conceivable joys, and Christ were absent, there would be no heaven to His beloved ones. Hence it is that heaven is to be where Christ is.

And, beloved, just to be with Christ is heaven– that bare thing. That bare thing, just to be with Christ is all the heaven a believer wants.

The angels may be there or not, as they will, and the golden crowns and harps present or absent as may be, but if I am to be where Jesus is, I will find angels in His eyes, and crowns in every lock of His hair. To me the golden streets shall be my fellowship with Him, and the harpings of the harpers shall be the sound of His voice.

Only to be near Him, to be with Him– this is all we want. The apostle does not say, ‘to be in heaven, which is far better.’ No, but, ‘to be with Christ; which is far better,’ and he adds no description. He leaves the thoughts just as they are, in all their majestic simplicity. ‘To be with Christ; which is far better.’

But what is it to be with Christ, beloved? In some sense we are with Christ now, for He comes to us. We are no strangers to Him. Even while we are in this body we have communion with Jesus.

And yet it must be true that a higher fellowship is to come, for the apostle says, that while we are present in the body we are absent from the Lord.

There is a sense in which, so long as we are here, we are absent from the Lord. And one great saint used to say upon his birthday that he had been so many years in banishment from the Lord: to abide in this lowland country, so far from the ivory palaces, is a banishment at the very best.

All that we can see of Christ here is through a glass darkly. Face to face is true nearness to Him, and that we have not reached as yet.

What will it be, then, to be with Christ? Excuse me if I say it will be, first of all, exactly what it says, namely, to be with Him. I must repeat that word– it is heaven only to be with Him.

It is not merely what comes out of being with Him: His company itself is heaven.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “‘Forever with the Lord,’” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 19; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 19: 570–572.

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“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness” by C.S. Lewis

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.

I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things– the beauty, the memory of our own past– are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.

And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.”

–C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses(New York: Harper Collins, 1949/2001), 29-31.

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“The great fire of the love of God for us” by Martin Luther

“The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize Him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own.

This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ Himself, with His deeds and suffering, belongs to you. On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ Himself.

See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express, and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at.

This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content. This is what preaching the Christian faith means.

This is why such preaching is called gospel, which in German means a joyful, good, and comforting ‘message’; and this is why the apostles are called the ‘twelve messengers.’

Concerning this Isaiah 9:6 says, ‘To us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ If He is given to us, then He must be ours; and so we must also receive him as belonging to us.

And Romans 8:32, ‘How should God not give us all things with His Son?’ See, when you lay hold of Christ as a gift which is given you for your very own and have no doubt about it, you are a Christian.

Faith redeems you from sin, death, and hell and enables you to overcome all things. O no one can speak enough about this! It is a pity that this kind of preaching has been silenced in the world.

Now when you have Christ as the foundation and chief blessing of your salvation, then the other part follows: that you take Him as your example, giving yourself in service to your neighbor just as you see that Christ has given Himself for you.

See, there faith and love move forward, God’s commandment is fulfilled, and a person is happy and fearless to do and to suffer all things. Therefore make note of this, that Christ as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian. But Christ as an example exercises your works.

These do not make you a Christian. Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian. As widely as a gift differs from an example, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possesses nothing of its own, only the deeds and life of Christ.

Works have something of your own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor. So you see that the gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers, and gives us all His possessions and benefits in Christ.”

–Martin Luther, “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels (1521),” in Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119-120.

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“One Almighty is more than many mighties” by William Gurnall

“One Almighty is more than many mighties.”

–William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1662/2002), 35.

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“Humility” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“A beggar would invite scorn if he were to boast of an expensive garment which someone had loaned him for one day… The graces, gifts, beauty, strength, riches, and whatever else you may have, God has but granted you on loan. Would you then put these on display as if they were your own?”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 4: Ethics and Eschatology, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 4: 71, 75.

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“Our heart is restless until it rests in You” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“In Yourself You arouse us, giving us delight in glorifying You, because You made us with Yourself as our goal, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 3.

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“I asked the whole huge universe about my God, and it answered me” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“What is it that I love?

I asked the earth, and it said, ‘It’s not me,’ and everything in it admitted the same thing.

I asked the sea and the great chasms of the deep, and the creeping things that have the breath of life in them, and they answered, ‘We aren’t your God: search above us.’

I asked the gusty winds, and all the atmosphere there is, along with its inhabitants, said, ‘I’m not God.’

I asked the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they said, “We’re not the God you’re looking for, either.”

I told all those beings who stand around outside my body’s gates, its senses, ‘Tell me about my God. You aren’t Him, but tell me something about Him.’ And they declared with a shout, ‘He made us!’

My question was the act of focusing on them, and their response was their beauty.

But then I turned myself toward myself and asked myself, ‘Who are you?’ and I answered, ‘A human being.’ Here at my service were my body and my soul, the one of which is outward, the other inward.

Which was the one I should use to seek my God– whom I’d already sought through material objects from the earth clear up to the sky, as far as I could send the message-bearing rays of my eyesight?

The soul within is certainly better for informing me, as all the messengers that are material objects relay to it their news, and it presides and judges the depositions of the sky and the earth and everything in them that says ‘We are not God,’ and ‘God made us.’

The inside person has found this out through the help of the outside person; my inside self found this out– I did, it was me, my mind working through my physical perception.

I asked the whole huge universe about my God, and it answered me, ‘I am not God, but God made me.'”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 284-284.

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