Even before I became a Christian over 70 years ago I remember the song leader, my uncle, leading the song “Higher Ground,” and its has been one of my favorite songs since. Song leaders in every congregation where I have preached have led this song.
Yes, even today we sing the song, and while I am not going to review the song, I want us to think seriously about the message it conveys.
The first verse goes like this. “I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day; still praying as I onward bound, ‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground’” Then the chorus, “Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven’s table land, a higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Do you realize that when we sing this song we are singing about the admonition found in Col.3:1-3. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Singing the words of the song, and following the admonition of the scripture, means we are looking beyond this world for the higher ground, which is a home in heaven. Like Abraham we “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country” Heb.11:16a so we keep our eyes focused on heaven above and not on the earth. It means a home in heaven has become so important that we think like Paul, “…But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Phil.3:13-14.
With the goal of heaven, where we, as Christians, have our citizenship Phil.3:20-21, we live our lives on this earth, determined not to let the attractions of this present world draw us back into its clutches. Jesus has told us, that one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back he is not worthy of the kingdom of heaven Lk.9:62.
Christians must not dwell in the past. This doesn’t mean we ignore it. We just refuse to allow discouragement, hardships, troubles and failures to stop us. We have learned to forget those who tried to stand in the way of us following Christ. We have learned not to dwell on past failures or accomplishments, or fear the persecutions and trials suffered for being a Christian. We understand these things come from the world ruled by the devil, and they are temporary. We look for the crown and the inheritance when this life is over Heb.12:1-2. Christ took care of our past life, as our sins were washed away by His blood when we obeyed His gospel by believing, repenting and being baptized for the remission of our sins Mk.16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16. Since being saved, we now strive to walk worthy of the life to which we have been called Eph.4:1; all the while pressing on toward the higher ground, on heaven’s table land.
Notice how the song closes. The last verse goes like this. “I want to scale the utmost height, and catch a gleam of glory bright; but still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found, ‘Lord, lead me on to higher ground.’” Chorus, “Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven’s table-land; a higher plane than I have found; Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” -t.t.-
Christians In A Secular World
We who are observant Christians are aware that this country is being led downhill by immoral, godless, secular leaders. But, regardless of how we may feel about this we must remember that we Christians understand we have a dual citizenship. Not only are we citizens of an earthly country we are also citizens of a heavenly country. God has assigned His people responsibilities in both realms Rom.13:1-7; 1.Pet.2:13-17; Phil.3:20-21. Most of the time Christians can exercise their responsibilities in each realm without conflict. But there are times when submission to the earthly becomes distasteful because it benefits the wicked at the expense of the Christian. The Christian is then placed in a dilemma, knowing that obedience to earthly authorities will not make it easy to serve God. What should a Christian do in such circumstances?
I believe Jesus gives us the answer in Matt.22:15-22. The Jews bitterly detested the fact they were under the domination of Rome and had to submit to their rule. They didn’t like it but felt powerless to resist. So, they posed a question to Jesus whom they despised even more than Rome. “Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” v.17. They felt that either way Jesus answered it He would be in trouble. If He said “No!” He would seem to be an insurrectionist against Rome. But, if He said “Yes!,” He would be seen by the oppressed Jews as a Roman sympathizer.
How did Jesus answer? He took a coin with Caesar’s inscription and asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” When the Pharisees answered “Caesar’s” He then said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” By this act He taught that while they were subject to Rome, they were also subject to God. So, they were to render the taxes that were due Rome regardless of how they used the money. Paul, later in Rom.13:1-7, teaches Christians (then and now) they must respect and be obedient to whatever government they are under, and pay taxes, even if it is used to persecute them. In fact he later tells Timothy (and us also) to pray for those in position of leadership regardless of who they are, or how they act 1.Tim.2:1-2. Even if we don’t agree with how the government acts we show our respect for God by being good citizens in our earthly country 1.Pet.2:13-17. We conduct ourselves as Christians on earth so we can show ourselves to also be good citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Remember, we are Christians whether the people around us are or not. <Thomas Thornhill>