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.

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