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Our Citizenship

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

     It is wonderful to be together again as we look into the Word of God and witness to others and certainly live it out in our own lives.  The title for the lesson is: Our Citizenship.  And our text is taken from the New Testament the epistle to the Philippian church.  Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17 thru 21.  Please listen to the Word of God.

     “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you 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 set 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.”

Wonderful words, a wonderful passage that we can meditate on as Christians.

     Also, as Americans we have, for example, a patriotic hymn that serves as our National Anthem.  Some may suppose our National Anthem was penned in the 1700’s about the time of our Revolutionary War against Great Britain.  However, that is not the case.  Our anthem was a poem written by Francis Scott Key on September 14, in the year of our Lord, 1814.  The tune, the music to our American anthem coincidentally was composed by an Englishman, by the name of John Stafford Smith, but he composed it for another hymn of course.

     During our second major war with Great Britain Francis Scott Key, an attorney and a Christian, was asked by then President James Madison to help in a hostage recovery mission that is to negotiate with the English the release of a prominent physician, Dr. Beanes taken hostage.  Francis Scott Key was detained by the British and forced to watch the brutal naval bombardment of Fort McHenry near Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort McHenry withstood a continuous 25-hour bombardment by the British.

     As the dawn’s early light brought a new day, Francis Scott Key scribbled on the back of an envelope the first stanza of what was to become our National Anthem.  Listen to the familiar original words penned at first light: A poem originally.

“O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilights last gleaming.  O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

     Later back in Baltimore, Francis Scott Key wrote a second stanza, little known and rarely sung.  The words are: “Blest with victory and peace may the heaven-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!  Then conquer we must when our cause it is just.  And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’  And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

     So, with these words we Americans have more evidence of many, early American Christian heroes, and our godly heritage.  For many of our founding fathers there was not the intent of separation from religion.  Incidentally “spangled” in “Star-spangled banner” means any small sparkling object.  For Francis Scott Key with poetic license, to see the stars in the dawning light on our banner or flag was like sparkling to behold!

     We Americans are indeed free from oppressive kings and queens as our forefathers had to bleed to win our freedom twice from Great Britain.  We are privileged to be American citizens.  Yet, as Christians we have citizenship and allegiance to an even-greater Person and place!  This person Jesus Christ bled to set mankind free from the bondage of sin once and for all.

     The apostle Paul pens a stark contrast between those who live only for this life even as false believers versus those who prioritize the life to come as true believers in Christ and in Heaven, the person and place where we have our great hope.  Unrepentant, unbelievers in Philippians 3:18B says, “they live as enemies of the cross of Christ.”  Evidently this is the case, according to the immediate context, because they were not as is recorded in Philippians 3:17B “who live according to the pattern we gave you.”  That is a pattern of obedient faith.  Yes, we are saved through faith.  However, a faith that is genuine and through which we are saved has a pattern of obedience to prove its authenticity, its validity before God.  God will not be mocked, saving faith strives, yes struggles to live godly lives and many profess Christ, but their lifestyle denies him.

      Anyone who habitually, without repentance, lives an ungodly lifestyle is an enemy of the cross.  Paul portrays their destiny, their true god and their glorying in their ungodliness.  Philippians 3:19 “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.”  Therefore, enemies of the cross have a mindset only on the here and now, regardless of what they may claim.

     Genuine Christians have different priorities and prove it by their mindset lived out according to the example and pattern of “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus” as the opening verse of this epistle reveals in Philippians 1:1.  The following words need to be our consistent mindset, as 21st century servants of Christ Jesus.  A kingdom mindset, a kingdom of God mindset.  Not merely a world view.

     Philippians 3:20A “But our citizenship is in heaven.”  Citizenship refers to the place where one has official status.  As Christians we are in this world but not of this world.  We know we are just passing through.  We yearn for the permanent place of our citizenship which is in heaven with our Lord and God and all the saints that have gone on before us, and all the Holy angels of God forever.  We live for our Creator, for our Redeemer who died on the cross for us.  We are not enemies but instead emissaries and soldiers of the cross.

     We believe in the cross of Christ, we witness for the cross of Christ.  We live for Christ because he died for us.  As Christians we have a dual citizenship, one on earth and the other in heaven.  Our citizenship in heaven ought to make us better citizens on earth.  Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church located in Philippi in northern Greece then called Macedonia.  The city Philippi was in Paul’s day a Roman colony on foreign soil.  Likewise, the church should live as a ‘colony of heaven,’ on earth.

     Our mindset of faith as is recorded in Philippians 3:20B through verse 21 says this “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.”

     True believers do not find it drudgery to patternistically live Christ like lives, we desire it.  Because we truly believe our Savior is coming from heaven, and trust that one glorious day Christ will glorify, will transform our mortal, fallen bodies, to be like his glorious body, incorruptible physically and spiritually.

     As Paul wrote in this Philippian letter, Philippians 1:23 that says in part “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!”  While we’re still on earth.  We thank God for preserving America, as the ‘land of the free and home of the brave.”  Yet, our star-spangled banner yet waves over our land and we can be thankful for this.  However, all on this old earth one day will end.  Christians anticipate more than stars on a banner.

     Jesus Christ stated in Revelation 22:16 in part “I am the Root and the offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  Jesus likened himself to the ‘bright morning star’ because it is the brightest magnitude star announcing the arrival of a new day.  When Jesus returns to this earth his glorious, radiant light will shatter this world’s spiritual darkness and herald the dawn of God’s new glorious order into eternity, it will never end.

    Truly in God is our trust!  Have you dear listener, trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord?

Are you striving to live like him and for him?  Because we must trust and obey, for there is no other way.  Being obedient means that in our faith we repent of our sin, recognizing that we are sinners and need a Savior.  We confess Jesus, we are not afraid to confess before men that Jesus is our savior and Lord.  And we obey the gospel by being immersed into Christ Jesus.  Baptized into Christ Jesus and then we persevere in the faith, saving faith, a faith that saves is a faith that obeys.  May this be our mindset, not only our mindset but also our lifestyle until he calls us home.

 

David Johnson is Minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

  




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8