Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living with an Eternal Perspective

Are you in love with the world?



What is your attitude toward this world? There's a gospel song by Albert Brumley that always challenges me to examine my attitude toward the world. The first verse goes as follows:
"This world is not my home,
I'm just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me
From heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home
In this world anymore."
Do those words express your feeling about this world? What words would you use? Enthusiastic or uncomfortable? Enamored or alienated? Do you feel at home or do you feel like a stranger?

A Personal View

Let me ask your indulgence for a moment as I share my personal feeling about this world. The word I would use is "hate." Yes, I hate this world. I hate it with a passion so strong and so intense that I find it difficult to express in words.
Now, let me hasten to clarify my feeling by stating that I do not hate God's beautiful and marvelous creation.
I have been privileged to marvel over the majesty of the Alps. I have been awed by the rugged beauty of Alaska. I never cease to be amazed by the creative wonders of God in the great American Southwest. I have been blessed to see the incredible beauty of Cape Town, South Africa. And I have been overwhelmed time and time again by the stark and almost mystical bareness of the Judean wilderness in Israel.
When I say that I "hate" this world, I'm not speaking of God's creation. I'm speaking, instead, of the evil world system that we live in.
Let me give you some examples of what I'm talking about:
  • I hate a world where thousands of babies are murdered every day in their mother's wombs.
  • I hate a world where young people in the prime of life have their lives destroyed by illicit drugs.
  • I hate a world that coddles criminals and makes a mockery of justice.
  • I hate a world that glorifies crime in its movies and television programs.
  • I hate a world that applauds indecent and vulgar performers like Madonna.
  • I hate a world where government tries to convert gambling from a vice to a virtue.
  • I hate a world in which professional athletes are paid over a million dollars a year while hundreds of thousands sleep homeless in the streets every night.
  • I hate a world where people judge and condemn one another on the basis of skin color.
  • I hate a world that calls evil good by demanding that homosexuality be recognized as a legitimate, alternative lifestyle.
  • I hate a world in which mothers are forced to work while their children grow up in impersonal day care centers.
  • I hate a world in which people die agonizing deaths from diseases like cancer and AIDS.
  • I hate a world where families are torn apart by alcohol abuse.
  • I hate a world where every night I see reports on the television news of child abuse, muggings, kidnappings, murders, terrorism, wars, and rumors of wars.
  • I hate a world that uses the name of my God, Jesus, as a curse word.
I hope you understand now what I mean when I say, "I hate this world!"


Jesus' Viewpoint

But how I personally feel about this world is not important. The crucial point for you to consider is the biblical view. Let's look at it, and as we do so, compare the biblical view with your own.
Let's begin with the viewpoint that Jesus told us we should have. It is recorded in John 12:25"He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal."
Those are strong words. They are the kind that cause us to wince and think, "Surely He didn't mean what He said." But the context indicates that Jesus meant exactly what He said. So, what about it? Do you hate your life in this world or do you love it?


The Viewpoint of the Apostles

The apostle Paul gave a very strong warning about getting comfortable with the world. In Romans 12:2 he wrote: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." How do you measure up to this exhortation?
Are you conformed to the world? Have you adopted the world's way of dress? What about the world's way of speech or the world's love of money? Are your goals the goals of the world — power, success, fame, and riches?
The brother of Jesus expressed the matter in very pointed language. He said, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Are you a friend of the world? Are you comfortable with what the world has to offer in music, movies, television programs and best selling books? Friendship with the world is hostility toward God!
In fact, James puts it even stronger than that, for at the beginning of the passage I previously quoted (James 4:4), he says that those who are friendly with the world are spiritual adulterers.
The apostle John makes the same point just as strongly in 1 John 2:15-16: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."
There is no way to escape the sobering reality of these words. Do you love the world? If so, the love of the Father is not in you!


The Focus of Your Mind

Paul tells us how to guard against becoming comfortable with the world. In Colossians 3:2 he says, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." In Philippians 4:8 he expresses the same admonition in these words: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things."
As these verses indicate, one of the keys to living a triumphant life in Christ — to living a joyous and victorious life in the midst of a world wallowing in despair — is to live with a conscious eternal perspective.
I have personally found this to be so important that I carry a reminder of it in my shirt pocket at all times. It is a small card that was sent to me in 1988 by the great prophetic preacher, Leonard Ravenhill. The card says, "Lord, keep me eternity conscious."
What does that mean? In the words of Peter, that means living as "aliens and strangers" in this world (1 Peter 2:11). Similarly, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, it means living as "strangers and exiles" on this earth (Hebrews 11: 13). Paul put it this way: "Do not set your minds on earthly things, for our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19-20).
The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, explained that to live with an eternal perspective means "living as commandos operating behind the enemy lines, preparing the way for the coming of the Commander-in-Chief."


What is Your Attitude?

Are you focused on this world? Are you attached to it, or do you have a sense of the fact that you are only passing through, heading for an eternal home?
This life is transitory. This life is only a prelude to eternity. The song writer, Tillit S. Teddlie put it all in perspective when he wrote:
"Earth holds no treasures
But perish with using,
However precious they be;
Yet there's a country
To which I am going:
Heaven holds all to me.
Why should I long
For the world with its sorrows,
When in that home o'er the sea,
Millions are singing
The wonderful story?
Heaven holds all to me.
Heaven holds all to me,
Brighter its glory will be;
Joy without measure
Will be my treasure:
Heaven holds all to me."

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