We all do our best in familiar territory. There is little anxiety in the comfort of familiar space.
Our friend circles are so familiar we can just be ourselves with those we know so well. In fact, it’s something we take for granted. Coffee or dinner with friends or family. Road trips with old friends, a girl’s trip with the old gang, or a golf trip with guys you played Little League with forty years ago. Man, this is all treasured space that we value immensely. What’s not to like?
But what about moving into new space? Making new friends takes time. Moving to a new work environment, or even into retirement is a new and different experience. Along with change, there is a certain amount of reticence and anxiety. Even if change is by choice, the environment is new, the routine is different now, and if relationships are involved, there is that issue of trust. Building trust can take some time.
I was fortunate to move into new territory years ago. My lifestyle in my late teens could have led me to a routine that led to self-destructing. For sure, by my tenth high school reunion, I could look around the room and identify those that were already staring at alcoholism. The satisfaction they derived from their place of comfort had let them down. I didn’t judge them even a little because I had only recently gotten off of that track.
But years earlier, before I reached my nineteenth birthday I was presented with the question of what to do with God. Margo and her family had a profound impact on me as I had seen a genuineness and joy in her family that I hadn’t seen before. I knew a decision was to be required of me that would determine my willingness to give God more than just a casual glance. I was on a path dictated by more and more knowledge of God, that ultimately requires a response. Once I responded it wasn’t more knowledge of God that motivated me, it was the experience of knowing God that moved me along a relational journey with God.
I went from being a stranger and alien of the things of God to becoming what is referred to in the Bible as a “fellow citizen of God’s household.” As you read this verse, can you relate to this concept of being a “stranger” in the understanding of most things regarding God?
In Ephesians, Paul speaks to new believers and his approach still makes sense to this day. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Ephesians 2:19
If you don’t ever take the time to get to know God, of course, you will be a stranger and alien to the things of God. It amuses me that Paul used this term of “strangers and aliens.” I mean, on the surface I wouldn’t want to be considered a stranger or alien. Most of us desire to push past the fringe toward the center of a social group or organization. We don’t want to reside as foreigners in most environments. We almost subconsciously work to move toward residency status wherever there are people or ideals that we desire to warm up to.
One exception to this seems to be in the desire to explore the God of the Bible. It has been bewildering to watch so many friends and acquaintances over the years choose to remain as strangers and aliens to the Creator. Especially when as Paul describes and any believer has experienced, there is this incredible inheritance realized as sons and daughters of God himself if we meet only one simple requirement. I’ve often thought, “If they only knew what I knew, and experienced God’s love and blessings as I have, they would move toward God.”
The question then is why would people avoid any pursuit of God? This singular question has perplexed me as much as any when it comes to observing people over these past fifty years. Somebody tell me why folks keep God at a distance, spend zero time pursuing him, and know very little about his plan for their life, now and in eternity? These questions are not to be condemning at all. They just seem to be the obvious. Many believe in God, yet don’t know him and have never asked him to be involved in their lives. Others know of God but haven’t sought him out. Yet virtually all of us have contemplated life and death, realizing our time is coming to an end.
So if we know we have limited time. We believe God “may” be real and even remotely interested in us, why not pursue him? You tell me why there is little pursuit. I don’t get it.
I can tell you that if you have the slightest interest in the God of the bible, or if you recognize that Jesus Christ walked on the face of the earth and have an interest in understanding his role over the centuries, you are not lost. But to experience God and participate in his eternal plan, like me in my late teens, you have some work to do. Whether you have thought about it or not, you are moving to a decision. You will either pursue God or reject him. You are in the process of rejecting him right now by your actions over these years and where you find yourself today, or you are in the process of seeking him out. One of those results is in the process of happening as I write this, and as you read this. There’s no way to escape this truth.
If you are moving toward God, you have a great chance of moving from being a foreigner in his house, and no longer being identified as a stranger and alien to the things of God. Notice that Ephesians 2:19 refers to believers as “fellow citizens of God’s household.”
In earthly terms to become a citizen means more than getting a driver’s license. There is some work to do, and when the work is done you can enter in as a citizen. If you don’t do the work, you can live here until you’re deported, but you’ll always be a stranger and an alien. You’ll never feel quite right about living on the fringe of society acting as a citizen but not having all the privileges and benefits. Maybe you have felt this way if you know of God but really haven’t tried seriously to know him.
In God’s kingdom, the work has already been done by someone else. It was provided as a gift that was well thought out centuries before Christ came to earth. All we have to do is receive the gift, which is coming to a belief and acceptance that Jesus is who he says he is. You can’t change your past, but you don’t have to live with the guilt and shame of the past. If you don’t think you have any dark side to your past, yet you’ve lived outside the will of God and refused to invite him into your daily life, our carnal nature keeps us from having the relationship with God that he desires. Either way, there is separation from God without seeking and acceptance.
If something is keeping you from having a relationship with God, why not explore moving from alien status to citizen status? This takes movement. My guess is that God has been pursuing you for years and you know it. If you haven’t responded there’s no great surprise that you’ve never experienced a closeness to God, and in fact, would feel like a stranger in his house.
All of this can change in a moment. Small steps toward God make for life-change with eternal results. Most importantly, you will feel at home. The God-shaped vacuum inside of you will fill up with his presence, his direction, and his perfect will. You can become a citizen in God’s kingdom in an instant. You will move from a stranger to the inner circle as you are adopted by the King of kings. No more will you be you without a home or country. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15.
A new relationship with your Creator will begin. New territory will become familiar territory. In this case, a new life begins by exploring and trusting God. Take that first step. Give it a try. No more being on the fringe. No more outside looking in. No more ignoring the question of “what’s next?” No more uncertainty of your eternal destiny. Become a citizen of God’s household. It’s a good place to call home!
Psalms 34 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Have a taste of Jesus for the first time, and you will want more and more of the One who died for you.