The suburbs of heaven.

The suburbs of heaven

You will show me the path of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. – Psalms 16:11

Ephesians 3:19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

The Scottish Puritan Samuel Rutherford said, “Live in Christ, and you are in the suburbs of heaven.” This addresses one of the greatest struggles for every child of the King, namely, the struggle for joy in the midst of the circumstances of life.

Rutherford’s “suburbs of heaven” in the seventeenth century, is a “land of praises” and “the fairest of created paradises.” It is the one place where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Rutherford is talking about proximity. Those who live in the suburbs are those who live as close to the city as they can get without actually being in the city. That is Rutherford’s point. When you and I “live in Christ there is . . . but a thin wall between [us] and the land of praises.”

When we “live in Christ,” we place ourselves just outside heaven’s gates. We are as close to heaven as we can get without actually being there. We are in the suburbs. And in the suburbs, we experience a small measure of the “fullness of joy” and the “pleasures forevermore” that Psalm 16:11 speaks of. Often you enjoy only flashes or tiny glimpses. The totality of experiencing them is reserved exclusively for heaven. But we can get close, and we can know genuine joy and real and lasting pleasure in this life. When we do, we are in the “suburbs of heaven” (Guy M. Richard).

The splendor, grandeur, pulchritude, magnificence, and the sheer delightfulness of heaven are beyond anything we can imagine or predict. Many children of the King lived in utter darkness far from the light. They lived in the squalor and ugliness in a world that lies in the arms of the evil one, under his control (1 John 5:19). They were doomed, far off, strangers and aliens (Ephesians 2:17,19). Sadly, far worse than that they were dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Then at the moment each of us accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior everything changed. Those who were far off were brought near.

Ephesians 2:13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Many of us are missing something in life because we are after the second best” (Eric Liddell).

Father thank You that I am in Christ forever and I will be in Your presence forevermore. I pray that I may draw closer to you day by day for the remainder of my life on earth.

INSIGHT

Thinking geographically, imagine that we lived in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Juneau Alaska, or the Florida Keys. We moved from there to the state of Iowa when we became a child of the King. We had been in the Kingdom of darkness, but now we are in the Kingdom of light.

We are now in-state. But the King Himself was in the capital, Des Moines. How do we approach our King and get closer? How can we get to the suburbs of Des Moines?

To live in the suburbs of heaven, Samuel Rutherford encouraged us to, “Live in Christ.”

What does it mean to Live in Christ? It can be summed up in three words: knowing, recalling, and living.

First you must know that each child of the King is in Christ. We must comprehend what that means. Repeatedly, we are to recall it to mind, trusting, reckoning it to be so. We actively choose to live it out day by day.

At the moment we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we had an encounter with Him Who lived, and died, and rose from the dead. For some children of the King it was a dramatic experience, for others not so much. Regardless of our experience, each of us has been transformed inwardly. We were placed into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and Christ came to live in each of us (1 John 3:24).

1 John 4:13 God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

We are to continually recall this to mind. For some reason, because of our fallen DNA, even children of the King seem to forget now and then that we are in Christ and that Christ is in us. We are to look back and remember our first encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.

“The Christian life continues as it commenced: just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him” (BKC). God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The apostle Paul had insights that few children of the King ever have. He fully comprehends what it means to be in Christ and to live in Christ. Consequently Paul has totally redefined life as we know it on planet Earth. It is an immense paradigm shift. For Paul, to live is Christ! He sees himself as no longer having life apart from Christ.

Galatians 2:19 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

There is a big difference between knowing the truth and knowing the power of the truth (John Owen). When we focus on applying the realities of our new position in Christ, and His in us, to our lives, we are getting closer to actually experiencing the truth. This is what Owen, and many other Puritans, had in mind. We need to wear ourselves out in meditating on the things about which we have been reminded and in “thinking through how they apply in our lives” (Guy M. Richard).

To live in Christ is to strive to keep my heart and my affections focused on Him and to allow His life force to flow through me. As we do, we begin to experience what Paul experienced. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:19).

You will show me the path of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalms 16:11).

Psalm 16:11 is unsurpassed for the beauty of the prospect it opens up, in words of the utmost simplicity. The path of life is so called, not only because of its goal but because to walk that way is to live, in the true sense of the word, already (Kidner). The path of life leads into the Father’s eternal presence.

The joys and pleasures are totally and eternally satisfying and endlessly varied, for they are found in both what He is and what He gives (Kidner).

“The pleasures of heaven will be far beyond any pleasures we have known here on earth, and as we enjoy the Lord and serve Him, we will not be restricted or encumbered by time, physical weakness, or the consequences of sin. So magnificent are the glories of heaven that the apostle John had to ransack human language to find words to describe it (Revelation 21-22)” (Wiersbe).

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