Recently I travelled overseas to visit my family. I flew from Johannesburg via Frankfurt and then directly to the United States. As the plane approached touchdown in the USA I could hardly wait to disembark, clear customs and then head for Dunkin Donuts in the next terminal. I love their coffee and have always had a sweet tooth for one particular type of doughnut—Boston Cream. Ah, pastry paradise!
Well, having cleared customs, I boarded the airport shuttle and headed for the departure terminal for my final flight to my ultimate destination. After clearing another security checkpoint I got my bearings and headed for “my” doughnut. Having been at this airport on several occasions, I was certain where my caffeinated doughnut desire could be satisfied.
As I ascended to the top of the escalator and began to walk the long terminal, I was deeply disappointed to find that the Dunkin Donut shop was nowhere to be found. I was confounded by this absence because I was in the city where the world headquarters of Dunkin Donuts is situated. Why would they close their store in this busy airport? What is wrong with Boston? It made no sense to my culinary senses! That is, until it occurred to me that in fact I was not in Boston; I was in Chicago!
I suppose that, after 24 hours of travel, I had lost my locational equilibrium, but the inability to fulfil my doughnut desire brought me back to reality. I would eventually be able to satisfy my craving, but only after several more hours of waiting at the airport before catching my final flight to the land of caffeine and calorie-loaded carbohydrates. In the meantime, I had to settle for a Chicago style hotdog. This high fat, low carb thing was not nearly as satisfying. And I suppose that the only one who would prefer this over a Boston Cream doughnut would be Tim Noakes. I would need to wait for doughnut satisfaction. And when I did finally arrive in Boston, never did a cup of coffee nor a doughnut taste so good!
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said that there is a sermon in every flower. In other words, spiritual truths can be illustrated from all of God’s creation. I suppose that this also include doughnuts. It did for me.
As a Christian, I have a longing for glory. The Spirit of God moves me to aspire for holiness as defined by Christlikeness (see Philippians 2:12–13). I long for the experience of being “saved to sin no more.” I long for the day when I will be in the presence of God and will experience the never-ending reality of being all that I was created and regenerated to be. With such a desire, it is often difficult to find much lasting satisfaction in the here and now. Though, by God’s grace, He does bless my life with many “Boston Cream” experiences, nevertheless I am aware that I have not arrived at the homeland of such. To stick with the metaphor, I am still in Chicago and so I cannot expect the fullness of what Boston has to offer. Sometimes I have to be content with hot dogs. I often need this reminder.
For instance, though I desire Christlike perfection, and though I strive to live like Him, nevertheless I know that this desire awaits my final flight to “Boston” where the promise of full and final salvation will be fully mine. In the meantime God sustains me day by day with all that I need for life and godliness here in the “Chicago” of a fallen world. I need to be grateful for evidence of growth in grace today while never losing sight of the promised fulfilment of all of my godly desires in that final day upon reaching my final and glorious destination.
I think that one reason that the Lord says so little in the Scriptures about heaven is because we simply cannot grasp its glory. He gives us enough to whet our appetite and to ignite our imaginations and to motivate our aspirations, yet there is so much more that only experience will actually satisfy. I can describe a Boston Cream donut but until you’ve tasted one, you just cannot imagine the bliss! Let me apply this further.
I love the local church. And I deeply love the local church to which the Lord has connected me. I love meeting with my brothers and sisters to worship “in spirit and truth.” I love those times when we sense the Lord’s gracious and glorious presence. I often pray that we will experience being immersed in the enormity of His love (see Ephesians 3:14–20). I am blessed by the fellowship of believers who are passionate about Christ. I thrill at God’s gracious and mighty answer to our congregational prayers. Spirit-filled Body life is wonderful and can be very satisfying to the soul. It is a taste of heaven—albeit temporarily. For, you see, there remains a sense of unsatisfied desire. As great as church life can be now, it is nothing compared to the unhindered worship that we will enjoy in glory.
Spirit-filled church life is the aroma of an eventual and everlasting perfected church life. But the aroma should not be mistaken for the full experience of forever sinking my teeth into sinless existence in the presence of the sinless Sovereign. In other words, I should not expect, in the “Chicago” of fallen church life, to be satisfied as if I were in the “Boston” of sinless church life. That day will come, but I should not expect now what is reserved for the final leg of my journey.
What I am simply trying to illustrate is that we are not yet home. Our desire is for the fullness of that for which we have been predestined (Ephesians 1:3–4). But since we have not yet arrived at that destination, let us keep our wits about where we are. Let us not despise the hotdogs while at the same time maintaining our desire for that which truly satisfies, the presence and the perfections of Jesus Christ our Lord.