Sunday Reflection: Heavenites: Our True Citizenship
When I was studying in the USA and working as a short-term missions coordinator, I travelled oversees a lot.
Once, when I landed at JFK Airport, I was asked by the immigrations officer a routine question I had answered dozens of times: “What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?”
I replied, “I live here, I was just out of the country for work.”
“What do you mean you live here? This visa says you are a student here,” she said sternly.
“Well, yes,” I replied mustering all the patience I could after 36 hours of air travel. “I’m a full time student at seminary.”
“But you just said you live here,” she pressed.
Exasperated by this semantic tango I lost any residual sangfroid and sarcastically quipped, “Of course I live here, what do think, that I live in South Africa and just commute to class every morning?”
She abruptly called for an armed agent to escort me to an interrogation room, where I waited two hours before being asked by a more senior agent the same question. This time I answered clearly that my purpose for my visit was to study.
She wanted to make sure I didn’t forget my place: I was a foreigner, an alien. As far as she was concerned I didn’t live in the States, I worked and studied there… temporarily.
In a similar way the curse of sin frequently reminds Christians that we are foreigners on earth too. We are strangers and aliens, away from our homeland. We work and study in this world, but we don’t belong here. We are Heavenites – citizens of Heaven.
We don’t carry a passport to Heaven with us, but we do have assurance of our heritage…
There are three traits of all Heavenites found in Philippians 3 that give us assurance of our true citizenship:
1. The object of our worship
Phil 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is the center of everything we do, think, say, and believe. Our worship of him is what gives us our identity. Christianity is not a philosophy, or lifestyle, like minimalism or vegetarianism or pacifism…it is a relationship with Jesus. The object of our worship is no idol, or force, or idea.
The object of our worship is a Person—the man Christ Jesus.
We believe Jesus lived and died and rose again, and we believe he is coming back. And that faith changes everything for us. It shifts our allegiance, our priorities, our desires, our nature, our source of joy, and our citizenship from earth to Heaven, from self and Satan to our Lord and Savior.
Jesus is the loveliest, wisest, kindest, most humble, most truthful, most holy, and most compelling person to ever walk the face of this earth. But he was a Heavenite, not an earthling. He came here to buy us our heavenly citizenship by making us worthy of Heaven by dying for our sins, and giving us eternal life by rising from the dead. And only he is worthy of all praise and honor and dominion forever and ever!
We know we are not of this world because of who we worship, because the driving force of our lives is living for and dying for Jesus Christ, our King. But our assurance comes not only from whom we worship but how we worship…
2. The means of our worship
Phil 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we [eagerly] await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
The word “await” is a translation of the Greek word apekdéchomai (ἀπεκδέχομαι); which is an intense word, it means not only to await but, because of the prefix ἀπο- it means to await eagerly, intensely, passionately.
This is the means of our worship: eager anticipation of a future reality with Christ. Our minds are set on the things of Heaven. Our minds are not crammed so full of news and politics and sports and our health and our wealth that we lose perspective of what matters most to us.
Rom 8: 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
So the way we eagerly await a Savior and Lord is by remembering that we don’t belong here and we can’t wait to be home where we do belong.
1 Pet 2: 11-12 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles [foreigners and aliens] to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
In other words, behave like an ambassador of Heaven so that on the day Jesus comes back and takes you home, those who insult you will be forced to give God the glory he deserves because of your response to them. Another aspect of our assurance comes from the confidence we have in what awaits us at death…
3. The result of our worship
Phil 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Jesus is coming back and he will make us glorious. We will be resurrected from the dead! The end of the story is what makes everything bearable.
What makes the Ugly Duckling a great story is the ending. What if the Ugly Duckling never turned into a swan? There was once an ugly duckling that looked different, acted differently, and was rejected and mocked and ridiculed by all the other little ducklings. The end. How sad! No, the story ends with all the rude villainous little ducklings seeing that the object of their ridicule was actually a glorious, majestic, graceful, beautiful creature.
That’s how our story ends!
We strive for holiness with everything in us, but we still look ugly in this life. We still sin, we still fall short, we still doubt and stumble like clumsy little ducklings. But when Jesus comes back in the twinkling of an eye he transforms our lowly sinful fleshly bodies to be like his glorious, sinless, majestic, eternal body.
You’re not a duckling, you’re a swan. You’re not an earthling, you’re a Heavenite!
So, live like one. Worship Jesus, eagerly await Jesus, and live like a citizen of Heaven today, and enjoy the assurance of your citizenship because of what Jesus did to secure it forever and ever.