Pilgrims Aren’t Popular
I have titled this message “Pilgrims Aren’t Popular.” A pilgrim is a traveler in a foreign place. In the past we have used the word “stranger.” Normally today we just use that word for someone you don’t know; but it used to be that a “stranger” was someone who was new in town and didn’t belong in the area. “He’s a stranger in these parts.”
No one likes to be a stranger. Very few people like moving. When you go to a new place, you feel like you stick out every where you go. Everybody peeks out of their window when you move in. You go to a new school and everyone knows each other, but you don’t know anyone. You probably feel this way when you visit a church for the first time – you probably felt that way when you came here. You know that you stick out; that people notice that you’re here for the first time; you feel very self-conscious. Because you’re a stranger.
But the Bible says that all Christians should live like pilgrims; like strangers.
Our text this morning in Colossians 3:1-4, and it tells us to Live like this world isn’t our home – because it isn’t. That summarizes the message of Col. 3:1-4: Live like this world isn’t your home – because it isn’t. Live like a pilgrim.
Why isn’t this world your home?
1. READ v.1 Live like this world isn’t your home because you have been raised up with Christ. Surely we understand this now. At salvation the Spirit dunked you into the body of Christ. You were brought into union with Christ, and so when Christ died it was as if you died to your sin; when Christ rose from the dead, you went from death to life. You have been raised up with Christ. Why does that mean that I should live like this world isn’t my home? Because Christ is now seated at the right hand of God. And if I am in union with Christ, I am there too. Really? READ v.1 again. Listen to Eph. 2:5-6 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions … raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” You are in union with Christ and He is there, so you are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
2. Notice that he repeats this in v.3 “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Your life is there, hidden with Christ!
3. Verse 4: This word revealed means to make something clear, to uncover it. It is used many times for Christ’s first coming, but it is also used in I Pet. 5:4; I John 2:28; I John 3:2 to refer to His second coming. And that is what it refers to here. You cannot see Him now, but someday He will be revealed for all to see. But not only will He be revealed, but we will be revealed on that day.
· Rom. 8:18-19 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to (in?) us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” There is a great day coming when the sons of God (you!) are “revealed!”
· Why is that important? This is the great “I told you so”! How can it be possible or believable that “your life is hidden with Christ in God”? That you are seated with Christ in the heavenly places? (Eph. 2:6). How can you believe that you are in Christ and seated in the heavenly places with Him, when I can see you right here? There’s a great day of revealing coming, when Christ will be seen on earth and you will be seen in Heaven. This is the proof – there is proof coming that your life right now is hidden with Christ in God. Now we believe it by faith because the Bible says it; but there is a day coming when the whole world will know it is true! The whole world will see that all along you have had another home! A better home! You really were just a pilgrim here, and the whole world will see that!
TRANSITION: So, live like this isn’t your home – because it isn’t!! You have been raised up with Christ, seated with Him in heavenly places, and that is your real home. Because of this, you are supposed to live like this world isn’t your home – because it isn’t. How do you do that?
1. Keep seeking the things above
· How do you seek the things above? TURNTO Matt. 6:31-33 What is the kingdom referred to here? Remember that the word kingdom is used many ways in Scripture. It sometimes refers to the Jewish kingdom; sometimes to the millennial kingdom; sometimes to the kingdoms of the earth. But other times it is used to refer to authority or rule; like we use the word “domain” sometimes. The kingdom of God = His rule and authority in our hearts; that is why it parallels “His righteousness.” His rule and His righteousness. When Col. 3:1 says “keep seeking the things above,” it partly means just this – seek God’s rule in our hearts like He rules above - in Heaven. TURNTO Matt. 6:9-10 “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!” Pray that God will have the same complete submission here on earth that He has from those in heaven. “God I want my heart to be so submitted to you that your will is done in my life as it is in heaven.” That is seeking things above. Seek authority from above in your life down below.
· Here is another aspect that Jesus taught: John 5:44 You receive honor from one another, but “you don’t seek the honor that is from the one and only God.” Keep seeking things above partly means seek the approval from above; seek honor from above; not the honor and approval of men!
· So seek God’s rule in your life; God’s authority; God’s honor; God’s approval.
2. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
· “set your mind” means to think about; care for; be concerned about.
· Matt. 16:23 Jesus began to reveal that He would die, and Peter said: “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus said: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” He told Peter, “you are not setting your mind – caring for – what matter to God. Your mind is set on what matter to you.” Set your mind on what matters to God. Set your mind on what is eternally significant. Set your mind on what has eternal value.
· don’t set your mind on “the things that are on the earth.”
· We saw in our opening meditation Matt. 6:19 don’t lay up treasures “on the earth.”
· It is this phrase, “on the earth” – “don’t set your mind on things on the earth” that brings us to Hebrews 11, and really our key text in addition to Colossians 3. TURNTO Heb. 11:13-16 “they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Notice the phrase that this shares with Colossians 3 – “on the earth.” Great men of faith realize that they don’t belong here. They confessed – they were glad to admit that they were “strangers and exiles on the earth.” The King James Version that many of us grew up with says: “strangers and pilgrims.” A pilgrim is “a traveler in a foreign place.” These great men and women of faith new that they were pilgrims on this earth. Heb. 11 goes on to say: “they are seeking a country of their own … they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
· What a startling statement this is! Of whom can it be said “God is not ashamed to be called their God”? Those who live like this world isn’t their home. Those who seek and set their minds on things above, not on things on this earth. Those who live like strangers and pilgrims.
· This message is called “Pilgrims Aren’t Popular.” But that statement is only true with regard to man. With man, Pilgrims Aren’t Popular. But Pilgrims are a delight to God. He says “I am not ashamed to say ‘Those are my people! I am their God!’” When they live like pilgrims. When they set their mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Let me try to illustrate this. This is a weak and faulty illustration. Bear with me. It would be ridiculous to…
· Win an all-expense paid vacation to Hawaii. You get on the airplane, and the travel agency has done a good job and gotten you a good flight on a good airline. You say, this is a great airplane! We get peanuts, and free coke, and these TVs come down out of the ceiling! And they have magazines and these cool little blankets and pillows. And the seats recline (like 2 inches). It’s great. I sure hope all the rest of Hawaii is just like this airplane. And I saw those people up in the front riding first class. I can’t imagine anything in life that could be better than riding first class. I am going to do everything I can to get to ride first class. I don’t have time to take this vacation in Hawaii, I’ve got to figure out how to ride first class.
And so it is ridiculous for us, heavenly citizens, to focus our minds and energies on the things of this earth. To live for temporal things, to try to find happiness here, to try to get the approval and the applause of the world. When we are heavenly citizens, with access to the riches and joys and satisfactions of the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Loving the world is like loving the plane instead of saying, “OK, nice ride – now on to the real stuff.”
· Is it wrong to enjoy the plane ride? No. But be careful. On a plane to Hawaii, you don’t have anyone trying to persuade that the plane is the greatest thing in the world and you shouldn’t even go to Hawaii. Nobody will try to tell you that Hawaii is probably really boring compared to the plane. But on this “plane,” the world, the devil, and your flesh are in an all-out assault to persuade you to love the world and forget about what’s coming next.
· “Come with me to my Father’s house; He’s got a big house with lots of rooms; He’s got a big table with lots of food; He’s got a big yard where we can play football.” I like football. But I think that when we say, “I sure hope there’s football in Heaven, cause I don’t know if I’ll be able to enjoy it if there isn’t,” I think God has every right to be ashamed to be called our God! We are so pumped about the airplane that we don’t even want to get off unless someone will guarantee that everything we like on the airplane will be in Hawaii too. You just want to say to that person: “Just get off the plane – wait till you see the beaches and volcanos and cliffs and the flowers and animals, you’ll forget about the plane in a heartbeat.” And then they say “Oh, I don’t know, I really like these little pillows; and what will I do without my skymall magazine?” Live like this world isn’t your home – because it isn’t.
Pursue eternal things. Love your Bible, it is heavenly truth. You have man’s wisdom coming at you from 100 different directions – the Bible should be a delight to you. It’s from another world. Love people: they have the potential to glorify God by reflecting Christlikeness forever. People are precious to God, so pour yourself into people. Spend your life and your resources on eternally significant things.
Think about eternal things. Learn to think about and treasure Christ. How many times have you said to someone: “What you up to?” And they said, “I was just sitting here thinking about Christ.” Or, “I was just enjoying thinking about heaven.” Or, “I was just trying to think about how I could live in the reality of my union with Christ today.” Walk outside and rejoice in the works of God in nature. Watch the world around you and rejoice at God’s gracious providence in bringing people to Himself. Observe the changing circumstances in your life and praise God that He is making you more like Christ. Think about eternal things.
Guard your love for eternal things. If you are married, you not only must nurture your love for your spouse, you also have to guard it. Because there are other lovers out there to lure you away. While you strengthen that love you also have to guard your heart from other loves. It is the same way with the world. You are constantly bombarded with messages telling you that this world is worth your love and attention and time and money. If they can’t persuade you that the plane is better than Hawaii, they will do everything they can to distract you. Just get you wrapped up in the things of the world so that you don’t have any time to pay attention to heavenly things. There are many things that we can enjoy and love in this life, but never forget that this world system is your enemy; it is not your friend; it is not your home; it is out to steal your heart away from heavenly things and even steal your soul if it can. Eph. 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Don’t walk into the mall; or go to the theatre; or turn on the radio or television; or go the grocery store; without realizing that there are forces of darkness out to steal your love away from God.
Piper Passion of Jesus Christ 58-59: “Galatians 1:4 ‘He gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.’ Until we die, or until Christ returns … we live in ‘the present evil age.’ Jesus prayed for us like this: ‘I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one’ (John 17:15).
The reason Jesus prays for deliverance from ‘the evil one’ is that ‘this present evil age’ is the age when Satan is given freedom to deceive and destroy. ‘The whole world lies in the power of the evil one’ (I John 5:19). This ‘evil one’ is called ‘the god of this world,’ and his main aim is to blind people to truth (II Cor. 4:4).
‘You once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). Without knowing it, were were lackeys [servants] of the devil. What felt like freedom was bondage. The Bible speaks straight to twenty-first century fads, fun, and addictions when it says, ‘They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved’ (II Pet. 2:19).
The resounding cry of freedom in the Bible is, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Rom. 12:2). In other words, be free! Don’t be duped by the gurus of the age. They are here today and gone tomorrow. One enslaving fad follows another.
The wisdom of this age is folly in view of eternity. ‘The wisdom of this world is folly with God.’ (I Cor. 3:19).
When Christ went to the cross, he set millions of captives free. He unmasked the devil’s fraud and broke his power. That’s what he meant on the eve of his crucifixion when he said, ‘Now will the ruler of this world be cast out’ (John 12:31). Don’t follow a defeated foe. Follow Christ. It is costly. You’ll be an exile [pilgrim!] in this age. But you will be free.”
I am not saying that Christians need to live as a bunch of paranoid hermits! NO! You have so much to love, and so much to get excited about, and so much to live for, and so much reason to love and serve people, that a Christian ought to be the most excited, joyful, friendly person on the planet. So much to live for, so much to love. Because you’re not deceived by the foolish wisdom of the world; you’re not enslaved by the world’s pleasures; you’re not conformed to the crowd chasing the latest fad. You are seeking things above, setting your mind on things above, not on things of this earth. You are pursuing eternal joy and satisfaction and glory.
Of whom can it be said: “God is not ashamed to be called their God?” You, if you will live like this world isn’t your home. If you will pursue eternal things; think about eternal things; and guard your love for eternal things. Live like this world isn’t your home – because it isn’t. You will not be popular here on earth; you will be a pilgrim. But you will be a delight to God, and your life will have significance.