Living in the World Now
There is no greater blessing than that of being God’s child. As Christians, we are the recipients of the promise made to Abraham: “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:25-26). We really cannot put into words that sense of gratitude we ought to have for what God has done for us. We are unworthy servants, yet God has blessed us in spirt of ourselves. We have been born again to a living hope (1 Pet 1:3-5), and that keeps our focus on eternal matters, knowing that we are heavenly citizens first (Phil 3:20-21). This also means that we have the spiritual tools by which we may live the abundant life. As Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
While keeping our focus on the heavenly, we need to be reminded that being a Christian is not just about what happens in eternity. Being a Christian is meant to affect how we think and live while here, now. Yes, we are to be thinking in terms of eternity, but there is a connection between now and then, between “here” and “there.” While, with Paul, we prefer to be with the Lord, while we are still here we have responsibilities (e.g., Phil 1:21-24). Eternal life is not a disconnected “out there in the clouds” idea in Scripture. It is deeply connected to what we do and how we live right now. For Christians, eternal life does not just begin when we die. It begins even now as we are transformed by the renewing of the mind back into the image of the One who has redeemed us. We are born again to live a transformed life.
Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2). Not conforming to this world does not mean we do not engage the world. It does mean that we do not assimilate into the world in such a way that compromises our discipleship.
This is why we are to be concerned for our fellow human beings and their welfare. This is why we are not to use “freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” but rather “through love” we are to “serve one another” (Gal 5:13). This is why we are to seek the healing of the nations (the gospel for all people), why justice and righteousness are to be top priority, and why we are to be people who correct oppression and care for the widow (Jas 1:27; Isa 1:17). Our concern is not merely “other worldly,” as if we are allowed to ignore the activities and obligations of this world, but also “this worldly”—not in the sense of loving the things of this world (1 John 2:15-17), but in the sense of carrying out our mission in this world of being salt and light. Holiness is not disconnected from how we treat people, but is integral to how we understand people so that we are servants to all.
Forgiveness of sins, while beyond magnificent, is not the end of the Christian’s story, but the beginning. We are forgiven and saved to serve. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. We are reconciled to be peacemakers. We have been brought to the Light in order to be lights. What we do here and now counts, and we take it with us into the eternity that we do not yet see (2 Cor 4:17-18; 5:10). The cross of Jesus informs our purpose by showing us what it means to be sacrifices in service to God. Jesus “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15).
Ultimately, the goal is resurrection (Phil 3:11), which is made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Until we attain this, we are to recognize, with Paul, that “Christ Jesus has made me his own” (v. 12). Our eyes are fixed on Jesus, and because of this we care for the things He cares about even now. Don’t become so detached from the world that we lose sight of the fact that we have tasks in this world that are ours by virtue of our relationship to the One who created us anew.