When I was growing up, I loved playing outside. For those of you who are “Millennials,” you’re probably saying, “Wait. I’ve heard about ‘playing outside.’ That’s some ancient activity that entailed leaving the house and video games and iPhone without getting in a car and driving somewhere. But you did that for fun???” Yep. For fun! And what fun it was. My friends would always be outside ready to play football or baseball or ride bikes. There would always be something going on.
We spent HOURS every day outside. But inevitably, I’d forget something in the house, so I’d run inside and grab it. Then I’d wind up thirsty, so I had to run inside to get something to drink. Of course ultimately that would lead to needing to go to the bathroom (just not as frequently as at my age today LOL), so I’d run inside for that. Or someone would call on the phone (in those days, the phone was – gasp! – on a wall in the house and you couldn’t take it outside with you), so I’d run inside to grab it. Needless to say, with every “in” there came an “out” since once I’d accomplished indoors what I ran inside for, my goal was to get back outside as fast as possible, lest I miss the fun.
This resulted in a veritable revolving door of me running in the house for something and back outside, and in for something and back outside. While I didn’t relate at the time, it drove my dad crazy. Apparently the ceaseless opening and slamming closed of the door wasn’t a pleasant experience for the guy who worked his fingers to the bones and only occasionally got some rest at home along with some peace and quiet. Hmph. Odd. His frustration would often result in him hollering out to us, “Michael! In or out! In or out!” He wasn’t misapplying the burger chain’s name (yeah, it did exist way back then), he was telling us to make a decision about whether we were playing outside or doing something inside, to quit trying to live in two different worlds.
Well, while I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I certainly do now that I walk to some degree in his shoes … having kids who often bring the same rhythm to the opening and closing of the door. But more metaphorically, I have an appreciation for the indecision about which world we live in, to which world we belong, and how we spend our time in a spiritual sense. This hit me acutely this week as I read through James 4-5 and 1 Peter 1-5. In 1 Peter 2:9-12, Peter writes …
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
In this passage and in the previous chapter, Peter is issuing a call of sorts to the believers in various regions throughout Asia Minor and Turkey. His call is a bit of a reminder … a reminder of their citizenship from a spiritual perspective, and a reminder of how their newfound life in Christ has annulled their old life in sin, pride, and self-fulfillment. He’s telling them, in effect, “In or Out! In or Out! You can’t live in two different worlds.” How preposterous it is for us to think we can live in two different worlds, two states of reality, with a proverbial foot inside the door and another outside it. Spiritually-speaking, this struck me like a brick upside my head, because while I may not tend to live in this manner in the fullness of my person, there’s no doubt that elements of me try to exist in both at once.
When we trust Jesus for our salvation, the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we’re a new creation. I don’t know about you, but for me, all too often that is a nice concept that I don’t think I dive into deeply. God created us, period. When we become “saved” in Christ, He tells us He makes us … again. New. This act brings us into an entirely different existence in the way He sees us. We become clean and forgiven, yes, but we also become citizens of an utterly different populace. He moves us from inside the world of sin, stain, and death, outside to a new world of salvation, cleansing, and life. We are NOT what we used to be, and we are no longer bound by being stuck inside the old world. The door has opened and we’ve been afforded permanent citizenship of God’s nation and kingdom. We only temporarily dabble inside the old location, until we can relocate for good.
Whether we know it or not or accept it cognitively or not, we are not the same any longer once we’re in Christ. Yet we spend a ton of time running in and out of our old existence, unable to make up our minds about where we persist. Peter’s reminder in this passage is essentially “In or out! In or out! Remember where your perpetual identity now lies. Stop running to your old identity. That’s not you any more.” This isn’t a question of what our identity is … the Bible is clear. IF we have accepted Jesus in our lives. The challenge is to acknowledge and accept our identity, to remain on the out of our old world and on the in of our new. It isn’t a question of true or false, it’s a question of whether we choose to live in the truth and leave the false and old behind. In or out! In or out!
Living in or out means recognizing who we used to be and who we now are. It means setting behind our old behaviors, tendencies, fears, and traits, and draping on our new ones. It means understanding – and living like we understand – that the old world we used to live in has now spiritually become our old home and while we live here temporarily, we’ve received citizenship of a new one … a permanent new one that is 100 percent secured. That is … IF we have accepted the free gift of salvation God offers. If you haven’t … PLEASE read Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, and Romans 10:9 (aka, the Romans Road), and email me what you think about it.
But for those of us that are God’s new citizens, let’s ask him to remind us to realize that our “In or out! In or out!” choice is already made and secured, and let’s ask for the strength to never look back.
Soli Deo gloria!