6th July 1999
Then you will recogniseThere are two kinds of people in the world: Christians and others. It's good to be accessible to people, and not to cultivate weirdness for the sake of it, but the fact of the matter is that our lives are built on a completely different foundation from theirs. It's easy to get suckered into trying to blend in, but if we do that,
The truth in the mist of lies
Seeing through different eyes
A people set apart
-- Phil Keaggy, Walk in Two Worlds.
[Christians] are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.We are ``in the world, but not of it''. The challenge for us is to be salt and light in the world rather than allowing it to be blandness and darkness to us; for us to change it rather than allowing it to change us.
-- John 17:14-15
On one hand, we need to understand what we are and where we belong; and on the other, we need to understand what we're not and where we don't belong.
But our citizenship is in heaven.Heaven is not just a distant promise for us. It is where we belong. It's our true home. Our time on the earth is merely a phase that we're going through -- like adolescence. Or like a Stoneleigh with lots of rain. When we reach our true home, it will be a relief, just like returning from a rainy Stoneleigh.
-- Philippians 3:20
We need to realise, and to grasp with spirit as well as mind, that the promise of heaven is real: more real than the pale and transitory reality we live in now.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen in temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
-- 2 Corinthians 4:18
(And in the following passage, Paul repeatedly refers to his physical body as a ``tent'', showing just how temporary he considers it.)
[The universe] will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
-- Hebrews 1:11-12
We also need to grasp what a wonderful thing it is to have that destiny, to lose pictures of a vague and boring existence full of clouds and harps. C. S. Lewis says that, while we can't know with any certainty exactly what Heaven will be like, we can be sure that we will enjoy it more than we enjoy anything at all on the earth. And the bible describes it in these terms:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.This is describing an utterly real mode of existence, entirely different from what we experience now. Death, mourning, crying and pain are constant realities for us now: we all know someone who's recently been bereaved or had a marriage broken down, or who is in constant pain due to illness or age. All of that will be ended forever. And the place where we live is our true and natural home.
-- Revelation 21:3-4
We should be inspired by seeing what a difference it makes to those who understand this. The ``heroes of faith'' in Hebrews 11 were all motivated by their understanding of what God had in store for them, and by certainly that they would receive that reward in the home that God had prepared for them. Abraham's understanding of his true home informed his entire lifestyle:
[Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents [...] for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.This vision of the home to come is for us to share. In the mean time, so is the understanding that we are ``not of this world''.
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. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. [...] They were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one.
-- Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
-- 1 Peter 2:11
In the Independent's moral dilemma column this week: should we let our children watch dodgy films? The advice was ``wouldn't you rather they be exposed to this stuff than be weirdos at school, different from all their friends?'' But we are different! Don't be fooled by wise-sounding advice. The bible tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7 and most of the rest of the book.)