So much of Paul’s letter is based in context. He is a roman citizen, he is in Rome writing to a Church in a city where Roman citizenship had great significance. Today I am sitting in Acts 20 – 26… Just so I can get a sense of context. Paul writes to the Philippians from Rome and speaks about being a citizenship but it is important to understand where he is coming from. The stand out scripture is found in Acts 20. “….I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24 NLT) Paul knew that even Roman citizenship was not going to protect him from what was coming but his purpose was to face it all for the cause of the gospel..it puts my life in perspective. While I struggle with selfish discomfort pail faces possible execution with a willing and obedient heart. He knows citizenship of heaven means hardship and he faces it without flinching. The credibility he brings to the instruction to me today helps me face this passage with faith. Paul has the right to tell me what living as a citizen of heaven should look like. He lives his message.
Paul writes…I may actually come as visit you as I may be dead ….
‘Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.’ (Philippians 1:27-30 MSG)
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. (Philippians 1:27 NLT)
‘ In Christ, I’m a native of heaven right now….. I am not a citizen of heaven trying to work my way to heaven. I am a citizen of heaven trying to work through life here on earth’ Another quote from Ann VosKamp (A holy experience) This made my heart smile. Paul calls us saints and citizens without us having to earn the rights. We are born into it when we are born again.
The apostle Paul was a Roman citizen writing to a church full of Roman citizens in a city that was ruled and full of Roman citizens. Citizenship was important to Romans and a little frustrating to anyone who wasn’t one. To have citizenship meant you had freedoms rights and privileges of the Roman Empire that those who lived without citizenship did not have. Paul had already used his Roman citizenship when he left prison in his first visit to Philippi to gain back the respect of the police and officials who had arrested him. He wanted them to publicly apologise for arresting a Roman Citizen and refused to be lead out of the city secretly but instead wanted to shame them for not treating him as a roman citizen deserved. When Paul uses this word citizen ( which he uses in chapter 1:27) his readers are being impacted by citizenship every day. Roman citizens had privileges and rights that non Romans had. As the Roman Empire expanded they used Roman citizens to impact the culture and language and businesses of the places they conquered. They were sent to places like Philippi to make it Roman and establish their kingdom. It was the Roman citizens who made it Roman. Paul is writing to an readership that get the power, privately and responsibility of being a citizen.
Paul tells us that we are citizens of HEAVEN and our conduct must be representative of heaven. We take with us ( in our homes and in the street, in our work places….all that heaven is….our citizenship shows up our culture, our language, our behaviour. We represent everything that is heavenly just as a a roman represented everything that was roman. Paul is saying …people should be able to tell where we are from and what our message is by the way I live and the way I talk. my life is the clearest message of the gospel anyone will hear. Does my life define heaven well???? Nothing about our lives should detract from the message and nothing about our lives should confuse people about the message or where we are from.
If someone from England has never been to Australia and they see an Australian who is whinging, whining and miserable, annoying, obnoxious, foul mouthed, rude, always picking fights, their view of Australia is confusing. It would make them want to remain in England and not go to Australia. Every Australian who goes to England represents Australia and give the English a perspective on Australia that is not about them but about our culture and the way we speak and live. The minute one person treats others badly, the view of Australians is distorted. We have a responsibility to give a clear insight in to who Aussies are. That us the same for citizens of heaven. Our behaviour can leave seekers and non Christians confused!!!!!
I find it intriguing watching videos of my kids before they started kinda and school. All they ever sang and did was what they saw us do…lead worship, preach, and dance around the lounge to planetshakers, Toby Mac….Since they have spent more and more time at school with different influences, through school, shows they watch , what they listen to…we find ourselves have to take a stronger stand on what we belie is heavenly culture in our home and outside the home. I have a responsibility as a mum not to keep them away form all that and try and protect them but rather to help them see who they belong to and what being a citizen of heaven looks like. We are in the world but not of it. To help them experience the kingdom of heaven is my passion so that regardless who they are with and where they are they will never forget who they are and all the privileges and rights and responsibilities that come with that calling and the price that was paid to let them be just that. I feel the same way about those in our church. If God’s people really know who they are and who they belong to and never forget what citizenship means then it won’t matter who they are with or where that are or who they belong to, and what their responsibilities, rights and rouge legs are. I am just as passionate about my church family understanding who they are. citizen so is important. Paul is a Jew and a roman citizen. he is proud of his citizenship but is actually saying to the church…it doesn’t matter what your fall name is, your background is, your culture is, you heavenly citizenship overrides all that.
We were watching a court scene of a show not unlike ‘Judge Judy’ and the plaintiffs were from same church and were fighting over a cat that had fleas. My boy pipes up straight away and says ‘Why on earth are they sorting this out in court. Aren’t Christians meant to forgive. Imagine what people would think heaven was like if they were watching the show.’ If I am a saint, if I am a citizen of heaven, if I am a child of God, if I am the daughter of a king, I have a responsibility and immense privileges and freedoms. I behave badly when I forget who I am.
I may well be the only picture of heaven someone sees, so my prayer is that what I show them will give them a clear and beautiful picture.when I am in conflict with someone or going through difficulty others will see heaven though me.