“But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil.3:19).”
As I sit here in a jury waiting room at 8:45 AM on a Monday morning I’m confronted with questions about my citizenship. For non-Christians it’s quite easy for them to say “I’m an American,” or “I’m an Iraqi,” or “I’m a citizen of wherever I’m from.” But, for a Christian it’s different because we don’t actually belong where we are physically from. We carry our state drivers licenses, but we have a much higher and greater form of I.D, and that’s Christ’s blood which purchased us out of citizenship in a world marked by sin and granted us a greater citizenship in heaven! Now as Christians we truly do not belong. We aren’t “in the world but not of it (as some misguided evangelicals have often suggested),” we are actually NOT of this world, but sent into it (Matthew 28:19).
One of my favorite bands of all-time, Thrice, have written of this tension as well as anyone.
“I am in exile, a sojourner
a citizen of some other place
all I’ve seen is just a glimmer in a shadowy mirror
But I know one day I’ll see face to face…
My heart is filled with songs of forever
a city that endures where all is made new
I know I don’t belong here I’ll never
Call this place my home, I’m just passing through.”
The actual challenge for us as Christians is to TRULY trust we don’t belong here-that we’re just passing through. If we’re honest many of us want to live like we’ll be on earth forever! So, we invest everything in the temporary reality of our lives without the wise foresight of eternity. For a Christian to be a good citizen now we need to replace this earth-bound perspective with an eternal perspective. When we allow God to renew our minds and form an eternal perspective everything begins to change and we look at our current citizenship differently– how? Allow me to suggest 3 ways…
- People who have an eternal perspective gradually become better and better with CONTROL. Allow me to explain… By nature all human beings are self-centered and self-focused. Our lives and our existences are completely “me” focused from the moment of our birth all the way until our new-birth. When we have a new-birth, a re-birth, by God’s grace when we come to trust in the Lord Jesus what then happens is we realize we are not the center of the universe, and over time we let go of our own selfishness as we focus on glorifying and honoring God in our lives. What this does to us is quite beautiful! A person changed by God’s grace begins to become less and less concerned with things they are unable to control, because they become more and more convinced God will deal with the situation and its circumstances. This is incredibly freeing! This effects our citizenship, because when we trust God is in control over all things including all nations and all rulers and authorities we begin to realize that governments and political parties come and go, but the Word of the Lord remains forever as does His reign. Let’s pray our current and future political leaders would have an understanding of God’s sovereign control also.
- People who have an eternal perspective don’t invest their resources in what will ultimately be destroyed. Matthew 6:19 reads (ESV), “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When a Christian realizes their citizenship is in heaven they will stop seeking to live the “American Dream,” and will begin living by “seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness and the rest (everything you need) will be given to you (Matthew 6:33; my paraphrase).” This is what makes the “Health, wealth, and prosperity gospel,” preached by so many in America so despicable. These false-preachers preach a message of “give to God materially and receive from God materially…” They preach this as if this is the good news of what Christ has done for us, but this is a false-gospel. It is true that God rewards those who serve and honor him, but the rewards He gives us are not merely earthly prosperity, but are far greater! God rewards us eternally rather than merely for a time which is passing and will ultimately burn up! So, we need to have an eternal perspective that cares less about God giving us designer brand clothing and brand new pickup trucks (not that any of these things are necessarily bad), but our focus should be on laying up treasures in heaven! How do we invest in this way… By focusing more on our prayer life than we do on our bank accounts. By focusing more on our service to our brothers and sisters in Christ than we do on our social status. How does this make us better citizens here and now? As we invest our most valuable resources, which includes our talents, our time, and our financial resources, we will be doing something the rest of our society does not value and this will show we are different, or set apart from the rest of our society (this is what the word “holy” actually means). This then gives us the ability to be seen as different and this difference will open the door for sharing the Gospel.
- When we live as Christians with an eternal perspective others will begin to take notice and they will oddly respect us and allow us to have a voice. The biggest reason why the voice of the evangelical church is being silenced in our current climate is not because we are being too heavenly focused, but because we are being far too earthly focused. We have wrongly bought the lie that if we act more like everyone else, and have a message that’s a little bit more like other popular strands in culture then we will be given more influence and a louder voice– this belief will kill the church, because this is not biblical belief. The church is meant to proclaim a different message than the rest of culture with our actions, and also with our words, but if we don’t act with an eternal perspective then the rest of our society will not respect us to even listen to us when we share the message of eternal life through believing in Jesus (John 3:16). When we live with an eternal perspective as dual citizens while we are on this earth some people will hate us, but others will oddly respect us and they will listen to us.
Today at Jury Duty I had the opportunity to share this message with an entire courtroom during the jury selection. I’ve never experienced an opportunity to share my faith quite like it, but how did I get the opportunity? Was it by watering down what I believed? Was it by acting like I was everyone else? Was it by being quiet about the way I see the world? No, when I was called upon to share about the topic I said to the lawyer, “I am a Christian and so I see everything through the lens of God’s love for us and His grace to us, and so therefore, I see people primarily through a lens of grace and not primarily through a lens of condemnation.” The lawyer quickly moved away from me, but there was a problem. The other lawyer on the other side of the courtroom wouldn’t let go of what I had said. When it was his time to ask questions of the potential jurors he began with me, and he asked me to essentially share my view of rehabilitation and then he said out loud that he knows I see the world through the lens of Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and this means any individual can be granted forgiveness and not have their sins hanging over their head. I got to preach the gospel and then one of the lawyers took the opportunity to do so as well– it was amazing… And it’s no surprise that I did NOT get selected to serve on the jury (apparently the prosecutor didn’t like my message). But, after the process was over and I was about to leave a young guy came up to me and he said “I don’t think they were going to let you serve after what you said in there. But I agreed with everything you said and I thought that was really cool.” He oddly respected me and he heard the message of the Gospel, because God gave me an opportunity to be bold in proclaiming what I believe. I’m not praising myself I’m praising God for what he did in the courtroom today, but without an eternal perspective I would have never understood Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation for all; to the Jew first and also to the Greek…” And without this understanding I would have never spoken up. All the nations need this message, and so we all need to be living with an eternal perspective as wanderers and nomads in our respective countries until we are called to go be in our real home in heaven with Jesus-why? Because as we live our lives as citizens of heaven right now people will oddly respect us and allow us to have a voice– and God will use our voices to proclaim the Gospel.