The chorus from an old song I sung growing up in church still rattles around in my head at the oddest time–
This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me through heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
This world is not my home. It’s a pretty clear Bible principle. I’m a stranger and alien in a foreign land. I live in tents. My permanent dwelling place–my real home with every need for physical and emotional security that is implied by that word–is in heaven with God eternally.
I Peter 2 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
An exile is someone experiencing prolonged separation from their home or country by forced circumstances. To sojourn is to stay temporarily in a place. It’s a stop along the way but not our permanent residence. My parents have lived in the same house for over 40 years. And I have spent 6 years in my home, which is reasonably nice and from which I have no desire to move. I have nested here. I have put down “roots” so to speak. But I’m coming to realize that it’s not home. Not in the full sense of the term with all the security that term implies. Home implies a deeper rest than I will ever be able to experience here. I can walk in my earthly home after a hard day, and I can let down (somewhat) and turn off (somewhat). However, I can’t reach that depth of peace that my soul deeply longs for. It illudes me, and the answer isn’t to look for a different home on earth. The answer is that this world is not my home. This house is my temporary residence as I wait to be escorted to my real home in heaven for eternity.
I have learned a ton about Biblical marriage and parenting. I know what to look for in a church. I understand better what makes a real Biblical friendship. But put it all together and make every possible good choice you can make in this lifetime —– and this world is STILL not your home. God has been intent that I get this message. It started with a suggestion from Nancy Guthrie, author of Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow. From there, C. S. Lewis got me good in the Screwtape Letters. From a conversation between the two demons seeking to undermine the new Christian —
“They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. … The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campainging weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. … The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectvely from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else.”
As if the exhortations from Guthrie and Lewis were not enough, Bryan Chappel in the Promises of Grace has emphasized this as well in his study of Romans 8.
“We too have cause to groan as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. Until that day these bodies, like the fallen world in which we live, are subject to suffering and decay (Rom. 8:23). But in the light of the testimony of the Holy Spirit, we can be confident of our inheritance and constant in joy despite present difficulties. Even the frailties of our bodies (and may I add our mind and emotions) do not deprive us of the deeper joy of knowing the decay will end, glory will come, and we shall reap an inheritance, the rewards of which will make trials of this life distant memories of momentary pain.” p. 59
Somehow all of my Bible study has coincided with these Christian books I have read the last few months. I am currently studying Hebrews and have been struck by the way the author ends the book–with a long flowing exhortation to simply ENDURE. Hebrews 11 is the hall of fame of faith, giving a long list of Bible men and women who all endured as aliens and strangers, looking at the promises from afar, and enduring in hope to the end of their lives. This cast of characters remain as a cloud of witnesses around us, cheering us on to the end as well. The exhortation is to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, as we, like those who have come before us, run with endurance the race that is set before us.
There is something about this particular cloud of witnesses that always encourages me. They have lived it before me and testify to me that, indeed, this world is not my home. But don’t despair. Our eternal hope is real, and this cloud of witnesses stands in joy experiencing the full benefits of all it means to be a child of God. They exhort me from the sidelines to continue in hope of my very real inheritance whose first fruits I have only just begun to taste on this side of heaven. Even at times when that first taste has faded in my memory, my appetite is whet for that very good fulfillment that is eternally secured for me in heaven. This HOPE–this expectation of something real, that I KNOW IS REAL and waiting ready for me–is the only thing (empowered by the Holy Spirit) that can sustain me longterm to endure in my alienation.
“… that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …” Eph. 1:18