from a lesson by Gardner Hall
Intro: How do you visualize the future of this country? Do you see a major cities lying in rubble? Will the terrorists succeed in detonating a nuclear device?
1) How does Jesus want me to face this possibility? He wants me to face it just like the first century Christians faced the prospect of the destruction of their culture and large cities. Jesus lived in a time when the destruction of the current culture was imminent. In fact, Jesus predicted the end of the Jewish nation to the Jews themselves.
- Matthew 24:1-2 – “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Later, those who received the revelation of John knew that the economic and political center of their world was coming to a sudden end.
2) What was their attitude toward this coming destruction? No doubt they were sad for those who would be lost, and perplexed about God’s judgment of His own city.
- But the admonition was to be watchful and ready. 1 Peter 4:7 – But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
- There was a call to acceptance and the encouragement of deliverance. In Luke 21, as Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, He says… Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” 29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. .. vs. 34 – “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
3) Even though the end of the Jewish system would relieve the persecution of Christians, how could they look upon the destruction of their culture with such acceptance? The answer is simple. It might be described in the term “other worldly”.
- I remember Gardner Hall using that phrase to describe Christians. In one of his lessons he tells about first hearing the phrase in a humanities class describing transformation in art. Prior to renaissance, art was “other worldly,” emphasized Bible themes. But the renaissance changed that – for a while still religious themes with artists like Michelangelo, but figures were very worldly, prominent families of Florence and other renaissance cities. Emphasis shift from there to here.
- It is also used in relation to religious groups and their outlook. Some are “other worldly” – emphasizing heaven, life after death preparing for it. But most are decidedly “this worldly” – emphasizing improving things here and now.
- The early Christians displayed a certain detachment from the society of their day. Not through seclusion or monasticism, but piety, holiness, and endurance in persecution. It is interesting to note the expression of this attitude of separateness through the ages….
- Since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men put us to death.” Justin Martyr
- “The one peaceful and trustworthy tranquility, the one security that is solid, firm and never changing, is this: for a man to withdraw from the distractions of this world, anchor himself to the firm ground of salvation, and lift his eyes from earth to heaven.” – Cyprian – a 2nd century overseer
- “…Someone will say, “Shall a Christian, then, have nothing to do with all of these vanities?” No, not that, but we shall participate only with detachment, being ready to forsake all for the sake of the one thing needful, as Paul said, “Having a wife as if not having,” weeping as if not weeping, rejoicing as if not rejoicing, selling as possessing nothing, using the world as if not using, for the fashion of this world passes away. “Use then the world but delight not in it.” – Erasmus – 16th Century
- Christians two hundred years ago, even in depression of past century – were mostly “other worldly – “You must not mind earthly things, nor set your affections on them – not to be conformed to the world…Here you have no abiding place, but are strangers and pilgrims seeking a better country.” – Barton W. Stone, 1841
- Many avoided involvement in politics or war – “Every act of alliance with or reliance for aid upon the human government is spiritual adultery” – David Lipscomb
- Where do you hear these attitudes today? Social Gospel has replaced this detachment. Churches are focused on making the experience better (Church supported softball teams, Family life centers – gymnasiums) Hospitals and ranches not wrong in and of themselves, but not a work of local church as Christ established it! No sign of such emphasis among early Christians
How did the apostles express this concept?
I. Pilgrim & Strangers – The apostles called on 1st Century Christians to be “other worldly”. The ability to live life as “pilgrims and strangers” may be the single greatest distinction between them and us. Phil 3:18-20 – 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things.20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, This worldliness is an enemy of the cross.
A. When the writer of Hebrews defines the practical side of faith in chapter 11 he recounts the sacrifices made by those who lived by faith, especially Abraham and Sarah.
1. Abraham left his home to go to a place he had never seen before. He waited for a city that had foundations (security) made by God, not man. The decisions he made were based on what God said even it turned this world upside down. Heb 11:13-16 – 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. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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.
2. As a pilgrim you travel through a country, but never acquire the affection that you have for your real home. Gardner tells about when he and Beverly worked in Argentina. The economy was always unstable and near the end of their stay it really went south. Although they were sad for those residents who were suffering, there was no desperation because in a few days they were going to be “out of there.”
3. This is how the Christian views the “desperate circumstances” that face this world. No hand wringing. In just a little while we are “out of here”.
II. The Axioms of “Other Worldliness” – God calls on us to be like these others who came before. There are certain “axioms” that undergird this perspective. If we are to develop this mindset we must focus on these truths.
A. God is Transcendent: What do we mean when we say God is transcendent? God is above us. This idea is presented to us by Paul in 2 Cor 4:5-7 – 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; (ASV); – “exceeding greatness of the power” is translated as“transcendent power” in RSV. The human involvement is the preaching of the gospel is designed to accentuate the transcendence of God.
1. vs. 3 – 5, Paul refuses to change his message to suit those who are blinded to it by “the god of this world “–He preaches Jesus Christ as Lord, and not himself. Because it is THE GOD (not the world) who has revealed the true glory & knowledge of God (vs. 6)
2. Isaiah spoke of God’s transcendent nature: Isaiah 40:18-23 “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. God is in control. I can rest my hope on what He has said, rather than the fluctuating cultures of men.
3. The N.T. upholds this point in every way. At Mars Hill Paul proclaimed that God does not live in shrines made by man, nor is He served by human hands. He is sovereign & above. (Acts 17:24-28) contrary to the ideology of Eastern Religion, He is not within us, but above us.
B. God is the Source of All Truth. Jesus said to His Father in heaven, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Where do you get the information you need to live on this planet? CNN, Fox News, your church or preacher? Paul told the Corinthian church that God had a copyright on spiritual truth. 1 Cor 2:6-12 – However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
1. If we would be people who develop “other worldliness” we must learn to trust in the promises of God and be disciplined by God’s word to seek the things that are above and not the things of the earth. (Col. 3:5)
- How much time do you talk about the scriptures in the course of a day, or even a week? We talk about sports, the weather, politics, our interests. Other worldly people talk about spiritual things.
C. Our Ultimate Need is Spiritual, Not Physical. Our transcendent Gods has spoken to us so that we might serve Him, not ourselves. If we do not keep the truth that we are serving God, because of who He is then we make Him serve us. Our definition of “serving God” is how He best serves us, or meets our needs.
1. We might call this approach, the “utility approach” to religion. It is determined to be truth, not because Gods said it, but because it meets out immediate needs … and because we seem to see some “success” in the alleviating of a present need. (we help a marriage stay together, someone beats drugs, makes us happier) & not because we recognize its source in an objective & revealed message from God. The utility approach can be recognized in….
a.) preaching that first gauges the marketplace to see the “needs” that must be met
b.) churches who are more concerned with numerical growth than the purity of truth.
c.) defending the construction of gymnasiums, exercise facilities, basketball courts as absolutely essential to evangelism, as if God could not work apart from them.
d.) preachers who contend that people cannot be won to Christ through serious study of the Bible, but only through meeting needs: sermons on “coping with stress”, “dealing with drugs”,” planning for retirement”, “building self-esteem” replace sermons on the simple gospel of the cross. (AAA travel agency set up in the lobby – where are we traveling to?)
2. As we meet these “needs” we fail to focus on the Ultimate Need … the presence & tragedy of sin in our lives. Romans 3:10-18 – As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;”The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known.”18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
If that is the disease, & these other things only symptoms, then what is the Ultimate Answer?
3. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
4. 1 Cor 2:1-5 – And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Paul declared to the Christians at Corinth an absolute focus on the spiritual agenda of God alone. He was detached from the current wisdom of his day in order to speak of the cross. He called on the church to be detached as well through holy living.
Practical suggestions: How can we be more “other worldly?” (from Gardner Hall’s website)
1. Suffer – not by being aloof or contentious with the world. But by sharing time and energy with those who suffer! Do not avoid the people or places where we can see the impact of sin. – Through their suffering you can see this world for what it is.
2. Give – by sacrificing the things of this world we can learn to live detached from it. Help others also.
3. Make it a point to talk more about things of God – Not wrong to talk about sports, business, football. Need to talk a lot less about it and more about scripture, how to reach more, how to help, how to go to heaven. How to deal with temptations, challenges work and school, etc.
4. Spend more time with Christians – Our association together is God’s preview for us of heaven. The ties are spiritual. The more time you spend with brethren, more you look to go to heaven.
5. Identify more with heaven than with the America – As good as we have it, this is not heaven. The purposes of God are not dependent on America or politicians. This world is in decay. My citizenship is in heaven.
Conclusion: Are you “other worldly”? Jesus calls you to a life of detachment and great anticipation.