Citizens of Heaven
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (NASU)
If you have ever visited a country other than your native country, you might have felt a little strange or uncomfortable. I live in the US, and our neighboring country Canada, has a similar culture to ours. It is not so strange or different as some other countries. Still, when I visit there, I cannot expect to claim the exact same privileges that a Canadian citizen would claim. The same could be said of Australia, where my wife and I visited in the nineties. Other than their wonderful accents, and the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road, we felt quite comfortable there.
Another country we have visited is India. Now I can tell you that it is a different world! The culture is very different in some ways. The food is different, the language of course is different, the money is very different. All the things we take for granted every day can become challenges when in another culture. While Canadian money is in dollars close to ours, Indian rupees do not easily translate to US dollars. Back then I would often hesitate when thinking of spending 1,000 Rupees until I did the math. That sum today amounts to only about $14 US dollars!
Some people possess dual citizenship. In one sense, a follower of Christ also possesses dual citizenship, living in two worlds. We live on this earth, and because of our love for Jesus Christ, we serve the inhabitants of this world for whom He gave His life. However our service will be more effective and powerful when we fully understand how our primary citizenship is in Christ, and in His Kingdom! This might not be as easy as it sounds. I was born into this world first as an earth-bound creature. Over time I developed this internal sense that something was not quite right, or complete.
At an early age I began to hear about the Word of God, and the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. This ignited that internal sense with a spark within me that has continued to grow and burn brighter year after year. I live in a material world that was created by God for His glory, but that world has become filled with corruption, sin and death. I am reminded of this fact every day of my life.
The knowledge that I am more than a material being has created a hunger for heavenly, spiritual things. I am not only talking about the future bliss that all believers know is real. I am talking about a present reality! This heavenly reality is where we all belong, and it includes the abundant life that Jesus came to bring! How often we overlook this fact: the mission of Jesus was to bring heaven to us! Everything he taught was to turn our way of thinking around towards this heavenly reality!
When I surrendered my heart and life to Christ my old life died and was buried with Him in baptism, in order that I can rise with Him from the grave as a new person! I have been translated from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son of God! (Romans 6:4, Colossians 1:13)
The central message of Jesus was for us to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near!” Certainly we all have sins for which we must repent, but we could legitimately take repentance even further. The original Greek word in the scripture means “to think differently.” The source of our sin is in our attitudes and patterns of thinking about ourselves and God. Paul the apostle once stated that repentance goes further than sorrow for sin, which is good. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, or a change of mind. (1 Corinthians 7:10)
The bible has much to say about our minds and habits of thinking. Unfortunately, many of us do not realize how important this matter really is. Truly we are greatly blessed to know our future is secure in Christ. Even when we fail, His love for us does not fade. However, in the mean time, there is a purpose for our being here and for our dual citzenship.
This cannot be better spelled out than in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (NASU)
Jesus Himself told His disciples that they were the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid! This city is even now representative of another dimension known as the kingdom of heaven. The light that is in us should not be hidden from the world around us. It is naturally seen as we allow God to change our thinking to align with His.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
While no human can plumb the depths of God’s infinite wisdom and love, we are called to repent in order to receive from Him great increases in wisdom, knowledge, understanding and love. His Word comes to us and His Holy Spirit reveals unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. (1 Peter 1:3). Our life in Christ begins and ends with the work of the Word of God challenging us and the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and empower us.
God Himself calls us and reveals His will unto us to bring us into the state of grace, forgiveness of sin and a fresh relationship with Him. This is only the beginning. The same power that called us to reconciliation calls us to a higher life, a heavenly life. That life is described in the bible as one characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and self-control. But these attributes do not come from a self-improvement plan or 12 step program. They come from living in relationship with God and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us!
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
So what are these higher things? He goes on to explain:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
The “things of the earth” are not simply the material world, which God created and described as very good. In using heaven above and the earth beneath as descriptive terms, He is showing us that there is a lower plane of existence in things like: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech and lying. (Colossians 3:5-11).
Earlier I mention my visits to India. Before I could enter that great country, I had to get permission from a representative of India in the form of a visa. So I contacted the Embassy of India in Washington D.C.to receive directions for the application. The Embassy of India receives authority from a country that is more than 8,000 miles away. That authority is very real. In fact, I could not even get on a plane bound for India without a visa from the embassy.
2,000 years ago Jesus Christ established a colony on this earth which represents the Kingdom of heaven. It is the gathering of the community of those who have been born again to the new life and the new values of the kingdom. It is not defined by the organizations of men, but by the holiness of God that sets His people apart from the self-worshipping, self-serving ways of fallen humanity. Jesus personally trained those who would lead others into the Kingdom of God and gave them special authority much like embassadors that reside in other lands.
This authority is the Word of God, and it has the power to transform hearts and minds, to heal broken people and communities, to demonstrate the character of God, and to lighten the way in this dark world. Everyone who receives Christ, submits to His will, and is trained by Him can be commissioned by Him as an embassador of the Kingdom of heaven. And yet the newest believer born of the Spirit is already a genuine citizen of heaven!
The small community of apostles and other men and women that Jesus gathered has grown tremendously throughout the centuries. The number of true believers cannot be known by us. Jesus promised that His kingdom would be like the yeast that permeated the flour which rises to become a loaf of bread. Like the rock in the dream Daniel interpreted for King Nebuchadnezzar, it is bringing all other kingdoms to naught as it fills the earth. Yes, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord is filling the earth! The Kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ!
As citizens of the kingdom now we are privileged to enjoy the blessings of heaven and to usher in the appearance of heaven to earth. No act that originated from the mind of God is too small or insignificant in His plan. For 2,000 years we have been praying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That prayer is being heard and will be manifestly answered, but we can see and experience the reality of the wonderful reign of Christ even now!
As Citizens of Heaven!