Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

Every once in a while people will ask me what my ethnic heritage is.  I'm sure you have laid awake at night wishing you knew...!  Well, toss and turn no more.  I am, according to the flesh, half German and the other half some mixture of English, Scotch and Irish...heavy on the Scotch (the drink, that is).  All that European lineage has, over a number of generations, swirled together to form what everyone around the world would recognize me to be...an American, or as they enjoyed calling me in Georgia, a Yankee (which is a somewhat suspect breed of American who happens to hail from "up Nawth")!

There's no question about that.  I look like an American, talk like an American, dress like an American, eat like an American, and so on...at least on the surface, at first glance.  But underneath there lies something fuller, deeper, richer, more meaningful, more permanent...a citizenship that outshines even the most ardent patriotism.  Paul wrote about it in Philippians 3:17-21 (NIV):

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  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 in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  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."

Kind of strange, isn't it?  To be a citizen of a place where you have never lived!  Our daughter, Michelle, was like that for a little while.  She was born in the Philippines but was immediately, upon birth, legally a citizen of the United States of America.  Why is that?  Because her parents were (and are) U.S. citizens.

Every one of God's children is, upon spiritual birth, legally a citizen of heaven.  Why is that?  Because that's where our Father is from!  Isn't that cool?

Sadly, there are many who live with this world as their home.  And, apart from Christ, this is as good as it gets.  Now that's a scary thought!  They are enemies of the cross; we embrace it as the only means of forgiveness.  Their destiny is destruction; ours is eternal life.  Their god is their stomach, their belly, their appetite; our God is the Living Lord of the universe!  Their glory (what they boast about) is their shame (what they should be ashamed of); our glory is the Glorious One!  Their minds are on earthly things; our minds are set on the things of our homeland, heaven...or at least they should be.

Here's a radical thought:  Instead of turning on the tube tonight and absorbing the usual mind-numbing fare, why not spend some time with your Father, "eagerly await[ing] a Savior from [heaven], 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."

For the citizen of heaven, we have a choice:  We can either be earthsick or heavensick.  Earth sickness is a disease of the soul that makes you long for more of what the earth has to offer...stuff that won't last, doesn't give life and can't satisfy.  Heaven sickness is a longing for heaven and is not a disease at all; it is homesickness for the One for whom we were created, and is a "symptom" of supreme health of the soul.

We are in this world but not of it, just like Jesus was in this world but not of it (John 17:14-18).  Some might say, "He's so heavenly minded, he's no earthly good!"  I say, "It is only when you are heavenly minded that you are any earthly good!"

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