n GraceLife yesterday we began a series on the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). Those psalms, I believe were choruses sung by groups of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the holy festivals. If you were an Israelite in biblical times traveling on foot, no matter where you were coming from, the road to Jerusalem was a long, uphill journey—hence "Psalms of Ascent." That pilgrimage, and the songs that were sung on the way, are full of lessons about spiritual growth and discipleship.
For one thing, these psalms contain lots of reminders that redeemed people are exiles and foreigners as far as this present world is concerned. We are citizens of heaven, refugees on a long, upward trek home, learning and growing spiritually along the way. Pondering that fact reminded me of some basic truths about what it means to be a citizen of heaven and a follower of Christ.
1. We are pilgrims, not tourists. We are exiles and explorersnot day trippers or vacationers. We're supposed to be ascending like first-century pilgrims on their way to a feast in Jerusalem, not wandering like the Old Testament Israelites in the wilderness.
2. We are disciples, not academics. We are working apprentices, not merely auditors of a course where we're free to skip the exams. We are interns who are responsible to put what we learn into practice; we're not imbibing information recreationally for the sake of accumulating hypothetical knowledge. Our discipleship is a vocation, not a hobby.
3. We are servants, not superstars. We're members of the churchand it's a community, not a resort. We're here to serve, not to be served. We're motivated by our concern for God's glory, not our own comfort. Our ministry is for the sake of others, not self. We're ambassadors in a foreign land, bringing a message of good news to the weary, wounded, and guilty souls who live there, offering them refuge on higher groundand inviting them to join us on the walk to our home.