Citizens of Heaven
Being a citizen means you have a home that recognizes you, accepts you, and claims you as its own. If the enemy takes you, your country will negotiate for your safe return because you are a citizen. You receive the benefits of your home country, protection under their laws, and entitlement to rights, because you are a citizen. As a citizen you are also a representative for the place in which you hold your citizenship. Non-citizens may judge your home country by the way its citizens behave. Being a citizen means that you belong and no one wants to go through this life without citizenship, without belonging somewhere.
In the book of Philippians, Paul tells Christians that we are citizens of Heaven and we should conduct ourselves as such.
“Above all, you must live as citizens of Heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”
While there are numerous examples of how we, as Christians, should live (namely in the gospels following Jesus’ teachings and example), Paul goes into detail on how we should behave in 1 Thessalonians. We should be holy, staying away from all sexual sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3). As citizens, we realize that God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives (I Thessalonians 4:7). As citizens of Heaven, we are children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5) and therefore need to stay on our guard, alert and clearheaded (1 Thessalonians 5:6). We are to encourage each other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And we are to stay away from every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
We find more examples of how we should conduct ourselves in Colossians 3.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
Paul also tells us to set our sights on the realities of Heaven.
“Think about the things of Heaven, not the things of earth.”
This earth is not our home, so why should we spend our time thinking about the things of this foreign land? It is far too easy for us to become distracted by all this world has to offer and to lose sight of the fact that this is not our home. We are aliens here and our true home is in Heaven. We are citizens of Heaven; that is where we belong. Let us not betray that citizenship by loving this world and the emptiness it offers. If our citizenship is in Heaven, we should look and behave differently than citizens of this world. Jesus is the difference in our lives and it should show.
If we fix our minds on Heaven and turn our thoughts to Heavenly things, Paul explains how our sinful nature should begin to fade. As many pastors say, “when you become a Christian you won’t be sinless but you should sin less.” In Colossians 3:5-11, Paul discusses the things we should put to death and get rid of as Christians and citizens of Heaven.
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”
The idea of being a citizen of Heaven, that God has granted you a citizenship in His holy land, is not something we should take lightly. We have clear instruction as to how we should behave as Christ’s representatives. We would do well to remember Paul’s warning in Romans 8.
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Are you not pleasing God because you allow your sinful nature to control you? Are you being conformed by this world? Are you more concerned with your citizenship on Earth rather than your citizenship in Heaven? Give that control over to the Holy Spirit. Conduct yourself as a citizen of Heaven and never forget that Heaven is your true home. This world and everything in it is merely temporary; don’t lose yourself and your soul to it.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.