KNOWING GOD THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME “By faith, Abraham sojourned in the land he’d been promised, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” (Heb.11:9) Some time ago Terri and I were listening to an old record of our favorite songs from way back, by a man called Jim Reeves. For those of you who don’t know of him, he was a country and western singer back in our teen years. One of the songs he sang stood out to me, and some of the words which struck a cord in my heart were, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”
When I’d first heard that song in my teens, while I found it very catchy, the words didn’t mean a whole lot to me. Sure, it sounded nice, but to my unregenerated ears, its effect was the same as hearing that wonderful song, “Amazing Grace”, stirring, but beyond my natural ability to comprehend.
But hearing it again, maybe fifteen years or so ago, the effect was very different. I knew exactly what the song writer was talking about; the difference being that I’d been reborn of God in the mean time.
This world isn’t my home any more; I really am just passing through, along with all of God’s true children. After all, Jesus told us, in Jh.17:11-23(especially verse sixteen), that we are not of this world, just as he isn’t. Its ideals and values, its hopes and expectations, its goals and ambitions; while they were much like my own as a young unregenerated person, they are now very definitely alien to me.
Another line in the song went something like this, “I don’t feel at home in this world any more.” Those who truly know God can identify with that, because not only do we not feel comfortable in any kind of close company, close fellowship, or business venture, with unbelievers, but they themselves also quickly come to avoid us, and keep away. (Acts 5:13) But coming back to Heb.11:9, the word ‘sojourned’ used in the RSV is not exactly a word in common usage today, so it’s probably easy of us to miss the true meaning. A sojourner in a country is one who’s not a native, not a citizen, but there only on a temporary visa, an exile from his or her true home. In this country of Australia we can surely see many such people; those who have never really, in their hearts, settled and become part of this society. They are still aliens, no matter how well settled they may appear to have become.
For me personally, this is a very contradictory position to be in. On the one hand, as a natural man, I love this country, but on the other, as a spiritual man, the kingdom of our Father is my true home, and I long for the day when he calls me back there, but, in the mean time, I long to see others come to know him just as I do. I long to bear much more fruit for his glory (Jh.15:1-8), so I can identify, though it’s only in a very small way, with the apostle Paul when he shares how he’s uncertain of how he’d answer the question of which position he’d choose. (Phil.1:21-22) While on the natural level I love this country, yet, because its system of values, of rights and wrongs, is the same as the rest of the world’s, having turned its back, especially in its legal and moral systems, on God’s values of right and wrong, I can never really be a part of it. This is so clear to me when I read passages like Jas.4:4 which tells me that if I’m an unfruitful servant for my God, it’s very likely that I’ve forgotten that “friendship with the world is enmity with God, and whoever wishes to be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God.”
I remember very clearly how his Word tells me that’s exactly what my position was, before I was reborn of the Spirit of God, and become a sharer in Christ’s death on the cross for me, by faith in that Word. (Rom.5:10) Tell me, why would I ever want to go back to that position? How could I ever be so ungrateful!! I would be like a dog returning to its vomit, or a pig, after being washed, returning to the muck of my past. (2Pet.2:20-22) Remember Jesus’ words, “Don’t love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, then love of the Father is not in them. For all that is in the world, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the World. And the world is passing away, and its lusts with it. But those who do the will of God abide for ever.” (1Jh.2:15-17) Mind you, it’s vitally important to remember that text is talking about loving what the world has to offer, not about needing some of its quite legitimate things. It’s also very important to note that the scripture does not say “If anyone loves the evil things of the world”, but in fact it simply says “the things”, obviously meaning love of everything that the world has to offer, good as well as bad.
And also, remembering here what Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2Tim.4:10); we can surely see that what the Word is talking about is lusting after, coveting what the world is trying to get us entangled in; its possessions and accolades.
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