Publication: Pastoral Letter, October 2010
Dear Friend in Christ,
Jesus came into the world, but He was not of it. That is, He came from eternity into time. He represented Heaven and the Heavenly kingdom. Jesus told Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” As followers of Jesus, we are also not of this world. We are born into His government by the eternal Holy Spirit and become citizens of the kingdom of God (see Philippians 3:20 and John 3:1-8).
How much citizens of Christ’s Kingdom should be involved in the affairs of current culture has always been a subject of discussion. But there is a further question: how much should we invest ourselves in what is passing away and how can we invest ourselves in what is to come. It is imperative that we know the difference between what is passing and what is coming, whether in business, education, or any other field.
Many years ago, IBM invested in large mainframe computers. Microsoft and Apple invested in personal computers. The latter saw what was coming and profited greatly. It is always true that some things are passing and others are coming. Revolutions in thought and practice are always just ahead. Those who stubbornly defend the past are left behind and investments are lost.
Jesus’ coming was not only a moral invasion; it was an invasion of the future into the present. Israel did not get that; the early Church did. Israel was destroyed by Rome, despite Jesus’ warnings, but the Church burst forth into the world.
I recently read a book by Michael Lewis entitled The Big Short, which chronicled the recent failures of major Wall Street firms. It told how financial and political leaders failed to see the coming crisis and encouraged investments in what would later become worthless paper. Some saw it coming and made huge profits; most did not. The consequences of the crash were devastating for all of us. And so it will be with those who invest themselves as though nothing will ever change.
In Luke 20:34, Jesus uses this striking phrase: “The sons of this age.” These were people whose mentality had been formed by the current culture. They were like the rich young ruler that Jesus invited as a follower. The choice was to give away the present to gain the future. The young man declined; He was tied to the present.
“Sons of this age” are entangled and captured by the current culture; they may want to follow Jesus but cannot because of some issue that holds them. These are people who fail to realize that what controls them will one day be worthless. How much was the young man’s wealth worth when Titus and the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem?
In a similar way, Noah offered his generation an opportunity to repent, but they refused. They were invested in the present; they were sons of that age. Noah was not. By revelation, he saw something else coming. Noah’s ark had a high cost but paid great dividends for him and his family.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, and the others challenged the multitude to save themselves from that “crooked generation”. It was indeed crooked, ruled by men like Herod, Pilate, and the corrupt High Priest. As John says, “The world is passing away” (I John 2:17). Cultures come and go; time has a way of manifesting human depravity.
Daniel was in Babylon, but not of it. In his visions and interpretations, he saw one kingdom after another come and go until the “Kingdom of the Son of Man” came to remain forever (see Daniel 2 and 7). And after Babylon, history saw Greece and Rome come – and then came Jesus. Every kingdom has its glory, as does the United States. But, human glory fades. The question remains, how invested are we in current culture as opposed to the one to come?
In Mark 10:20-30, Jesus talks with His disciples who had invested in “The age to come”. The Scriptures speak of our Lord as the One Who was, Who is, and Who is to come. The disciples sacrificed what was for what is to come. In Matthew 6:18-21, Jesus warned about laying up treasure on Earth, and exhorted them to invest instead in Heaven. We cannot “take it with us”, but we can send it on ahead!
“Sons of the age to come” are anticipators. They see what is passing away and what is coming. They pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” They are like Abraham who was looking for a city “whose builder and maker is God.” They are never quite comfortable in current culture; they are always looking for God’s work to build something better.
In John chapter 4, Jesus encounters the woman at the well. She raises the question about the correct place to worship: on the mount in Samaria or at the temple in Jerusalem? Jesus’ answer is interesting: “The hour is coming and now is,” that true worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth – wherever. But the coming time already was. That is the kingdom of God; it is and it is coming. Those who follow Jesus see the future now and invest it.
If we believe Jesus, we are sons and daughters of a Kingdom that is both now and is coming in fullness. The same truth, love, and grace that we have received will one day permeate the renewed world. But first, some things will pass away.
This mentality has characterized the servants of God in every culture and every age throughout history. But I fear that many of God’s people are currently too caught up in the present culture (see 2 Timothy 2:4). So what kind of Baptism are we practicing? From what and into what are we being baptized? Baptism, in the Gospels, carries several meanings. Jesus was baptized in obedience to the Father “to fulfill all righteousness”. In baptism, He identified with us. Of course, baptism also foreshadowed His own death, burial and Resurrection. When we are baptized, we identify with Him and enact our own death to self, burial of the former life, and resurrection to new life in Him (Romans 6:1-14).
Also, we are recanting our sonship in the former culture and rising to the One Who is to come. We are renouncing a passing culture and investing in an eternal one. In the act of being baptized, we have drawn a line of demarcation that is clear, dramatic, and better understood in most cultures where Christianity is not the traditional religion.
It was typical in the Book of Acts, that when believers were baptized, the Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would praise God loudly, prophesy, or speak in tongues. The Spirit of the coming age came upon them in the present. The Holy Spirit was a down payment on what was to come (see Ephesians 1:14).
Some would ask, “What if the kingdom does not fully come in my lifetime? What if Jesus does not return while I live?” Then we will go to Him! In any case, the Kingdom of God is imminent; it is coming soon.
I love my country: I am patriotic to what has been a great and unique nation. But without another Great Awakening, we will follow those nations whose glory faded. I mourn that possibility. Meanwhile, I have godly forefathers who are in the realized kingdom of God; likewise my parents, my wife, and my brother have also gone on ahead. All of them invested in what was to come. They were sons and daughters of the coming age. While on Earth, they tasted something far better.
“Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine.” Hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby understood that the assurance of Jesus is a foretaste of a greater glory – heaven. Hebrews 6:4-6 says that we have tasted of the heavenly gift and the Word of God. Redemption, justification, the Word of God, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are all a taste of heaven, and the age to come.
Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” His righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit offer a wonderful taste to the starved soul who has fed on the passing offerings of corrupt culture. A taste of God’s goodness quickens mortals and creates anticipation of what is to come. Heaven’s peace is here now to cope with earthly conflict. Heaven’s righteousness here now enables us to deal with and witness to an unrighteous culture.
When Saul’s armies battled the Philistines, Jonathan and his armor bearer were heroes who led in the victory (see I Samuel 14). Saul had foolishly placed the Israelites under oath to eat nothing until he had vengeance upon his enemies. Imagine warring without food! But Jonathan was not present when the oath was made, and as he entered a forest, he saw honey everywhere, even on the ground. As he tasted the honey, he was invigorated. When Saul heard of this, he wanted to kill Jonathan, his own son, for breaking the oath. The people would have none of it! Jonathan was their hero. Without Saul’s foolish oath, they all could have had honey! It is worth noting that Jonathan was covenanted with David_who represented the age to come. Like Saul’s army, many of God’s people are battling the adversary without the abundant honey that God has put before us to quicken and invigorate us.
Canaan flowed with milk and honey. The Word of God is sweeter than honey that flows from the honeycomb and sustains us for the age to come. Let us strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees by tasting of the powers of age to come!
Discern the difference between what is passing away and what endures. Invest in the coming kingdom that now is. Follow Jesus and the apostles into the future. Do not prop up the past, as good as it might have been; it is over and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Remember your baptism and what it means. Pray for the nations and reveal the future to them as Jesus did. Big changes are ahead!
As Joseph, son of Jacob, lay dying in Egypt, he made his people promise to carry his bones when they returned to Canaan. That is the attitude we need. “If I do not live to see it, it will come; take me with you.” As I think about the age to come, I will say, “I haven’t seen the movie, but the previews are exciting and wonderful.”
I am especially grateful to our friends and supporters who have faithfully invested in CSM over the years to help us move forward in our mission to extend the kingdom of God … one person at a time. This is a critical juncture in the history of our nation and the world; the message of Christ’s Kingdom must be proclaimed in every arena, including the marketplace, in education, in families … everywhere. When you stand with us in your prayer and in your giving, you are playing a key part in this mission. Would you consider a special gift this month to partner with us?
Also, please know that we pray for you, and want to serve you. It’s always good to have the opportunity to fellowship with you. Please visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org for regularly updated news, including travel and events. You can also follow us on Twitter at CSMinPublishing and join our Facebook Group page. See the enclosed card for more valuable information, and mark your calendar now for the 2011 CSM Leadership Conference in Gatlinburg, to be held May 4-6.
Thank you, and we pray God’s blessing upon you and yours, this month and always!
Scripture Reference: Philippians, John, Luke, 1 John, Daniel, Mark, Matthew, 2 Timothy, Romans, Acts, Ephesians, Hebrews, Psalms, 1 Samuel
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.