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TEXT: Matthew 8:11

SUBJECT: A String of Pearls #6: Good Company

In the fall of 1984, I saw one of my favorite movies. The story, the acting, the humor, the chemistry between the stars, the surprise ending-everything about it was great! Two or three years ago, I watched the movie again and this time I had a different opinion: the story was implausible, the acting was pathetic, the humor wasn't funny, the chemistry between the stars was not there, and the surprise ending was, in fact, predictable.

What happened to the movie? Why did it go from great when I first saw it to boring when I watched it the second time? Well, nothing happened to the movie: the change was in me. Or, not really in me, but in the circumstances of watching it. The first time I saw the movie I was with a girl I was in love with (and later married). The second time I saw it I was alone. It wasn't the movie I loved so much, but the one I saw it with. In other words, the movie didn't make the girl great, the girl made the movie great.

Moral to the story? The right company will make the worst things good and the wrong company will make the best things bad.

What does this say about heaven? It says heaven must be unimaginably great because we not only have the best thing there, but also the best company to enjoy it with!

This introduces the topic for tonight. For the last few weeks, we've been studying the long Puritan sermon, A String of Pearls, by Thomas Brooks. The subtitle explains it: The Best Things Reserved Till Last.

It's a meditation on what believers have when we die. And how these things are even better than what we now have in Christ. Death-for the Christian-is no loss at all; Paul says it's a gain. What we have in Christ will not be lost in death, but improved on and added to in ways we can't fathom. We can quote it now and think about it in a shallow way now, but only when we die will we have any true idea of

"The riches of God's mercy and the greatness of His love with which He loved us."

THE BEST COMPANY

The Puritan begins by naming the blessing of heaven and then distinguishing it from this the one we have in this world:

"The best society, the best company is reserved till last.The dignity of the inhabitants of heaven does much set forth the glory of heaven. This world is full of sinners and saints, but heaven is full of saints only! This world is full of men, but heaven is full of angels! This world is full of friends and enemies, but in heaven there shall be only friends! Here the great nobility and majesty of the guests cast a great honor upon the royal palace where they meet, but there is no company so noble, so sweet, so desirable, so delightsome, so comfortable, so suitable, as this one!"

Nothing makes for a happier day than good company. Even busy and tightly wound people lay aside their plans and worries when old friends come by. They laugh and cry, remember and plan, talk and sit quietly, eat and drink. There's something almost eternal in the fellowship-a sense of timelessness-hours and hours pass without anyone noticing it. No one feels the need to hurry up or to leave or to get back to work. Even sleepy heads stay up till the wee hours of the night with their friends.

This is a very great blessing the Lord gives us on earth. If you don't know it, I feel sorry for you. But the happiness of good company here is less than perfect. Even the best friends get tired of each other. The little faults we have get on our friends' nerves-and their faults annoy us too! When this happens, a cold breeze blows into the warmth of our fellowship.

Then, of course, there's the danger of friendships breaking all to pieces. We've all lost friends and it's an awful blow. Then there are friendships that don't go up in flames, but fade away or wear out.

Then, there are friendships that become unhealthy-we become clannish or form cliques to gossip or look down on others. And some friendships are just plain wicked: partners in crime, friends who use each other, who take pleasure in sin.

Human company or fellowship or friendship is a good thing-but not perfect-not on earth, it isn't!

But in heaven it will be!

Think of the quality of our friends in heaven. Most of my friends in this life are not-how do I say this?-not impressive people! But in heaven they will be: I'll be in with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and the Lord Jesus Christ most of all! This is a glittering array of friends-these are the people you want as references on your next resume.

But, more than this, all the saints in heaven will be impressive friends! Not just the famous who did great things, but also the unknown who never did anything but mop the floor for the glory of God. They too, will be invested with a dignity of the Royal House of Jesus!

The Bible is not fooling around when it says we are Kings! By adoption, we belong to the Lord's family, and in connection with Him, we our very important persons!

Think of the consistency of our friends in heaven. They will be more than all the right people, but they'll be all the right people on their best behavior. A kind man-if he drinks too much-can become mean and hateful. A devout man, when he's depressed, can say awful things about the Lord and His people. Even when we're sober and in a good mood, all of us have a tendency to say or do the wrong thing.

But not in heaven! Think of the holiest, most consistent, courteous, and charming Christian you know. On his best day, he's a boorish loudmouth compared to everyone in heaven!

Think of the purity of heaven. Even the best company in this world is subject to false friends. If even the Apostle had their Judas, then you can be sure that churches, families, marriages, and other fellowships in this life are also open to betrayal.

But the fellowship of heaven is not. In I Corinthians 15, Paul says we will have a spiritual body in heaven. Some take this to mean a body that is not physical! This is as wrong-headed as it can be! We will have material bodies in heaven, but they'll be spiritual because fully possessed, controlled, and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit! And if the Spirit is in us in full, then we cannot become Judases or suffer from them in heaven!

If all this is true, then Brooks is right on: "No company is so noble, so sweet, so desirable, so delightsome, so comfortable, so suitable as this".

This is one of the best things God has reserved till last-for us.

AN AGREEABLE COMPANY

Having made his big point, the Puritan goes on to fill in some of the details, to show just why the company of heaven will be so great. He does this under four heads, all of which are very brief. First, we have:

"All shall be of one mind, of one judgment. In heaven there shall be no discord, no wrangling, no quarrelling, no dividing. Here all shall speak the same things, think the same things and do the same things.In heaven, there shall be no heats, no contests, no debates, and no disputes".

Perfect harmony in this life is not possible. Where you seem to have it, you don't really, because total agreement in this life can only be forced down on people from above and enforced by fear and intimidation. This is not harmony; it's dictatorship!

But in heaven the harmony will be perfect. Why? It's not magic and we're not all blended together. Nor will the harmony be imposed from above against our wills. Nor will we cease to be ourselves with our own personalities and wills. No, in heaven we're more human than we are now, not less human!

There are three reasons for this harmony:

Firstly, our sins are taken away, and so, ego doesn't get in the way. We're not defensive and we won't stick to our plans because they're all plans-wise or not!

Secondly, our weaknesses are taken away. Do you think every disagreement is the result of pride? I don't! I think honest, humble people can honestly and humbly disagree. Because one is wrong or maybe both of them are. Wrong on the issue, I mean. We should move, we should not move. That can become a heated argument between husband and wife: but not because the wife is covetous or the husband is stubborn, but because they sincerely see things differently. But none of that is in heaven because we'll all be wise.

Most importantly, our vision of Christ will be so clear and full that it won't even cross our minds to do anything but what He wants us to do. And, because the Lord has only one Will, we shall have only one will.

Can you imagine how happy your marriage or family would be if there was no arguing of any kind, do disagreement, but perfect cooperation, offered in love? Heaven is like that. Only better.

A SWEET COMPANY

After touching the mind of heaven, Brooks goes on to the heart-

"All the saints in heaven shall be of a sweet, golden disposition. Here, some are of a sour disposition and of a cross and rugged temper, but in heaven all saints shall be of a sweet a soft, a silken disposition".

I know some very fine people whose company I do not like! I respect them, admire them, I try to think well of them, but I'd rather not be with them. Because their personalities clash with mine. Or, because they're grouchy or hard to deal with. You may think that of me-I understand!

But in heaven our personalities will be so stuffed with love that the tempers that now flare, the hard words that are now spoken, the cold ways will be changed fully and forever.

AN UNCHANGING COMPANY

In the third place, Brooks reminds us that the good company we have in heaven will be fixed or permanent or unchanging.

"In heaven the saints shall have a constant enjoyment of one another. As they shall ever be with the Lord, so they shall ever be with one another".

The saddest part of getting older is that your friends get old and die. A dear friend of my wife's now has Alzheimer's Disease and no longer knows my wife-or even her own name. Then, of course, our friends die. We visit them and, though we enjoy the time we spend with them, we wonder if we'll ever see them again. The experience is sweet, but not only sweet-it's also bitter: bittersweet.

But in heaven, all the bitterness of death and disease or even moving away is no more. We shall be with our friends forever, with nothing to come between us.

A KNOWING COMPANY

Finally, Brooks says in the company of heaven there will be no strangers, only friends.

"The saints shall have a real, a particular, and a personal knowledge of one another in heaven. Here, we know a few saints, but in heaven we shall know all".

A friend once called me an introvert. But this made me mad because I'm not one! In fact, I am very outgoing in some settings and terribly shy in others. And the setting that makes me the shyest is the one with people I don't know. This has always been a terrible fault of mine-pray for me about it.

In heaven, there will be no strangers. Everyone will know everyone else and love everyone else and be loved by everyone else!

No one has ever been in the pastorate more than two weeks without being asked, "Will we know each other in heaven?" Thomas Brooks had been asked that-probably a million times-and at the end of this chapter he weighs in on it and says we will-no doubt about it. Not only each other, but all the saints in glory.

His proof is longer than the rest of the chapter, so let me summarize it quickly (and leave a couple of things out). If you want to know more, you can read it for yourself. Will the saints know each other in heaven? Yes. Because:

    1. Adam knew his wife the moment he saw her.
    2. The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration without being introduced to them.
    3. Saints will rise in their own bodies-bodies we have known and will know. All like Christ, but without losing our individuality.
    4. If knowing others leads to happiness and happiness is full in heaven, we must know each other in heaven. And will.

CLOSE

God has reserved the best things till last for His people. One of the best of all will be the company we'll have-and enjoy-in glory.

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is

for brethren to dwell in unity".

May God bring it to pass-for Christ's sake. Amen.

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