Thursday, June 29, 2006

Returning from The Far Country

I just wanted to write a post to explain the series I've written in the past few weeks. A few people have asked me about "The Far Country," things like "Did you write that?" and "What made you think of that?" So I wanted to set the record straight on my motives and my inspiration for putting my own spin on the Fall of Man.

As I sat in a pew at Morningside Baptist Church about a month ago, Bill Shorey preached on Hebrews 11, a chapter known by many Bible-believers as the "Hall of Faith." Some of the great names of the Old Testament and their exploits are listed there, and the gist of the chapter is that these influential people of faith got their strength by realizing that their home was not in this world. This world, in fact, is a far country, a place of exile from a God who was too holy to stand by and watch his children disobey him. This world is a broken system, outwardly a botched experiment, a mirage that promises to satisfy the ungodly but leaves them parched and thirsting for living water. This is a world of toil and labor under the Curse of sin, and although redemption can be achieved through Christ, we still await his return and the restoration of all things that will accompany it.

And since we know our true home, the Eden that awaits the faithful, we should look and act differently than the world. The warriors listed in the chapter sacrificed earthly comfort for a heavenly reward which they did not receive in this life. They did not receive the promise, but were content to look forward to "the assurance of things hoped for and certainty of things unseen" (verse 1).

All this was swimming in my head, and then I started reading "Safely Home" by Randy Alcorn, who heads a ministry called Eternal Perspectives Ministries. It's a fiction book, but it talks a lot about the persecuted house churches in China and their resemblance to the ancients in Hebrews 11. They truly have an eternal perspective that allows them to live out their faith authentically.

So what's my point? In Bill's sermon, he talked about how Adam was the first man ever to teach his child how to walk with God. I started thinking about that conversation, how it must've been to explain to your child that his mother and father were ultimately responsible for the fallout between God and man. And how Adam managed to raise a eternally-minded son even after sharing the nasty truth about his failure.

Hebrews 11 mentions Abel, God's first martyr, who was commended by God for his righteous sacrifice amid the opposition of a world marred by the Curse. Because his father taught him, he knew that this world was not his home, that he should "find the spring," as I put it in the story. He should wait for the fulfillment of God's promise, for the return to paradise that awaits those whose sin is dealt with by the blood of the lamb.

Basically, I wanted you to get the fact that Abel learned to recognize that the present is not reality at its fullest. He learned to look both backward and forward. Backward at the paradise his parents lost. Forward to the paradise and freedom from sin that a merciful God would restore. May we all recognize that, like the Andrew Peterson song says, "This is a far country, not my home." May we live like we are "longing for a better country--a heavenly one" (v16).

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