Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.
In other words, citizens of Heaven don’t worship the god of their own desires and behave in that selfish depravity. We walk like Christ (As Paul imitated Jesus, we imitate him 1 Corinthians 11:1). And we remember that one day our Savior, our King will return and He will transform us to be like Him. It is that hope which keeps us going through our sojourn in the world. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 says,
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
Our home is in Heaven, the city is called New Jerusalem, and when Jesus returns, He will take us there. We will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52) the heavens and the earth will be burned and replaced with a new heaven and a new earth. We will be home. And what an awesome home we have! Revelation 21:1-7 and 18-27 describes it this way,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
That is a description of your home, the place of your citizenship, the city where your identity is born and will be complete, your fatherland, where you will live forever. That hope carries us through suffering. Jesus, our King knew this earthly residence was not His home and we are reminded of the same thing for us. When Jesus laid down His life, He did so in keeping with the laws of sacrifices, He was killed outside the gates of the earthly Jerusalem and in doing so call us to step outside our earthly citizenship to our heavenly one. That life is a life of sacrificial praise. Hebrews 13:12-15 puts it this way,
So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
I do not mean that as citizens of Heaven, we don’t have to follow the rules and laws of our earthly citizenship. We are to pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21), obey the authorities (Romans 13:1), and pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are also supposed to live above and beyond that, remembering we have a higher calling. 1 Peter 2:9-17 reads,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
We have amazing and wonderful rights as citizens of Heaven, this chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and God’s own possession. If we are proclaiming His excellencies, then we have something to proclaim. We are able to tell people how wonderful Jesus is, how magnificent our Father is, and how tremendous the Spirit is, because we have experienced His goodness and greatness. He called us out of darkness into marvelous light! He opened our eyes, gave us discernment, understanding, and wisdom. He let us in on the plan. He gave us the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Besides the awesome right to praise our LORD, we have other rights as well.
In most kingdoms, people must ask permission before making contact with or even coming close to the monarch. In the Kingdom of God, it is different, because of who God has said we are in 1 Peter, because He has called us His friends (John 15:15), and because Jesus lived as one of us, we do not have to be afraid to go to His throne or ask Him anything. Hebrews 4:14-16 says,
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We can be more than confident, we can be bold! Even Queen Esther, the wife of King Xerxes had could not be bold in asking her husband for anything. She had to wait for an invitation, have multiple feasts, and carefully plan before she could ask the king to help her save her people. But we can boldly go to the throne of God, our Husband and Maker (Isaiah 54:5) and speak to Him about anything. Yet, Paul explained some of our privileges in the kingdom include the privilege to approach God with boldness. Ephesians 3:7-12 reads,
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
Do you see the parallels here in what God has done for us and what we can do for the world? God gave us that right in His grace. He called us out of darkness into His marvelous Light and we have been given the right to share the Gospel, to make it known to the world. We are not left to do this without Him, He gave us authority through accessing Him with boldness through our faith.
We can ask Him anything at all when we approach His throne, and when we ask it in His name He will grant it. John 14:12-14 reads
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
In His name means, with His authority and as His representative. We have the right to represent God to the world! 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 is a passage we have looked at before regarding our identity in Christ, we read again to see that we are His ambassadors and we have a ministry as His representatives.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As citizens of Heaven we do not follow the law of works to earn our citizenship. In America, we love to proclaim our freedom. But if you do not follow the law, your freedom is taken away from you for a time, you are placed in prison and your rights are not restored to you until you have completed your sentence. In the Kingdom of God, we have true freedom. We are not bound by law, but love. We are not citizens of the kingdom by our works but by faith.
Galatians 5:1-6 reads,
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
We will look more closely at that freedom in another devotional. I want now to look at God’s protection of us as citizens in His kingdom. Every nation and every kingdom has an enemy. Some nations live in fear from what their enemies may do to them. Others build and stockpile weapons to frighten their enemies into not attacking them. In God’s kingdom, we do not have to live with that same fear. 1 John 5:18-19 says,
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Although the world is under the power of the enemy, as Citizens of Heaven and Children of God, the enemy does not touch us. He can’t, we are not part of the world anymore; we are under God’s protection. Nothing made to hurt us can touch us. Isaiah 54:17 says,
no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
Seriously, If God has your back, is there anything or anyone that can injure you or even come against you? Romans 8:31-39 reads,
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an honor to be a part of that wonderful Kingdom! I hope something in this has encouraged you today. Remember who you are, live a life worthy of that.