Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ransom

For even the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 (NLT)

As we approach the Easter season, let us not forget the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for our sins. God sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ into the world as a humble and selfless servant – indeed, the Servant – to suffer and die for our redemption (see also Isaiah 52:13-53:12; see also Luke 22:27; John 13:5). Jesus Christ willingly gave His life as a ransom to give us salvation (life) and release us from the bondage of sin and death (see also 1 Peter 1:18-20). In other words, Jesus Christ redeems us through faith from a bad situation (e.g., sin and eternal death) and endured our punishment for sin at the cost of His own blood on Calvary’s Cross (see Romans 3:24; Titus 2:14, 19; Revelation 5:9). Through a marvelous exchange, the result is our “forgiveness of sins,” righteousness, and reconciliation to God (Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:14). God redeemed us from the slavery of sin, not with money, but with His one and only Son’s precious blood on Calvary’s Cross (Romans 6:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 9:12). Jesus Christ's sacrificial death for our sins was not an afterthought by God, but predicted by God because of the great fall of Adam and Eve (1 Peter 1:20; see Genesis 3:15) as an expression of His love for humanity (John 3:16). Everyone who accept and believe in Jesus Christ will be saved from their sin and eternal judgment (John 3:16-18).

For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 (NLT)

Theologians call Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross atonement. The word “atonement” or “make atonement” is frequently used in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, but is rare in the rest of the Holy Scriptures. Yet, the basic idea of atonement is widespread throughout the Holy Scriptures. As mentioned earlier, the need for atonement arrives from the sinfulness of humanity (Genesis 3). Throughout the Holy Scriptures, sin was serious and sin would be punished unless atonement was sought in the way God provided. In the Old Testament, atonement was sometimes made separately from sacrifice by paying money (Exodus 30:12-16) or offering life (2 Samuel 21:3-6). In each case, to make atonement means to prevent divine punishment and anger by the payment of a ransom, which may be money or which may be of life. The Old Testament sacrifices were types (foreshadowing) of Jesus Christ, depicting the ultimate and only sacrifice for human sin.

In the Old Testament, the word atonement is often found in Leviticus, particularly Leviticus 16, which describes the most important day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Sin was dealt with by the offering of a sacrifice. Thus, the burnt offering would be accepted “to make atonement” (Leviticus 1:4), as also the sin offering and the guilt offering (Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 7:7), and especially the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). Many times the Old Testament prophets criticized the offerings of sacrifice as merely external action by the people. Instead, the prophets encouraged the people to offer sacrifice as the expression of their repentant and trustful heart to find atonement.

This truth of atonement is repeated and enlarged upon in the New Testament. The New Testament makes clear that all are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that hell waits any unrepentant sinners. Yet, the New Testament also makes clear that our loving God wants to bring salvation from hell to everyone. God has brought that salvation in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Even more amazing of God’s love is that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19, RSV), a reconciliation brought about by the death of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10). God in Jesus Christ took our sins within His sinless body and died our death for sin (Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). Thus, Jesus Christ became the last and God’s perfect sacrifice for human sin (Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:4-10). In other words, Jesus Christ paid sin’s due penalty – a ransom (Romans 3:25-26; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:13) to redeem sinful humans (Ephesians 1:7) and set us free (1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 5:1). Thus, Jesus Christ is the sinless and holy Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Even more, He has made a new covenant (Hebrews 9:14-15). Jesus paid it all! As believing Christians in Jesus Christ’s death, our part is simply to respond in repentance, faith, and selfless living.  

Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He (Christ) died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NLT)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Apostle Peter:  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. 1 Peter 1:15-23 (NLT)

God is holy and His Name is also holy (Leviticus 19:2; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; 1 Peter 15-16).  Holiness is the very foundation of God’s very being, as God is absolutely pure and separated from evil (Isaiah 6:3; see also Habakkuk 1:13; Revelation 4:8). “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3, NIV). Because God is holy, all sin and disobedience is offensive to Him (Psalm 51:4). God’s holiness is also seen in the Trinity. The God of love and grace is our Holy Father (John 17:11), Jesus Christ is the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24; John 6:69), and the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. Our primary response to God’s holiness is our respect, reverence, and worship, which is the basis for all godly living (Exodus 3:5; Psalm 96:9; Proverbs 1:7).

For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. . . . Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45, NLT).

Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy. . . .  Live holy lives before Me because I, God, am holy. I have distinguished you from the nations to be My very own. Leviticus 20:7-8, 26 (MSG)

Since God is absolutely holy, His concern is that His people likewise become holy (Leviticus 11:44-45). God’s people are called to be holy (Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 1:16). Holiness means being completely devoted to God and set aside for His special use and purpose – separated from sin and impurity and set apart or dedicated for God (see also Romans 6:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:2). There is no eternal life without holiness (Hebrews 12:14) – turning from sin and wholeheartedly obeying God (see Psalm 24:3-4). Since the Old Testament, God’s fundamental calling for His people was to be a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). God wanted a people dedicated and devoted to Him as King, and completely set apart to do His will and service (see also 1 Peter 2:5-9). Thus for God’s people, holiness contains the negative sense of separation from sin and evil and the positive sense of consecration or sanctification for good.

David:  Who may climb the mountain of the Lord and enter where He lives? Who may stand before the Lord? Only those with pure hands and hearts, who do not practice dishonesty and lying. They will receive God’s own goodness as their blessing from Him, planted in their lives by God Himself, their Savior. These are the ones who are allowed to stand before the Lord and worship the God of Jacob. Psalms 24:3-6 (TLB)

We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:10 (NIV)

All believing Christians have been made holy through faith and acceptance in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the Cross (Acts 26:18; Hebrews 10:10, 14). Jesus Christ has made all believing Christians holy in God's sight through faith. The New Testament makes clear that Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31-35). Jesus Christ redeems and saves all believers (Romans 3:-23-24) at the cost of His blood (Ephesians 1:7; Titus 2:14; Revelation 5:9). The result is the “forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14) and justification (Romans 3:24). Thus, God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s death saves us from the sin (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-12). Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross sanctifies and cleanses us from the old ways of sin and sets us apart for God’s special sacred purpose (Hebrews 13:12). Believing Christians’ holiness through faith in Jesus Christ is preserved through their clean, moral, and peaceful living. Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death saved us from guilt and judgment (Romans 3:24) and produced in believing Christians moral purity and helpful services to others (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? . . . But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9, 11 (NIV)

Our faith in Jesus Christ declares us righteous, holy, wise, and redeemed (Mark 10:45; 1 Corinthians 1:30; see also Colossians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27, NIV). We cannot escape from sin on our own; only faith in the life of Jesus Christ frees us and then following Jesus Christ in loving faith and obedience by God’s Holy Spirit keeps us from sinning (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:20-21). God’s Holy Spirit helps us to live according to God's purpose and “work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12-13). Holiness is an ongoing cooperative process in which believing Christians, alive to God and freed from sin (Romans 6:11, 14-18), are required to actively love and obey God and flee sin and wickedness with the help of God’s Holy Spirit and continually abiding or walking with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-17; Colossians 1:11; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:1). Thus, holiness is neither a self-reliant activity nor God-reliant inaction, but a daily God-dependent effort (2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 3:10-14; Hebrews 12:14).

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. 1 Peter 2:9-12 (NIV)

Being sanctified, or made holy, is a work of God’s Holy Spirit on the basis of our faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the Cross (Titus 2:14, Titus 3:4-5). Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God sends us His Holy Spirit to cleanse us from our sins (John 15:26-27; Acts 5:32). God’s Holy Spirit is the agent of holiness for God’s people (John 3:5; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:42). The Holy Spirit keeps the church pure (Acts 5:1-11) and promotes holiness in God’s people through our obedience to God (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). God’s Holy Spirit living within believing Christians give us the ability to obey God’s holy standards as He controls every aspect of our lives.

Our faith in Jesus Christ does not mean ignoring God’s righteousness. Instead as believing Christians, we willingly exchange a sinful way of living for God’s righteous way of life (Romans 6:15-23; see also 1 John 3:3, 6).  Obedience to God produces holiness (Romans 6:22) and the end of the process is eternal life. There is no eternal life without holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Participation in God’s divine blessings is conditioned on obedience added to faith. Genuine faith in Jesus Christ will express itself in obedience to God (see James 2:14-26). Thus, worshipping God has a horizontal aspect -- that is, God is honored by our lives as we wholeheartedly obey Him and flee sin and evil. A central teaching of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that God desires obedience and a right heart, not empty compliance to rituals or hypocrisy (see e.g. 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 51:16-19; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13).

Apostle Paul:  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

Because of all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we should strive to be His holy people (Romans 12:1-2). As mentioned earlier, holiness is a twofold action: turning away from sin, and wholeheartedly turning toward God (2 Corinthians 7:1; see also Acts 20:21). We must devote every area of our life to God with absolute love and obedience in motives as well as practices (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:1-2). God wants His people to imitate Him by following His high moral standards of love, truth, grace, mercy, and forgiveness (Exodus 34:6-7; Ephesians 5:1-2; see also Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 23:23). Jesus Christ, as God in human flesh, revealed to the whole world God’s love, humility, and mercy (Philippians 2:5-11) for a Christ-like life and attitude are part of what obedience and law-keeping means. As the Lord God passed in front of Moses, He declared “I am the Lord. The Lord is a God who shows mercy, who is kind, who does not become angry quickly, who has great love and faithfulness and is kind to thousands of people” (Exodus 34:6-7, NCV). The prophet Micah proclaimed “the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NLT).

God’s Scriptures gives us guidelines to help us remain separate —both socially and spiritually — from evil and wickedness. We can pray to God to give us strength to live holy lives and God is faithful to help us (see Psalms 99:6). We cannot become holy on our own, but God gives us His Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ to help us obey and to give us power to overcome sin and evil. Call on God's Holy Spirit power to help you live holy and free from sin.

Apostle Paul:  Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:15-23 (NLT)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From Our Hearts

One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of His disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. . . . So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked Him, “Why don’t Your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then He said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” He said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and His disciples asked Him what He meant by the parable He had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” He asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then He added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:1-2, 5-23 (NLT) see parallel reference at Matthew 15:1-20 and Old Testament reference at Isaiah 29:13.

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were often hostile towards Him and His ministry. In fact, some religious leaders would follow Jesus from place to place simply to watch for something to criticize. The religious leaders had created many man-made traditions. The Jews called their traditions “the fence of the Law.” These man-made traditions and teachings were often considered as authoritative and important as the Word of God—even though they contradicted living Word of God. Sadly, these traditions were external religious rituals and empty words to the lips (Isaiah 29:13). These traditions and rituals were not motivated by love and mercy, but by a desire to appear holy and to increase their status with people (see also Matthew 23:23-28). The religious people went through the outward forms of worship, but these rituals and traditions were not true worship of God because their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:1-9). 

Even today, people will follow routine religious patterns yet neglect to give God their first love and devotion (Matthew 6:33). Jesus proclaimed that God wanted our genuine and wholehearted love, alliance, and devotion to Him and not our empty, dishonest, and half-hearted worship (Jeremiah 4:4; see also Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 22:37). God wants everyone to love, obey, and worship Him from their whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37). In fact, the Great Prophet – Jesus Christ – quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 when He gave the most important commandment as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (see Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30).

Jesus taught that true holiness is a matter of inward affection and attitude and not just outward actions and rituals (see also Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:17-26). True worship of God comes from the heart and directed by God's truth, not man-made rituals and traditions. Jesus stated that the source of holy living is from within, not from without. Since the Old Testament, true holiness has always been a matter of the heart, a right relationship with God by faith and worship of Him alone (see also Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 16; Psalm 51:6, 10, 16-17). Moses made it clear in Deuteronomy that God wanted love and obedience to come from our hearts, and not be merely outward obedience to rules and rituals (see also Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 30:6, 20). The Holy Scriptures clearly teaches that God wants our wholehearted love, worship, and devotion to Him, and not just our lip service. It is not enough to act religious, but what is in our hearts is even more important to God. No wonder David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!” (Psalm 51:10).

Sin begins in the heart. The human heart is sinful and produces all kinds of evil desires, thoughts, and actions, everything from murder to envy (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin produces defilement and death. Jesus declared boldly that sin comes from the heart. He pointed out that sin actually begins in the attitudes and intentions of the inner person (Luke 6:45). It is what comes out of the mouth and what we think that defiles us and makes us unclean. What comes out of the mouth begins in the heart, and these things defile a person. Allowing our minds and thoughts to dwell on lust, envy, hatred, or revenge will lead to sin. That is why the Apostle Paul encourages everyone to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). What we allow to occupy our minds and thoughts will eventually determine our speech and actions.

Jesus realized that all humans are sinners and unable to control or change their hearts. That is why Jesus came to earth—to die for lost sinners. The heart can be cleansed and changed only by faith in Jesus and His saving work for our sins on the Cross (Acts 15:8-9, 11). When we place our wholehearted faith in God found in Jesus Christ, God makes us clean from within and gives us a new heart. We are not holy because of outward acts — we become holy on the inside as Jesus renews our minds and transforms us into His image through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 11).

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Citizens of Heaven

Apostle Paul:   Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine (Paul), and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the Cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He (Jesus Christ) will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control. Philippians 3:17-21 (NLT)

As believers of Jesus Christ, we are aliens and strangers in this world, because our real home is heaven where God lives. True believers of Jesus Christ are aliens in that they are fully involved in the world, yet not of the world (John 17:14-15). In other words, believers of Jesus Christ are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) and are “children of God” (John 1:12-13). As God’s children, our true loyalty and devotion must always be to God and our citizenship in heaven. Yet, God commands all believers of Jesus Christ to live gracious and upright lives on earth as they continue the work of Jesus Christ (John 17:18, see also Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:9-12).

Apostle Peter:  You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God . . . . 1 Peter 2:9-12 (NLT)

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been united with Him (Galatians 2:20). With this union, God has accepted us and raised believers from a life of death along with Jesus Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:5-6). Even more, through our union and faith in Jesus Christ, believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3). This means that in Jesus Christ, believers have all the benefits of knowing God — salvation, adoption as God’s children, forgiveness of sins, wisdom and insight, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. All believers will one day experience all the special privileges of our heavenly citizenship when Jesus Christ returns.

Apostle Paul:  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is our life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Heaven is where God lives. In the Old Testament, heaven came to earth in the symbolism of the Jewish sanctuary (the tabernacle and temple) where God's holy presence inhabited. However, heaven came in a fuller sense through the Person of Jesus Christ, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Now, heaven fills the entire world as the Holy Spirit came to live in every true believer at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Someday, the kingdom of heaven will rule every of earth (Revelation 21:3).

While writing Philippians, the apostle Paul was heartbroken that those who professed Jesus Christ actually lived as enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:18-19). Paul encouraged all true believers to set their hearts, minds and priorities on Jesus Christ and not the earthly things (Colossians 3:1-4, 15; see also Romans 6:1-13; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 4:8-9).  In other words, believers are to live life from God's perspective and to seek what He desires (see also Colossians 3:5-17). Heavenly conduct (e.g., love, goodness, servant-hood, self-sacrifice, and worship) should mark believers of Jesus Christ. Although our good service and behavior do not earn our salvation with God, but good service and behavior are results of our salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-10). D.L. Moody disciplined Christians for being “so heavenly minded they were no earthly good.” As believers in Jesus Christ, Christians have a dual citizenship—on earth and in heaven—and our citizenship in heaven should make us better people here on earth.

Jesus Christ:  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

As citizens of heaven, the true and living God (God the Father, the Son - Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit) must be our first priority and worship in our daily lives (Matthew 6:33, see also Deuteronomy 6:13-19).  We must actively and continually seek first God and His righteousness with a singled minded commitment (see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37). Even more, our lives should be focused on “God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions” (Matthew 6:33; MSG) in every area of our daily lives. The things we should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. If we put God's will and God's righteousness first in our lives, He will take care of everything else and provide through His grace (Matthew 6:33).  Jesus Christ pointed out the sad consequences of not seeking God first and seeking the world’s pleasures (see Luke 12:13-21). Even more, Jesus Christ warned against the sin of living for the world and things of this life (e.g., greed and materialism) (see also Exodus 20:17; Psalm 119:36; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.