“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20 NIV)
There’s an old saying: There’s no place like home. That phrase has been sung about, poems have been written about it, many a sampler hangs on the walls of people’s houses with that saying on it… in fact, it has been used so much it has become a cliché. But for all that, it still rings so true… There’s no place like home!
The very word “home” can conjure up cherished images, remembered sounds, familiar smells, memories that make us who we are as people.
- I think of waking up to the smell of bacon frying…
- Or biscuits baking in the oven…
- The sound of eggs sizzling in a cast iron frying pan…
- Or one of most the most pleasant sights in the world… homemade sausage gravy simmering on the stove…
Home is the feel of clean sheets on YOUR bed, with your very own pillow, and on a wintry day snuggling under the quilt your grandmother made you. It is sitting with loved ones watching that favorite movie that everyone has seen a hundred times. It is playing that game that has become a family tradition, that everyone feels compelled to play, even though you know someone is going to cheat a little in an effort to win the silly thing, and someone else is going to get upset and almost ruin everything. But it’s what you do when you’re home.
Home is knowing that when you are hurting and confused and afraid that there is at least one place on earth where you can go and be accepted, warmly received, and loved on. It is the place where you are “made over” when you know you don’t deserve it, and hugged when you really need it.
Yes, there no place like home. I love the very word “home.” To me there is no place like home. Indeed, one of the great ironies of my life is that I work for a missions agency, Advancing Native Missions, but I don’t like to travel. I am a true homebody. I stay away from home only by the utmost necessity.
I can remember years ago when I traveled as an itinerant evangelist. Sometimes I would be called upon to the fill the pulpit of a church for just one Sunday… maybe the pastor was on vacation, or had some family emergency. So I would be there for that one day. And after the Sunday evening service was over, we would head home. We might be several hours away from where we lived. And it was late. Prudence would seem to demand that to stay the night in the town where I had been preaching was truly what was called for. But I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my bed, under my comforter, with my head on my pillow. So we would drive through the late hours of the night, sometimes into the small hours of the morning, just to be home.
I can remember this one hill on the way home. At the time we were living in King William County, to the east of Richmond, pretty far out in the country. In fact, we rented a house on a dairy farm. This one hill was about 15 or 20 minutes from our house. When you crested the hill, there was this floodplain for the Pamunkey River that stretched out before you. You came down a steep incline, and then a long straight road to the River. I can recall coming over that hill, and seeing that beautiful vista, and knowing… I am almost home. It would be hard not to drive over the speed limit. I was in a hurry to get home. My foot got heavy with anticipation. And sometimes I would be so sleepy that I could hardly keep my eyes open. The road would get bleary. But I would anxiously press on… I was almost home.
Do you have a place like that? You have been away from home… and when you see that tree or that fence or that road sign or that particular house, you know… you are almost home. Your heart races. You become a little excited. Home!
Now you may be wondering… why all this sentimental nostalgia about home? Because there just is something about home. There is in the very concept something that we long for. And no matter how wonderful a home we love and cherish on this earth, how much we love our earthly home, I think there is also within us a longing for something even better. Something more beautiful… more pleasant… more inviting… more—homey…
We long for our true home. We were made for a place where there is completely unfeigned love, total acceptance of who we are. Don’t we all long for a place where there is warmth and kindness and affection that is, well… PERFECT.
And no matter how good home is here… we sense, deep down in the very marrow of our bones and the depths of our hearts… that there still is a better place.
There has to be… don’t you think?
Yet, you would think that with all the heartache and tragedy and hurt of this world that we would have come to accept the cold, hard reality of this life… it seems obvious. You would think that we should know that there is nothing better than what we experience here in this world. But… why is it that we are not satisfied here? Why is it we long for a better world?
I can tell you. It is simple…You see, we were not made for this world. We long for something better because we were made for another place.
The famous Christian writer C. S. Lewis once said, “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.”
I believe this is the reason that we so irrationally think like we do. Why we so tenaciously hold on to the desire for perfect family… The perfect job… The perfect friendship… Indeed, the perfect life! It is because we long for our true home.
Why is it we struggle with death so much? After thousands of years of watching each other die, after living an individual lifetime of losing family, loved ones and friends, you would think we would have come to the place where we accept death. But we don’t. We rage against it. We refuse to accept the reality of it.
Psychologists tell us that the first stage of grief is denial. We will not, cannot, believe that the one we love so is gone from us. We shout it out from the depths of our very souls (internally, if not outwardly): “NO! It cannot be. You are mistaken. They are not gone. They are just in the next room.”
Why is this? I can tell you. We were not made for death. We were not made for separation. We were not made for loss. We were made for a Garden…. For Paradise. We were made to live forever, and to never know sorrow, pain, loss, tragedy… or death. We were made for life. And so we long for life, real life, eternal life… in a home where everything is just as it should be…
Can I tell you a secret, though? This longing is not a pipe dream. It is not an empty longing. It is the essence of what it means to be human, to be created in the image of God. For we were made to live forever, with God, in His presence, in a perfect world without sin… and all the consequences of sin. You see, all the pain, suffering, heartache, misery and loss of this world is not what God originally intended… nor what He ultimately intends.
Instead, the mess of this present world is the direct result of sin, rejection of God’s plan and denial of His ways. All the suffering, crime, violence and injustice of this world… including death itself… is something we brought on ourselves. Adam sinned. But he was only the first. WE have been sinning ever since. And the result is that we took the perfect home God gave us, and we ruined it.
But God Himself, in His great love for all of us, for each of us, provided a remedy for sin… He made a way out of this world, and He orchestrated a plan that would set things right again. That would give us a perfect home once again.
That way was the Cross. It was the love of Jesus. It was a plan that meant God’s own Son had to come to this earth, suffer, be tortured, and died a bloody death on a lonely hilltop. Die for our sinfulness. And God did this. Jesus did give His very life. And He made the way open for us to once again return home… to know the joys of an eternal abode with Him. HOME!
And that is what we are all longing for… our true home in heaven, in the eternal kingdom of God.
It is what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the saints of old longed for. The Bible says about them:
- “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.” (Heb. 11:13-14 NKJV)
It is what Peter wanted when he spoke of us as being “strangers, pilgrims, sojourners” in this earth.
- And he said that God has given us “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV).
It is what the Apostle Paul was longing for when he spoke of what happens when we die and said…
- “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 ESV).
And Paul talked about this true home further when he spoke of the coming resurrection of our bodies…
- “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (2 Cor. 5:1 The Message)
Yes, the longing for our eternal home is a desire put in our hearts by God Himself. He wants, He longs, for us to join Him in life, at home, forever.
Allow me to finish with one story…
Of all the wonderful books in the world, some of my very favorites are the children’s series by C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. These stories tell of the wonderful world of Narnia… a land of adventure, talking animals and noble kings and queens. It is a land ruled over by the great Lion, Aslan, the true King of all kings in Narnia, the Son of the Emperor across the sea. You must understand that Aslan, the Great Lion, is a picture of Jesus Christ, the One who the Bible calls the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
In the stories, children from our world are sometimes permitted to travel and even sometimes live in Narnia. But they always have to return to this world. They are not allowed to stay permanently in the wondrous and magical land of Narnia. Until… the very end.
In the last book of the series, at the end of the story, the children are actually killed in a railway accident. Then they are immediately transported to the land of Aslan, and there they stand before the great Lion, on a sunny morning in the beautiful Narnian countryside. Listen to what happens:
The Aslan turned to them and said:
“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy said, “We so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
“There was a [real] railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say they lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All of their life in this world and their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Can I tell you… This is what it will be like for us one day. For each of us who is a child of God, born of the Spirit, washed in the blood of the Lamb. Our long night of toil and joy, hardship and happiness, struggle and blessing will be over. We will be home, standing in the presence of the Great Lion. We will bask in the daylight of His love and blessing. For us the night will be over. The morning will have come. The school term will have ended. It will be the holiday season. And for all of us, it will be only the very beginning of a wonderful story, the great story of eternal life with God the Father, Son and Spirit—where every day is better than the one before. For then we will be home forever!