“Once in Christ, we shall never be out of Christ.”
–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 374.
“A friend is one of the greatest blessings on earth. Tell me not of money: affection is better than gold; sympathy is better than lands. He is the poor man who has no friends.
This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.
A real friend is scarce and rare. There are many who will eat, and drink, and laugh with us in the sunshine of prosperity.
There are few who will stand by us in the days of darkness,—few who will love us when we are sick, helpless, and poor,—few, above all, who will care for our souls.
Does any reader of this paper want a real friend? I write to recommend one to your notice this day. I know of One ‘who sticketh closer than a brother.’ (Prov. 18:24.)
I know of One who is ready to be your friend for time and for eternity, if you will receive Him. Hear me, while I try to tell you something about Him.
The friend I want you to know is Jesus Christ. Happy is that family in which Christ has the foremost place! Happy is that person whose chief friend is Christ!”
–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 317.
“Christ never for a moment lived for Himself (Romans 15:3), but always for His church to leave it an example (Matthew 11:29; John 13:14–16; etc.), to serve it and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), and to communicate to it His grace and truth, His light and His life (John 1:16; 6:33ff.; Colossians 3:4).”
–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, Volume 3, Ed. John Bolt and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 407.
“Faith brings about that Christ is ours, even as His love brings about that we are His. He loves, and we believe, and those are the ingredients of the cake.”
–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 52: Sermons II (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 52; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 17.
“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.”