“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8: 19-23
Question: Do you groan inwardly as you wait for your adoption as a son of God (assuming the reader is a Christian)? Or maybe the broader question: Is there room in our modern, western Christianity for this inward groaning?
Sadly, it would seem that there is little room for this attitude in our modern, western, Christian Gospel and lifestyle. On the contrary, Christianity is presented mostly as a self-help tool to allow Christians to live their lives here on earth to the fullest, reaping the benefits of God’s blessings, healings, prosperity, and answered prayers. Of course God will bless and heal and prosper His children, but His intention is not to make us feel at home here on earth, but rather, to keep us safe and strong for our journey.
The abundant life that Jesus has promised us is spiritual and not physical. There is an internal transformation that yields the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These fruits coexist with the longing and groaning for our future adoption.
The emphasis today by many Christians on physical and emotional healings, material blessings and prosperity, social and political victories, and other similar miracles, leaves no room for a longing and groaning for heaven, or a realization that we are sojourners and temporary residents just passing through.
The Bible has clearly and explicitly revealed that this world has been cursed as a result of the sin of our first parents and is now under the strong influence of the devil, and will remain as such until the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once we turn and follow Jesus, entering into the new covenant based on the redemptive act of Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection that followed, we die to this world and are no longer a part of it, but rather become citizens of the new heaven and earth. Like our father Abraham, we now shift our hope to this promise of eternal life in a new heaven and earth, and patiently endure our time here on earth as he did, remaining faithful as to obtain the promise.
“By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:9-10
It is interesting to note that Abraham was established by God to be the father of all who have faith, not because he saw how great a sinner he was, but because he believed God’s promise, placing his hope entirely in what God had assured him of, and patiently waited for its fulfillment. Yet in today’s Gospel there is a major emphasis on the need to recognize ourselves as sinners with a great need for forgiveness, focusing our faith on this believe that we are forgiven. Yes it is true that we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness, but Jesus also came to save us from this cursed world, not just from ourselves. There needs to be at least equal emphasis, if not more emphasis, on the fact that God did not originally intend for us to be a part of this cursed world that is now in bondage to decay and death, and that our faith needs to be focused on the hope of the promise of eternal life and deliverance from this world and our dying bodies that are a part of this creation.
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Hear indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corin. 4:17 – 5:5
As I consider the many problems, sins, and major issues in modern, western Christianity such as a high percentage of male Christians addicted to pornography, a high rate of adultery and divorce, a high rate of Christians on anti-depressants, the mega-church movement, the hyper-faith movement, the material prosperity focus movement, the problems in the Christian music industry, the mix of new age thinking with Christianity, the rampant church divisions, worldly programs and thinking in the church, etc. , I have concluded that most of these problems are rooted in a shallow conversion experience, not understanding the need to die to this world totally and to lose their life on this earth. As a result, modern western Christians are still carnal and materialistic, having no power to overcome the powerful influence of our evil society that is constantly bombarding them via the media of television, movies, videos, music, the internet, as well as their teachers, coworkers, family, and friends.
I urge you therefore to allow the spirit inside of you to groan and long for the adoption of the sons of God and the final return of the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ to establish a new heaven and earth as our permanent home. Please do not allow anything or anyone to shift your focus from this promised hope to the lies and deception of this world and what it offers us. All the things of this world are temporary or transient and therefore are futile, but the things of God are eternal.
Consider again the faith of Abraham as described in the book of Romans, chapter 4, and how it pertains to our faith in what God has promised to us through Jesus:
“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘reckoned (or accounted) to him as righteousness.’ But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in Him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4: 20-25
Many years ago I accompanied some friends, a married couple, to a small church. They were teaching a Sunday school class to very young children and I decided to join them in the class since I was visiting and didn’t know anyone. They taught the children with this simple story using some picture illustrations that had left an impression on me. It went something like this: On a farm, a young chick was caught in a storm outside of the chicken coop and got disoriented, ending up alone down at the farm’s pond and was adopted by a family of ducks with small ducklings. The chick felt very much out of place, not being able to swim, or eat their food, or communicate. The ducklings were mean to the chick, teasing, ridiculing, and even attaching it. The chick was very distressed and knew that something was wrong but couldn’t do much about it. Finally, the farmer noticed the chick and took it back to the chicken coop where it belonged and the chicken lived there happily with its family. The teachers then related to the kids that we as Christians don’t belong in this world and are like a chick at the duck pond. Someday, like the farmer coming to take the chick home where it belonged, Jesus will come for us and take us to our real permanent home. I’m not sure I got the story exactly right, but the simple truth is clear: we don’t belong here in this world and we await a day when we will be delivered from this cursed world, when Jesus takes us home.
We wait with eager expectation for that day.
“Therefore, gird up your minds, be sober, set your minds fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13