|Read Philippians 3:19-21.
Over the past few months, I’ve gained a new perspective on what is meant by the phrase “citizens of heaven.” I’ve learned that, as followers of Jesus, we aren’t merely here trying to hold on so that we will be in heaven one day (although many of us feel that way). But, rather, we are citizens of heaven (here and now), called to live out the reality of our homeland right where God has placed us.
Back in the days of the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers, once they retired, were given land in new colonies throughout the empire. They were given the task to “bring the way of Rome” to these new colonies. To teach, by example, what it means to be a Roman citizen.
We are called to “bring the way of heaven” to where God has placed us. To teach others, by example, what it means to be a citizen of heaven, a follower of Jesus. People should be able to look at how we live and say, “That’s what heaven is like.”
Here are some things I pick up from this passage.
Our citizenship is seen in how we live, not simply in who we claim to be.
If you want to know what someone believes, don’t ask them. Watch their life. That’s why James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). And, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Will we be perfect? No. But our lives will be different. And it’s our lives that tell the story of our citizenship.
Some live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
They are citizens of this world (this gives a contrast). Their god is their stomach (ruled by selfish desires and pleasures), their glory is in their shame, their destiny is destruction. We’re not called to try and pick out who they are, but we are called to make sure we’re not one of them. Our living tells the story of our citizenship. The cross is as much a way of life as it is an event. It is a picture of self-sacrificial love. If we spend our lives chasing after those selfish desires and pleasures, we will never walk in the peace of Jesus’ kingdom. We will instead walk toward destruction.
Our citizenship is in heaven.
We are called to live out a different way. We live out the reality of the One who dwells in us. Not waiting for heaven, but living out the reality of heaven in the here and now! And the reality in which you live is determined on where your mind is set. I’m not claiming here that positive thinking will always keep you healthy, wealthy, and wise (it doesn’t hurt, though); but, you will have peace, hope, and the realization that your life is not leading to destruction, but rather to eternal, abundant life in the kingdom of our King Jesus.
It sounds great in theory, but what does this look like? How is it fleshed out? It looks like Paul and Silas singing in prison. It looks like Stephen asking forgiveness for those stoning him. It looks like the sheep (rather than the goats) in Matthew 25. It looks like the self-sacrificial love of our Savior and King, Jesus.
And do you see, in the last bit of the passage, what it is that we eagerly await? The transformation of our bodies. Resurrection! This is the Christian hope. That, though we die, we will forever live. And, because of this hope, through the Holy Spirit, we can live in that reality in the here and now.