From Bibles.net Editorial Team: How do we live in a way that keeps in mind what we read in the Bible, that if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 NKJV)? Jonathan Edwards gave us his answer in a sermon he preached called “The True Christian’s Life: A Journey Toward Heaven,” in 1733. We ought to spend this life only as a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven—and here are six ways to do that, from Edwards himself.
Be Ready to Trade Earth for Heaven
We ought not to rest in the world and its enjoyments, but should desire heaven.
We should “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God and dwell with Jesus Christ.
Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbors, and are generally beloved where known; we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion.
We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy, and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.
It’s not a traveler’s habit to rest in whatever terrain he meets with, however comfortable and pleasing, on the road. If he passes through pleasant places, flowery meadows, or shady groves, he does not take up his content in these things, but only takes a transient view of them as he goes along. He is not enticed by fine appearances to put off the thought of proceeding. No, but his journey’s end is in his mind.
If he meets with comfortable accommodations at an inn, he entertains no thoughts of settling there. He considers that these things are not his own, that he is but a stranger, and when he has refreshed himself, or tarried for a night, he is for going forward. And he is pleased to think that so much of the way is behind him.
So should we desire heaven more than the comforts and enjoyments of this life.
The apostle Paul mentions this as an encouraging, comforting thing for Christians to consider: that they draw nearer and nearer day by day to their happiness. “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11 NIV).
Our hearts ought to be loose to the things of the world, as that of a man on a journey, that we may as cheerfully part with them whenever God calls.
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31 NIV)
These things are only lent to us for a little while, to serve a present turn, but we should set our hearts on heaven, as our inheritance forever.
Be Already On Your Way to Heaven
We ought to seek heaven by traveling in the way that leads there.
This is a way of holiness. We should choose and desire to travel there in this way and in no other, and part with all those carnal appetites which, as weights, will tend to hinder us.
1. Throw off anything that trips you up:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrew 12:1 NIV)
However pleasant the gratification of any appetite may be, we must lay it aside if it be a hindrance, or a stumbling block, in the way to heaven.
2. Commit to traveling uphill
We should travel on in the way of obedience to all God’s commands, even the difficult as well as the easy, denying all our sinful inclinations and interests. The way to heaven is ascending. We must be content to travel up hill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh.
We should follow Christ: the path he traveled was the right way to heaven (John 14:6). We should take up our cross and follow him, in meekness and lowliness of heart, obedience and charity, diligence to do good, and patience under afflictions.
The way to heaven is a heavenly life, an imitation of those who are in heaven in their holy enjoyments, loving, adoring, serving, and praising God and the Lamb.
Seek Strength to Endure When the Road Gets Hard
We should journey on in this way in a laborious manner.
Long journeys are attended with toil and fatigue, especially if through a wilderness. People in such cases expect to suffer hardships and weariness. So we should travel in this way of holiness, improving our time and strength, to surmount the difficulties and obstacles that are in the way.
The land we have to travel through, is a wilderness. There are many mountains, rocks, and rough places that we must go over, and therefore there is a necessity that we should lay out our strength.
Settle in Your Mind That You’re on a Lifelong Journey
Our whole lives ought to be spent in traveling this road.
We ought to begin early. This should be the first concern, when persons become capable of acting. When they first set out in the world, they should set out on this journey. And we ought to travel on with thoughtful consideration. It ought to be the work of every day.
We should often think of our journey’s end; and make it our daily work to travel on in the way that leads to it. He who is on a journey is often thinking of the destined place, and it is his daily care and business to get along and to improve his time to get towards his journey’s end.
We should often think of our journey’s end; and make it our daily work to travel on in the way that leads to it.
Thus heaven should be continually in our thoughts, and the immediate entrance or passage to it, meaning death, should be present with us. We ought to persevere in this way as long as we live.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV). Though the road be difficult and toilsome, we must hold out with patience, and be content to endure hardships. Though the journey be long, yet we must not stop short, but hold on till we arrive at the place we seek.
Nor should we be discouraged with the length and difficulties of the way, as the children of Israel were, and be for turning back again. All our thought and design should be to press forward till we arrive.
Strive to Be More Like Citizens of Heaven
We ought to be continually growing in holiness, and in that respect coming nearer and nearer to heaven.
We should be endeavoring to come nearer to heaven, in being more heavenly, becoming more and more like the inhabitants of heaven in respect of holiness and conformity to God, the knowledge of God and Christ, in clear views of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the excellency of divine things, as we come nearer to the beatific vision.
We should labor to be continually growing in the love of God—that this may be an increasing flame in our hearts, till they ascend wholly in this flame—in obedience and a heavenly conversation, that we may do the will of God on earth as the angels do in heaven, in comfort and spiritual joy, [and] in sensible communion with God and Jesus Christ. Our path should be as “the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18 NIV).
We ought to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness: after an increase in righteousness. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 NIV). The perfection of heaven should be our mark. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14 NIV).
Prioritize Heaven Over Earth
All other concerns of life ought to be entirely subordinate to this.
When a man is on a journey, all the steps he takes are subordinated to the aim of getting to his journey’s end. And if he carries money or provisions with him, it is to supply him in his journey. So we ought wholly to subordinate all our other business, and all our temporal enjoyments, to this affair of traveling to heaven. When anything we have becomes a clog and hindrance to us, we should quit it immediately. The use of our worldly enjoyments and possessions, should be with such a view, and in such a manner, as to further us in our way heavenward.
Thus we should eat, and drink, and clothe ourselves, and improve the conversation and enjoyment of friends. And whatever business we are setting about, whatever design we are engaging in, we should inquire with ourselves, whether this business or undertaking will forward us in our way to heaven (1 Corinthians 10:31). And if not, we should quit our design.
From the Editor: Friend, we encourage you to consider today the road you are traveling. What’s your destination? Do you find yourself on the road to heaven with Jesus Christ? Where does your life path lead?