Our Citizenship is In Heaven

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Our Citizenship is In Heaven

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 3:20-4:1




            As we continue our study of the book of Philippians, we find that Paul has encouraged these brethren to endure.   Looking to his own example he has noted sacrifices that he has made (3:1-11 – not bragging, but as an example to show they are not alone), his attitude toward the things of this world, and reaching toward a greater goal (Philippians 3:12-16).     But Paul is not alone as an example.   In our last lesson Paul appeal to following the example of “those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (vs. 17).   He then warned that many walk that are enemies of the cross of Christ – men following their own lustful desires and who set their mind on earthly things (3:18-19), and whose end is destruction.

In our lesson tonight, Paul concludes his encouragement here by contrasting where we stand with those just mentioned.   He speaks of our citizenship being in heaven.

  1.   Our citizenship is in heaven
    1. What is the idea of citizenship? The KJV uses the word “conversation”.   The actual word in Greek (πολίτευμα, politeuma) is a word associated with citizenship or commonwealth.   Bear in mind that Philippi was a Roman colony and as such they enjoyed the privilege of citizenship in the Roman Empire, and it was a privilege. Those born in that city were citizens. Even though they were not in the city of Rome, or even Italy, they enjoyed privileges of citizenship.
      Think of that in comparison to Paul’s point in this text.
    2. Our citizenship is in heaven – in scripture we are reminded of the fact that this world is not our home. We must never forget this as we endure whatever it is we must endure.
      Ephesians 2:19 – we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
      Philippians 1:27 – let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.   The word for “conduct” is the verb form of our word in our text.   Paul was saying, Act life citizens of heaven and of the gospel.
      1 Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims…
      Hebrews 11:13 – “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
      Hebrews 12:22-23, the writer encourages these brethren to continue to follow the better way in Christ and described it with various terms of endearment to encourage us to look to something better.
      Matthew 19:28-30, even Jesus spoke of those who left houses and earthly things and relationships receiving eternal life.
      Even Colossians 3:1-2 points toward this idea when Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
    3. What does it mean to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven?
      1. Recently, as I prepared for this lesson, I came across an article (Focus Magazine, by Russ Bowman, July 31, 2017, https://focusmagazine.org/the-blessings-of-citizenship.php ) entitled the blessings of citizenship.   In that article the following observations were made.
      2. We have a new homeland – we are looking forward to heaven.   A place Jesus described, as did other writers.   It is a place where there will be no more sorrows or tears, no disappointments, no sin or evil, not even temptations that so burden us in this life (Revelation 21:4, 21:27-22:5).   I think of Hebrews 11:13-16, where many to whom promises were made looked for something better “on the other side”, and God had prepared such a place for them.
      3. We have access to our King – what a blessing to know that our King knows each of us personally and He has acted in EACH one of our best interest.   Not only did He die on that cross to give us access to forgiveness and hope, we have a King who intercedes for us – Hebrews 4:14-16,7:24-25; etc.
      4. We enjoy His protection as our King – Good leaders protect their citizens, or at least they try to.   Jesus, our King, provides ultimate and everlasting protection.   He offers us escape from temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13); 1 Peter 3:12 – He hears our prayers; 1 John 4:4 tells us that He is greater than he (the devil) who is in the world.
      5. We enjoy His provisions as our King – again there are promises. While the world doesn’t understand, we are promised that we will be taken care of.   Matthew 6:33. And while His message is sometimes abused by proclaimers of the health and wealth gospel, He has made many promises to provide for us nonetheless.   We just need to understand what we REALLY need (cf. Matthew 6:19-20 – where is your treasure?).
      6. We are part of a community – we are a “brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17, 5:9). Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).   We have noted that this was a part of God’s plan from before the world began (Ephesians 3:10-11).   This includes the local church (congregation).   It is a way for us to be with and help each other.   We assemble to worship God, BUT we are also edified in the process. What a blessing that is, and how tragic that so many seem to diminish its importance.
    4.   For which we also eagerly wait for our Savior
      1. Are we actually waiting on our Lord to return?
        1. There are many who do not want Him to return yet – usually for worldly or materialistic reasons – they want to see some more things, they are not right with God, etc.   Chances are, if that is the case – we are loving the world more than we should (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
        2. Recall how Paul was ready to depart. We addressed that in Philippians 1:21-24, and we do know WHY Paul wanted the Lord to delay.   But He was ready – 2 Timothy 4:6. 1 Corinthians 16:22, in concluding remarks, Paul notes, “O Lord, come!”
        3. The point is, are we living too much for the gratifications of this world?
      2. Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body – We look at this world and think, there HAS to be something better.   That is a common theme of hope for Christians.   Be reminded again of 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 – we think of our light affliction.
        What are going to be like? We may not know exactly, but here Paul notes it will be as the Lord’s body. Recall how when the resurrected Jesus appeared, it was glorious.   It WAS His body, but it was different!   1 Corinthians 15:50-57 notes how when we are raised we will be changed.
        John said it this way, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
        How many of us anxiously await that transformation?
      3. According to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself   – perhaps much could be said about this, but we summarize – HE WILL WIN!
        God is in control and what will happen to this world, is His will – 2 Peter 3:10 warns us that the day of the Lord is coming and all things will melt.
    5. Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren…
      1. They were Paul’s “joy and crown” – we have noted in times Paul how Paul cherishes the brethren in various places. They are the source of his joy and his victory.   They are a source that gives him the drive to keep going.
      2. So stand fast in the Lord, beloved – DON’T QUIT! 1 Corinthians 16:13, etc.

And thus we see reason behind Paul’s actions, including his sacrifices.   And we see his encouragement of these struggling brethren to endure, even in the face of difficult times.     Satan wants nothing more than for you to give up – on God, the world and even yourself. But you cannot do that. Whatever we face in this life, God knows!   And if we in Him, when that time comes, it will be worth it.   How about you? Where is your citizenship?