How Should We then Live?

2 Peter 3: 10-15 says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat: both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless, we, according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…”

I want to remind you that this world has been cursed!  Because of the disobedience of our first parents, the entire human race, and this planet, has been cursed by our Creator.  The curse includes: death and decay, disease and pestilence, demonic influence and evil, and all things that are related to pain and suffering.  Mankind has followed in the path of our first parents and has continued the disobedience.  Ultimately, this entire planet and all its inhabitants are under the wrath of God who will inflict that wrath by completely destroying this world by fire and replacing it with a new heaven and a new earth.

I have to ask myself, do I really believe this?  Do I live my life daily like this is true?

God has sent his Messiah, His Christ, His only begotten Son, Jesus, to save us from this wrath and judgment.  We can avoid God’s future judgment by accepting the merciful pardon that has been allotted to us through Jesus.  If we do, this automatically makes us a part of the future earth that God will re-create.  The future earth will be a merger of His current heavenly Kingdom and the new earth.  We are encouraged to consider ourselves a part of this current heavenly Kingdom even now, as well as considering ourselves as no longer a part of this current world.

So again I have to ask myself, do I really believe this?  Or is this just a part of my imagination, like some science fiction movie, or futuristic story that I like to dream about.  Or have I made it a reality, so real that it impacts the way I live from minute to minute?

This is how we should live, like temporary residents and strangers to this planet.  We should recognize that this is not our permanent home.  You may say that this is too extreme.  To the mindset of the world, this thinking may seem extreme, but to the mindset of the Christian, as established in the Scriptures, this is the truth, this is the normal, this is the expectation that has been set.

I would even say that living with the attitude of being dead to this world and alive to the next is the definition of faith.  In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, (known as the faith chapter), faith is defined in verse 1 as “the substance (or realization) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  The “things hoped for” are, of course, talking about the promises that came through Jesus of having an immortal body and citizenship in God’s heavenly kingdom as His family.

In Hebrews 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  In other words they lived until the end as strangers and pilgrims on the earth because the Lord did not return to destroy this present earth, and then create the new earth, this being the promise that they didn’t receive but were waiting and hoping for. (note that they will be raised from the dead and join the living on the day of the Lord’s return – see I Thessalonians 4: 13-18)

Verses 14 through 16 of Hebrews chapter 11 go on to say, “For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

So what do you think it means to “call to mind that country from which they had come out”?  I believe it clearly means that we should not be thinking about this world, or considering it as our home.  This would be how we would be returning to it.  We would begin to make ourselves at home in this world and function within this world system.  It would be like the Israelis going back to Egypt once delivered by God under Moses’ leadership.  Faith requires that we continue with our hearts and minds established with the truth of where we came from and where we are headed.  We need to walk in the realization that heaven has been promised and guaranteed to us by the act of love and mercy that occurred at the cross of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

It’s so easy to lose sight of this in our day to day activities.  You may be thinking, “How can anyone really do this?”  I’m not saying it is easy, but I know it’s what the scriptures direct us to do.  I think this is related to the exhortation to “pray without ceasing.”  This is why we need to be constantly in prayer and constantly in God’s Word.  It reminds us of these truths and embeds them in our thoughts.

The amazing thing is that thinking this way will transform the way we act; and, in fact, it will transform who we are.  We will become true children of the Living God!  We will begin to take on the mind of Christ.

If you are truly living for heaven, you cannot be longing for (or coveting) the things of this earth.  This longing is the root of many sins.  In James 1:14 & 15 the scripture confirm this: “Be each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

For many years I went into the local jails to speak to men about Jesus and the Bible.  Many were very receptive and encouraged by the message of the Gospel.  A constant problem was the men who would get released from jail only to return shortly after, some would even get arrested again and then return the same day they left.  I discovered that the root of the problem was that they had many weeks to think about their day of release, and they would begin to imagine and plan for what they would be doing as soon as they were released.  As they longed for whatever the imagined activity would be (sex, drugs, alcohol, or whatever), their coveting would become so strong that they could not restrain themselves once they were released, even if they also had intended to stay out of trouble.  Sadly, a similar fate is awaiting us if we allow our hearts to long for the things of this world.  In our case it may take longer, but the result is the same if we long for fortune, fame, success, promotion, worldly peace, worldly happiness, or whatever else this world offers.  The resulting sin may not result in a jail sentence, but rather stress, sickness, anxiety, depression, or some form of bondage.

Let’s live our lives for heaven.  Let’s keep our hearts set on the things that are above where Christ is.  Let’s consider ourselves to be citizens of heaven even right now, and meditate on what that really means.  Let’s forget about this world.  Let’s forgo the pleasures that this world offers and recognize that the temporary pleasures are not worth it.  Let’s take on the temporary trials and pain with the understanding that they don’t compare with the glory that is waiting for us in heaven.

This is how I want to live my life.  Lord Jesus, please give me the strength and faith and understanding to make it happen.

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