WOULDN’T IT BE wonderful if God would save us and then, within a matter of seconds, take us on to glory? Wouldn’t that be a great relief? We would never have any temptations. We would never have to battle with the flesh. We would never even have the possibility of messing up our lives. We could just be whisked off to glory—saved, sanctified, galvanized, glorified! Trouble is, I have a sneaking suspicion that many, if not most, would wait until fifteen minutes before takeoff time to give their lives to Christ and then catch the jet for glory.
Since that’s not an option and since it’s clearly God’s preference that we prove ourselves blameless and innocent and above reproach, we obviously have to come up with an alternative route. Some have suggested sanctification by isolation, believing the only way to keep evil and corruption from rubbing off on you is to withdraw from the world. After all, how can you walk through a coal mine without getting dirty? The logic seems irrefutable.
But God, in His infinite wisdom, has deliberately left us on this earth. He has sovereignly chosen to give many of us more years in Christ than out of Christ—many more years to live for Him “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). Or, as one of my mentors, the late Ray Stedman, so succinctly put it, “Crooked and perverse simply means we are left in a world of crooks and perverts.” That’s the kind of world God left us in on purpose.
Don’t think for a minute, however, that the Lord has made a mistake leaving us here. We are His lights in a dark world. In fact, just minutes before Jesus’ arrest and ultimate death on the cross, He prayed this for His disciples and for us:
I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (John 17:14–15)
Think about that. “I’m not asking You to take them out from among the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” Jesus said. “But I do ask You to guard them, to protect them.” Jesus doesn’t ask the Father to isolate His disciples from the world but to insulate them, “to keep them from the evil one.”
He has left us in the world on purpose and for His purpose. In a world where the majority are going the wrong way, we are left as lights—stoplights, directional lights, illuminating lights—as living examples, as strong testimonies of the right way. We are spiritual salmon swimming upstream.
Charles R. Swindoll, Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).
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