I have been away from home a lot this summer. It's not been vacationing on a beach with a little-umbrella'd drink--I can do that without leaving. My travels have been for ministry purposes with a quick trip to Vancouver for some family time. Despite the good reasons for travel, like most of you, I began to long for home.
For many people, home is a place of love and a place for which we long when we are away. You know the longing for home? Remember when you were first sick while away at university, how you longed for home? Or during a time of family trial where you longed to be with those that needed you? Maybe a birthday missed? Do you know those familiar smells, sounds, or sights which bring to memory your love for home?
Most of us love home and when we are away we long to be there.
As Christians, that love and longing for home ought to be a desire for our eternal home as well. We ought to long for heaven and the Christ who dwells there. For heaven is our eternal home.
Do you long for eternity? I don't think that we consider heaven enough. At least I don't.
Crossing my second international border in a matter of weeks, I was greeted by a well-armed American customs agent. Handing him my passport and answering all of his questions, followed by a series of back-and-forth, he appeared to be satisfied with the fact that I belonged in the good ol' US of A. The agent, handed me back my passport, looked me in the eye and said, "Welcome home, Mr. Eshelman. Welcome home."
Those words intrigued me. They encouraged me.
Welcome home, Mr. Eshelman.
Such a simple greeting, but so powerful.
I was home, but I was also ready_ to be home_. Does that make sense? I was back in the place where I belonged, yet not at the manse on the street where I live. I was home but not home.
As Christians there are many times when we can have that "Welcome home, Mr. Eshelman" experience. We ought to have it on the Lord's Day as we gather for worship and are brought together into the presence of God. We can have it at times of special gatherings of the saints-- whether that's church camp, presbytery meetings, or other gatherings. Spiritually speaking, we can feel as though we are home. But these things--as good as they are--are not home. They are home but not home.
Eternity--in the presence of Christ-- is the home for which you ought to long. Eternity is the home for which we all ought to long. In this world, among the redeemed, you are home but not home.
Jonathan Edwards, in a beautiful sermon entitled, "Heaven is a World of Love" writes...
...[H]eaven is a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light.
He goes on to say:
There dwells God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual, and eternal love. There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son to die for it.
There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed His blood, and poured out His soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men, and by whom the fruits of that love have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all God’s people. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father.
And there dwells the Holy Spirit--the Spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, flows out, and is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the saints on earth and in heaven.
That is the home for which I long--that place where the Triune God forever and perfectly loves those on whom he has placed his love. This is my home. This is the home of all those on whom God has placed his saving love.
If you are in Christ you too ought to long for that place where Christ is. You too ought to long for home. You too ought to long, as I do, to hear similar words:
"Welcome home, Mr. Eshelman."