Inhabitors of the Continuing CityFebruary 24, 2015
The late Leonard Ravenhill made an observation concerning those among us who, from their heart, have let go of this worlds allegiances and have set their affections firmly upon things above. He spoke words to the effect of “they live in eternity six days a week, and on the seventh day, they come down to attend church.” Physically speaking, they are as much a part of this world as their neighbors. They work and raise families; they are model citizens who may be found in nearly every facet of society. But their conversation, their perspective, and their focus is on the eternal. They cannot be enticed with shallow discussion and dead religion holds no place for them. They have a walk with the Lord Jesus that all of us strive to reach as they fully identify with the words of the apostle Paul. “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
For the saints in this category, eternal mindedness is no longer a theological construct. They dwell continually in the presence of Jesus and concern themselves primarily with issues of eternal significance. I feel woefully inadequate to embark on this as I am continually reminded of my own shortcomings. Subsequently, this is as much a “note-to-self” as it is an encouragement for all who love the Lord Jesus. To use an old cliche “we’re all in this together.”
This post will involve a visiting of passages which are familiar to many of us. It’s likely that a number of them are carefully preserved in our memory and we visit them on a regular basis. As the days grow darker and the strong delusion continues to take on attributes that none of us were expecting, it is imperative that our focus is on the Lord Jesus and that our perspective is eternal. Satan plays to the three lusts like a skilled musician; incorporating the full emotional spectrum. from a euphoric sense of wellness to overwhelming despair, as he seeks to direct our attention away from that which is eternal and back to the itinerary of this world. These distractions may seem noble. Many will have a form of godliness. Pursuing them will oftentimes cause us to think to ourselves “I’m doing God service” as they lure us into a continuous loop of earthly focus and endeavor. If we make mention of them to other professing saints, many of them will not recognize the distraction as being such. We must have our senses exercised to discern between good and evil as we forgo the frivolous and lay hold of the eternal.
The first passage below is necessary because striving to be more like Jesus and less like us is a lifelong endeavor. At the end of any given day, we will have either become a little more like Jesus, or we will have surrendered territory which must be regained. We face pitfalls and distractions of a nature that previous generations did not have to contend with; due largely to the current state of technology, coupled with the steady rise of spiritual darkness as the final moments of the age play out. We must look to Jesus; focused squarely on the eternal, while nearly everyone and everything in our physical ambiance is trying to pull us into the vortex of perdition.
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.”
I become discouraged when considering where I desire to be spiritually……and then comparing it with an accurate assessment of my current state. These words are a remedy for anyone who, at times, finds themselves becoming overwhelmed by the journey and the issues that they struggle with. This passage is not a license to remain in a state of complacency or continual stumbling. Rather, it compels us to repent, get back up, and keep looking to Jesus. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:3)
This next passage is the perfect summary to the listing of saints from past generations who maintained their testimony until the end.
Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us.”
The great cloud of witnesses. A company which, since the time of this writing has grown beyond our comprehension. It now encompasses those who left this world at the hands of Islamic invaders, and the untold thousands who refused to agree to the unscriptural doctrines of Rome. It is composed of missionaries who left their nativity with no expectation of returning and evangelists who regarded not their own well-being as they brought the words of life to hostile shores. Pastors, farmers, craftsmen, a few statesmen who revered God more than their office – people from every generation and every walk of life, who, in the face of adversity and firey trial, maintained the testimony of Jesus while darkness swept across the land. These have crossed the finish line; leaving behind a legacy of souls who were birthed into the kingdom and an example for those following who would be tried in like manner.
The message is clear. “Let go of everything that hinders and lay hold of eternal life; trusting in Jesus who is our faithful Creator and Redeemer.” As the days grow darker, it will become easier to let go of the trivial matters that currently hinder so many of us. The firey trial will do this. It silences everything that is irrelevant and amplifies the issues that truly matter. For one who is truly born of the Spirit, it brings the eternal into perfect focus; burning away every shred of lifeless religion and dissolving any residual fascination with the trappings of this evil place. Hebrews chapter 12 continues:
Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
From before the foundation of the world, Jesus was knew that a moment would arrive when he would be crucified at the hands of evil men. He was fully aware as this moment went from being thousands of years away to hundreds of years away…..and eventually just around the corner has he began his earthly ministry. When the moment arrived, we can see his agonizing as it was recorded by Luke “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done. And their appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Regardless of what we may have to endure in this world, it will not even come close to the agony that Jesus went through on our behalf.
He could have called twelve legions of angels…..but didn’t. He could have come down from the cross when the mockers were compelling him to do so…..yet he remained. We must be continuously mindful, and eternally thankful, that our faithful Creator redeemed us with his own precious blood.He endured the cross and was faithful unto death. Three days later, he rose from the dead and is alive forever more.
Hebrews 12:3 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
We were once in absolute contradiction to the person and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ…..until that moment, when, in sincere repentance and desire to leave the old behind, we called out to him. It wasn’t simply a fire escape or a decision made while a fleshy praise team worked the crowd up into a frenzy. It was a sincere desire to follow Jesus. My personal story bears repeating. The moment that I believed on Jesus, there was no overwhelming euphoria or feeling of release. Quite the opposite. As I sat there “believing” that if I truly called on him and asked for forgiveness, he would do it. Then the strange “thought” came to me. it seemed to come from just outside my right ear. It spoke to me “you know that you can never live like that. Three or four days and you will be back to your old self again.” That thought from the enemy caused me to…think….and then proclaim with emphasis “NO! I’m tired of what I have been all of my life. I’m serious about this.” and I was. despite seasons of struggle and one lengthy season of backsliding, that day was the most important in my life. it was my one “turning point” in every sense of the word.
Hebrews 12:4 “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
And because Jesus overcame this world, and we have the Holy Spirit abiding within, we too can overcome the wicked one……even in a time of tribulation which Jesus warned us would be more severe than any other season of adversity; before or after. Our time in this world is but a vapor that appears for a fraction of a second. Then we enter our eternal situation, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” I recently heard it described like this. This world is the only hell that a true Christian will ever know. This world is the only heaven that those who reject the truth will ever know. The final two passages were actually part of a draft that involved a different topic, however, they fit this issue perfectly
James 4:8 “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands ye sinners; and purify your hearts ye double minded.”
Revelation 2:17 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
The first one encourages us to draw close to God and cease from the works of the flesh. To repent and turn from anything that separates us from the Lord Jesus and unite our heart to follow him without reservation. The second passage is one that blows my mind upon every remembrance. If I understand it correctly…..in the age to come, each of us is going to have a special name that nobody else knows except the Lord Jesus. Without a doubt, we will have an identity that is known to others, however, we will also have a secret name…..and only the Lord Jesus will know that name. WOW! Even now, it blows my mind that he can have a personal deep relationship with each of us at the same time…..as though we were the only person on the planet. But the words found in Revelation 2:17 carry this into a whole new dimension. This idea is in the realm of things “too wonderful to comprehend while inhabiting a vessel of flesh and seeing through a glass darkly.”
A name that only the Lord Jesus knows. This is far more incredible than the grandest mansion, the widest street of pure gold, the indescribable features of a world with no ending, or any other reward that one could receive, This is what comes to mind whenever my thoughts venture into heavenly placves. Being in the presence of Jesus and surrounded by the company of all who entered eternity with their testimony intact. “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” I’m looking forward to the moment when we are all gathered around the throne of God, who inhabits eternity.
Blessings in Jesus name.