October 3, 2020 | by: Tom Kruggel | 0 comments
When I first became a Christian as a young teenager I learned a memorable melody with some lyrics and a chorus that included these words:
This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
[Brumley, Albert E., Arr. © 1937]
I had sort of all but forgotten that song until recently, over 40 years later. Something reignited it in my memory. Little doubt it’s because 2020 has day lighted and contrasted these two homes, heaven and earth, for me now more than ever. Perhaps you can identify. I now find I can’t stop singing that song to myself – it makes me smile.
There’s little need here to rehash all that’s happened in our world these last seven months – we know it all too well and live it all too real, every day. The abrupt divergence from what was, to what is and what is to come (whether in this life or the life thereafter) is playing itself out in living color right before our eyes, like an enrapturing storybook, transforming from what many thought was fiction into very much a non-fiction reality.
And while we all live in the midst of this unfolding drama, I confess that I find myself occasionally sinking into moments of real discouragement and despair. Again, perhaps you can identify. But then when I pause to consider why I’m sinking, I realize it’s because I’m thinking and living as if this world were my home. Makes perfect, logical sense why I’d feel that way - I’m catawampus. Let me explain.
Emotions can sometimes serve as an excellent gauge – they’re often telling us something about ourselves deep within. In this case, they’re telling me to course correct because a Christian’s thoughts should reside, and their manner of life should align, with our true homeland and its King’s rule. So I turn to the only Book that can drop a true plumbline and straighten what’s crooked. If you’re like me, perhaps this will help you as it’s helped me.
Paul, in the Bible, instructs from Philippians, Chapter 3:
“ Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Right off the bat, starting with Verse 18, Paul stresses an earthly bound life as destructive and then a few verses later moves to juxtapose it with a heavenly bound life as glorious. “Imitate me, and don’t think and be as those who are in the world” (paraphrased), writes Paul. Their lives are characterized by (i) hating the cross, (ii) making their appetite their god, and (iii) boasting in what they should be ashamed of and ashamed of what they should be proud of. Any of this sound familiar today?
So when I read this text I said to myself, “I’m not like that.” No, but I do get awfully angry with some of those that are because they’re ‘messing with my homeland’. My homeland? Wait a minute, I thought this wasn’t my homeland - it’s certainly not where my citizenship dwells, at least that’s what the text later states (“… our citizenship is in heaven,” (Verse 20a)). But I’m thinking and feeling like it is and it’s emanating right from the seat of where all that misunderstanding resides - my heart. [Jeremiah 17:9] Why? Because I’ve laid up treasures on this earth [Matthew 6:19-21] as if it were my home. And I’m not referring to material ‘stuff’, but rather treasures like comfort, security, convenience, health, status quo and so on. Not always bad things, but they’ve sadly become the thing.
And if that were not enough, notice that Paul isn’t angry with people that think and live like that. No, he’s brought to tears over them, and not because they’re ‘messing with his homeland’. No, he’s crying because their “… end is destruction…” (Verse 19a). They’re going to hell! Now I think I’m going to cry, not just over my own sin, but over the judgment of those with “… minds set on earthly things” (Verse 19c).
But as citizens of heaven we ought to do much more than cry (although holy tears are good). We’re also told to imitate Paul, not because he’s “… already obtained this or… already perfect” [Philippians 3:12 a (ESV)], but because he continued to “… press on” [Philippians 3:12 b (ESV)] and was always “… straining forward to what lies ahead… the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 3:13 c (ESV)]
As Paul’s world crumbled in around him, together with all its temporal prizes (much like ours today), he focused on the ultimate, imperishable [I Corinthians 9:25] prize that simply is not of this world, but purely of heaven – eternal glory with Christ Jesus.
To fully drive the point home more clearly, we need to read the entirety of what Paul stated just a few sentences earlier in his letter, starting with Verse 13:
“ Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Again, the unheavenly way to think is as “… enemies of the cross of Christ… with minds set on earthly things.” [Ibid.] But remember, we’re no longer enemies of God in Christ. [Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21-23] No, we are children of God in Christ and have already attained a rich inheritance in Him which, among other things, consists of (i) God Himself, (ii) a supernatural joy while living on this earth (no matter what the circumstances), and (iii) a redeemed and glorified body yet to come. [Romans 8:16, 17] Imagine all that! In fact, to quote John Piper, “Our inheritance is so great that it makes every trouble in life seem small by comparison.” [Piper, John; “Children, Heirs, and Fellow Sufferers”, April 21, 2002, John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org]
So I close with some practical helps to reorient our thinking and living from earthly things to heavenly things, particularly during these most troubling times:
1. Avoid Media Strain ~ Access to real time information about what’s going on in this world is easier to obtain now more than ever before. But just because it’s available doesn’t mean we should stare at it or consume it. Frankly, it’s simply too much information, and much of it is destructive and fatalistic, crowding out a Christian’s thoughts on that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy. [Philippians 4:8] Discipline yourself and limit your time absorbing such information, and instead…
2. Stare at Scripture ~ At times like these, and any time for that matter, little else on this earth can lift your spirits, and direct you to your heavenly dwelling and Father, more than the Bible. “… man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” [Deuteronomy 8:3 b (ESV)] Stare at it and consume it, [Joshua 1:8] and find Jesus everyplace you read, for from it is found the word of life which brings joy complete. [I John 1:1-4]
3. Hold Dearly to God’s Sovereignty ~ Remember again that “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne”, [Psalm 47:8 (ESV)] He does as He pleases in heaven and on earth, [Psalm 135:6] and the earth is His footstool. [Isaiah 66:1] This doctrine of God’s sovereignty comforts me more than any other at a time like this, just like the song “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” comforted me when I was sometimes troubled as a child.
4. Keep Doing Good Work ~ Like Paul, we must continue to press on while on this earth, straining forward with an eye toward what lies ahead, fighting “… the good fight of faith”, [I Timothy 6:12 a (ESV)] and remaining steadfast and unmovable, knowing and remembering that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. [I Corinthians 15:58] His grace will be more than sufficient to carry us across the finish line. [II Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 1:6]
5. Pray ~ Without ceasing, [I Thessalonians 5:17] that His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. [Matthew 6:10]
6. Rejoice in Hope ~ We currently live in a world of instant gratification but must wait and hold on with a hope for what is yet to come. Ours is a sure hope, a hope that’s confident that God will do what He said He would do and is faithful to His promises to the end. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [Revelation 21:4 (ESV)] Let us rejoice in this now; we need not wait to rejoice in hope.
7. Cherish the Gospel Above All Else ~ Strip away anything that gets in the way of getting to know Christ and Him crucified. Get laser-focused on the person of Jesus. While on this earth we are to be about being and becoming like Him. This is the one thing Paul pursued and, if we’re to imitate Paul, we’re to do likewise. This world is not our home, and heaven is our homeland - it’s where we belong, and it’s where we’re going. Our King is there and He awaits us. So live your life according to the customs of our homeland [Philippians 1:27] by cherishing the Gospel above all else. What things on this earth are distracting us from that pursuit? To start, pick just one and ask God to help you put it aside in exchange for knowing Jesus above all else.
Finally, rest upon this, that "This same Jesus who is taken up from you shall so come in like manner as you've seen Him go into heaven." [Acts 1:11] And, "You can know this for sure, it's the Father's will that all that the Father gives Him He will raise up at the last day and will lose none of that," [John 6:39]
Fellow strangers and pilgrims, what a heavenly promise worth both living and dying for while we now momentarily reside in a world that… is not our home.
Thomas Kruggel is a non-vocational Pastor at Grace Bible Church and works in The City of San Francisco.
COMMENTS FOR THIS POST HAVE BEEN DISABLED.