In The Parables, Gary Inrig writes that when Henry David Thoreau, the American writer, was on his deathbed, he was visited by a minister. The pastor urged his dying friend to be ready for death, and he queried, “Do you know where you are going in the next life?” Thoreau waved him away with the words, “One world at a time.”
“One world at a time” is the trademark of the man who lives his life apart from God. It is an under-the-sun perspective on life that focuses on self, time, and the body over and against God, eternity, and the soul. Such was the case with the rich fool in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:13–21. What we are talking about is a godless existence that is all soil and no sky. Sadly, Henry David Thoreau was speaking for many in this world when he left this world. In fact, according to Jesus, men will live one world at a time until the end of time (Matt. 24:36–42). This is how the world rolls.
The Christian, by contrast, lives two worlds at a time. The believer in Jesus Christ has an out-of-this-world perspective on life. According to the Apostle Paul, the Christian is also a citizen of heaven while living on earth (Phil. 3:20–21). When Paul wrote this to the Philippians, he was making a profound statement. Philippi was a colony of Rome, which meant that, although they were hundreds of miles from Rome, their laws and lifestyle mirrored that of the great city of Rome. When in Philippi, you do what the Romans do. Just as the Roman colonists in Philippi were not allowed to forget that they owed their allegiance to Rome, so Paul urged the saints in Philippi not to forget that this world was not their home. They belonged to a better country (Heb. 11:16).
The takeaway for those of us who have been born from above is that life on earth must constantly be intersected by thoughts of heaven. While our feet are on the ground, our heads must be in the clouds (Col. 3:1–3). Our focus and identification must be with the laws and lifestyle of heaven. Heaven must be to us a transforming point of reference, not simply a divine Disneyland in the sky. In heaven they are holy, so must we be. In heaven they are obedient, so must we be. In heaven they are actively serving the Lord, so must we be. In heaven they are happy, so must we be. In heaven they are at peace, so must we be. In heaven they are united, so must we be.
A man was asked if he expected to go to heaven when he died. “Why, of course,” he replied. “I live there now.” To be heavenly minded doesn’t mean that you are dreamy, impractical, or distant. It means that your present is governed by your future.
Be an out-of-this-world Christian!