by Rayola Kelley
In November’s newsletter, I established the disposition and attitude a Christian must possess in regards to this present world. Before people truly meet Jesus, they are completely conditioned to think as the world thinks. When they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, they need to mature enough to see that there was much about their past behavior that was not acceptable. However, few realize that their behavior is a manifestation of their attitude. Attitudes simply reflect people’s inward disposition and outward influences.
Admittedly, it has taken me many years to recognize that no matter how wise my thinking and conclusions seemed to me, they constituted nothing more than my conceits. These conceits were influenced by the pride often reigning in and through my self-life, as well as the world around me. Eventually, I realized that my mind needed to be transformed in its way of thinking. I needed to let the mind of Christ influence my way of thinking and doing.
As I struggled with my conceit through the years, I realized how it greatly affected my attitude towards the world. Without transformation, believers’ attitudes will only reflect the essence of the old man with his old ways of being, doing and thinking. In such a state, people will continue to be conformed to this world.
In studying the Word, I discovered that my attitude towards the world needed to be that of a stranger and a pilgrim. I needed to develop the disposition of a stranger and the attitude of a pilgrim. As a stranger, I would not belong or fit in this present world. After all, I am a citizen of a heavenly kingdom that is eternal. My position in this world is that of an ambassador who is representing and promoting this kingdom in an official capacity. In my official state, my residence here will be temporary until the King of kings summons me home.
As a pilgrim, I am in search of the place in which I can worship God in spirit and truth without hindrance and opposition. As long as I am opposed, hindered or prevented in any way in my search, I will long for that place of rest and communion. I will never really be satisfied in my soul until this place is somehow secured. After all, as a pilgrim, I am seeking for the realization and fulfillment of the kingdom of God in my own life. Even though I have occasional glimpses of the glory of heaven in my travels, I will never be content until I finally stand in His unhindered glory.
Since I will always be a stranger to this world and a pilgrim in it, I will never really put any roots in this world. As I consider my last three decades as a Christian, I realize that much of my process had to do with the cutting, ripping and tearing of my worldly roots. Clearly, my roots had to be established in Jesus and not in this world.
This is a big problem for some Christians. Their roots are not in the foundation of Christ and His Word, but they are firmly in the world. This has caused much confusion for some believers. There is no agreement as the Spirit battles the influences of the flesh upon their minds and lives.
In studying the lives of the saints, it is clear that they did not belong to this world. Their disposition and attitude clearly distinguished them as simply passing through. Granted, they had responsibilities to the King and Lord they served, but they had no intention of becoming part of the world. As a result, they brought a clear contrast between those who were citizens of this world and those who were citizens of the Kingdom of God.
As we embark on the Christmas season, we should be reminded of the greatest stranger that ever passed through this world. He was not a stranger to heaven, but He was a stranger in and to this world. His crossing through this world changed the course of history. The man I am making reference to is Jesus Christ.
Think about His journey for a second. It was incredible, mysterious, miraculous, and eventful. It was incredible because He came from heaven. There were many times in the Gospel of John that Jesus stated that He came from above, and that the Father had sent Him.
So much about Jesus is shrouded by what we cannot imagine or are unable to comprehend with our limited understanding. We know He existed, and walked through this world, but He is surrounded by conflict. It all comes down to who He is. Although, we have discussed who Jesus is many times before, we cannot help but mention it again.
Jesus Christ was a revelation or unveiling of a mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament. Granted, a glorious shadow or outline was cast by the many examples, types and prophecies of the Old Testament, but even with the shadows that were cast through these different avenues, people still refused to believe the truth about the One who actually fulfilled every aspect of the Old Testament presentation.
When you consider that the Old Testament actually described Jesus’ journey centuries earlier, from His birthplace to His crucifixion, you realize how serious God was in identifying the Promised One. After all, recognizing Him was a matter of life and death. Therefore, we must conclude that if we fail to embrace the shadow, walk according to the type of pattern or example presented, and believe every aspect of the prophecies to be true about Him, salvation may elude us. We need to be serious about receiving the things of the Word as truth to ensure that they are fulfilled in our lives.
Jesus’ journey was miraculous. It began in heaven, but it would start on earth through a miraculous conception. This conception involved God, our Creator taking on the disposition of a servant and being fashioned as a man in the womb of an insignificant handmaiden. As a result, a child was born into this world who would become a servant to the plans and designs of heaven, and a Son was given by God who would become the Lamb who would take away the sins of the world.
The Son of God’s journey brought Him forth by the door of a woman’s womb. He actually made His entrance in a manger. He was hid in obscurity in the midst of insignificance, but was brought forth in anointing and power. Ultimately, He left by way of a cross, and stepped through the door of a grave to be raised in resurrection power.
As we follow Him through His ministry, we once again see the incredible, mysterious and miraculous in action. Jesus’ teachings were incredible. He taught as one having authority. He was on the move, meeting people in their plight, and crossing over to confront the different sides of humanity. He calmed storms, rebuked demons, and brought light to the hopeless soul, and healing to the wounded heart.
In Jesus’ ministry, we can always witness the miraculous. He healed people from every ailment. He showed compassion in an indifferent world, power in the midst of counterfeits, truth in spite of hypocrisy, and brought hope in the middle of despair and hopelessness. Everything He touched was changed, everything He spoke to was stirred up, and everything He encountered would never be the same. People were impacted by His presence. Man’s religion was exposed for its lifelessness, Satan’s kingdom manifested and trembled, and the poor in spirit were quickened in the inner man with a new life and hope.
This brings us to the final aspect of Jesus’ journey. It was eventful. We need to realize that God intruded into the lives and history of mankind. Such intrusions are eventful. The Apostle Paul described this event in a very simple way: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”(1 Timothy 3:16).Talk about the incredible, mysterious and miraculous happening in the eventful journey of Jesus Christ. The apostle clearly summarized it.
However, this event would not mean anything if it were not for the reactions and confirmation of those who encountered this incredible occasion in history. As we consider the actions of others, we realize that it likewise made them strangers and pilgrims in this present world.
We know Abraham’s encounter with God made him a stranger to the world. We can see where Jacob, Joseph and Paul became pilgrims as they searched for or desired the place God had ordained for them. We also consider Jesus, who did not belong to this world. His mission was not of this world, and His kingdom would not be recognized by this world. His life proved to be an event because He was passing through with a mission and destination in mind. His mission was to become the sacrifice on the altar of the cross, and His destination was the grave where He would prove victory over death.
Therefore, we have to conclude that to seek and find Jesus, we must become strangers and pilgrims in this world. Let us now consider how this became obvious in the lives of those seeking Jesus.
Shepherds: On the night Jesus was born, the angels declared His birth to shepherds who were watching their flock. This sent them on a pilgrimage to discover this child born in a manger. Granted, it did not take them long to find their destination, but no doubt it impacted them. From the manger, they did not go back to their flocks. Rather, they went into the streets to declare what they had witnessed.
Wise Men: We know that wise men sought out Jesus. They began as pilgrims searching for the newborn king. They became strangers as they ventured through the countryside. They were not interested in staying in any one place for very long, because they had a mission. They needed to find the King of the Jews. Finally, their journey led them to Bethlehem where they were able to worship this king and honor Him with their gifts.
Jews: The Jewish people were looking for the Messiah. He had been promised to them. They were strangers in their own land because of Gentile rule. Their religious lifestyle was burdened down with unrealistic rules. They felt oppression from every direction. As long as people are looking for a promise or hope to be realized, they will never be content in this world.
We have the man Simeon who was looking for the Messiah before he passed into eternity, and ended up blessing Him. There is Anna who recognized Jesus and proclaimed that salvation had come to the Jews. We have the disciples who were looking for the Messiah. After all, John the Baptist was preparing some of them for the Promised One.
As you consider these different people, you have to realize that they were indeed strangers and pilgrims in this world. They were looking for something that was beyond the comprehension of this world. They were on a pilgrimage to find God’s fulfillment and purpose.
This Christmas, remember that there was a great journey taken on your behalf by God. He took the journey to prepare a way for you and me to finally discover not only our potential, but also our destination. As we accept the challenge of this spiritual pilgrimage, we will discover the gift of life. The growth of His life in our inner being will make us strangers in this world, and pilgrims in our search and mission to finish the course set before us.
We can take courage in this course. It was set forth by our Lord and by all the past saints who walked through this world as strangers and pilgrims. These individuals proved they could never be content until they found that place that was truly established by God for those who love, serve and worship Him. As a result, the world in many instances was not even worthy to witness their great faith in the Lord.
Let us rejoice this Christmas not only in Jesus’ incredible, mysterious and miraculous eventful journey as man into this world, but for the gift of life that has been made available through His redemption on the cross. Let us rejoice that we do not belong to this present world, but we have a perfect world that is waiting for our glorious homecoming.
Have a blessed Christmas.