Hope is a much needed but rarely found commodity in our world today. Thankfully those who have received the grace of God have also been given hope in Christ.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:11-13 (NKJV)
The grace of God fills us with the hope of Christ’s return and teaches us to live expectantly. The grace of God reminds us that this life isn’t all there is and one day Jesus WILL return to get His church. When you read the many passages in Scripture that talk about Jesus’ return you see that there are all kinds of things that will happen on that day. At the same time we see that knowing Jesus is going to return at some point in the future is supposed to have an impact on the way I live now. You see, as we live expectantly we live beyond the here and now.
From what I can see in Scripture there is a significant difference in the lives of those focus beyond the here and now and those who focus on the here and now. Let me show you a couple of passages so we can compare and contrast these two mindsets.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,” Colossians 3:1-6 (NKJV)
Right off we see that since we have been born again we are to have a different focus in our lives. Those that have been raised to new life with Christ are supposed to seek those things which are above and we are to set our minds on things which are above and not on the earth. To seek the things above means to seek after and focus on the things that have eternal value. The idea is that the things of Christ are to be the focus of our lives and our minds.
We are to do this because we have died and our lives are hid with Christ. This means that we have died to the sinful things of this world and are now alive in Christ’s righteousness. Of course we know after we are saved this is how God sees us. We are alive and righteous in Christ and because of Christ. This new life and righteousness is our motivation for shifting the focus of our lives from the things of the earth to the things of heaven. Then we see that when Christ returns we will appear with Him in glory. Christ will return with power and great glory and we will not only see it, we will experience it.
Finally we see that there is a practical response in our lives to all of this. Since our focus has shifted from the things of this life to eternal things and the things of Christ we begin to live differently. Knowing that Christ is coming back and we will see and experience this great day of the Lord motivates us to think and focus differently and then to live differently.
Now we contrast this with what the Bible says about people who live their lives focused on the things of the earth.
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame–who set their mind on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19 (NKJV)
The description given for these people is pretty disturbing. We see that their god is their belly. The idea behind this is their appetite. This doesn’t just refer to their appetite for food, but their desire for all the physical pleasures of this world. They have focused their lives around acquiring more wealth and possessions, pleasure and sex, comfort and plenty, position and worldly success, acceptance and social standing. By focusing their lives on these things they have made physical and material gratification their god.
We are also told that their glory is in their shame. This is an interesting phrase. What it means is they take pride in things that should make them ashamed. It seems to me that they boast and take pride in their excesses in the things we just talked about. They brag about all they have accumulated, all the sexual conquests they have, how comfortable they have made their lives and their popularity. Where they should be ashamed that they have made these things the focus of their lives to the point that it has become their god, instead they are proud of these things. So they glory in things that should bring them shame.
The Bible also says that they set their mind on earthly things. I guess this would cover anything that wasn’t covered with their god being their belly. This seems to be just a way to further illustrate that they are worldly minded instead of heavenly minded.
We also see why this is so bad. We are told that they are enemies of the cross of Christ and headed for destruction. Not good. It seems that being earthly minded has real and eternal consequences.
The grace of God frees us from the lifestyle and destruction talked about in Philippians by teachings us to live as we saw in Colossians. The grace of God doesn’t free us TO live for ourselves. Instead it frees us FROM living for ourselves. It does this by teaching us to live for God by teaching us to live expectantly, to live in light of Jesus return.