Tasting Heaven in the Backyard

Our 20 month-old Titus, a brute of a boy, was churning his chunky legs up the grassy hill with a determined, yet jovial look on his face. He was on mission to find a Black and Decker toy drill. He is a boy’s boy. Tools, balls, trucks, tractors, dirt, collisions. He was in heaven.

We were hanging out with close friends of ours in their backyard. As we watched Titus, and the other five kids in the backyard, I said that I love seeing my children happy. Titus prowled the backyard for balls and rocks and drills. And he was happy. My daughters were rolling down the hill with old friends and swinging and sliding the evening away. And they were happy. And in that moment I found my happiness in theirs.

I told my wife and our friends that seeing my kids’ uninhibited, unadulterated happiness (you might use the word “joy,” and that’s a good word, too; I’m using them interchangeably here) reminds me of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven, A World of Love.” At one point in the sermon, Edwards says that in heaven we will “all rejoice in [other people] being the most happy.” Edwards is saying that in heaven our happiness will be in the happiness of others. For example, in heaven, if someone has a greater amount of rewards than you, you will not be envious of them. You will enjoy their enjoyment of what God has given them. Can you imagine?! In other words, you’ll not just be happy for them, you will find your happiness in their happiness. This is true love. This is how God designed human relationships to work.

Yet this is very often not true in this life. In fact, it’s too easy to become crotchety and cynical when others are happy. I might be happy for them. “Oh, I’m so happy that you got the credit for your hard work.” This might actually be a prideful reflex masked with a token gesture. What’s really going on in my heart is that I wanted the credit!

With my children last night in the backyard, it was another story. I delighted in their delight. I am giggly, smiley happy when they giggle, smile, or express their happiness as they only know how. It’s not mainly because in those moments they aren’t screaming about a toy, whining about being hungry, or fighting over who gets to brush teeth first. It’s something deeper that God has embedded into the hearts of human beings, Christian or not. It’s a signal to us that we were made for another world, a world of love where we will actually, truly be happy because others are happy. It was a foretaste of heaven right in our friends’ backyard. It was a small, gracious gift meant to remind us there is much, much more to come.


Heaven, a World of Love

Jonathan Edwards is often referred to as one of the greatest minds America has ever produced. He was a theologian and philosopher, yes. But most of all, he was pastor. His writing and and speaking and ministry did not happen in a classroom or an ivory tower. His sermons prove this.

He is most famous for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But Edwards didn’t only preach on God’s anger. Far from it. He talked more about God’s glory, the beauty of Christ, and love. One of the better Edwards’ sermons I have read is “Heaven, a World of Love.”

What comes to mind when you think of heaven? Harps? Clouds? Singing? Standing around doing nothing for eternity?

Does love make the cut? Have you ever considered that heaven is a world of love?

That’s Edwards’s main point. Heaven is the perfect society we were made for and long for, even if we don’t know it. Edwards makes several profound statements about what heaven will be like and they shatter our (pop)cultural expectations

In heaven, love casts away fear:

“No inhabitants of that blessed world will ever be grieved with the thought that they are slighted by those that they love, or that their love is not fully and fondly returned.”

In heaven, love is perfectly enjoyed:

“Heaven itself, the place of habitation, is a garden of pleasures, a heavenly paradise, fitted in all respects for an abode of heavenly love; a place where they may have sweet society and perfect enjoyment of each other’s love.”

In heaven, love is pure and genuine:

“Every expression of love shall come from the bottom of the heart, and all that is professed shall be really and truly felt.”

In heaven, love means everyone’s satisfaction will be in the holiness of others:

“Those that are highest in glory, are those that are highest in holiness, and therefore are those that are most beloved by all the saints; for they most love those that are most holy, and so they will all rejoice in their being the most happy. And it will not be a grief to any of the saints to see those that are higher than themselves in holiness and likeness to God, more loved also than themselves, for all shall have as much love as they desire, and as great manifestations of love as they can bear; and so all shall be fully satisfied; and where there is perfect satisfaction, there can be no reason for envy.”

While I am not an expert on Edwards, I can’t help but wonder if he is not at his pastoral best in this sermon. Why? Because the sermon creates a longing in the soul of the hearer (or reader in our case!) for heaven. Edwards shows us that the dissatisfactions and longings we feel in this world are little reminders that we were made for another one. A world of divine love!

But we do not long for heaven simply because it’s great real estate (i.e. not hell), but because it’s the only place where we can experience perfect relationship with God and others. I’m not very old and I have suffered little compared to most people. Yet with each passing month and year, I’m finding myself longing for heaven more and more.

What about you?


God Doesn’t Need Your Praise

Jonathan Edwards reminds us of this in his sermon on Zechariah 4:9. Here he speaks of God’s matchless grace after Adam’s sin and how God is, in himself, sufficient and complete without our praise (emphasis added):

Now who but God of boundless grace, would not have been provoked, after this, to leave [Adam] as he was, in the miserable state into which he had brought himself by his disobedience; resolving to help him no more, leaving him to himself and to the punishment he had deserved, leaving him in the devil’s hands where he had thrown himself, not being contented in the arms of his Creator; who, but one of boundless grace, would ever have entertained any thoughts of finding out a way for his recovery?

God had no manner of need of us, or of our praises. He has enough in himself for himself, and neither needs nor desires any additions of happiness, and if he did need the worship of his creatures, he had thousands and ten-thousands of angels, and if he had not enough, he could create more; or, he could have glorified his justice in man’s eternal destruction and ruin, and have with infinite ease created other beings, more perfect and glorious than man, eternally to sing his praises.

Life Theology

Monday Miscellanies: Sovereignty of God

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

414. Sovereignty of God. Affliction of the Godly.

‘Tis part of God’s sovereignty, that he may if he pleases bring afflictions upon an innocent creature if he compensates it with equal good; for affliction with equal good to balance it is just equivalent to an indifference. And if God is not obliged to bestow good upon the creature, but may leave it in the state of indifference, why mayn’t he order that for the creature that is perfectly equivalent to it? God may therefore bring many and great afflictions upon the godly, as he intends to bestow upon them an infinitely greater good, and designs [the afflictions] as a means of a far greater good, though all their sins are satisfied for.


Monday Miscellanies: Happiness in Heaven

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

95. Happiness in Heaven

When the body enjoys the perfections of health and strength, the motion of the animal spirits are not only brisk and free, but also harmonious; there is a regular proportion in the motion from all parts of the body, that begets delight in the soul and makes the body feel pleasantly all over—God has so excellently contrived the nerves and parts of the human body. But few men since the fall, especially since the flood, have health to so great a perfection as to have much of this harmonious motion. When it is enjoyed, one whose nature is not very much vitiated and depraved is very much assisted thereby in every exercise of body or mind; and it fits one for the contemplation of more exalted and spiritual excellencies and harmonies, as music does.

But we need not doubt, but this harmony will be in its perfection in the bodies of the saints after the resurrection; and that, as every part of the bodies of the wicked shall be excruciated with intolerable pain, so every part of the saints’ refined bodies shall be as full of pleasure as they can hold; and that this will not take the mind off from, but prompt and help it in spiritual delights, to which even the delight of their spiritual bodies shall be but a shadow.