As we continue to explore the power of God in our lives, we will take a look in the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians.
We see how he has defined our core Christian identity as people who accept the following as true;
1. That sufferings and trials are a part of the Christian life,
2. That joy is possible in the midst of trials and suffering, 3. That thankfulness is possible in all circumstances and that practicing being thankful brings peace and joy,
3. That although we are God’s well loved children, we are equally His servants, and so we are to see ourselves as servants of one another. To focus on our identity as His children to the exclusion of our role as His servants produces spoiled children,
4. That seeing ourselves as servants enables us to pursue humility in all our relationships, &
5. Our focus in good times and bad is to be on Jesus, in fact, finding Jesus in the crisis changes the crisis.
Today we will look at another key belief that makes all of the others that much easier to believe and to live. Phil. 3:20 “but our citizenship is in heaven…”What a radical concept! Our citizenship is not on this earth but it is in Heaven. And it is in Heaven with Jesus in a different and transformed way. How can Paul be so full of Joy when he is chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day for 2 years? How can he endure rejection and slander and beatings and consider it a joy and a privilege? It is because for him his reality is not in these experiences. His reality is in Heaven and what he has there. His reality is in his relationship with Jesus. The bottom line is that we are not made for this earth and it is not our home.
C.S. Lewis said that our view of life will be determined by how we view the world. He said that if we see it as our home and our place of belonging then we will find it quite a hard place to live with lots to complain about. On the other hand, if we see it as a motel 6 in which we spend a few nights on a journey home, then we will see that, as a place to sleep while we are passing through, it is not so bad at all. We are not citizens of this earth we are citizens of Heaven. Our joy and our contentment will never come from how many stars this hotel has, it comes from knowing where we really belong and to whom we really belong. One philosopher put it this way, “we are not physical beings having a spiritual experience we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”
From this thought and from our identity in Jesus [and nothing else] the rest of Chapter 4 makes sense. Paul calls the differing parties in the church to agree. Why? Because they are united in Jesus and both citizens of Heaven and whatever differences they have are not significant compared to what they both have in Jesus and their common citizenship.
He goes on in verse 4 to call us to rejoice. The verb is an imperative and it is in the active voice. What this means is that we are to rejoice not as a response to anything God has done for us but we are to take the initiative to rejoice in him. It implies we can do this and should no matter what our circumstances. How is this possible? Because we are citizens of heaven and attached to Jesus forever! This is our reality! He goes on in vs. 6 to tell us, “do not be anxious about anything!” He says this as if it’s possible. It is possible if we know whose we are and where our citizenship is. What does your petty quarrel with your friend mean looking back 10,000 years from now? What does it matter 10,000 years from now that you didn’t make your earnings projection this year? Is it worth doing some small wrong here and now knowing that each and every action we take here has a direct effect on our enjoyment and standing in eternity forever? And when you bring your requests to God do it with thanksgiving. How can I do that when things are bad? Because this life is not the whole story; you are a citizen of heaven having a temporary & passing earthly experience. No matter what; you are attached to Jesus forever. YOU ARE NOT HOME YET!
WHAT DOES CITZENSHIP IN HEAVEN MEAN IN PRACTICE?
- The values you live by are not of this world. I am a Canadian living in the U.S. I critique the culture I live in by a different set of values. I always will. We must constantly remind ourselves that the values our culture takes as givens are mostly not the values of the Kingdom of God. A good rule of thumb is to understand this, “what people think is important God thinks is useless and what God thinks is important people think is useless”. Most of the time you can just turn the world’s values upside down and you will know what to believe. [Luke 15:16 “…What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.]
- Do not expect the same rights or rewards as those whose citizenship is of this world. The world rewards those who embrace it. The gains are real but they are short and ultimately terminal. As Christians our goals are long term, not short term. The most important promises we live for will not be fulfilled here on earth.
- Do not expect justice in this world. If you have a car accident in Mexico as a foreigner you will go to jail first and then negotiate to get out. Do not expect the world to be fair to you. Increasingly, as a Christian you are becoming a target for persecution. Expect it. It actually means you are on the right track!
Check back in next week for the conclusion of this message along with the video of Mark’s teaching.