Word of the Month

Leave the world behind!

May 2012

Ascension is a celebration that moves our hearts. It was on this occasion that the Lord completed His course upon the earth and was caught up into heaven out of the circle of His Apostles. Suddenly – as Scripture relates – He was taken up into heaven before their eyes. And immediately thereafter followed the explanation from heaven: “Why are you looking up into the sky? This Jesus will return!” (cf. Acts 1: 11). The path into the future had now been established. Let us not stop at this past event, but rather see it as an indication of our triumphant future!

Ascension was a source of strength for the Apostles. They derived courage for their life of faith from this event. For us, the above Bible verse is an indication that the Lord will return. And this is the event we are waiting for!

On one occasion the Son of God explained His mission in very concise terms: “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16: 28). It is because He came forth from the Father and into the world that He was later able to return to the Father. But what does it mean when He says: “I leave the world”? He was undoubtedly referring to the earthly realm. He had left the earthly sphere to return to His Father. I would also like to see this is a special motto for us: let us likewise leave the world behind! Of course we cannot do what the Son of God did. But for us, to leave the world behind means to renounce our ungodly nature.

What does it mean to leave the world behind? This is not a matter of outward things, i.e. whether we do – or abstain from doing – one or the other thing. The important thing for God is that which occupies our hearts. And here it is important that we renounce the ungodly nature in order that we can have our own “ascension”.

“What is ungodly nature?” First of all, the “world” and “ungodly nature” is present when we have other idols beside the Lord. Even in our time, the commandment still applies: “I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20: 2, 3). What sorts of other gods might there be? Even in our lives there are certain things that seek to take first place in our hearts and become part of the very fibre of our lives, for example, various interests, inclinations, and various things which we cherish and which are important to us. Let us strive to ensure that there are no other gods or idols in our hearts besides the Lord, and let us always accord Him first place. Let us leave the world behind by staying away from such idols and by making the Lord the focal point of our lives.

The arrogance of our time is also part of this ungodly nature, namely when we think we can manage our lives without God. Let us always recognise our need. Let us always see that we need grace. Let us always see to it that we do not become arrogant or think that we are so great in the eyes of God. We leave the world behind when we do not give any room in our hearts to such arrogance. A similar characteristic of our time, which can also be associated with the world, is to think we have already earned a certain claim to the kingdom of heaven through our conduct. The thought that we can handle things ourselves and do not need the Lord is an attitude that goes hand in hand with this world. Let us leave this behind and trust in the Lord.

These worldly characteristics include having other gods beside the Lord, surrendering to arrogance and thinking we no longer need the Lord, and depending solely upon our own strength and giving up our trust in God. Let us leave all of these things behind! May the Lord grant us His grace so that we may all succeed in this endeavour! 

(From a divine service by the Chief Apostle)