Citizens of Heaven
Over the past few weeks, the world has been rapidly changing. While circumstances can change quickly, there are many realities that are not so fickle. One of the most important truths hasn’t changed, “Who We Are”. Over the next couple of weeks, we want to take some time to be reminded of who we are in Christ.
CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
For the first part of my life, I was raised in the deep south, primarily in rural parts of Mississippi. So, from a young age I grew up as a country boy – chasing snakes, exploring the woods, swinging across creeks on vines, building forts, getting chased by bulls (don’t ask!), shooting BB guns (no, I didn’t shoot my eye out!) and enjoying good ‘ole southern hospitality.
Then, God moved my family to Indiana. Boy, what a culture shock. What a strange, flat land filled with beans, corn and a kind of winter cold that must be a modern-day version of the Ice Age. And what an interesting kind of people in this strange land, a people who call themselves “Hoosiers”, but nobody knows why. A people who “invented” basketball and say things like “crick” and “ruff” and “motorcycle” (pronounced: motor-sickle). For a teenage boy moving from the south, it was like I was a stranger in a strange land among a strange people. (By the way, in the 22 years since moving to Indiana, I’ve happily been assimilated into the Hoosier collective and consider this great state my home, although I’m still not saying “crick” and “ruff”!)
Strangers in a Strange Land
As followers of Christ, this is what it’s like living here in this world today. We are strangers in a strange land filled with strange people. But this is nothing new. In fact, it all started when Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3 and were exiled from Eden. We were created to live in Eden, but sin changed all of that. Since that time, God’s people have been strangers and aliens in a foreign land marred by brokenness and suffering.
When Christ came and redeemed His people, God transferred our citizenship from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13). While God has left us temporarily in this strange land to carry out His mission of spreading the aroma of Christ everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14–16), this world is not our permanent home. We are citizens of heaven. Paul reminds us of this truth in Philippians 3:20 and we wait for our Savior to return and transform these earthly bodies into glorious ones like His.
This is not to say that we may not enjoy God’s good gifts in this current world. On the contrary, God in His graciousness says that we can take pleasure in food, drink, work, friendships, the intimacy of marriage and even the sweet warmth of the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:24–25; 4:9–10; 9:9; 11:7). But this must be enjoyed in the context of fearing God and keeping His command to love Him and love others (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 22:37–40).
This World is Not Our Home
We tend to become too comfortable in this world. We forget this world is not our home. But God brings times of personal, corporate and global crisis to remind His people that we are just sojourners in this strange land. He uses our suffering to cause us to long all the more for the return of Jesus Christ who will take us to our real home – the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1). There, we will experience eternal pleasure far beyond the temporary pleasures of this world (Revelation 21:3–7; 22:1–5).
As we experience this uncertain time where temporary health and wealth are in jeopardy, let us remember that we are citizens of heaven. Let us long for that moment when God will ultimately transform us into glorious bodies like Jesus’. And let us be found faithful by staying on mission as strangers and aliens, spreading the good news of Jesus to the citizens of this dark world. It’s worth it.