June 10: New Jerusalem

Home is where the heart is. One does not need to know me long to discern that “Ill-annoy” is not my home. I’m a warm weather and sunshine kind of gal, and I refer to this state as “the land of my captivity.” But the Lord has made it clear that He has placed me here for His purposes, so I often say, “the Lord has granted me contentment in the land of my captivity.” This is primarily due to this church, all of the people I love here, and the ministry He allows me to do. In a large sense, this church is my heart’s home.

But this song declares that the New Jerusalem is our home. It is a place where there is no sorrow or suffering. It is the place where we will finally see the face of our Savior. However the question arises: is the New Jerusalem really our heart’s home, or is it merely our destination? How much longing is there for heaven in our hearts? Are we at all homesick for heaven?

“Home is where the heart is” often means that a place is a home because the people we love are there. Knowing we will see Jesus in glory is a huge draw on our hearts toward heaven — but only if we love Him enough to long to see Him face to face. Believing it is a good idea to see Him is far different that actually longing to do so. If He is merely the conductor checking our ticket to heaven, or the insurance agent on our fire insurance policy, there is probably little longing to see Him. I mean, when is the last time you got up in the morning with an aching desire to see your insurance agent (unless you are married to one or have a premonition of disaster)?

When we are content somewhere, we generally will not tend to be anxious to move somewhere else. When things are going well in our world we want to stay put. I have often wondered what God did in Abram’s life to prepare him to leave Ur. Was it just an internal prompting that drew him to step out in obedience, or did God make Ur uncomfortable for him? Did it suddenly become difficult to be a follower of the Most High God in the land of pagan deities? Hebrews 11:9, 12 says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land . . . for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Abram took God at His promise. He never lived in anything but a tent, but by faith he looked beyond that temporary dwelling. However, he would have never received the promise if he’d stayed, content, in Ur. And even in the Promised Land he “lived like a stranger” because he was looking beyond the temporal promise to the eternal one. Do we? By faith are we looking beyond our present blessings and our temporary tents to the city whose foundation and architect are God? Or are God’s blessings to us actually keeping us back from longing to see Him and be with Him? What is it that God has given us that we are so reluctant to leave behind that heaven seems less appealing than our life on earth?

This longing for the New Jerusalem does not come along as some fleeting and accidental love-at-first-sight infatuation. The desire for the New Jerusalem is born from two sources: circumstances and maturing faith. Why do many people long for heaven? Age, pain, the loss of loved ones awaiting them there, persecution, danger — in short, this present world becomes unpleasant, unbearable, or holds nothing for them. Heaven holds out the promise of relief and reward, and there is increasingly little here to distract them from their desperate longing for their true home. Are we too content on earth to desire heaven?

Maturing faith is the other path. It is the path those of us in more comfortable circumstances must cultivate. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus and His presence becomes ever sweeter to us, our desire that our faith be made sight and the veil of our flesh falls away so we can finally meet Him face to face, to feel the warmth of His embrace, smell the fragrance of garments, see the love in His eyes grows to the point of impatience. This desire does not come to one who views Him as their insurance agent, only to those who know Him as the Lover of their souls.

Maturing faith increasingly sees how the treasures of this world are worthless in comparison to those which will never pass away — never ever. That kind of faith lets go, more and more, of what will quickly turn to dust, for Jesus said where our treasure is, there’s where our hearts will be . . . and home is where our heart is. We must ask ourselves: where’s our treasure? Where’s our heart?

Maturing faith is not so easily distracted by the lures of the world. The more faith sets its focus on its heavenly home, the stronger the longing and excitement grows. Think about it. When you decide to go on a trip to a place you’ve never been, you probably didn’t just book a flight, then, after you arrived, decide where you’d stay and what you do. Most people do some research and planning, and the more they do, the more excited they are to go. They get to the point that they can’t wait to experience in person all they’ve heard about as they waited for the date to arrive.

Are we cultivating the longing to go to our heart’s true home? The way to do so is to spend time thinking about the One who dwells there, and the eternal promises He holds out to us. We, like Abram, must look forward to a city whose architect and builder is our God.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries