Christians truly are a strange lot. In a sense we’re a bit like Moses, who fled into the land of Midian, after killing an Egyptian slave-master. We are, as Moses then declared himself, strangers in a strange land (Exodus 2:22).We don’t really fit snugly into the modern world, but then it’s understandable that Christians have always been out of step with the rest of the world. Even when the western world was nominally Christian, those who believed in Jesus and His message of loving their enemies (Mat 5:44) but hating sin, were never in the majority.
It may appear difficult to hold love and hate together harmoniously, but that’s what Jesus tells us is the hallmark of a Christian. Once we step over into belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His biblical message, we are a people filled with contradictions. Yet everything makes perfect sense because our new life is in Christ. Jesus once said:
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean, “We are in the world, but no longer of the world.” We live within our human communities on planet Earth, but now our focus is on the Greater Reality and the things of this world are no longer as they once were to us. Although we live in mortal bodies and dwell in a finite world, we now have an eternal perspective.
As Christians we have learned that it is wise to fear God (Psalm 111:10), but we are never afraid of Him. When we spend time with God we are in awe of His great majesty and blessed by His overwhelming reality. There is nowhere else we would rather be than in His presence.Our first and greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we have never seen Him with our human eyes. And although we understand how spiritually poor and lowly we truly are, we can talk freely about the most insignificant details of our lives with the One who is King of all kings, Lord of all lords and Creator of heaven and Earth, without ever feeling any incongruity in doing so.
Christians believe that in Christ we died, yet we are more alive than ever before and fully expect to live forever (Romans 6:8). We base this belief on the sure and certain knowledge that, because we have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, the second death will never touch us (Rev 2:11).
When we come into the presence of our holy God we are painfully conscious that in our sinful nature dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18) and yet we understand that we are cleansed from sin. We are at peace knowing He accepts us completely because we are now in Christ and covered by His righteousness. And so we live our new and wonder filled lives surrounded by contradictions. Paul told the Corinthians that as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17):
We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. (2 Cor 6:10)
We have not been miraculously transformed into supernatural beings, yet we live our lives in the presence of the Heavenly Father and are filled with wonder at His awesome power and everlasting love. We understand that in our own right and our own strength we are undeserving and have nothing of any merit to offer, yet we know without question that we are the very apple of God’s eye (Deut 32:10) and that for each one of us the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of Calvary.
When we look at that cross we are completely pessimistic, because we know that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemned in that one act all nature and all of humanity. We are heartbroken as we contemplate this truth, but we reject every human hope that is not centred on Christ, because we know that all of humanity’s noblest efforts are only dust building on dust.
Yet we are calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world, the glorious resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last. Thus the Christian confidently awaits the consummation of all things through Jesus Christ who died and victoriously rose again. The great love and mercy of God will be manifest throughout all the world and He will ensure justice and mercy prevail. It is with absolute assurance that we watch and wait for His return.
When we think about what Jesus did for us on that cross we remember that, as Paul put it:
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)
Paul goes on to explain:
As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?
God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish because God, in His wisdom, saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom and He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven and it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews find it an offensive obstacle and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Cor 1:19-23)
God knew the spin the “philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters” would put on the knowledge of this world, but He ensured we could all have access to His Truth (John 14:6). And this Truth has nothing to do with the amassing of knowledge; it has nothing to do with having the IQ of a genius – this Truth is a Man like no other that has ever walked the Earth. But we are easily caught up in the wisdom of this world, it’s seductive.
However, in God’s universe it is His wisdom that is true wisdom. The wisdom of this world is a poor relation. Paul declared that:
….. if anyone thinks they know anything, they know nothing yet as it needs to be known. (1 Cor 8:2)
After reading some of Nietzsche’s works, he appears to me to be the epitome of a person who has become so enraptured by his own intelligence and the wisdom of this world, he is completely deaf to the things of God. The pure irony, and one would have to say the absolute tragedy of Nietzsche’s life, is that he lost his mind. His great treasure slipped away from him and he was reduced to insanity and died when he was only 56 (as I’m about to turn 65 this seems awfully young to me). All our greatest intellectual achievements cannot give us what we were truly destined to become – eternal people living in a loving relationship with our merciful Father.
When we take our place in God’s eternal family we are no longer Earth bound, our values, our hopes and our beliefs are not those of this world, they came by revelation and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our new life in Christ can be difficult to navigate at times, but we also know that when we are weak, then we are at our strongest, because Jesus said:
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
God created a universe filled with opposites and unredeemed humanity wants to reject this reality. It seems today people want a universe that is filled with 50 shades of grey. We don’t want anyone to tell us that something is wrong and something else is right. We demand the right to decide these things for ourselves. We don’t like the fact that God created life and death, light and darkness, good and evil, we want everything to be somehow naturally neutral.
God knew this would be the case. He knew we would want to be our own gods and decide our own destinies. And He has allowed us to do just that. We must each decide for ourselves whether we want to be part of God’s eternal family and take our place in His new universe after He destroys sin and death. No person is capable of creating an entirely new universe that will run along the lines they think God should have set in the first place. Instead, doubters have created a myth which pretends nature made this present creation without supernatural agency and people are therefore free to live their lives exactly as they choose.
Some people actually like to think that one day humanity will be able to control light and dark, good and evil and life and death. No matter how much people want to believe this they cannot change God’s program now and they never will be able to, because this is God’s universe and we are His creation. God designed the universe to run according to His laws and we must either accept His Way or forfeit our eternal destinies.In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus explained to His listeners that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He likens Himself to the miraculous manna that God gave to Moses and the Israelites to sustain them as they traveled through the wilderness.
For 40 years the children of Israel fed on the heavenly bread, or manna, in the dessert; it gave them life and strength for that day. Once they’d collected the manna they could not store it up, they had to gather it afresh every morning and it was sufficient for that day’s needs (Exodus 16). Christians are like the Jews following Moses and the signs God set before them around the Sinai Dessert. As each new day dawns for the followers of Christ we go to Him for our life and strength. He has directed us to “feed on Him” as we sojourn in this wilderness world.
This is the basis of the Christian otherworldliness and the reason our understanding of life, our worldview, is foolishness to those who reject Christ’s message. Our focus is on the Man who is like no other man. He was born into the human community, but He was unlike any other person who has ever lived.
- He came from heaven,
- lived a sinless life for 33 years on Earth,
- preached a new commandment,
- introduced a new covenant,
- was judicially murdered,
- rose to life after three days in the grave,
- walk and talked throughout Israel for 40 days,
- then ascended to heaven to take His place with the Father in a transformed human body.
Once a person knows, understands and accepts the message Jesus came to impart to humanity, an entirely new awareness of human destiny fills their being. It is as if a door opens up that shows us a different world. This other world sits alongside the natural world but it is a Greater Reality; it is the eternal world that can only be perceived and entered through the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father by the Holy Spirit. There is no way to comprehend this eternal world through the physical senses and human reason. God has limited access to this Greater Reality to those who have their eyes on His Son.
For the Christian, while we walk on this Earth, we are seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6) and though we were born on Earth we find that since being born again we are no longer completely at home on this beautiful planet. We are indeed strangers in a strange land awaiting the return of our Lord.
He will come again and He will deal the final blow to death, pain and suffering, ultimately bringing about the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and purpose for humanity. He is reaching out to each and every person born onto this benighted world (John 12:32; Romans 8:20-23), graciously offering each one a place in His new, eternal creation (Rev 21:1). Can you see Him? Can you hear Him? He’s calling you!