Pilgrim Not Citizen

Lesson 5: Walk in Truth through obedience to God

It has given me great joy to 
find some of your children walking 
in the truth, just as the Father 
commanded us.
2 John 1:4

I was reading a new book recently that said, “Today, America is rich but morally rotten.  Our heads and our hands have outrun our hearts. We have gained the world but have lost our souls.”  The author went on to describe the lawlessness and chaos that fetishism, polytheism and any number of ‘isms’ have wrought on our society.  I looked back to the beginning of this little book to see when it was published – 1969.  

I could take just about any paragraph from this book, “In Times Like These,” and you would surely think the author was writing about yesterday or today.  The frightening results of our demand for “progress” in all parts of lives are prophetically found in this fascinating group of sermons by Vance Havner, a contemporary of Billy Graham.

“The time is short, and the fashion of this world is passing away”

Vance Havner

For the Christian, we are admonished to live as people set apart from the world.  (Romans 12:2). And yet we have homogenized so much of what it means to be a Follower of Jesus.  I heard a pastor once say, “The world doesn’t hate ‘nice’ people.” Think about that for a moment. So many of us want, as our goal, to be seen as ‘nice, Christians’ — certainly not ones that cause waves like Jesus did day in and day out. 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers 
and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, 
to offer your bodies as a living 
sacrifice, holy and pleasing to 
God—this is your true and proper 
worship.
Romans 12:1

My BSGs and I were finishing up a week of Bible study about what the church means to God and to us as Christians.  We got into a discussion about how easy it is to be a Western-world Christian.   And although we’ve seen that challenged over the last year, we still don’t face the threat of death when choosing to worship. Prison, maybe, but not death.  (A little over a year ago I wouldn’t even have thought to write that last sentence).

At a church one of my Bible gals and I attended for many years, there was a pastor of Egyptian origin.  He would tell us of the inherent dangers of even wearing a cross or holding a Bible while travelling in Cairo.  He regaled us with stories of various mission trips back to his homeland fraught with intrigue.  And after an hour listening to his sermon and beautiful music we would go back about our “other” lives – not having risked anything ourselves.

We are promised an everlasting life, through faith and obedience to God. The type of obedience John writes about in 2 John.  “A walk in obedience to His commands.”  Earlier, John tells us of Jesus’ prayer to His father on the eve of His death. 

I have revealed you to those 
whom you gave me out of the world. 
They were yours; you gave them to 
me and they have obeyed your word. 
Now they know that everything you 
have given me comes from you.
John 17:6-7

The “knowing” then requires the “obeying” – a living out of what God expects from us now that His Word has been revealed.  But how many of us offer our entire lives over as a “living sacrifice?”  One of my friends and I have this now running joke that we have our “faith life” but then we have our “real life.”  Knowing that in God’s expectation those are to be one and the same.

“Devotion to Him (Jesus) must be so high and so deep and so intense that all other loyalties must seem in comparison as though they did not exist.”

Vance Havner

That takes obedience to a whole new level.  I fear that modern Christians read this and immediately assume we must be the rich prince of whom Jesus asks to give up all his possessions in order to follow Him.  (Matt 19:21-24)  And in fact, many a breezy, occasional, Sunday-only Christian has misinterpreted that to be the case.  But Jesus only ever asks us to give up what is separating us from Him.  What idols have we placed in front of Him so that it blocks our view of Him or our ability to obey Him?

The world is full of gadgets and facilities that are not wrong unless we make them ends in themselves or turn them to evil uses.

Vance Havner

For some that idol is time.  Or more specifically who or what gets our time.  In the 2 John letter, John calls out the “lady chosen by God” for her love of God.  And he knows of this love because of her obedience to the commandments.  She walks in love of God.  Even Satan knows God.  But the chasm between the lady in John’s letter and Satan is her obedience.  She most likely spent much of her day praying, guiding others to God, teaching her children about God, and working as God’s daughter.

“Christian love is not just some special emotion that makes us accept others.  It’s an act of will – treating people the same way God treats you.”

Warren Wiersbe on 2 John

An act of will.  That’s not some squishy, marshmallowey feeling.  It means 1) knowing the will of God and 2) committing our entire body to obeying His commandments.  It means living a life set apart from this world – and maybe even your current church or group of friends.  It means being in danger of getting called “weird” or “freak.”  It might even mean being labeled a “bigot” or “hatemonger.”  

Some of you may recall seeing the storm that descended upon New Orleans Saints football quarterback Drew Brees when he joined Focus on the Families’ call to “bring your Bible to school day.”   He was called all manner of hateful things and a call went out to shame and silence him.  For promoting bringing a book to school.

The time is nearer now than ever before to awaken in obedience as Christians. I read a comment that the Bible is a disturbing book. It “bids us to stir up the gift of God.” We are admonished to “gird our loins (Luke 12:35),” disrupt our sleepy scheduled lives (Rom 13:11) and grasp the seriousness of our times. We are closer to the coming of Christ than yesterday. And it doesn’t take much to see how anarchy and apathy are playing a role in God’s timetable.

When I started fresh out of college at my new job, I was just barely 22 years old.  I was given a lot of responsibility to set up a brand new marketing and public relations department.  The corporate culture was very resistant to the new ideas I brought to the table.  I was called all manner of terrible things.  But I learned a valuable lesson.  When the “big boss” has your back you can forge a path through any swamp, forest or desert.  As Christians we have the mightiest “boss” of them all – God.  We should walk in obedience to Him knowing that He has our back.  We should walk in the knowledge that we are just passing through this world and will do so as God’s children. We should look forward to making a few waves, in Jesus’ name.

I’m in it (the world) but not of it; I’m a pilgrim and stranger; I’m not a citizen of old Babylon, I’m looking for another city.

Vance Havner

3 thoughts on “Pilgrim Not Citizen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: