Heaven in Your Heart

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Ecclesiastes 3:11

INTRODUCTION: This is the second message in our series called Real Answers about Heaven. Last week we talked about heaven as the dwelling place of God. Today I want to talk about heaven in your heart.

Now we have to be careful here, because this is a common phrase, and people mean different things when they say or hear it. Some people believe that heaven is just a state of mind or something that you feel in your heart. But that’s not true. We saw last week that heaven is not just a state of mind or feeling but an actual place – the dwelling place of God.

So when we talk about heaven in your heart today, I am going to be talking about something very specific. I am going to be talking about the knowledge of heaven and eternity that God has put in our hearts. God has put a hunger for heaven in each of our hearts, and we ignore it at our own peril. (Read Ecclesiastes 3:11 and pray.)

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Everyone has some knowledge of heaven. We may not know everything the Bible says about heaven. That’s why we’re taking ten weeks to talk about heaven and see what the Bible has to say about various aspects of heaven. But everyone has some knowledge of heaven, because God designed us that way.

C.S. Lewis wrote the following in his book The Problem of Pain:

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words.…

Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all of your life…. You have never had it. All the thing that has ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should ever really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say, ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’

We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 150-151)

What Lewis so eloquently describes in this passage is the hunger for heaven that God has built deep into our hearts. My hope is that through this message today you will begin to identify the unfulfilled longings in your life as clues to your eternal home in heaven.

So what do we mean when we say that God has put heaven in your heart? Three things: 1) All people have a general knowledge of God. 2) God has set eternity in the hearts of men. And 3) God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart. Let’s look at all three of these from the Scriptures at this time.

I. All people have a general knowledge of God (Romans 1:19-20)

First of all, all people have a general knowledge of God. We might try to stuff it, suppress it, reject or deny it, but we all have a general knowledge of God. We read this in Romans 1:19-20: “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

   A. God has made plain to us what may be known about God.
      – Romans 1:19

There are a couple of things we learn from this passage. First, God has made plain to us what may be known about God. We see that in verse 19: “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1:19)

Verse 19 tells us that there are certain things that God has made plain to us about himself. For example, he has revealed certain things about himself through creation. We will get to that in a moment. But he has also revealed certain things about himself through our consciences. We all have a sense of right and wrong and that there will be some type of accounting for our actions. Why is that? God has given us a general knowledge of himself through our consciences, and we know there is more to this life than just the random choices we make.

Jonathan Edwards writes: “Now God has implanted in us this natural disposition of expecting a reward or punishment, according as we do well or ill, for this disposition is natural to us: ’tis in our very nature; God had made it with us. And to what purpose should God make in us a disposition to expect rewards and punishments if there are none?” (Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance of a Future State”, Works 10, 357) Our consciences testify to us daily that there is a God and we are accountable to him.

All people have a general knowledge about God, and God has made plain to us what may be known about him.

   B. God’s eternal power and divine nature are seen through creation.
      – Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20

Romans 1 goes on to tell us that God’s eternal power and divine nature are seen through creation. Look at verse 20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

People say, “God is invisible, so how can we know he exists?” We know God exists because he has left us a testimony. The creation all around us testifies not only that God exists but also tells us important things about him.

The creation testifies first of all to God’s eternal power. We live in a big universe. Well, it takes a big God to make a big universe. There’s the evidence of God’s power. Creation also testifies that God is eternal. You can’t have a creation without a Creator. The Creator of all things by definition is uncreated. He who is uncreated has no beginning. There’s God’s eternal nature. Put them together and what do you get? God’s eternal power is clearly seen through his creation.

The creation also testifies to God’s divine nature, that he is God. Psalm 19:1 puts it this way: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) All of creation testifies to God’s glory. The Creator cannot be a part of his own creation. Therefore the Creator stands outside of creation. Therefore the Creator is divine. He is God.

God’s eternal power and his divine nature are invisible qualities that can be clearly seen through creation, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

As long as people have been around there’s been a world for them to live in. And so when it comes to knowing what may be known about God, men are without excuse. The people living in biblical times had some understanding of the world around them and so they were without excuse. We know even more about the size and scope of the universe today, it’s intricate balance and design, than people did in biblical times. We know more, so we have even less excuse than they did. Science doesn’t replace knowledge of God. Science is simply the practice of observing God’s world, and so science rightly practiced actually reveals more knowledge about God and his world.

Some things about God we know through creation. Some things about God we know only through the Bible. Some things about God we won’t know until we get to heaven. Some things about God we will never know! But that’s the first thing we mean when we say that God has put heaven in your heart. All people have a general knowledge of God. God has made plain to us what may be known about him. God’s eternal power and divine nature are seen through creation.

II. God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

Secondly, the Bible tells us that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. Look at Ecclesiastes 3:10-11: “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11) There are a couple things this passage tells us about God setting eternity in our hearts.

   A. We know this world is not as it should be.
      – Ecclesiastes 3:10; Romans 8:20-21

First of all, we know this world is not as it should be. We see this in verse 10: “I have seen the burden God has laid on men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10) There is a burden that all of us carry in life. We all know that something is not right with the world. There is so much beauty, and joy and love, and yet at the same time there is so much evil, and sorrow and heartache. In our heart of hearts we all cry out, “What’s wrong with this world?”

Well, the Bible confirms exactly what you are feeling. We read in Romans 8:20-21: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21) This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Before sin entered the world, this world perfectly reflected God’s glory. But now we live on a planet that is under a curse because of sin.

Greg Koukl in his excellent book, The Story of Reality, writes about “the kind of perfect world our hearts have always longed for, even when we cannot quite get it into focus. The longing itself is a clue for us – an ache in our hearts reminding us of the way things used to be, a sign that we were made for something better – though, for the moment, we have lost our way – and a hunger for the world to be that way again.… God has put eternity in our hearts, and that sweet pain may be evidence of it, a primal memory deep in our souls reminding us of the way the world started – good, wonderful, whole, complete.” (Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality, Kindle location 1219, p. 83)

Cornelius Plantinga Jr. wrote a book about sin called Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. Well that’s exactly right. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. God has put that knowledge in your heart, and so we know this world is not as it should be.

   B. We know that there must be more to this life.
      – Ecclesiastes 3:11

At the same time we also know that there must be more to this life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 goes on to say: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) We know deep in our hearts that there must be more to this life. That’s why we’re never satisfied, why we always seem to be reaching for something more, something that’s just out of our reach.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Most people, if they had learned to really look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.…Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling desires to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 135-137)

The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrote: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, #425)

This saying of Pascal’s has often been paraphrased in this way: “There is within every one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.” People try to fill that space with so much stuff. Sometimes we try to fill it with good things like relationships, or work, or art or music. Sometimes we try to fill it with bad things like drugs or alcohol or other things that do us harm. But you’re never going to fill it with something else, because it is a God-shaped vacuum and only God can fill that empty space within you.

St. Augustine said something much the same when he wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1) Is that you this morning? Are you restless? Are you hungry? Are you looking for something you just can’t find? If you’re not looking for it in God then you are looking in all the wrong places. Only God can satisfy.

This world in its present form is passing away. It’s temporary. It’s transitory. We know this world is not as it should be. We know there must be more to this life. Why? Because God has set eternity in the hearts of men.

III. God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart

What do we mean when we say that God has put heaven in your heart? Three things: 1) All people have a general knowledge of God. 2) God has set eternity in the hearts of men. And 3) God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart. The first two apply to all people everywhere, believers and non-believers alike. But this third point applies only to believers in Jesus Christ. God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart.

   A. Heaven is our true home.
      – Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16

As believers in Christ heaven is our true home. We read in Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) We may live here on earth, but our citizenship is in heaven. In our hearts we know that is where we really belong.

We’re not the only ones who’ve felt this way. The Bible tells us about the people of faith who went before us. We read in Hebrews 11: “They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

The Bible says we are just pilgrims here. We are travelers on a journey. As the old hymn says: “This world is not my home; I’m just a passing through. If heaven’s not my home, oh Lord what can I do? The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door; and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” We live in a beautiful world, but it’s not our true home. And as one person has said, “No matter how great the hotel room, it’s [only] a temporary stop on the way to your final destination.” (Stephen Witmer, Eternity Changes Everything, Kindle location 743)

And so as believers in Christ we are homesick for heaven. We experience a certain sense of restlessness here on earth. What do we mean when we say that God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart? First of all, that heaven is our true home.

   B. We who have the Holy Spirit groan along with creation as we wait for our final redemption.
      – Romans 8:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17

Secondly, we mean that we who have the Holy Spirit groan along with creation as we wait for our final redemption. Romans 8 tells us the following: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

This world is not right because of sin, and we are not right because of sin, and so we groan along with the rest of creation as we wait for our eternal home. Paul David Tripp writes: “Whether we know it or not, we long for home: Every sad moment in marriage is a longing for home. Every moment of hurt and concern as a parent is a longing for home. Every cry in the midst of loneliness is a longing for home.” (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home: Heaven & the New Earth, Kindle location 99)

Now non-believers groan in this world, too. But as believers in Christ we groan differently. It’s the difference between groaning “from” something and groaning “for” something. Non-believers groan “from” the curse on this world because of sin. We groan from the curse on creation, too, but as believers we also groan “for” the day of redemption, when we will be freed from the curse of sin, when we will be freed from sin and death and dying once and for all.

We are homesick for heaven, but how can you be homesick for a place you’ve never been? Stephen Witmer writes: “The new creation is our home.… But God’s people have never yet been to God’s future, the new creation. Our home is a place we’ve never visited. How can it possibly be home?… It’s home because it’s where we most truly belong. We’re going to live there for ever, much longer than the 80-90 years we’ll hope to spend in this present life. And it’s home for a deeper reason. It’s true that we have not yet come to the new creation. But it has come to us.” (Stephen Witmer, Eternity Changes Everything, Kindle location 967-971)

How can we be homesick for a place we’ve never been? Because heaven, our true home, has come to us. Heaven is God’s dwelling place, and God has put heaven in our hearts through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Behold the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are new creations in Christ. We have not yet come to the new creation, but the new creation has come to us. We have the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit in us, giving us a sense of our eternal home. And so we who have the Holy Spirit groan along with creation as we wait for our final redemption.

   C. We hope for what we do not yet have, and so we wait for it patiently.
      – Romans 8:24-25

What do we mean when we say that God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart? 1) Heaven is our true home. 2) We who have the Holy Spirit groan along with creation as we wait for our final redemption. And then finally, 3) we hope for what we do not yet have, and so we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25 says: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Our hope is in Christ and in the message of the gospel. Christ came to save sinners out of a sinful world. I can testify to you this morning. I am a sinner, and he has saved me. My hope is in him and in the salvation that he brought me on the cross and in his promise that he will return to take me home to be with him forever.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: “The Bible tells us that in this life and world there is no such thing as final security apart from the message of the gospel. So if we are relying for our final, ultimate happiness upon anybody or anything in this world alone, then we are certain to be disappointed.… If we are depending for happiness and joy and a quiet heart, in a final sense, upon any individual human being, upon our family, our home, our profession, our money, our health and strength, we are doomed to experience disappointment.” (Martyn Lloyd Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Kindle location 810-812)

We know things are not right here on earth, but as believers in Christ we have been given hope for the future. We’re not there yet. We don’t live in a perfect world. But who hopes for what he already has? We hope for what we do not yet have, and so we wait for it patiently.

CONCLUSION: And so we learn from the Scriptures that God has indeed put heaven in our hearts. All people have a general knowledge of God. God has set eternity in the hearts of men. And God puts a longing for heaven within every believer’s heart.

So what do you do with that knowledge or hunger for heaven that God has put in your heart? Let me close with three applications.

1) Recognize your unfulfilled longings for what they are. There is more to this life than just living and breathing and dying. You are created in God’s image, and you will live forever either in heaven or in hell. As we saw last week, heaven is Jesus’ home and he holds the key. If you want to go to heaven you must go through him. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He is the only one who can bring you to his home.

2) If you are a Christian, don’t get too comfortable here on earth. Enjoy God’s good gifts while you are here, but remember – you are a citizen of heaven, and heaven is your true home. This world in its present form is passing away. The longings you feel in this life that remain unsatisfied all point to your true home. Therefore you can endure disappointments and even suffering because you know that you are a pilgrim on a journey and that your true home with God awaits you in the new heaven and the new earth. This place is like a rental. You dress it up, you make yourself somewhat comfortable in a rental, but you’re not going to invest everything in a place that is not yours. It’s not your true home, so don’t get too comfortable here. Enjoy God’s good gifts, but invest in heaven.

3) And then finally, don’t worry so much about your bucket list. We all have a bucket list – a list of all the things you want to do and experience here on earth before you kick the bucket.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having a bucket list, and, once again, we should enjoy the good things that God has given us while here on earth. But you need to be careful. For some people their bucket list becomes almost an idol. In fact, you can scratch the word “almost” there. For many people it becomes their idol. They become frantic at the thought of not finishing everything on it before they die. But I have some good news for you this morning. As a Christian, you can relax. You don’t have to worry, because you will have plenty of time in the new heaven and the new earth to do all the things you were never able to do in this life.

For example, I love reading, and I love music. I have over a thousand books stored in my Kindle collection right now, many of which I will probably never get to read. But what do they represent? They represent desires, longings, aspirations. These are the books I would like to read if I ever found the time. I have music books full of pieces for the piano and guitar that I would love to learn to play, but I will never learn all those pieces in this life. But you know what? It doesn’t matter! I’ve got all of eternity to do these things.

I like what Stephen Witmer says about this in his book Eternity Changes Everything. Witmer writes:

“There are other things I’d still like to do in this life … and I realize increasingly that I won’t be able to do all these things in my lifetime…. If this world is all there is, if we settle for now, our regret over the bad mistakes and missed opportunities of our lives will dominate our lives…. We [will] spend our lives asking: ‘What if…?’ and sighing: ‘If only…’

“[But) when we become convinced that the new creation is superbly great and securely ours, we let go of our regret by taking hold of something better. We know that when we come to die, we won’t have missed all our opportunities.

“For the follower of Jesus, death is the entrance to an even more satisfying experience of life. So I don’t need to be filled with regret over the bad things I’ve done and the good things I’ll never do!… This world isn’t the whole story. There’s another volume to come – and the sequel is better.” (Stephen Witmer, Eternity Changes Everything, Kindle location 1076-1095)

I like that! The sequel is better. It doesn’t always work that way in books or the movies, but when it comes to heaven, the sequel is far better! Anybody looking forward to the sequel? Me too!

© Ray Fowler

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