One World At a Time

Though not a professional philosopher, Henry David Thoreau is recognized as an important contributor to the American literary and philosophical movement known as New England Transcendentalism. His essays, books, and poems weave together two central themes over the course of his intellectual career: nature and the conduct of life. His anti-materialism, his focus on nature’s wildness, his emphasis on transition and the novelty of each day and season are all instrumental in bringing people to themselves and in finding ways to live sincere lives. As he states in “Life without Principle,” there is no “such thing as wisdom not applied to life.” Thoreau took his own philosophical journey serious this was exemplified several days before he died. An old friend, knowing that Thoreau was close to death, asked if he had any sense of what was to come. Thoreau’s famous reply was, “One world at a time.”

One world at a time is characteristic of a person who lives their life apart from God. It is an under the sun perspective on life that focuses on self, own time, self-wisdom, and above all is against God, eternity, and the soul. Such was the case with the rich young ruler in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:13-21. What we are talking about is a godless existence that is touchy feely, a faithless faith only active when you see it, someone living in the Show Me State of life, all soil and no Son. Sadly, David Thoreau was speaking for many in this world as he was in the process of making his exit from it. In fact, according to Jesus, men will live one world at a time, never caring to prepare for the things to come, this type of mindset and behavior will continue until the end of time – Matthew 24:36-42.

Those of us in pursuit of God by contrast live in two worlds at a time. The believer in Jesus has an out of a 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 at Philippi were not allowed to forget that they owed their allegiance to Rome, so Paul urged the saints at Philippi not to forget that this world was not their home, but that they were citizens belonging to a much better land- Heb. 11:16.

For those of us who have been born of the Spirit it is life on earth that must constantly be intersected by our thoughts of heaven. While our feet are on this earthly ground our heads and our hearts must be on things above, not on things on the earth Col. 3:1-3. Our focus and identification must be with the ways and lifestyle of heaven. Heaven must be to us a transforming point of reference not simply a divine Disneyland somewhere beyond this world. 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 already, although not physically.” In fact the Apostle Paul says in the book of Ephesians 2:6 we are already in heavenly places in Christ.

Notice Paul doesn’t say maybe. He doesn’t hope for someday. He is saying that these things are FACT – right now. They are as final as is the finished redemption that made them possible. If you are IN CHRIST, then everything Paul says in these verses are the Truth for YOU personally.

To be heavenly minded doesn’t mean that you are dreamy, impractical or distant. It means that your present is governed by your future. It means you have stepped out on faith, it means you have made the conscious decision to live your life in this world, but not of it, striving to walk by faith and not by sight! -2 Corinthians 5:7.

God’s Peace


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