By Roland W. Keith
As we begin part two of our study, we do so with the understanding that our primary duty as obedient Christians is to proclaim God’s word to the lost (Mark 16:15). There are many ways we can be involved in our church’s evangelization efforts, but none are more important than being able to simply explain to another person why we believe what we do about Jesus Christ and God’s plan of salvation. To do that we must be well-studied in the gospel and the other New Testament writings. It is a matter of common sense that to educate others in a subject we must be well-educated on the topic ourselves. In John 8:31-32 we read, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."”
To know the truth, we must abide in God’s word. To abide in the word is to conform to or comply with it. To do that we must first be intimately familiar with the word and comprehend its meaning. Faith, as Paul wrote, comes through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It is a noble thing to proclaim God’s word, for as Paul wrote to Timothy, God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 10:17). It is by that knowledge that we are able to receive the blessings that God so desires to bestow upon us, for as Peter noted: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (II Peter 1:3).
Jesus said His word was truth, as already noted; He also said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). The Holy Scriptures are not just another collection of worldly wisdom. Their power and insight are from a much greater source than that, as Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). The scholarship gained from being a student of the Bible is superior to all the worldly forms of enlightenment gained by man on his own, because it comes from the source of all knowledge.
There is something else that is unique about the word of God. It was written with a laser-like focus designed to penetrate and effect one thing with spiritual truth— and that one thing is the human heart [intellect]. Regarding its power to do so Paul wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13). So powerful and precise is this word that it is the final arbiter of our fate on the day of judgment (John 12:48). Given its unique nature it is a prudent person who harnesses its power to enlighten their path in life (Psalm 119:105).
Seen from a proper perspective the Bible is the greatest guide to a worthy life ever written. No philosophy of man, no style of life or life path guru, no self-help book, nor any other path devised by man can do what the Bible does for us. Moreover, it is not just a guide for a life well-lived on earth. As Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). As Christians we are sanctified by the word (John 17:17) and saved by the word. Considering all that the word has to offer us we, like the Bereans, should receive and examine the scriptures with all eagerness (Acts 17:11). However, our examinations into its truths should be made with a sober-minded and critical determination to test all that we are being told against the word itself with the intent of discovering all of its goodness and to separate out all error from our understanding (I Thessalonians 5:21; I John 4:1-3).
Our goal as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible is to incorporate its teachings into our lives, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). For James to rightly handle the word was to live according to the Lord’s teachings and to obey His commands, as he wrote, “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22-23). Next, we are to teach and admonish one another as Christians in order to build the church up and strengthen it (Colossians 3:16).
Ultimately, our goal is to not only grow in our own faith, and not only to strengthen our brethren, but to be able to proclaim God’s word to the lost of the world. Whether its from a pulpit or one-on-one with family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers on a plane it doesn’t matter. We should want to share our salvation with others. That is a part of being a member of the Lord’s body. It is a part of the doing that Jesus spoke of when He said, “Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:24-26).
By Roland W. Keith
After Moses had written the Law and given it to the priests the Bible records: “And Moses commanded them, "At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that He will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:10-12).
The great lawgiver understood the importance of keeping the knowledge of God’s word instilled in the people. In like manner, after the Israelites had defeated the city of Ai in the early stages of their conquest of the promised land, in accordance with Moses’ instruction Joshua placed half the people on Mt. Gerizim and half across the valley on Mt. Ebal to bless the people, then afterwards he read the blessings and the curses, all the Book of the Law, before the people (Joshua 8:33-35). Such devotion to God’s word was, and is, important to those who would faithfully follow Him, for to truly do His will we must know His word completely.
Nonetheless, while they remained a religious people somewhere along the way the Jewish people wandered away from the word of God. So far away in fact that the Book of the Law was found lying discarded in the neglected temple at one point only to be rediscovered by Hilkiah the high priest during the reign of Josiah, who read the book before the people and brought them back into a covenant relationship with the LORD (II Kings 22:8-23:3).
In Jesus time it was customary for the Law and the Prophets to be read before the assembly on the Sabbath and then to have someone, often a visiting rabbi, speak words of encouragement or teach a lesson based on the reading (Acts 13:15). Jesus used such an occasion to reveal Himself to the people according to Luke 4:16-21. Later, after the Lord’s church had been established, the apostles sought to ensure that their inspired teachings were read and taught in the church (Colossians 4:16; I Thessalonians 5:27; I Timothy 4:13).
The importance of teaching from God’s word was made manifest in the writings of the apostle Paul: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). It is through reading and studying the scriptures that we attain to the level of Christian living and service that is acceptable to the Lord. In the same letter to Timothy Paul also wrote, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:1-5).
In Josiah’s time the people had turned from God’s word because it had literally been placed out-of-sight-out-of-mind or they had willingly rejected it (Hosea 4:6). Since the time of the early church the word of God has been ever present and increasingly available to all men. However, one of the great dangers today is that people are either not devoted enough to personal study and too easily lead astray by false teaching, or they willfully look for preachers and teachers who will twist the word to tell them what they want to hear instead of the truth (II Corinthians 4:4).
Anyone who truly wants to follow God and do his or her part in getting the truth out to the world is going to look at the study and understanding of God’s word as one of life’s primary purposes and a Christian duty. How are we to obey all that the Lord has given us to do if we do not know and comprehend on a personal level what those things are? To keep His doctrines, we must be educated in them and able to clearly distinguish them from the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9). Only then can we demonstrate our love for the Lord by our obedience to Him (Matthew 5:19; John 14:15, 21; I John 2:3, 4; 3:24; 5:3; Revelation 14:12).
By Roland W. Keith
Psalm 90:1-2 is designated “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” In it Moses prays, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” We see from his words that Moses understood that God is both an eternal being and the Creator of the heavens and the earth (see also Psalm 33:6-9; 93:1; Hebrews 1:2; 11:3; Colossians 1:16). As our Creator does it make sense for us to question Him or rebel against Him? Paul asked the Romans, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21).
God created man for many reasons. He made us in His Own image to have a like being to commune with. He made us for good works. He wanted someone to bestow His love upon who would reciprocate that love of their own free will. At the same time, He wants, in fact commands, that we behave in a manner worthy of the eternal spirit that He has given each of us. A spirit that was created to reflect His own attributes. We are the only creatures in His creation with such a Spirit. The only one set apart with the attributes of our Creator. With the ability to understand the universe around us. To appreciate it and its Creator. To comprehend its grandeur and feel awe for the all-encompassing power of the One Who brought it forth. We are the only ones called to acknowledge Him as the eternal and Supreme Being. The only ones required to worship Him, even as He offers us a place in heaven as His beloved children. However, though He has the right to command our obedience and our praise and adoration He does not compel it. Among His own attributes He has instilled in us is free will. He has given us the right to choose or reject His call. To stand with Him or against Him.
For those who stand with their LORD, there will be the reward of eternal life with God, but for those who reject their God, there will be eternal punishment. At the end of our lives we will be called upon to give an account of our lives (Romans 14:12). Did we live our lives according to God’s word or did we reject it, and live as we pleased in rebellion to God? Jesus said it is by the word He has given us to lead us to salvation and guide us in right living that we will be judged (John 12:48; Hebrews 4:12). It is our relationship to His word that will reward us for being His obedient followers or condemn us for fighting against Him. Paul looked around at his fellow man and noted, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).
Solomon was a wise man. The Bible tells us the wisest man who had ever lived. After studying the world and testing all that it offered, he concluded, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Hundreds of years later Peter wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (I Peter 2:11). Solomon and Peter both understood that we are just passing through this life on our way to eternity. The best we can do, the right thing to do is to keep God’s commandments. It is in His divine word that right and wrong behavior is defined. Paul enumerated many of these behaviors when he wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-24). Accordingly, we are to obey all the words of God, including abstaining from these behaviors and other works of darkness (I Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:11; II Timothy 2:19).
It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to avoid sin and focus on those things that are just and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Everything that we do should be not just pure in motivation, but in compliance with the will of God. Whatever we do for ourselves, or families, our church, our community, our country, and our fellow man should be done according to the will of God, as the psalmist wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Joshua gave the Israelites an ultimate from God: choose whom you will serve, saying, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Each of us has a choice to make. Who will we serve? Will we serve the world, self, or the LORD? Will we establish our families according to God’s pattern (Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:23; 6:1-4), or will we just wing it?
What about our businesses or work relationships, how we treat friends and strangers, our attitude toward government (Romans 13:1)? Paul told the Romans that the unrighteous would be “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless,” among other things (Romans 1:30-31). To Timothy he wrote, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy” (II Timothy 3:2). For the Christian there is no mystery as to what our attitude or behavior should be. The Bible makes it clear. If we stick with the Bible and apply its lessons to our lives, we will do fine.
In his letter to the Colossians Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (2:8). Every generation seems to be susceptible to false doctrine and willful disobedience among those who profess faith in God, a problem that prompted the Lord to say, “in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men."
And He said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition… thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:7-9, 13). Such behavior also led Him to ask, “Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46; see also I John 2:4). We are either with the Lord or against Him (Matthew 12:30; 6:24).
This is true not only for those of the world, but for those in the church as well, as Peter wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22). We must always strive to keep our minds set on the things of the spirit and not of the flesh (Romans 8:6; see also Mark 8:36-37). To fail is to incur the wrath of God, and as Paul noted, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31; also 12:29). And, as Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). If we choose to fight against God, we will lose.
It is our chose. We can choose instead to take a stand for God and fight against the world, arming ourselves as Paul told the Ephesians: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (6:10-12; see also II Corinthians 10:3-5).
The armor of God is fashioned in His word, as noted by John: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
If for some reason we feel unworthy to take up the cause of Christ or to accept His offer of salvation remember what one of His greatest opponents, Paul, wrote after his own conversion: “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” (Philippians 3:13-14). It has been said that nothing worth having comes easy. In many respects that is true. Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). The Lord does not place on us more than we can bear, and the more we trust and turn to Him, the easier it gets, but we must remember it is a fight that we must engage in for the rest of our time on earth for it was also the Lord Who said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
By Roland W. Keith
When a Pharisaic lawyer asked the Lord about the great commandment Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40; 19:19: Mark 12:29-31). Many years later the Lord’s brother, James, dubbed the second of these commandments the “royal law,” writing, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well” (James 2:8). Think about it. A royal law is one handed down directly from the king, and so long as he does not change his mind the law cannot be altered. Now consider that God is the eternal King of kings. The Bible tells us that He does not change His mind or fail to keep His promises or turn from what He has purposed (James 1:17; I Samuel 15:29; Hebrews 13:8; Numbers 23:19; Proverbs 19:21; Matthew 5:18). According to scripture all of God’s commands and all His promises are based on these two foundational commandments. And since He is a King Who does not change, His will in all matters is immutable.
We are, and forever will be, subject to these two commandments and all others based on them. So important are these two commands that when a lawyer tested Jesus with the question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25), Jesus responded, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:26-28). If we truly understand both commands from God, they will lead us to eternal life. The first command will lead us to seek the truth of God’s word and obey it and the second will ensure that we live up to our responsibilities to our fellow man in sharing the truth and living amongst each other as God intended.
Concerning the royal law, we find that it existed long before Jesus’s or James’s statements. God told the Israelites not to take vengeance or bear a grudge against one another, and to love the stranger among them as themselves (Leviticus 19:18, 34). Jesus would later add that we are to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-45). Paul taught that we should love and serve one another, rather than seeking to destroy the other (Galatians 5:13-15). The first command dictates our relationship to God. The royal law determines how we come together with our fellow man to our own betterment and survival, by learning to love our neighbor (everyman). The love spoken of in the law is known in Christian circles as agape, and according to John Stacy (Messianic Psalms and Other Sermons, p. 36), “Agapao (shalt love) means "to love the unlovable, the unlovely, those who cannot merit nor deserve our love. It is unconquerable benevolence. It also means to act intensely, to eagerly cling to, and to affectionately admire."
Clearly, agape does not resemble what most of the world is thinking when it speaks of love. Although concern for our fellow man is not a foreign idea among the world it is not consistently adhered to, nor does it encompass all that the Lord’s definition would require. We are to look beyond the shortcomings of the world or individuals (find something to value in all we encounter) and give aid where and when we can, with an eye toward their eternal needs first and their worldly needs or desires secondly. This means that agape may often be a soft and gentle hand, while at other times it may come in the form of “tough love.” We must also understand what the world can produce if we do not step forward to exercise agape. All we have to do is look at history to see where agape was lacking or missing entirely: In the gas chambers of Nazi Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia, the human sacrifices of various religions throughout the ages, a society that claims concern for the world but produces more and more disenfranchised youth and citizens who place little or no value on human life and turn to mass violence to vent their helplessness, frustration and rage.
According to Jesus our neighbors are not only those we know and care about but also include the stranger in need (Galatians 6:10) One of the Lord’s best known lessons was a story Jesus told the lawyer mentioned above that dealt with this very subject: “Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37). Whether we live next door or across the world; whether we are trusted countrymen or despised adversaries, the Lord is telling us our true neighbors are those who are our friends and those we count not only as our enemies but our persecutors as well (Matthew 5:43-44). For many of us the idea of counting those who do us harm or even seek our death may seem like a bridge too far. However, we must remember that even while we were in rebellion against God, He sent His Son to earth to die for us (Romans 5:8). Requiring us to care for our fellow man is not beyond our means if we truly love the Lord. Confucius once said, “Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do unto you.” A rather passive but effective means of “do no harm.” Jesus on the other hand went beyond that, requiring His followers to take action. It is not good enough to simply do no harm, we must actively seek to benefit others on top of that, as Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Our Lord also once instructed, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Our ultimate goal is to treat all men as God treats us. It certainly means to cause no form of injury— do not murder, steal, or bear false witness among other things (Deuteronomy 5:16-21; Romans 13:8-9). As Paul wrote, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). But again, it means more than simply to do no harm. We must look to others welfare; to build them up and do them good (Romans 15:2). We must be honest in our dealings with those we encounter in life (Ephesians 4:25). And, while we should naturally do good to those who are members of God’s household, we cannot neglect to help anyone else when the opportunity presents itself (II Corinthians 3:2). When we do God’s work in the world it allows His light to shine through us to His glory (Matthew 16:15-16). That being said there is no greater thing we can do among friends and strangers than to fulfill Gods command to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
John informed his readers that the one who does not have a love for others abides in death (I John 3:14). When we love our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the lost of the world, we emulate Christ. As John also wrote, “We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). For those who struggle with their willingness to help others ask yourself this question: Can we fulfill the great commandment without fulfilling the royal law? Can we truly obey God without honoring both of these laws? As Jesus said, all the law and prophets, that is all the blessings and promises of the LORD depend on these two commandments, including the promise of eternal life.
By Roland W. Keith
This study’s title is significant in that it describes three extremely different categories of people. A citizen is a person entitled to their country’s protection by birth or naturalization. In turn they owe the country their allegiance and loyalty for what it provides. Instead of being a mutually exclusive relationship it is mutually inclusive. What is good for one is good for the other, and what is bad for one is bad for the other. And, what is good for both is deemed good for all and worthy of sharing and protecting. A stranger on the other hand is an outsider, who is neither a friend nor acquaintance. They are unaccustomed to or unacquainted with the country’s customs and laws; moreover, their loyalty may lie elsewhere, and all entitlements and protections due them are minimal at best. Such a one may forever remain a stranger or they may seek to become assimilated to the country and become a naturalized citizen. A Pilgrim on the other hand is someone who travels to a foreign land or place for a specific reason. They seek a place or experience that holds great personal importance to them. Their allegiance is to the specific place or experience and what it means to them, not so much to the land itself.
As a Christian I am not called upon to put much store in religious artifacts, but I still have an interest in archeological discoveries related to the Bible. I would like to visit the holy land and ponder the events that occurred there. A trip like that could be called a pilgrimage. As such my residence in the holy land would be of a temporary nature. I’d just be passing through. Such a traveler as I could also be described as a sojourner, that is one who has no binding connection to the country in which he temporarily resides. As Christians the Bible outlines our responsibilities as citizens of our countries (Romans 13:1-7); to those around us, including strangers (Luke 10:25-37; and, as sojourners just passing through this life (I Peter 2:10-12; Hebrews 11:13; Philippians 3:20). Each of these things are important but perhaps the most important for us to realize is the fact that we are all, ultimately, only sojourners in this life. No matter how many years we pass upon this earth we are still just passing through on our way to someplace else.
Keeping that in mind how should we view our own actions in this life? Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). In a very direct way, the Lord is telling us to get our priorities straight. Know what’s important and focus on those things. From a material aspect we gain nothing on this earth that we can take with us. That’s not to say we shouldn’t enjoy life’s bounty— but we should distinguish between the things that have only finite value and that which has eternal worth. Paul encouraged the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is… Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-4). In the same light he told the Philippians, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… 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” (Philippians 3:14, 20-21).
The Bible tells us that after defeating death Jesus ascended to heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of His Father (Hebrews 1:13; 12:2). However, He did not depart without leaving us certain promises and assurances. He told us we can find the Father (and the truth and thereby salvation through Him; John 14:6; Acts 14:12). He promised that He was going to prepare a place for those who would follow Him (John 14:1-3). He informed us that through Him His Father has qualified us for an inheritance that has delivered us “from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14). He also promised that one day we would be transformed and granted an eternal body like His and be called the children of God (I John 3:1-2; I Corinthians 15:51-52). As His children we are to emulate His Only Begotten Son, Who humbled Himself in obedience to His Father even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
Physically we came from the earth and to the earth we shall return (Genesis 3:19). Our hope does not lie in this world, but the one to come. Nonetheless, while we are here in this body, while we sojourn through this life, we are to respect it, with an eye toward the heavenly kingdom. To the Romans Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 12:1-2; 12-13).
Our lives have been sown with a perishable seed, a natural body, but there is also a spiritual body that will survive it. Will it remain corrupted in the eternal fires of hell, or be raised in power and glory incorruptible in heaven (I Corinthians 15:42-44)? One day every knee shall bow before the Lord and confess His name (Philippians 2:9-11). Death will be destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26). On that day the lawless one will be revealed (II Thessalonians 2:8), and subjected to the second death along with the beast and the false prophet, Death and Hades, and the disobedient (Revelation 20:10, 12-14; 21:8); the second death being the lake of fire into which they are cast. On the day of judgment each of us will experience either the resurrection of life or the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29). The choice is ours. We can be citizens of the earth, seeking only the things of this world, or we can choose to be sojourners here passing through on our way to our true country, prepared for us by our God (Hebrews 11:16).
How we live our lives reflects who we truly are. Sometimes we are able to keep the real us hidden from the world, but we cannot hide away from God (Hebrews 4:13). He knows the path that we are on. There is someone else we cannot actually hide from, either. Ourselves. No matter how practiced at deception we are, even self-deception, deep down we know who we are. We know where our loyalties lie. WE just need to examine ourselves and answer this question: what country do I want to be a citizen of? To whose rule do I want to submit? Paul wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ Who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Peter urged his readers to diligently confirm their election to the kingdom (II Peter 1:10-11). Paul reminded the Colossians to set their minds on the things above. And, Jesus distinguished between the heart of one who is far from the kingdom (Matthew 15:8), and the one who is a true citizen (Matthew 6:19-21). The question we have to answer then is “where is my heart”? If it is not where we want it to be we need to change the road we’re on, and pass through all other lands until we are at home in the kingdom.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.