Back Into the World?
From all reports we have had, we had a tremendously uplifting and rewarding Feast. Although we have used the following phrase many times before, it was stated once again by quite a few that this Feast was indeed “the best Feast ever.” Especially the baptisms of five fine young people at Morro Bay added to the spiritual highlights and showed that God is still working mightily with His people, adding to the Church those who are “being saved” (compare Acts 2:47).
Now we are back. The Feast of Tabernacles 2003 is over. We wished it could have gone on much longer. If there was one downside to this year’s Feast, it was the feeling that it was “far too short.” We heard questions like, “Why do we have to go back into the world, back to school or college, back to work? Why can’t the beauty of the Feast last forever?”
Yes, why indeed? We know, of course, that the time will soon come when everything that the Feast pictures and foreshadows, and much more, will have become reality. This time is near, but it has not yet arrived. There are several reasons why this is so.
Christ has not yet returned as not all of His people are ready yet for His return. When Christ marries His bride — the Church — the bride will have made herself ready (Revelation 19:7). This does not necessarily mean that everyone who “attends” the Church will be ready. Still, God wants everyone whom He has called to be in His Family. We read in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise [to return], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward US, not willing that any [of US] should perish but that all [of US] should come to repentance.”
God might very well hold some of His people responsible for delaying Christ’s coming — to an extent — through our unwillingness to repent and to overcome — both in our own personal lives and toward the Church’s ongoing commission to preach the gospel in all the world as a witness. Some have become lackadaisical regarding the Church’s job, and have lost their former zeal and energy (compare Revelation 3:15, 19). This lack of enthusiasm for God, His Work, and His way of life might very well delay Christ’s coming to an extent. At the same time, our godly and zealous conduct — individually and collectively — could hasten or accelerate Christ’s coming (compare 2 Peter 3:12, “… looking for and HASTENING the coming of the day of the Lord…”).
The fact that God very carefully watches over His people and that His actions are influenced by them is borne out in the example of Lot. In Genesis 19:16, it states that Lot lingered in Sodom after being told that he must leave in order to save his life and that of his wife and daughters; nonetheless, the angels took action to lead them outside the city. Then, in verse 22, this remarkable statement is made by one of the angels to Lot: “Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything UNTIL you arrive there [Zoar].”
We still live in this world today, because God WANTS us to (compare John 17:11). Christ told His disciples that He SENT THEM as “lambs” or “sheep” to the “wolves” of this world (compare Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3; John 17:18). He did not take them out of the world (John 17:15). Why? So that they could OVERCOME the world. So that they could show in their lives, and be constantly reminded of the fact that they are not part of the world (John 17:16) — rejecting the things of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Christ said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of this world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
At the same time, Christ sent us into the world to show the world by example how to live. He told us, “You are the LIGHT of the world… Let your light so SHINE before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We are to become “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault IN THE MIDST OF a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you SHINE as lights [literally, as light givers] in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
We are to bring the light of God’s truth to this dark world — individually and collectively as the Church. Sadly, some have forgotten and forsaken this tremendous calling and have returned to the world (compare 2 Timothy 4:10). This we must never do. Rather, we are to be spiritually separate from the world, while living in it as “light in the Lord.” We are to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). That’s our calling. That’s what God wants us to do. Let us show the world, then, what true Christianity is all about