Citizenship in Heaven
October 11, 2013 2 Comments
Christians are prone to despair. If we are not careful, we can allow the circumstances of this world to weigh heavily on us. Politics, economics, culture and all manner of worldly ills can dominate our thoughts and push the cross of Christ from our minds. In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul provided the proper perspective for dealing with this dilemma.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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. — Philippians 3:17-21
Before you say “amen” and go on about your day, I invite you to consider the full import of that statement. What does it mean to have our citizenship in heaven?
In a sermon delivered on October 12, 1862 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, Charles Haddon Spurgeon outlined from this text just what it means to have our citizenship in heaven. His conclusions are as accurate as they are shocking.
1. We are aliens in this world.
The first idea which is suggested by the verse under consideration is this — if our citizenship is in Heaven, the WE ARE ALIENS HERE; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were.
2. We must behave as aliens.
Since we are aliens, we must remember to behave ourselves as aliens should, and by no means come short in our duty.
3. Aliens are affected by the country in which they reside.
We are affected by the position of our temporary country. A person trading in New York or Boston, though a freeman of the city of London, will find himself very much affected by the trade of the United States — when the merchants of his city suffer, he will find himself suffering with them, the fluctuations of their money market will affect his undertakings, and the stagnation of commerce will slacken his progress. He will suffer as that nation suffers; that is to say, not as a citizen, but as a trader.
4. Christians, likewise, will suffer while residing in a world of suffering.
And so we, in this country, find that though we are strangers and foreigners on earth, yet we share all the inconveniences of the flesh. No exemption is granted to us from the common lot of manhood. We are born to trouble, even as others, and have tribulation like the rest.
5. Christians will also benefit when the world benefits.
When God in mercy scatters liberally with both His hands the bounties of His Providence, we take our share, though we are aliens, yet we live upon the good of the land, and share in the tender mercies of the God of Providence.
6. Christians do have a limited interest in the world.
Therefore we have to take some interest in it; and the good man, though he is a foreigner, will not live even a week in this foreign land without seeking to do good among the neighbors with whom he dwells!
7. A Christian’s primary interest is to represent his own country (heaven) to those around him.
We must do our utmost while we are here to bring men to Christ, to win them from their evil ways, to bring them to eternal life, and to make them, with us, citizens of another, and a better land; for, to tell the truth, we are here as recruiting sergeants for Heaven! We are here to give men the enlisting money, to bind upon them the blood-red colors of the Savior’s service, to win them to King Jesus, that, by-and-by, they may share His victories after having fought His battles.
8. Christians must guard against becoming too deeply involved in the affairs of other countries.
Seeking the good of the country as aliens, we must also remember that it behooves aliens to keep themselves very quiet. What business have foreigners to plot against the government, or to intermeddle with the politics of a country in which they have no citizenship?
I cannot say that I delight in political Christians; I fear that party-strife is a serious trial to believers, and I cannot reconcile our heavenly citizenship with the schemes of the hustling and the riot of the polling booth. You must follow your own judgment here, but for my part, I am a foreigner even in England, and as such I mean to act! We are simply passing through this earth, and should bless it in our transit, but never yoke ourselves to its affairs.
An Englishman may happen to be in Spain — he wishes a thousand things were different from what they are, but he does not trouble himself much about them. He says, “If I were a Spaniard I would see what I could do to alter this government but, being an Englishman, let the Spaniards see to their own matters. I shall be back in my own country by-and-by, and the sooner the better.”
9. Christians are to have this very same attitude toward the world around them.
So with Christians here; they are content very much to let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth; their politics concern their own country, they do not care much about any other. As men they love liberty, and are not willing to lose it even in the lower sense; but, spiritually, their politics are spiritual, and as citizens they look to the interest of that Divine republic to which they belong, and they wait for the time when, having patiently borne with the laws of the land of their banishment, they shall come under the more beneficent sway of Him who reigns in Glory, the King of kings, and Lord of lords!
In this sermon Spurgeon addresses many more issues concerning the Christian’s alien status in this world, including…
- Serving in the world’s evil causes
- Accepting the honors of the world
- Hoarding this world’s treasures
- Submitting to Heaven’s government
- Sharing in Heaven’s honors
- Having common rights in all the property of Heaven
And so, the question to us is this: How do we regard the passage in Philippians? Do we view it as nothing more than an encouraging maxim that gives us an emotional lift while we deal the our “real world” problems? Or, do we really see ourselves as citizens of another country — as aliens here? How we answer these questions will have a profound impact on how we live our lives. It really is the choice between two completely different lives.
Which do you choose?