Many years ago, when my sister, Marsha, was around 6 years old, she was invited to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Marsha was excited to receive the invitation and readily accepted it. When the evening of the sleepover arrived, she loaded her overnight bag into our family car. Then mom drove her to her friend’s house for the big adventure.
Mom returned home and we carried on with our normal evening routine. Around 9 P.M., the phone rang. Marsha’s friend’s mom was on the other end of the line. Marsha was really homesick and wanted to come home. Mom went and got her.
Many times, we’ll use the phrase, “I’m going home.” By this we mean we’re going back to the place where we sleep at night. But is this really our home, especially if we’re a disciple of Jesus?
The apostle Paul tackled this issue in Philippians 3:18-21. Verses 18 – 19 says, “18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”
If this world truly is our home, we will run from Jesus. Taking care of ourselves will be our primary focus. We may call ourselves Christians but our lifestyles say otherwise.
Disciples of Jesus shouldn’t live this way. Verses 20 – 21 tells us what’s expected of us. “20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
If our citizenship is in heaven, we’re only staying on earth until we can go home. Our houses are only temporary dwellings. Our possessions are nothing more than tools to use while we’re here. These things shouldn’t determine our worth or hold any power over us.
But do they? Even though we follow Jesus, do we place more value in our earthly possessions than we do should? Do we really want to give them up?
If we don’t, then we have two problems. The first one is our faith isn’t as strong as it should be. We’re trusting this world more than we’re trusting Jesus. The second problem with placing too much emphasis on our earthly possessions is it’s impossible to hold onto them forever. As author Randy Alcorn says, “Many Christians dread the thought of leaving this world. Why? Because so many have stored up their treasures on earth, not in heaven. Each day brings us closer to death. If your treasures are on earth, that means each day brings you closer to losing your treasures.”
The only way we’ll be able to overcome this is to keep our focus on Jesus and his promises. That’s not always easy to do. Jesus doesn’t work on our timetable or schedule. He answers our prayers and fulfills his promises according to his schedule. Not ours. While we wait, this world distracts us.
The 1st century church had the same problem. Jesus had promised to return. Most Christians expected him to do it fairly soon. When that didn’t happen, they began to get distracted by false teachers and scoffers who told them their faith was wrong.
Peter addressed this problem in his second letter. He writes in 2 Peter 3:1-18 – “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Peter wrote this letter to stimulate his readers to wholesome thinking. Unwholesome thinking leads to unwholesome actions. If Jesus said he was going to return and didn’t, did he lie? If he was untruthful about that, did he lie about other things? This type of reasoning leads people to put more focus on living in the here and now instead of on eternity.
Just as unwholesome thinking leads to sin, wholesome thinking has the opposite effect. Peter told them to quit getting distracted by people who didn’t know what they were talking about. First of all, they needed to recall the Godly teaching they’d already received. Remember the things God did in the past. And, trust the Lord. He said he’d return. And he will. But, he didn’t say when he would return. Patiently wait on him to fulfill his promises. Also know that Jesus is delaying his return so other people can have their sins forgiven too.
Peter continues. “10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
The Lord will return. When it happens, it will surprise a lot of people because they won’t be looking for it to happen. When it does, the heavens and the earth as we know them will be destroyed. They will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth. While we wait, there are several things we’re supposed to be doing:
* Live holy and Godly lives (V. 11). Several days ago, I got some poison oak on my arms. They started to itch and swell. I got a prescription for prednisone since I’m highly allergic to it. When I started taking it, the itching and swelling lessened. My body was changed by what was inside of me.
As followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is inside of us. Our lives should reflect that. We should be different than the people who don’t know Jesus. God should be changing us into the people he wants us to be. If this isn’t happening, there’s a problem.
* Look forward to a new heaven and a new earth (V. 13). When mom arrived to pick up Marsha from the sleepover, Marsha was waiting at the door with her overnight bag in her hand. She jumped in the car as soon as mom stopped. She couldn’t wait to go home. If Jesus were to come back today, would he find us doing the same thing?
* Be spotless, blameless and at peace with Jesus (V. 14). The people who received Peter’s letter weren’t at peace with Jesus. Since he wasn’t working on their timetable, they were falling away from him. We need to hold onto his promises, even if they don’t always make sense to us or if we think his timing stinks. The more we trust him, the more peace we’ll have in our lives. This will make us spotless and blameless.
* Be on our guard against false teaching (V. 17). I knew a man who was an alcoholic for many years. After years of putting his family and friends through the horrors of his addiction, he quit drinking. After several years of sobriety, one of his sons gave him a beer and said, “One won’t hurt you.” Guess what happened? He started drinking again. Believing the wrong information caused him to die an alcoholic.
There are a lot of false interpretations of the Bible out there. Don’t believe and accept everything you hear because many of them lead to paths of destruction. Test the things you hear. See if they are sound doctrine. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern what’s true and what’s not.
* Grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (V. 18). When I was dating Stephanie, I went to visit her one Saturday evening. We decided to watch a movie with her family. I was suffering with a bad cold so I took some cold medicine. Since I assumed the dosage was two tablets, I didn’t read the dosage instructions on the package. I took the medicine right before we started the movie. About fifteen minutes into it, I got drowsy. Then I fell asleep. I woke up several hours later. I’d missed the entire movie and, to make matters worse, was hogging up their couch. Later, I looked at the dosage instructions on the package. Guess what a dose was supposed to be. One tablet. I’d assumed wrong and it affected everyone around me.
The Bible gives us the dosage requirements for life. We must never assume we already know what it says. We grow in the knowledge of Jesus when we read it and then do what it says.
Even if we live to be 100 years old, our lives here on earth would still be nothing more than a sleepover in eternity. We still need to go home. Home for anyone who doesn’t follow Jesus is hell. Home for disciples of Jesus is heaven. While we wait to go there, let’s make every effort to believe the words of Jesus. Let’s live the lives he calls us to live.
Let’s also be standing at the door with our bags packed, waiting for Jesus to take us home.