“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Any military spouse like me can give you an earful about what it is like have to move every two to four years. You just never quite feel settled down in any one location. I hesitate to buy new furniture because it always gets scratched during a move, and it’s another thing to haul around on my adventures around the country. My husband and I even hesitated to buy a home because we’ll have to rent it for eight years. It’s hard being away from your family and long-time friends too. I wouldn’t, however, trade my experience seeing new places, meeting new people and making new friends for anything. Being uprooted and replanted also teaches you a lot about yourself – who you are and how to have faith in God when you don’t know what to expect next. I often like to think of Ruth who left what little she had to follow her mother-in-law to a foreign land where God helped her to prosper.
March 28, 2008 my husband Mark and I hauled a semi-truck full of our belonging from San Diego, California to Boise, Idaho. Mark’s parents drove my car behind the semi-truck for two days on the way up here. It was so strange stepping out of the truck and planting my feet on new turf that I would call home. Everything seemed so new and so different from what I was used to back home. In some ways, it kind of felt like starting over. I can’t believe the end of the month marks three years of four that God has us stationed in good ol’ Boise!
As Christians, we must remember this Earth is not our home. It’s a temporary dwelling place until God calls us to our real home. Most of us Christians know the saying that “we are in the world but not of the world.” We are pilgrims, sojourners, nomads, wanderers, travelers…whatever it is in which we like to think of ourselves as we follow God’s plan for our lives. Think of the Israelites: They left Egypt and pitched tents around the Tabernacle wherever God told them to go. They gathered their belongings, moved along their herds and flocks, packed their tents… and, because of their stubbornness and hard hearts, did so for 40 years until God felt they were ready to enter into the Promised Land. In Exodus we read God was manifest as a Pillar of Cloud or a Pillar of Fire to always guide the Israelites on the journey, so they could travel either day or night through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).
You could say that us Christians are aliens! No we’re not martians from outer space. We belong to the Kingdom of God. Whenever a new tribe came to live among the Israelites, the people in the tribe were considered aliens. What exactly is an alien? Well, most of us, unfortunately, are familiar with the term “illegal alien.” (Imagine if this phrase had been coined in Bible times!) An alien is defined as someone whose allegiance belongs to another country or government. What are some easy ways to recognize aliens? Sometimes they speak a language foreign to you or have a thick accent making them difficult to understand. Maybe they carry a flag or symbol to remind them of their homeland. Their mannerisms and customs aren’t anything like what you learned growing up. Their food might seem unusual. Their skin color may be darker or lighter, their clothes might look out of place, and even their mode of transportation may be unique. In Boise we have a lot of refugees. It’s easy to spot them walking down the street toting groceries on their heads while wearing colorful, long and flowing garments. Aliens have a way of standing out!
Food for thought: How would a non-Christian recognize that you are different and that your allegiance is to a supreme and living God who isn’t like the gods of Earth? Could someone make this distinction when they meet you? Would it be obvious, subtle or nearly impossible to notice that you are set apart? In II Corinthians 6:17 it says, “‘Therefore, come out from them and be separate,'” says the Lord. What does it mean to be set apart, separate–or to use another term–sanctified? It means that as Christians we do not live for our own pleasure or to please others. We live righteously to serve God and accomplish His will and purpose in our lives while we’re here on Earth. Jesus left us a great example of how we are to live.
Below are some scriptures that are good reminders of how God wants us to live as Christians in this foreign land. Let’s examine each one as we read it.
John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Jesus definitely made it clear to His disciplines and everyone else time and time again that He was an alien during His three years of ministry. He was following the orders given to Him by our Heavenly Father, and this is why He allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured and murdered. What is this “other place” to which Jesus refers? In numerous New Testament scriptures he makes reference to the Kingdom of Heaven. No one, not even Jesus’ disciples, fully grasped His meaning until He died on the cross and rose again.
Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
Everyone longs for acceptance, and this usually comes when we fit in with those we desire to accept us. (Just watch a group of teenagers!) Unfortunately, as Christians, we’ll never be accepted in this world because this world has been given over to the devil until God’s appointed time of return. Following God and following the devil simultaneously don’t mix. In fact, Jesus says He’ll vomit us out of His mouth if we are neither hot nor cold but instead are “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16). We can’t ride the fence. We can’t go to church on Sunday and say we believe in the God and the Bible and then purposely and willfully sin against God during the rest of the week! No one will ever desire or come to know Jesus, or see Jesus in us, if we live like sinners who haven’t been saved by grace with peace, joy hope, faith and love in our hearts and in our lives.
Our minds are to be transformed. There’s an old saying our mothers used to drill into our heads when we were young: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Remember that one? Well, does this describe you? Do you need to take out the trash? Our hearts and minds should be fixated on God and His Word. Here is one of my favorite verses that describes what we should think about as Christians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9. The opposite of all these things can be found in Romans 1:28 when God gave the people over to their reprobate minds…it’s pretty scary! By meditating on God’s Word and letting it infuse your mind, it then influences your decisions and your actions. God tells us to love Him will all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength (Luke 10:27). People will take notice when it is the scriptures and the Holy Spirit guiding you. It could even lead them to accept Jesus Christ instead of settling for being accepted by mere man. This is what God hopes to accomplish through us!
John 15:19: If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Many people who rise to power do so because the people just love them and eat up everything they say and do and try to mimic them. I think of movie stars in Hollywood, CEOs of big companies, and even past presidents. They rise to fame, glory and power. The Antichrist will be one such as this. People who want their “ears tickled” (2 Timothy 4:3) will flock to him as their leader. We must be careful not to fall victim to false prophets or someday to “the beast/lawless one/man of sin/son of Satan/seed of perdition.” The attention on these powerful people will be short lived. They will have their 15 minutes of fame (or maybe a little longer) here on Earth, but when we die we all turn to dust, just as we all came from dust (Eccl. 3:19-20). My pastor mentioned this verse of Sunday. He tries to remember than no matter what someone’s title, he or she, like the rest of us, is made of dust! 🙂 Someday soon God will come back to reclaim this Earth too, thankfully.
I hope you will take some time to examine yourselves and determine whether you are truly living as an alien. Are you set apart to do the work of God? Pray this prayer with me:
“Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for making me from the dust of the ground and breathing life into me. Please help me to commit each day of my life to accomplishing your good, pleasing and perfect will here on this foreign land we call Earth. May everything I say and do be for Your glory. Let men come to know you as the Holy Spirit is illuminated in my actions and my words throughout my life. Please help me to remember that I am not here to please man or myself, but to serve You. I love you and thank you for all you have done and will do. Amen.”