I’m Just a Passing Through

mountain-path

Is it possible we’ve grown overly comfortable with this world? I saw a preacher I love and respect talking about how he simply doesn’t feel welcome in America anymore. I understand where he was coming from, and I sympathize with his feelings. I do not criticize him for the statement; it was just an impetus that got me thinking. Are we supposed to feel welcome in this world? How welcome did Christ and His apostles feel in their home country, and did it affect their mission or relationship with God?

An Unwelcome Savior

In Matthew 8:18, a scribe approaches Jesus and says he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus responds to this by saying, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” In other words, I might be willing to follow Jesus, but am I willing to be an outcast for doing so? Just look at how Jesus’ own hometown receives Him in Matthew 13:54 – 58. The reception is so unwelcome that Jesus goes away without performing a single miracle.

Consider also Hebrews 11:13 – 16:

These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

I Can’t Feel At Home…

When I was growing up in the church, we would sometimes sing a song that went like this:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O Lord, you know I have no friend like you.
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

We would sing that, but living it is another matter. Think about going to visit another country. What would you do while you were visiting? Would you spend your whole time trying to make your hotel room suit your needs exactly? How involved would you become in local controversies? Would you even be aware of them? Would you convert every cent of your savings into the local currency? Probably not. Instead, you’d have an itinerary to follow, and, if the hotel sheets are the wrong shade of periwinkle or the local cuisine doesn’t sit well with you, oh well. It’s not like you’re going to live there.

Looking Toward Home

Additionally, those things that can make you feel a bit uncomfortable in another country — driving on the other side of the road, unfamiliar foods, different languages, currency conversions — make you long for home all the more. Again, we might sing, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Those things that make this world uncomfortable and even unwelcoming should, instead of distract us into focusing more on this world, set our eyes above to our true home. They should make us long for our home where God is our light.

We have an itinerary in this world to do God’s work, to live like Christ, and to seek out lost souls to share His hope with. This world is a layover before eternity. It’s a temporary residence. It’s not our home. It’s nice to feel welcome, but it’s not necessary. Wherever we are and whatever the climate is toward our Christian faith, our hope and our work remain the same. Our relationship with God through Christ stays the same.

The Rest That Awaits Us

Hebrews 12, after lifting up numerous examples of enduring faith in chapter 11, speaks of Jesus as the captain on our faith, using a term seldom used in the Bible. Joshua, Saul, David, and Hezekiah were referred to as captain in parts of their reigns, and the Hebrew writer impresses on us that Jesus is a better ruler than even these. This same author quotes from the Psalms of David, and invokes more Old Testament imagery, in chapter 4:1-11, speaking of the rest into which we may enter.

Despite having some great leaders, the people of the Old Testament never found true rest in the Lord. He speaks of their disobedience, of their disbelief – not in God’s existence or His power, but rather in His all-sufficiency and His ability to provide something better than they already knew. Time and again in their history, the children of Israel demonstrate they long for and are content with the things of this world. They do not trust in God’s all-sufficiency and always keep God’s promises at arm’s length. Whether it’s coming out of Egypt, leaving the wilderness, living amidst the idolatry of Canaan, or returning from Babylonian captivity, they demonstrate a willingness to just stay where they are.

Are we like this spiritually? Are we content stagnating in our spiritual growth? Simply arriving into God’s deliverance is not the rest in itself (Hebrews 4:8-10), and we have a rest promised to us if we are diligent to remain faithful. Like ancient Israel, however, we fall short when we grow content in stagnation, when we grow resistant to facing the challenges of discipleship. Remember how often the children of Israel affirmed their faith in God and promised their obedience, falling short time and again because their actions did not support their words. Hebrews 3:16-19 reminds us this lack of faith and trust kept Israel from ever finding true rest in the Lord.

God has an eternal plan to save us and give us rest (Hebrews 1, Ephesians 3:11). We may not follow that plan, however, and be content with something that approximates that plan but cannot provide the ultimate peace of Hebrews 4:9-10, this cessation of all labor to live in God’s glory for all time. Think of the imagery in Revelation 21-22, where death, tears, suffering will be forever erased. All the trials we face in this life will be behind us, and we will find our peace in Him.

We cannot be content with where we are spiritually. We cannot become sedentary. We cannot keep looking back at the comforts we left behind to follow God. Our path is not the easy path. Instead, we must strive forward to be like and with Christ. God has promised us something better, but it takes obedience, faith, and growth to reach that promised rest.

We have to listen to those good tidings of Hebrews 4:2-7. We have to then be obedient to that word like the Hebrew writer admonishes us in chapter 4:6 and 11. Then we can never become complacent with our progress. Our actions and our attitudes convey our faith in God’s all-sufficiency, in His ability to provide something better. We cannot consider ourselves to have arrived until we hear Him say, “Enter in, good and faithful servant.”

lesson by Tim Smelser

Heaven In View

During the beginnings of church history, Christians lived in risk of their own lives. Many instances in Acts record Christians being specifically threatened and the general risk that followed those who spoke of Christ.

One such persecutor was Saul, and, when he was converted, God said that he would suffer many things for His sake (Acts 9:16). What gave individuals like Paul the strength to endure despite the challenges they would meet?

Heaven and Our Motivation

This World Is Not Our Home. II Corinthians 5:1-10 explains our faith is our motivator. We have faith that we will one day be with the Lord, and this worldly existence is temporary. Hebrews 10:16 and Philippians 3:21 both speak of our home being prepared by God.

Looking for Eternal Rest. Philippians 1:21-23 acknowledges how much better Heaven will be than this world. Also, II Corinthians 4:17-18 speaks of the pains of this life as temporary and fleeting. The pains of this world will be nothing compared to the joys of Heaven.

Confidence in God’s Promises. Hebrews 6:11-19 assures the absoluteness of God’s promises, and we can look back on how God kept His promises to Abraham and many others in the Old Testament. We can’t physically see God and Heaven, but we can see what He has done for His people and for us.

Conclusion

How did those early Christians keep pressing on? They lived with Heaven in their view, and, if we do likewise, we can follow examples like Paul, living for Christ with confidence in the joys that will come after this life.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Tears In Heaven

In 1991, Eric Clapton wrote and recorded “Tears in Heaven,” expressing grief for the then-recent death of his 4-year-old son, Conor. Now, it is probably one of the songs he is best known for, and I want to take two statements and one question posed by the song to guide us in a quick lesson about the place the Bible calls Heaven.

Life in Heaven

Would You Know My Name?

In I Corinthians 15:51-53 (as well as many preceding verses), Paul emphasizes how we will be changed when the resurrection comes. Our natures will be altered, and we will take a form completely unlike our current selves. The question is valid. If we have been changed, will we know each other?

In the parable of the rich man & Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man can recognize Lazarus and Abraham across the gulf in Paradise. Additionally, in Matthew 17:1-5, the apostles with Jesus on the mountain recognize Moses and Elijah for who they are – despite these two having died centuries prior.

These are only two examples, but I think they support the fact that we will know each other in Heaven. When we reach that shore, we will have the joy of being reunited with loved ones and have the opportunity to meet heroes of ours from the Bible. Heaven will be a homecoming.

I Don’t Belong.

Two very familiar passage illustrate the fact that we, in no way, deserve Heaven. Romans 6:23 tells us sin is worthy of death. Exactly three chapters prior (Romans 3:23), it is stated, in no uncertain terms, that each and every individual is guilty of that sin deserving of punishment. If this is true, how can any of us hope to attain Heaven?

If we continue reading around Romans 3:24-26, Paul explains that we have been redeemed by grace and that those who have faith are justified, their sins passed over by God. Ephesians 2:4-10 reinforces the roles of mercy and grace in our salvation. We cannot earn Heaven. God grants us Heaven.

No, we do not belong in Heaven in that there is no way we can earn salvation. There is no way we can atone for our sins all by ourselves. However, God grants those who believe and obey Him the mercy and grace sufficient to allow our entrance into Heaven.

There Will Be No More Tears.

Revelation 7:16-17 & Revelation 21:4 state that every tear will be wiped away. Sorrow will be absent in Heaven. There will be no longing for somewhere else. There will be no depression or disease. Furthermore, Revelation 22:1-5 imagines Heaven as a place similar to Eden – that place where man once had a perfect relationship with God.

There will be no tears in Heaven. Whatever sorrows and heartaches we may have suffered in this life will be erased when we go to be home with our Lord.

Conclusion

In John 14:1-6, Jesus tells his apostles and us that He is preparing a place for His followers. He goes on to say that we can make it to this place through Him alone. Both Romans 6:1-6 and Galatians 3:26-29 emphasize the role of baptism in entering into Christ, and that is the first step toward Heaven. Will you put your faith into action and begin the journey home?