There’s a lot of talk about citizenship these days. We’ve heard questions and challenges concerning citizenship and qualifications. We know there is a big question concerning what to do about people who are in our country who are not legal citizens. We’ve heard a lot about how can we keep non-citizens out of the country until they can legally qualify for citizenship. We all pray that these issues can be resolved in the best way.
But there’s another citizenship that is not in question and not unresolved. It’s our Citizenship of Heaven. Yes, indeed. We who know Jesus Christ as our Savior are first-and-foremost Citizens of Heaven.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians he wrote to them, and now to us, about being Citizens of Heaven. Let’s take a look again at this and see what it is to be Citizens of Heaven.
In Philippians 3:17-4:1, each verse gives a distinctive description to what it means to be Citizens of Heaven. As the description unfolds, we can form an easy “acrostic” to help crystallize the meaning. Here’s what we do as Citizens of Heaven.
Copy the right examples. Verse 17 “Brothers (and sisters), join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Paul was so profoundly convinced that the Living Christ was in him and controlled his life that he could boldly say, “make me your example for faith and life.” Are we copying the examples of faithful followers of Christ or are we letting faithless deceivers control us?
Identify the enemies of the cross of Christ. Verse 18 “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Paul was bold to identify these enemies and be honest about their Godless actions. Do we step forward and without fear name the enemies of the cross in our time? Or do we melt into whatever the culture wants us to do?
Turn from earthly things. Verse 19 “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” “Earthly things” are anything that tempt us into simply satisfying the desires of our flesh. As good as some may think that feels in the short run, this leads only to destruction, both now and for eternity. Are we turning from “earthly things,” or caving into their seductive false promises?
Insist on Heavenly Things. Verse 20 “But our citizenship is in heaven …” Here is the declaration of this truth. St. Paul was a Roman citizen. This was extremely important during his time. It gave privilege and power. Paul was even proud of his Roman citizenship, but he knew that it meant nothing compared to his being a true Citizen of Heaven. We value American citizenship, for sure, but it also means nothing compared to our heavenly citizenship.
Zero in on Jesus. Verse 20 continues “and … we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Even though this comes after the previous components, Paul would tell us that this is the most important distinction of Citizens of Heaven. We have a Savior, and that’s vitally important because we need a Savior desperately. So desperately that without Him we would surely die and be lost forever. Only in Christ is there life and meaning and purpose. Only in Christ is there ultimate joy and peace. He is the “bulls-eye,” the center, the core of our existence. We simply zero in on Him, and Him alone.
Employ His Power. Verse 21 “(the Lord Jesus Christ) will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” Paul knew that to be a Citizen of Heaven was to be transformed, be made into something completely different, completely better, by the power of Christ. And this power is put into our bodies and souls so that we can use it in the world as God would have us. The question for us is, “Are we are employing His Power through our lives in the world for His good?” Let’s do.
Stand Firm. Verse 1 “Therefore, my brothers (and sisters), whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Paul obviously loved the people of this little congregation, whom he had previously served as their pastor. He loved them so much that he wasn’t going to let them deny or forfeit their heavenly citizenship. He left nothing negotiable. He left no room for a soft middle ground. With God’s Truth so firmly clear and non-negotiable, he lovingly demanded, “Stand firm!” So now to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, some whom I know personally and many whom I do not, I loving demand of you, stand firm! This is no time to weaken! Stand firm in both the Truth and the Love of Christ! And we shall be and forever remain Citizens of Heaven. Amen
Find Pastor Kollmeyer at www.princeofpeacefayette.org