Not of This World

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

I’ve been thinking about that lately. The Jews of the first century—up to and including Jesus Christ’s own disciples, even after His resurrection—were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). What they got was a Savior who sacrificed Himself for the world and then asked His followers to do a very difficult thing:

To wait.

Those are His last words in Luke’s gospel account: “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

Wait. Be patient. So they did. And they were. Finally, on the Feast of Pentecost, God poured out His Spirit on them, and they set about fulfilling their divine commission: to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey the words of God (Matthew 28:19-20). All the while, these faithful disciples were looking to the horizon, waiting for the Kingdom their Lord and Savior had promised to establish at His return.

But it didn’t come—not during their lifetimes, anyway. Even Paul, who wrote with confidence about “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15), eventually came to accept that Jesus would be returning after his own death, and not before (2 Timothy 4:6).

For the last 2,000 years, Christ’s disciples have been waiting. And while we wait for the Kingdom not of this world, Jesus asks us to do another difficult thing:

To live like we’re not of this world.

Because, of course, we aren’t. Jesus told the Father, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). Paul told the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). He told Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4, ESV). The author of Hebrews urges us to follow the example of those who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who “declare plainly that they seek a homeland” (Hebrews 11:13-14).

The world wants you to get involved—to get entrenched—to find a hill to die on and battle it out till the bitter end. And if you want a hill to die on, this is the year to find one. There is no shortage of highly polarized issues you can focus on and fight about for as long as you like. Political issues, cultural issues, societal issues, environmental issues—you name it, it’s there to fight over. Pick your platform and air your stance—and that’s all it takes to enter the fray.

The hard part is stepping back.

The hard part is remembering that this isn’t how things get fixed.

The hard part is confessing that we’re just passing through, declaring that our homeland is somewhere else.

Those who came before us faced their own challenges, too. “And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:15-16).

Satan would love to see you return to the country you left behind. He’d love to see you lose your focus by investing all your time and energy into arguing over temporary band-aids for a world that’s already irreparably broken.

Remember why you’re here. Remember where you’re going:

A city not of this world, prepared for a people not of this world. A Kingdom where all the issues of this world will be fixed by the God who knows how to fix them. Our homeland.

Jesus is coming quickly. “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Until next time,
Jeremy

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