A follower of Jesus Christ is a person in exile.
I know that it doesn't feel that way.
We were born in this world.
We are comfortable with the culture that we live in.
This world is familiar.
It feels like home.
We may sing songs about this world not being our home or talk about how God has mansions waiting for us in heaven, but the reality is that we like it here.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
God created a good world, and that means there are many things that are part of this world that are enjoyable. We should find joy in this life.
Yet, one of the themes that runs through the Bible is that God's people are to be a holy people, a set apart people. Over and over again God's people choose to be another "Canaanite people" rather than God's covenant people.
We have this tension of living in a world that God intended for us to enjoy while seeking to live differently from the world around us.
To do this properly we need a shift in our thinking.
Traditionally we ask the question: "How close to the line can I go?"
More often than not we are interested in how we can push God's boundaries so we can live comfortably in the world.
We need to make a shift to turn away from the world and move in the direction of Jesus.
You and I are created in the image of God. This means we are to demonstrate His character in this world. We do that best when we follow the example of Jesus.
Jesus lived as foreigner in this world:
I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14, NLT)
In his prayer to the Father, Jesus confessed that the world hated him and his followers because they did not belong to it. Jesus' teachings and his way of life were foreign to the the way of the world.
Foreigners stands out because they are different.
They speak a different language.
They dress differently.
They celebrate different holidays.
They have different values.
Christians are to live like foreigners in a strange land. Our goal isn't to learn the language and the customs of this world, but to adopt the customs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12; NLT)
How does the apostle Peter want us to live? As "temporary residents" and "foreigners"! We are displaced. We are not at home!
I want you to catch this: when we live like the world we are not part of God's Kingdom!
God isn’t interested in people who will merely confess Him and believe in Him. The Bible teaches us that everyone will bow a knee confess Jesus as Lord. What God wants is a people who will live by faith, people who will bow before Him now.
People who will be motivated by a different set of desires.
People who live by a different set of standards.
People who love people no one else will love.
People who will not abandon the customs of their home country, but will teach those customs to others.
By living differently we proclaim to the world that there is a better way to live!
In his book The Barbarian Way
, Erwin McManus wrote:
From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God. From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world. Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God. You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most. (p. 93)
Are you walking out of step with the world?
My great concern for American Christians is that we are not.
I know that many of us have a different moral standard than the world, but our hopes and dreams are the same dreams the world around us has. Our dreams and desires center around success, money, happiness, and love. The list could go on, but the point is that while we are morally different from the world we are not spiritually different from them.
That my friends was one of the problems Jesus had with the Pharisees. They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones. White washed tombs.
We need to quit fooling ourselves that to be different from the world is just about having a different moral standard. Being different from the world is primarily about our desires, dreams, attitudes, and thoughts. It is about the direction of our lives and what we are willing to sacrifice to accomplish.
A temporary resident doesn’t put down roots in the land he is living. Instead he hopes and dreams for his home and thinks of the day when he will finally join his family there.
How can we think about settling for the things of this world when God is offering us so much more?
How can we think about being like the citizens of the world when God is calling us to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?
Since this world is not our home let us live like citizens of Heaven.