Nothing will rob you of the joy of God’s grace like a low view of God, of Christ’s sacrifice, and of the glory of heaven.
To set our minds on the things above, to lay up our treasures in heaven and not on the earth, and to consider what is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, being reserved for us in heaven—these things are not auxiliary or ancillary or supplementary to the Christian life, they are essential to your joy, purpose, endurance, usefulness, and holiness.
While the joy of our salvation in Christ crucified begins in this life, we must daily renew our minds Godward in the reality that we currently live in a fallen and cursed world, beset with temptation, sin, and evil. We are pilgrims in a foreign land, citizens of heaven on an earthly sojourn, being in not of the world. The blessed glory of our salvation is yet future; we are not home yet. Jonathan Edwards describes the Christian yearning this way:
They remain in a joyful expectation of their more full and complete blessedness at the resurrection. As the wicked have not their full punishment until after the resurrection, so neither have the saints their complete happiness. Though they have attained to such exceeding glory, yet they are not yet arrived at its highest degrees, for that is reserved for their final state. The reward which the saints receive after the resurrection, is often spoken of as their chief reward. This is the reward that Christ has promised.
We Christians often fail to sincerely and practically set our minds on the things above, where Christ is seated (Col 3:1). Sometimes we become so preoccupied in the things below, where death reigns. We are often earthly minded and overwhelmed by the present trials that will have no reach into our future. Sometimes we hold the promise of heaven at a distance, unwittingly fearing that it may be too great to be true. Edwards put it this way: “this glory and blessedness are so great and wonderful that it seems too great to be given to such creatures as men are; it seems almost incredible that God should so exalt and advance worms of the dust.” He answered this tendency with tremendous insight:
The death and sufferings of Christ made every thing credible that belongs to this blessedness. If God has not thought his own Son too much for us, what will he think too much for us? If God did not spare him, but gave him even to be made a reproach, and a curse, and a victim to death for us, no blessedness, however great, can be incredible which is the fruit of this. Rom. 8:32. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” If God would so contrive to show his love in the manner and means of procuring our happiness, nothing can be incredible in the degree of the happiness itself: if nothing be too much to be given to man, and to be done for man in the manner of procuring his happiness, nothing will be too much to be given to him as the happiness procured, and no degree of happiness too great for him to enjoy. If all that God does about it be consistent, his infinite wisdom will also work to make their happiness and glory great in the degree of it.
Edwards elaborated on the happiness of the redeemed in heaven in view of perfection and degrees of glory:
The happiness of all the saints shall be perfect in two respects, viz. first, as they shall be so happy as to be perfectly free from all trouble and all evil; and, second, as everyone’s capacity shall be filled with happiness, but yet the capacity may be different. Every vessel may be full, and yet some may hold more than others. If many vessels were cast into the sea, everyone would be full; but yet bigger vessels would hold more than little ones. He that is full of happiness, he has perfection of happiness: his capacity being full, he is satisfied, and craves no more. But yet another man’s perfection of happiness may exceed his.
Yet his most profound insight relates the economy of love with degrees of glory. In answer to the objection that differences among the redeemed in heaven could not possibly be conceived to be in harmony with the virtues of heaven, Edwards offers a wonderful picture of love:
And when there is perfect satisfaction, there is no room for envy. And they will have no temptation to envy those who are above them in glory from their superiors being lifted up with pride. We are apt to conceive that those who are more holy, and more happy than others in heaven, will be elated and lifted up in their spirit above others. Whereas their being above them in holiness implies their being superior to them in humility; for their superior humility is part of their superior holiness. Though all are perfectly free from pride, yet as some will have greater degrees of divine knowledge than others, will have larger capacities to see more of the divine perfections, so they will see more of their own comparative littleness and nothingness, and therefore will be lowest abased in humility. And besides, the inferior in glory will have no temptation to envy those who are higher. For those who are highest will not only be more beloved by the lower saints for their higher holiness, but they will also have more of a spirit of love to others. They will love those who are below them more than other saints of less capacity. They who are in highest degrees of glory will be of largest capacity, and so of greatest knowledge, and will see most of God’s loveliness, and consequently will have love to God and love to saints most abounding in their hearts. So that those who are lower in glory will not envy those who are above them. They will be most beloved of those who are highest in glory, and the superior in glory will be so far from slighting those who are inferior, that they will have more abundant love to them, greater degrees of love in proportion to their superior knowledge and happiness; the higher in glory, the more like Christ in this respect. So that they will love them more than those who are their equals. And what puts it beyond doubt that seeing the superior happiness of others will be no damp to their happiness is this, that the superior happiness which they have consists in their greater humility, and their greater love to them, and to God and Christ, whom they will look upon as themselves. Such a sweet and perfect harmony will there be in the heavenly society, and perfect love reigning in every heart towards everyone without control, and without alloy, or any interruption. And no envy, or malice, or revenge, or contempt, or selfishness shall enter there, but shall be kept as far off as earth and hell are from heaven.