Our Citizenship (Philippians 3:18-21)
I went to Albania several years ago on a mission trip. I greatly enjoyed the trip. I always wanted to see true mission work up close. It was also the first time that I had ever been outside the United States. I was able to preach in Tirana, the capital city. I was able to visit with two or three congregations in the country, learn what they were doing and learn a great deal about mission work in general.
But, “there is no place like home.” I’ll never forget the exhilaration of looking out of my airplane window and seeing the New York skyline rising out of the Atlantic. It was something to have been gone for a couple weeks and to be able to look outside of my airplane window and see “home.” Quite something to step off the plane, show my passport to the customs officer and to be back in the United States of America. Truly, “there is no place like home.”
I’m confident some of you have had similar experiences. If you’ve been on a foreign mission trip, you’ve surely learned that “there is no place like home.” You went and did good work. But, it’s refreshing to be back in a place where you speak the language, you can drink the water and eat the food without fear, and you can take a warm shower daily.
One reason that “there is no place like home” is that we have privileges in this country that many other people just don’t have. When I was in Albania, some of the local teenagers took me downtown and showed me the former headquarters of the national Communist Party. The country had only recently gained their freedoms, and the people were quite proud of that fact. You and I have the right to vote (we may not always like who wins, but we can vote), we have the right to worship (ask Chinese Christians about their right to worship), etc. Another reason that “there’s no place like home” is that we have an abundance in this nation. Our kids don’t go to bed hungry; they often do in foreign countries. We have nice TVs, cars, homes; they don’t in foreign countries.
But, Paul informs us in this morning’s text that we are not yet home. In fact, he teaches us: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” For Paul, that’s not just a neat little saying or a cliche, but it’s gospel truth.
Scripture (Philippians 3:18-21)
Many walk as “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Some wonder if these were Christians or non-Christians. We have no way of knowing, but we do know (that like many in our own day) they were opposed to everything that was holy.
Paul tells the Philippians with weeping about these enemies. The Greek term can refer to loud wailing. Paul is absolutely brokenhearted at the way these “enemies of the cross of Christ” act.
Their end is destruction. How can their end be anything else? Jesus will come again “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess 1:8-9).
Paul then describes who these enemies are:
- Their god is the belly. Fleshly desires is what Paul means. These were folks who only cared about what felt good; that was their sole standard of conduct.
- Their glory is in their shame. They were proud about things of which they should have been ashamed.
- They mind earthly things. What matters to these “enemies of the cross of Christ” are things in the present. They give no thought to things of eternity-They are concerned about things they can see, touch, taste, etc.
No wonder Paul wrote these words with tears! It’s heartbreaking to see people who are so wrapped up in the things of this world that certain destruction is their fate. It’s troubling that enemies of the cross of Christ have so much influence in today’s world. Saying that homosexuality is sinful is considered “hate speech” by many. Hollywood parades immorality of one type or another. Schools teach values that are not at all biblical values.
Our citizenship is in heaven. There are enemies of the cross of Christ who want to corrupt this world, but we do not belong to this world. Roman citizenship was a big deal to Philippians. Paul and Silas healed a slave girl of divination in Philippi. Her owners said to the city’s magistrates: “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (Acts 16:20-21). Roman males had a great deal of privileges with citizenship, and people would save to buy Roman citizenship. But, the most important citizenship we have is in heaven.
From heaven, we await a Savior. Our king is already in our homeland. One day (perhaps in the very near future) He is coming to take us home!
When Jesus comes again, He will prepare our bodies for our homeland.
He will change these vile bodies to be like his glorious body. These bodies are vile. RJ was sick as a dog this past week with a cold; some of you have been ill with diseases far worse than a bad cold. In our homeland, there’s going to be no sickness, no growing older, no weight problems-Our bodies will be like Jesus’ glorious bodies.
These bodies must be changed in order to enter our homeland: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor 15:50). The power Jesus is going to use to transform our bodies is the “working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” The power Jesus is going to use to destroy this world and to cast the devil into hell is the same power He’s going to use to change my body. What a glorious thought! The power He uses to destroy some is the power He’s going to use to save His people.
“Our citizenship is in heaven.”
The application is implied by the text itself: Remember, there are no chapter and verse divisions as Paul writes. “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil 4:1). In this context, there are two dimensions of standing fast.
First, we must stand fast in face of the enemies of the cross. Enemies of the cross will draw us away from the Lord if we allow them to. Therefore, we must guard our friendships carefully: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals'” (1 Cor 15:33). If you have friends who are attempting to draw you away from God, you need to find new friends! Churches cannot shy away from discipline: ” Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor 5:6). Churches cannot turn a blind eye to flagrant sin in the church, lest that sin spread like gangrene!
Second, we must stand fast in light of Jesus’ Second Coming. Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven and from heaven we are awaiting the appearing of our Savior. He’s saying: “Your citizenship is in heaven. You have a home in heaven. Don’t lose what you have.” How many people have we known who had a citizenship in heaven but have gone back into the world? How do we stand fast? We stand fast by refusing to stand still-i.e., we keep growing! How do we grow?
- We feast on the meat of Scripture. Hebrews 5:12-14. Spend time this week in the Word of God.
- We trust God when we are tempted. 1 Corinthians 10:13. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Therefore, resist temptation-the more you resist temptation, the easier it will become.
- Spend considerable time in prayer. As Jesus’ fame spread and as demands on His time increased, He prayed: “He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Lk 5:16). How much time do you spend in prayer?
“Our citizenship is in heaven.” Are you acting like it? Do you need to start acting like it this morning?