Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for making us citizens of Your heavenly kingdom through faith in Your sacrifice of blood, shed for us. May we never loose sight of such a blessing, never renounce our heavenly citizenship, and show forth to all, the glories that it provides. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE RULER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
TEXT: Philippians 3: 17—4:1
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I am appalled at how little American citizenship actually means in our day. When I grew up, being an American citizen was considered a huge privilege and honor. American citizens had rights that others could only dream about. You, alone, could vote, live under laws that produced good order and promoted civic responsibility. You, alone, had access to government services. You could go almost anywhere in the world and once you were identified as an American, people treated you with respect.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today America is flooded with illegal aliens who often engage in theft identity or simply: identity fraud. These folks flout America’s laws by not buying car insurance, by not paying taxes, sometimes they vote—even though it’s against the law, and they often refuse to assimilate to our culture. They crowd the emergency rooms and don’t pay anything for their care. And yes, they take jobs away from citizens and take tax dollars too in the form of social services. Growing up, all of this was unimaginable. Quite frankly, it seems the only difference between citizens and non-citizens today is that law-abiding citizens get to pay all the bills for everything and the illegals just ignore it all and disappear when things get a little hot! When people talk about all “the rights and privileges” of American citizenship it seems that all it means today is that genuine citizens are viewed as societal piggy-banks.
St. Paul was a citizen of Rome. That was a real privilege and conveyed real rights to him in his day. Only Roman citizens could vote. Only they had complete access to the Roman judicial system. Only they could appeal sentences. Only they could escape physical punishment for misdeeds. When they walked the empire roads, their Roman citizenship was like a free pass to everything. They were a class unto themselves. St. Paul was legitimately proud of his Roman citizen status. It assisted him greatly in his work of spreading the Gospel. But he was even prouder and more thankful for his heavenly citizenship given to him by Christ Himself. To be honest, we as Christians, should feel the same way. For, as we see in today’s text:
HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP MEANS EVERYTHING
As believers in Jesus, each of us lives with one foot in this world while the other foot is in heaven. It’s hard to straddle that line. Christ says it well: “You are to be in the world, but not of the world.” Paul says the same thing a bit differently when he writes: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Let your light shine! Let truth and justice show forth in your life! Be honest and call sin for what it is: sin. Meanwhile, show love for another’s soul. Be willing to forgive and forget when repentance screams out for it. Yes, be willing to show the world the honesty of life stemming from the fact that you’re answerable for everything to God. In other words, walk in the oneness of Christ.
Throughout world history, every time Christians have acted like that, good things have resulted. Once Moses came to faith and learned of God’s grace, he helped build and form a nation where the order of creation: God first and man second, was put into practice. And blessings abounded. The great judge, Samson, learned, then forgot and had to relearn, that allegiance to God brings untold benefits to a nation, whereas reliance upon self brings defeat, disharmony, and even social chaos. Dr. Luther displayed this dual citizenship in his life. As a result of his “straddling the line” his country was united, the principles for modern education were laid, and economically all benefited from the reality of a Christian work ethic. Good things always come to a nation when believers live out their faith. Or, as Jesus tells us: “You are the salt, the preservative, of the earth.”
However, temptations abound to do and act otherwise. Christianity teaches self-sacrifice which benefits all. It teaches us to say “No” to our passions and individual wants when those things conflict with God’s truth and the upbuilding of our neighbor. St. Paul now touches on the temptation to simply “go with the flow” and not worry about anything other than yourself. “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.”
Pick up “People” magazine and thumb through the outlandish lifestyles of the “Hollywood Elite” portrayed therein. I did that at my hairdresser’s this week and all I could think of was: “Their glory is their shame.” But, of course, they have no shame because they have no god but themselves. View the crass materialism of our culture and how most define happiness by what they can buy on credit. Of course, you cannot eat the vacation you couldn’t afford, but those words: “their god is their stomach” certainly apply. Engaging in sensuality for sensuality’s sake and then moving on to more and more outlandish things because the old perversions now bore you; that modern American approach to life is seen in the words: “Their destiny is destruction.”
Rome was becoming just as morally bankrupt as America has become today. Paul knew that. And he knew his beloved Philippians knew that. So, he now reminds them and us of that age-old truth meant for earth-bound believers: Heavenly Citizenship Means Everything!
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”
Remember the words: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”? Being happy with your life and truly content with your blessings is really the goal that saint and sinner alike try to attain. By God’s grace, you have been given the key to that goal. You’ve been given forgiveness for all sins in Christ, peace of heart and soul with God, guidelines to live by which avoids a lot of heartache and stress, insights into eternal truths which this evil world tries to shame, but cannot; and finally the certain knowledge that: I don’t have to live like “this is all there is” because I know it’s not! I know the very best of God, the best He can make is waiting for me through faith in Christ! I still value my American citizenship, even if it has become a bit “watered down” by modernity. And yet, God put me here to do my best, so I’ll try. But the thing that really gets me through each day is my heavenly citizenship. Because, heavenly citizenship means everything!—And no person or thing can ever water it down….Amen