At a recent retreat, pastor Mike McKinley challenged the men of our church to consider whether heaven was a place we would really want to go when we die.
As he explained, heaven is a holy place. A place where sin is not enjoyed, but rather its defeat is celebrated. There will be no love of sin in that land, only love of God—and the enjoying of His holiness. If we are longing to go to heaven, it is a longing aimed at being with God, and being like Him in His perfect purity.
Heaven is a holy place. Do you really want to go there?
To help us consider this question, he shared this wonderful reflection by J.C. Ryle.
“Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?
Now perhaps you love the company of the light and careless, the worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.
Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict and particular and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.
Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading, and hymn singing, dull and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshipping God. But remember, heaven is a never-ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?
Think you that such a one would delight to meet David and Paul and John, after a life spent in doing the very things they spoke against? Would he take sweet counsel with them and find that he and they had much in common? Think you, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the crucified One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which He died, after loving His enemies and despising His friends? Would he stand before Him with confidence and join in the cry, “This is our God… we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9)?
Think you not rather that the tongue of an unholy man would cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to be cast out? He would feel a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep amid Christ’s holy flock. The voice of cherubim and seraphim, the song of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, would be a language he could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.
I know not what others may think, but to me it does seem clear that heaven would be a miserable place to an unholy man. It cannot be otherwise. People may say, in a vague way, they “hope to go to heaven”, but they do not consider what they say… We must be heavenly-minded, and have heavenly tastes, in the life that now is, or else we shall never find ourselves in heaven, in the life to come.” – JC Ryle, Holiness
Do you really want to go to that land of holiness? If so, the pursuit of holiness must mark our lives today (Hebrews 12:14). We must be pure in heart, so that you can see God by faith in this life, and by unhindered sight in the life to come (Matthew 5:8).
So I ask you, do you want to go to heaven and be holy? Then take consideration of what stands in the way of you becoming more like Jesus today. What hinders your progress in holiness? Identify it and kill it (Romans 8:13). Pray that God would give you strength, so that by His grace, you might take another step toward that holy land where sin will be no more.
Pray for me to do the same.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.