I find it interesting that the first paragraph of military combat orders cover the battlefield “Situation”, followed by “Mission”. Many of us might think that a statement of the missions would come first. ‘Situational Awareness’ (SA), a term familiar to many of us, means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation (enemy and friendly) around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger ‘strategic’ picture. Total situational awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior. As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander’s intent (God’s strategic picture).
Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander’s intent, for a variety of reasons, ranging from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on ‘personal’ growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the ‘postmodern’ church as a whole. At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver’s seat!
Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our ‘situational awareness’ and overcome our spiritual ‘nearsightedness.’ For that task, we need to ‘begin at the beginning’ of our lives as Christians and go from there. In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time! When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life! We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.
Our ‘makeover’ is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” – Ephesians 2:6
This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’ Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. . .” – Ephesians 2:19
A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state. Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our ‘legal citizenship’ status changed! One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the ‘heavenly realm,’ we would have been ‘illegal aliens.’ We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision. We are NOT dual citizens. Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” – 1 Peter 2:11
Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were ‘aliens and foreigners’ to God’s household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world in which we live!
Why is the world in which we live ‘foreign territory,’ why are we ‘aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?
First, we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, the world that God created and pronounced ‘good’ and ’very good’. In fact, Scripture tells us that the willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden affected more than just our little piece of turf. There is a clear description of the present condition of God’s creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” – Romans 8:22
All of God’s creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.
Scripture also gives us an interesting description of the state of the human race after the fall of Adam, as well as a who seems to be controlling things (the god of this world).
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” – Ephesians 2:1-2
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4
As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new ‘landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world. And as members of God’s household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the ‘god of this world.’
If you still aren’t convinced of your citizenship as a Christian, listen to the words of Jesus from his high priestly prayer:
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. – John 17:13-16
I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines! Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation. Maybe it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was “No way!” Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too ‘friendly’ with the fallen culture around them.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4
If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read James 4in its entirety, followed by Jesus’ words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world that is hostile to God.
All of the above leaves with an inescapable question: “Why are we still down here?” More to follow.