31 August 2012

‘Live as Foreigners…’

Currently, as I write this I am overseas far away from home…

When I arrived I had to learn a completely different culture, etiquette and vocabulary. How and where to go for transport, places to visit to eat, where to go and what to do for sightseeing and history landmarks. It was all daunting and at times difficult. All the comforts of home and familiarity of conveniences now a world away. But then, as believers, this is to be expected.

The last 18 months have been especially difficult. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances I have lost my dreams, vision, passions, confidence, hopes, convictions and enthusiasm in my faith. My life had gone upside down and everything I depended on has become nothing. Slowly these are coming back, but at a price.

1 Peter 2:11 - Dear friends, I warn you as temporary residents and foreigners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

Just this week I was walking in Green Park, London seeking God with the hours ticking by like minutes. An overwhelming sense of wandering aimlessly with no direction or vision for my life came upon me.
But then, as believers, this is to be expected.

A pilgrim (traveler or wanderer) is one who travels to a distance from his own country to visit a holy place, or to pay his devotion to his God. The meaning here is, that the Christian has no permanent home on earth; their citizenship is not here; they are mere sojourners, and passing on to their eternal home in the heavens. In more details there true understanding is they should not:

1)      Regard the earth as their home;
2)      Should not seek to acquire permanent possessions here, as if they were to remain here, but should act as travelers do, who merely seek a temporary lodging, without expecting permanently to reside in a place;
3)      Should not allow any such attachments to be formed, or arrangements to be made, as to impede their journey to their final home, as pilgrims seek only a temporary lodging, and steadily pursue their journey;
4)      Even while engaged here in the necessary callings of life - their studies, their farming, their merchandise - their thoughts and affections should be on other things. One in a strange land thinks much of his country and home; a pilgrim, much of the land to which he goes; and even while his time and attention may be necessarily occupied by the arrangements needful for the journey, his thoughts and affections will be far away;
5)      Should not encumber ourselves with much of this world's goods. Many professed Christians get so many worldly things around them, that it is impossible for them to make a journey to heaven. They burden themselves as no traveler would, and they make no progress. A traveler takes along as few things as possible; and a staff is often all that a pilgrim has. We make the most rapid progress in our journey to our final home when we are least encumbered with the things of this world.

1 Peter 1:17 - And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners in the land.

A pilgrim does not give himself up to the indulgence of sensual appetites, or to the soft pleasures of the soul. All these would hinder his progress, and turn him off from his great design. The word ‘foreigners’ means a sojourner, one without the rights of citizenship, as distinguished from a citizen. Specifically, Christians are not properly citizens of this world, but that their citizenship is in heaven, and that they are here as mere sojourners.

Hebrews 11:8-10 - By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham was in a similar place. He wandered the earth with no real sense of purpose and vision when God called him. He was far away from the comforts of home, probably lost and confused. But he had faith that His God was leading him to a better place. That His best was worth taking the risk of a lifetime. He saw a heavenly city prepared for him long ago. Deep down, he knew he didn’t belong here on earth…

Hebrews 11:13-16 - All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Being strangers and pilgrims we profess to seek a heavenly country, not entangling in the affections with earthly things which are only temporary. Others spend all their time and efforts acquiring earthly wealth at the neglect of the salvation of their souls. But we do not gain the world and lose our soul. The children of God live not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

We have a heavenly city of the New Jerusalem. We have rights and privileges which are heavenly and eternal. Our fellowship is with God the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, and the spirits of the redeemed mankind of the Church. We have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts; and regard not the body, which we know must perish. We confidently expect we shall be raised from death and be glorified with Christ in heavenly bodies.

Friend, heaven is your home and God is your portion. All kinds of earthly desires, whether those of the flesh or of the eye, or those included in the pride of life, are here comprised in the words fleshly lusts.

Philippians 3:20 - For our citizenship is in heaven.