Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land?

"So the area was 875 feet on each side with a wall around it to separate the holy place from the common." ~Ezekiel 42:20

This verse is referring to Ezekiel's vision about the new temple area, but it got me thinking (as scary as that may seem)...

I am holy. I am a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). What separates me from the "common?" God's grace obviously does (and without it, I am nothing), but what in my life visibly shows that I am set apart? Is there a barrier or wall of character or love or humility that makes me different?

Interestingly enough, in my Bible reading plan I also came across the book of 1 Peter, where it opens with the words, "This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God's people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood." (1 Peter 1:1-2, emphasis added.)

1 Peter uses alot of terminology in referring to believers as foreigners, so does Hebrews chapter 11.

"All those people [those in the "Hall of Faith"] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had oppurtunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

This is a pretty popular theme, then. To help me get a better handle on this subject, I tried to put together a list of what makes a foreigner...well, foreign! Here are some of the things I came up with:

~Foreigners are visibly different from "commoners." Their appearance itself isn't the same. They often have different skin tones, facial features, or wardrobes. As Christians, we as foreigners won't always have different colored skin or prominent characteristics. However, our clothing can be remarkably changed. Christian women can dress modestly, and believers as a whole can clothe themselves with dignity and promote images that reflect Christ.

~Foreigners speak differently, whether they have an accent or an entirely different language. Christians should speak their own language too. Our speech should be "gracious" and "seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6). The Bible says that "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." If our hearts are different and truly changed, we should sound like it.

~Thirdly, foreigners live differently because they dwell in a separate culture. So should Christians. We are not to live by the culture of this world. Instead we are to lead upright and godly lives, like those described prior to the Hebrews 11 reference above.

The world's culture speaks of self. We are not to conform to this earth...there are better things in store for us! We need to "long for a better country--a heavenly one" and admit that we are aliens and strangers on this earth. Our personal culture should speak of sacrificial love, compassion, mercy, selflessness, and peace.

Different cultures demand different mindsets. A Christian's cultural mindset should be focused outward and upward. It should zoom in on the unseen and the eternal. What is seen is temporary. We are called to invest our time in what will really last...the work of the Kingdom.

I'm sad to confess that I spend more time worrying about how to fit in, rather than how to stand out. Romans 12:2--a rather popular verse--offers some hope for me, however. It says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." More and more I'm witnessing the power God's Word has to transform. I'm confident that as I continually read it and become more holy, he will build that wall of separation. His son Jesus laid the foundation, and now through His faithfulness, it will only become stronger.

I don't want to miss out on the blessings Hebrews 11 speaks of! I don't want God to be ashamed to be called my God.

The Clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6),
Ellie V.

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