Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

You are an Alien

A Reoccurring Theme

A reoccurring theme that emerges in the later books of the New Testament is the concept that Christians are aliens or strangers on this earth. According to God's Word, if you profess the Lord as your Savior, then you are truly a stranger on this earth. You are no longer a citizen of earth, but rather a citizen of heaven.

Here's the problem, though. We've never seen our permanent, eternal residence. All we have ever known is our temporary address. We have to walk out on faith that God's Word speaks truth when it states that our eternal inheritance waits for us in God's heavenly Kingdom.

Earth Is Our Temporary Residence

We as Christians would be different, perhaps, if we had originally been born in heaven and experienced a life there in our permanent residence, and then boarded a flying saucer and flew to the earth to spend 70-100 years living here. In the light of an eternal life, that many years is a blink of an eye. It is an extremely brief amount of time.

But, we are all mortal human beings, born first at our temporary address with the promise of a greater life beyond this mortal one, which we, of course, have difficulty understanding with our finite minds. We must take God at His Word, and trust that what He has told us is true.

In the great Hall of Faith chapter, the writer of the book of Hebrews discusses this very concept of a temporary address versus a permanent, eternal home. He writes about the faith of the great Old Testament saints such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. He summarizes their faith and the way they lived their lives here on earth in this way:
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 (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Traveling Light

About two years ago, I started having an interest in world travel after reading about Tim Ferriss's adventures in The 4-Hour Workweek. From Tim's book, I got turned on to another worldwide traveler named Rolf Potts and his book Vagabonding. Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter, a concept that is taught by these worldwide travelers is traveling with as little as possible. Their philosophy is to stay "lean and mean" so that you can be as mobile as possible in your travels.

Let's say that you worked for a company that wanted to send you over to Iraqi to help that country rebuild its infrastructure. Your company gave you a timetable of two years to move over to that country, complete the assigned task, and then move back to the states. In the process of this overseas work assignment, would you move to Iraqi, buy an expensive home, furnish that home with expensive furniture and, in general, live as though Iraqi was your new permanent home? I doubt it very seriously. You would most likely live as inexpensively as possible and save as much money as you could in your bank accounts back in the states. You would be looking forward to completing your work responsibilities and moving back to your permanent home, where you could enjoy the fruits of your labor.

But this is exactly what we as Christians have a tendency to do. We act like our temporary home is the permanent one. It's so easy for us as mere mortals to get hung up with the cares of this world. We can easily get caught up in the world's money mindset of the bigger house, the better car, and the millionaire retirement account. All of this stuff is going to come to an end in a relatively brief amount of time in light of eternity. We would be better off to travel lightly on this earth and invest as much time, energy, abilities, resources, and finances into our permanent home - God's Kingdom.

Instructions For The Temporary Address

OK, so if we acknowledge at least that earth is a temporary stop before we reach our final destination, how should we live while we are here? In 1 Peter 1:13-19, the Apostle Peter encourages all believers to live out holy lives in the following manner:
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to endure the suffering and struggles of the Christian life here on earth, because we have a great reward waiting for us in the life to come.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:32-36).
Conclusion: Live Like An Alien

In this post, we have seen from God's Word that the focus of a Christ follower should be on our eternal destination, not on our temporary residence. Living with this mindset as a Christian can be a challenge since all we have ever known is our temporary, earthly address. We have not yet experienced our eternal, heavenly, permanent home. We must live a life based on faith and trust in God's promises to us in His Word.

In my concluding thoughts, let me give you three key concepts in living like an alien while we reside here on earth at our temporary address:
  1. Transform your thinking. In Romans 12:2 we read, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." As we live life here at our temporary address, we need to filter our thinking and actions through the mind of Christ, not on what the world teaches. We learn the mind of Christ through His Word. Allow the Bible to be your main filter on all your decision making.
  2. Shed the unnecessary. Travel lightly. In Hebrews 12:1-2a we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." In order to complete our assignment here at our temporary address, we need get rid of anything that is going to weigh us down. The love of money and possessions is one of those major life areas that weighs us down on our earthly journey.
  3. Invest in God's Kingdom. In Matthew 6:31-33 we read, "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." As we live life here at our temporary address, it's very easy for us to get consumed with what we need here on earth. Our Lord asks us not to worry about our basic needs. He will take care of us and sustain us as we keep our focus on the Kingdom of God. Pour as much time, energy, abilities, and finances into His Kingdom work as you possibly can and observe what happens. As you focus your life on what God wants to accomplish through you, you will be storing up treasures in your permanent address, your heavenly home (Matthew 6:19-20).
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