Monday, March 12, 2018

God's Holy Strangers

Followers of Jesus have to be the strangest people on the planet. Not as in “bizarre” strange, like the woman with tattoos covering 96% of her body or the guy shopping the beauty section of Walmart with a toilet plunger on his head. But Christians who base their values and character on the Word of God and stake their entire lives on the story of a cross and an empty tomb look crazy to a godless culture.

This article is a call to Christians to embrace your identity now as “aliens and strangers” on earth, even as you long for your eternal heavenly home. And it’s a plea for unbelievers to join this band of holy strangers.

The Bible says that for believers, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In other words, this world is not our home. We are temporary sojourners, resident aliens who live by faith as we look forward to the eternal heavenly city God has prepared for us. We know that there are better things yet to come and that the eternal glory that is ours in Christ far outweighs the “light and momentary troubles” we endure on this earth.

See, that already sounds strange to unbelieving ears. It gets stranger.

The world thinks we’re out of our minds for believing that God spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 11:3; et al), that He authors life from the moment of conception forward, knitting us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16), and that He purposefully created mankind in His own image as male and female (Genesis 1:27). And so when we reject any theory of creation that rejects God as the Creator, when we call abortion an abomination to God, and when we expose the fallacy of “transgenderism” as a denial of God’s design, we’re labeled as foreigners.

Unbelievers call us insane for believing that sexual activity is to be enjoyed solely within the bounds of marriage, and for agreeing biblically that pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior, lust, and every other kind of sexual immorality or impurity is a sin (Genesis 2:24-25; Proverbs 5-7; Matthew 5:27-30; Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:1-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; et al).

The ungodly say we’re nuts for forgiving others when they’ve wronged us, rather than seeking revenge. They say we’ve gone off the deep end when we give generously to help others in need. They say we’re mentally ill when we talk about hearing from God, discovering a peace that we can’t explain, or knowing a joy we can’t put into words.

They think we’re strange when we don’t let our children play violent video games, when we decline to indulge in alcohol, when we unsubscribe from cable TV, when we refrain from gossip or slander, and when we refuse to fudge a little on our taxes.

And they call us fools for preaching a message that exclusively declares Jesus to be the only way to heaven. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Seriously, who in their right mind would willingly suffer for a Jewish carpenter who lived some 2,000 years ago? Who would subject themselves to public ridicule, to threats of persecution, to the possibility of imprisonment and even death for the sake of someone they’ve never even met? Yet those who truly know Jesus rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name. They know that if they’re insulted for the name of Christ, they are blessed, for they believe a better day is on the way.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Luke 6:22-23).

Christian, embrace your identity as God’s holy strangers on earth, knowing that your real treasure is in heaven. Be okay with not fitting in to the ways of the world, because “friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (James 4:4), and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Be unashamed in calling Jesus your Master and in faithfully following Him in the way of righteousness.

And, listen, if you’ve not yet experienced the joy of knowing Christ and the forgiveness of sins He offers, if you’ve not yet tasted the goodness of God and delighted your soul in His grace, and if you don’t have assurance of eternal life in heaven, then let me urge you to repent from sin, turn to Jesus in faith, and join this band of God’s Holy Strangers. Your friends may think you’ve lost your mind, but you’ll have found your life.

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