Since the believer’s citizenship is heaven (Philippians 3:20), his highest priority is to learn how to live in a foreign land in the midst of unheavenly standards. That verse tells us that it is heaven “from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. It’s about not getting too comfortable with the surroundings of our temporary home. Paul gives us further perspective on our eternal home in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and how we live outside of eternity:
“1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)
Approaching our life on earth as if we are living far from home is key to finding real spiritual success; the more connected we are to this world, the more we are disconnected from heaven. Bob Dylan says it this way, “when you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” The believer who recognizes that his future is heaven can begin to live with this ever-present reality in mind. Paul reminds us that our earthly tent is temporary and that our groanings for that permanent home are also temporary. Living in time and space and mortality does not have to define life’s quality. The Holy Spirit is our pledge to the eternal life available to us now and He is the key to walking by faith and not by sight. His leading and guidance brings us into all of the truth. Learning how to live as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) means we don’t allow our current surroundings to dictate who we represent.
To live is Christ
One’s attitude toward death helps to define which kingdom he represents. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Living in Christ is directly related to the work to which we are called while in this world. It is the presentation of the gospel, that this physical life is not the end; eternal life has been purchased for all who believe. As a result, the believer takes on God’s call by taking on Jesus’s ministry. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” It’s all about eternal priorities.
While waiting for our heavenly home to become our current reality, we learn what it means to be a bond-servant of Christ. In Galatians 1:10, Paul realized that seeking the favor of men was not the answer. Instead, we learn to face life’s difficulties and challenges as a part of a bigger mission, that the life of the Risen Christ would be made manifest to others. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”
Letters of Christ
The primary source of this life as a servant is the work of the Holy Spirit, writing on human hearts so that we would become letters of Christ to the world. It is His empowerment that enables the believer to become a servant of the new covenant; it is His life and not human performance. Paul’s ministry was founded on this power as he testified in 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Believers are directly connected to eternity by the power of God; human effort is futile. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 that we are made adequate, sufficient by this eternal power.
A young man went to study in a renowned Jewish school that emphasized character refinement. After a few days, the new student began to imitate what he saw many of the veteran students doing day after day. He sat in his chair, closed his eyes tight, and began to repeat, “I am nothing! I am nothing! I am nothing!” Upon hearing the young man chanting that phrase, an elder classman scolded him by saying, “Who do you think you are? You have to be here at least a year until you can reach the level of being nothing!”
Nothingness is eternal.