OUR CONVERSATION IS IN HEAVEN
By John C. Carpenter
The apostle Paul wrote believers in Christ in Philippi: Brethren, be
followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (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: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly,
and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation [our true community and citizenship] is in heaven;
from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto
his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil 3:17-21). Many believers
in Christ are wrongly focused on a temporal, earthly, worldly life, and not on an eternal, spiritual, and heavenly life. In our busy,
materialistic world, focusing on eternal life is often difficult for the believer in Christ. Work, family, illness, responsibility
and a hundred other things, are antithetical to thinking and behaving with spiritual and heavenly priorities. The Holy Scriptures
make it clear, though, that the believer in Christ is nothing more than a temporary stranger and pilgrim on this earth. If you trust
what you read in the holy scriptures, believers have a heavenly citizenship, and should be looking only for our Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ, who makes that heavenly citizenship possible.
BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD
The apostle Paul personally knew what
the believer's true focus should be. Paul told believers in Rome, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind [understanding], that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom 12:2). The
apostle James also taught, Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship [fondness] of the world is enmity [hostile
to, opposes] with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). The apostle John clearly
instructs us, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father,
but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). Jesus warns us that seeking our own will, doing our own thing, and loving our own life, can
and will cause us to lose it: He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto
life eternal (John 12:25).
I BESEECH YOU AS STRANGERS AND PILGRIMS
Believers in Christ are destined not for a visible, worldly
life, as we experience now, but for an unseen, eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ and God the Father. As the scriptures
teach, we should consider ourselves as aliens and foreigners to this current life, as individuals who are on this earth temporarily.
We should strive to not get entangled with the world's worldliness. Peter instructs us about this: Dearly beloved, I beseech you as
strangers [alien resident, foreigner] and pilgrims [an alien alongside, a resident foreigner], abstain from fleshly lusts, which war
against the soul (1 Pet 2:11). Referring to Israel, the author of the letter to the Hebrews explained: These all died in faith, not
having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they
were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they
had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire
a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city (Heb
11:13-16). Like Paul, believers in Christ are often torn between their momentary life of service on this earth and their desire to
be eternally with Christ. Paul explained his conflict in this regard when he wrote Philippian believers, For to me to live is Christ,
and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait
betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ [eternally]; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh[temporarily] is more needful for you [Philippian believers] (Phil 1:21-24). Sadly, many believers are also in a strait between our
earthly lives and our eternal lives.
HOPE TO THE END FOR THE GRACE THAT IS TO BE BROUGHT UNTO YOU
We can learn much about
what the believer's proper attitude and focus should be by examining the attitudes and focus of biblical characters.
In the Old
Testament, Job revealed his eternal focus: For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the
earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes
shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me (Job 19:25-27). Definitely looking to the future, the prophet
Ezekiel prophesied about the temple that will be present in Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ: And the gates of the
city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi.
And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one gate of Dan.
And at the south side four thousand and five hundred measures: and three gates; one gate of Simeon, one gate of Issachar, one gate
of Zebulun. At the west side four thousand and five hundred, with their three gates; one gate of Gad, one gate of Asher, one gate
of Naphtali. It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there (Ezek
48:31-35). The heart of the prophet Isaiah clearly longed for the future presence and salvation of God when he prophesied, Oh that
thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting
fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy
presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For
since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what
he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee
in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved (Isa 64:1-5). Micah prophesied
about the future house of the God of Jacob in Jerusalem: And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain
of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall
go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).
In the New Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews
referenced Abraham's faith in God's future Jerusalem when he wrote, For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder
and maker is God (Heb 11:10), while the apostle Peter wrote Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end
for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). Throughout Scripture, those who know
and love God the Father look forward to and expect, without fail, the second appearance of Jesus Christ, and the salvation available
through faith in Him.
HAVE HOPE TOWARD GOD
For believers in Christ to focus on eternal life, at least one thing is necessary:
hope. But, Holy Scriptures are not slack in instructing and encouraging us to have hope. We are instructed to have hope toward God,…, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:15). Paul wrote the believers in Rome, Therefore
being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace
wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation
worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad
in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom 5:1-5), and that the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly,
but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:20-21). As believers, hope in eternal life is a necessity for salvation:For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that
we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Rom 8:24-25). For whatsoever things were written in the Scriptures were written
for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope of salvation and eternal life (Rom 15:4).
To Ephesian believers, Paul desired their enlightenment and understanding so that they may know what is the hope of his calling, and
what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (Eph 1:18). Paul instructed the Colossian believers about their heavenly
hope when he wrote, We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your
faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye
heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel (Col 1:3-5), and then encouraged them to continue in the faith grounded and settled,
and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel [good news about salvation and eternal life], which ye have heard, and which was
preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister (Col 1:23). Paul also teaches that the source
of the believer's hope is Christ (1 Tim 1:1), and that the believers hope is regarding eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, has
promised before the world began (Titus 1:2). Peter explained to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia,
and Bithynia the source of their hope when he wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his
abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible,
and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation
ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet 1:3-5).
THE FORMER THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY
Regarding our future with Christ,
new Testament apostles and disciples accurately and fully instruct believers in Christ what they should be looking for. The apostle
Paul wrote to his own son in the faith, Titus, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that
blessed hope [of salvation and eternal life], and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself
for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:11-14).
To those who had obtained like precious faith, Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Christ, wrote, Seeing then that all these
things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto
the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet 3:12-13). The
apostle Jude further explained that our attitude and vision should be focused on eternal life when he wrote, Keep yourselves in the
love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:21). Writing to the Colossian believers, Paul
unquestionably establishes what the believer's priority should be when he wrote, Set your affection on things above, not on things
on the earth (Col 3:2).
Life on this earth is temporary, fragile, and fleeting, but believers must have patient hope, as the
apostle James explained: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away (James 4:14). True and faithful believers in Christ should consistently have their spirit,
mind, and body focused not on seen, temporal things, but on unseen, eternal things. Paul taught For our light affliction, which is
but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2
Cor 4:17-18). The revelation of Jesus Christ to the apostle John leaves no doubt what the future holds for the believer in Christ:And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. AndI John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard
a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his
people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be
no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev 21:1-4). AMEN.