“Heaven would be hell to me without Christ.” – Thomas Goodwin
This beautiful quote from the Puritan Thomas Goodwin also reminds me of a question John Piper asks in his book God is the Gospel: “Would you be happy in heaven if Christ were not there?” Before the Lord saved me I was a professing believer and my desire for heavenly things was strictly carnal. I wanted the everlasting life and of course to escape hell. I wanted the golden streets and the pearly gates but I did not want God. I wanted to go to heaven, I just didn’t want God to be there. I was ashamed of Christ and I never spoke of Him to others. I’m so thankful that the Lord in His sovereign grace turned my heart of stone to a heart of flesh and granted me the gift of repentance and faith in His Son. He saved a man who for most of his life professed faith but possessed it not, and was ashamed of the gospel and its Author. It’s only through being born from above by His power and grace that I can echo the words of Goodwin that heaven would truly be hell without Christ.
I know there are many people who believe they are seeking God. Through church attendance, morality, activities and even a head-knowledge of who Christ is (James 2:19), they believe they are heaven-bound. But Scripture speaks otherwise. Not a single person outside of Christ seeks God. Paul tells us in Romans that people don’t seek God. (Romans 3:11) The reality is that people seek the things of God, but they don’t seek Him. They want heaven and all God’s benefits but they simply don’t want Him. They truly could be happy in heaven if Christ were not there. This is why I am dismayed at so-called “seeker-sensitive” churches that model their worship for unbelievers and the world. (Not to mention that worship should be about Christ, not the unbelieving world! Most churches would do well to use Revelation chapters four and five to model their worship.) Unbelievers and nominal Christians are not seeking God. They are seeking health, happiness and the American dream. In their minds God is often a way to get those things. Seeker sensitive churches simply feed this devilish lie. This is why false teachers pack their seats service after service with people who want everything God (and the world) has to offer, except true salvation and the ultimate result of that salvation: God Himself. Salvation truly is a means to an end.
And that end is unhindered communion for all eternity with God in Christ. John sums up heaven for us in five beautiful words: “we will see His face.” (Revelation 22:4) Outside of His sovereign grace, people seek the things of God, but not Him. The grand reality is that God must seek us before we will seek Him. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) God causes our dead souls to be born from above (John 3; Ephesians 2) and then and only then do we come to Him in repentance and faith. He receives all the glory. Paul describes regeneration as a miracle greater than that of the creation account. (2 Corinthians 4:6) Do miracles happen today? Yes, and the greatest of all of them is the regenerative act of the triune God who transforms God-hating hearts of stone to God-loving hearts of flesh. Do you love Christ or do you love His benefits? One affection is the result of a transformed heart. The other is a natural desire of the fallen nature.
If you do love Christ above all things, rejoice in His sovereign grace and be humbled that nothing inherently in you caused this regenerative miracle. (John 1:13) If you can honestly say that you’d be happy in heaven without Christ, cry out to the Lord Almighty to open your eyes to His glory in the face of Jesus Christ and embrace Him in repentance and faith. All who come to Him, He will never cast out. (John 6:37) Soli Deo Gloria!