Since the earliest of times, when Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, GODís people have been sojourning in a strange land. While Cain and his were building a city to dwell in, Abraham and his were looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. While fools built greater barns to bestow their goods in this world, our Lord instructed His followers to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven". We are reminded of the old gospel song, "This world is not my home, Iím just a passing through".
We may be "pilgrims," and yet, in our pilgrimage, may visit all the cities and churches in the world and include them in our embrace; but if we are true "sojourners" we shall be "strangers" to them all; and shall be compelled, as Abraham was, to erect our own solitary altar to Jehovah in the midst of them all.
E. W. Bullinger, Great Cloud of Witnesses
This world has a course already plotted out on which we are expected to run. The course is one big circle going nowhere, and most spend up their entire lives going around and around and around. Getting off of that course is the beginning of our deliverance. We have been freed from their "yoke of bondage", we need no longer serve their master, similar to what Paul wrote the Ephesian believers.
EPHESIANS 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
The children of disobedience were those who obeyed not the clarion call of GOD. They were the ones "choked by the cares of this world". They were the ones who received the word with joy, but endured only for a while, for when affliction or persecution came because of the word, they were again ensnared. They were the ones blinded by the god of that era, because they believed not (2 CORINTHIANS 4:4).
It is the word of GOD that is the key which enables us to unlock the door and thereby be released from the captivity wherein we also have been bound to this worldís course. Yeshua (Jesus) taught many of these great truths which continue to deliver GODís people from this yoke of bondage. Much of it is recorded in the teaching called "the Sermon on the Mount" at which close Matthew wrote, "Öthe people were astonished at His doctrine".
He opened His teaching by declaring that itís the "poor and persecuted" who enter into the kingdom of heaven, not normally the rich and powerful. He taught that itís His disciples who are the true lights in this dark world, not usually the religious leaders. He taught that to enter the kingdom of heaven, oneís righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, suggesting that they had not proved themselves worthy to enter in.
In His teaching He showed His listeners how not just murder or adultery was sin, but even anger and lustful desire, and that sin originates in the heart, not in the hand. He taught them that they should "turn the other cheek", to "resist not evil" and to "love your enemies". Only those passing through this world as sojourners could ever attain unto these aspirations. To have this mind one must cut himself loose from those lusts of the flesh that seek only to satisfy itself.
He taught of two rewards, one received by the hypocrites who love the praise of men and the other given by His Father in heaven. He taught of two treasures, one upon the earth, which moth and rust destroy and the other in heaven. And He taught of two masters of which no one can serve both. He explicitly taught them that they should not be anxious about being fed or clothed, for "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things". But! Instead of being caught up with all the troubles the kingdoms of this world consumed them with, they should "seek first the kingdom of GOD".
He warned them not to cast their pearls before swine. That those who ask are given, those who seek find and unto those who knock it is opened unto them. That the gate unto destruction is wide but the gate unto life is narrow, and "few there be that find it". Then He warned them of false prophets who shall be known by their fruits.
He closed this sermon on the mount by declaring that there are indeed two roads, two ways to follow. You can build your house upon a rock or you can build upon the sand. The rain will fall, the floods eventually will come and the winds will blow. Why one house falls while the other stands is because upon what it was built. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." But, "every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sandÖand great was the fall of it" (MATTHEW 7:26- 27).
Many hear about the words of GOD but how few actually hear them. Many set in pews on Sunday morning, or tune in to the tele-evangelist, and many others sit in Bible study classes, but how many actually hear the words of the living GOD? How many hear and obey that still small voice and enter into HIS rest? How many enter into HIS kingdom through the narrow gate? Our Lord tells us, Few! If you are running with the crowd, if you are traveling a well-worn path, you may want to reconsider the course you have chosen, and where it might lead.
"meddle not with them"
As the nation of Israel wandered through the wilderness, looking for their Promised Land, they passed through the land of the children of Esau. GOD commanded them, "Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink" (DEUTERONOMY 2:6), but "meddle not with them".
The nature of living required the believers to have business with the unbelievers, but they were not to become entangled with them. Such it is with us. We live and work amongst our neighbors, yet often it would do us well to likewise "meddle not" with them. Our promised land is elsewhere. Our world is not theirs, we are just passing through. We may all live on one planet, but we are not all of the same world. We are not all on the same course. Ours is HIS, and we must be separate from them.We may have a great desire and wish that they were like us, but they are not, and as hard as it may be to accept, they may never be, for they are of this world. Entanglements with them do not enlighten them, it only darkens us. As Paul warned the Corinthians, "Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals" (ASV 1 CORINTHIANS 15:33).
Lot, Abrahamís nephew, sat at the gate of Sodom, which meant that he was probably a notable citizen, perhaps even a city councilman. He evidently immersed himself in their affairs so as to enlighten them, but the reality was that it nearly cost him his life. Their unbridled lusts exhausted him, while he failed to convert even one of them. "Not one!"
The rulers of this present world are tireless in their attempts to entangle us with the affairs of their world. Each entanglement we are overcome by, is one less opportunity for us to seek HIS kingdom. "Keep them from reaching the door!" And then, "Never allow them to enter in". And finally, "Drag them back out, whatever be the cost". This is the world's anthem! This is their battle cry!
EPHESIANS 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation [conduct or behavior] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
"In times past" this world might also have been ours. But now, we are only passing through as sojourners. Nothing here is ours for when we die and are buried all possessions will remain here. The only thing that is truly ours is our character. That is the only thing that goes with us, nothing else. Even our bodies are not our own. They are loaned to us by GOD to carry us through this world and will be discarded after they have served their purpose.
We may pay the mortgage, we may think the family car is finally ours, we may have been told that our financial future is becoming secure, but these are all illusions. They are only concepts the world uses to keep us tethered to its coffers. Weíve all heard the familiar statement "You canít take it with you". Why spend all our years amassing wealth that travels not with us beyond the grave? Better it is to first amass eternal treasures, such as the fruit of the spirit, which will indeed survive the grave.
Yeshua taught that a manís life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses (LUKE 12:15). One may ask then, of what does oneís life consist? Our true lives consist of the fruit of the spirit. Our devotion to HIS word can produce within us righteousness, godliness and holiness. This is what travels with us beyond the grave. Acquiring an understanding of GODís ways is the only endeavor worthy of our lifeís pursuit.
Our society overwhelms us with desires for more modern conveniences, financial security and a body that will never grow old. These are lies fabricated to entangle us in their world. There is nothing wrong with a healthy body, and being debt free is a wise pursuit, but nothing should be our first pursuit except the pursuit of the truth.
In Johnís first epistle he commands his readers to "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world". This does not mean that they didn't enjoy a beautiful sunset or that it was wrong to desire a fine steak or allow themselves the amusements this world offers. It was simply about being entangled in the things of the world.
Each believer is likewise passing through this world as sojourners. We will not have reached the end of our journey until our resurrection is accomplished. Our yellow brick road introduces us to many new experiences and we should be of a ready heart to drink them in, always keeping as our goal the knowledge of HIS will. We are told to seek first GODís kingdom and having done that, all these other things will be added to us, not withheld from us. The caution we are to heed is that we are not to be entangled with the things that are in the world and thereby be hindered from knowing Him and acquiring that spiritual fruit.
GODís word offers life. Having obtained that, this world can then offer its amusements. John continues in his epistle, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him". We must serve only one master. We must have only one first love.
Seek ye first HIS kingdom, for it is the truth found in that seeking that is able to make us free. After one has entered into HIS rest, has peace with GOD and is free from the lusts of the flesh, then all the needs of this life fall into their proper place. Unfortunately too many strive to secure a place in this world first, thinking they will later seek HIS kingdom from their rocking chair. They end up living a life of death. They have backed away from the door, and never entered the life GOD may have intended them to know.
2 PETER 1:4-8 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.