The title of this post is taken from one by über-blogger Tim Challies about two weeks ago. Mr. Challies was at the time reading a book that I was also reading, God Is the Gospel by John Piper. Both of us were struck by the following passage:
The critical question for our generation–and for every generation–is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
I’m ashamed to admit that far too often I find myself at a place where I feel that I could be completely satisfied with a beautiful, bountiful, sinless, sorrowless, and Christless heaven — a heaven that, as Mr. Challies writes, “[does] not include the one who purchased my redemption so that I could be there in the first place.”
As Piper says, “The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ!” And yet “in place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delights in many lesser things.”
To quote Mr. Challies again:
And so we return to the question: If I could have a heaven that was built around all I wanted and all I loved and all I desired at my weaker moments, would this satisfy me? I know in my heart of hearts that it would not, for I know that it would not be heaven if Christ were not present. But in my day-to-day life, I know that I often consider heaven as being a place where what is most important to me is what is most important to me here on earth. This would be true, if only Christ were always foremost in my thoughts here and now.
Do I wish to be a man of character and competence? Do I long to be ready and able to accomplish all that God has called me to do? Then let me treasure Christ above all else.
As Piper writes, “Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into His likeness.”