Fourth of July
July 1, 2018
Treasure Your Christian Citizenship!
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I very am proud to be an American. My U.S. citizenship is something that I honestly treasure each and every day. While I have only visited three other countries in my life— the Bahamas, Antigua and China— there is no other place I would rather live than right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. In fact, when Brenda and I came back from visiting Jonathan and Horatia in China, I was completely caught off guard by the wave of emotion what swept over me as we landed n Seattle. While I thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks in China, I was both humbled and thrilled to be back on American soil again. I love living here in the United States. Yes, we have our difficulties. Yes, we have our disagreements. But, they are nothing compared to what is taking place in countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria. The older I get the more I treasure being an American citizen. I treasure the freedoms, the rights and yes, the responsibilities that my citizenship brings with it. I treasure the freedom to travel anywhere in the country any time I want. I treasure the right to believe, to teach and to preach what I know to be the Truth. And yes, I treasure the responsibilities that my citizenship places upon me— such as the responsibility to vote for the people that I want as leaders of this great land. I am very proud to be an American. I treasure my citizenship.
The people to whom our text for today was originally written probably experienced a very similar sentiment. The city of Philippi was a proud and prosperous Roman colony. This meant that the citizens of Philippi were also citizens of the Roman Empire. Many of the men who lived in and around Philippi had retired from the military and were given land so that they could serve as a military presence for the Empire in that area of the world. The way that they dressed, the way that they talked, the way that they conducted themselves openly revealed that they were proud of their Roman citizenship.
At the very same time, however, the sense of pride that the Philippian Christians had in their Roman citizenship and the sense of pride that you and I have in our American citizenship is overwhelmed by the sense of thankfulness that both the Philippians and we have in our common citizenship— our Christian citizenship. With that in mind let’s study these words of our text under the theme: Treasure Your Christian Citizenship! Treasure your Christian citizenship by protecting it. Treasure your Christian citizenship by exercising it.
As the adopted children of our heavenly Father, as people who purely by the grace and power of God alone have been brought out of the darkness of sin into the glorious light of faith, you and I do indeed treasure our Christian citizenship! That is why we are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect it. Why do we need to protect our Christian citizenship? We need to protect our Christian citizenship because like the Philippian Christians we live in a society that is constantly attacking the very foundation of our Christian citizenship— our Christian faith. Like the Philippian Christians we live in a society that is continually trying to take our Christian citizenship away from us by trying to lure us away from Christ, away from His cross (Pointing to the cross) and away from His holy revealed Word! Look at the opening portion of our text. Paul writes, “Join with others in following my example brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”
The society in which the Philippian Christians lived and worked sounds very similar to ours, doesn’t it? People’s mindset was focused on the things of this world. They craved pleasure in whatever form felt best to them. No matter how much they possessed they always wanted more. Actions and lifestyles that we as Christians consider “shameful” — because God Himself tells us that they are “shameful”— they “gloried” in these “shameful” actions. They “gloried” in these “shameful” lifestyles. In short, their day-to-day lives openly revealed that they were living as “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Because they were so focused on the things of this world Paul reveals to us that their “destiny,” their “goal,” the only thing they had waiting for them in eternity was “destruction,” that is, eternal condemnation.
Not a great deal has changed since God the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to write these words. These very same attitudes and these very same actions and these very same lifestyles can still be seen in our society today. And whether it is the, “Come and join us— everybody else is doing it!” temptation or the “How can you be so judgmental!” condemnation, our society is seeking to rob us of our Christian citizenship by destroying the foundation of our Christian faith. So protect your Christian citizenship, my friends! Protect your Christian citizenship by nourishing your faith with God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacrament! Protect your Christian citizenship by actively and openly living your life according to the “pattern,” according to the “example” that faithful Christians of both the past and the present have set for you!
Treasuring your Christian citizenship not only necessitates protecting it from those who are trying to rob you of it, but treasuring your Christian citizenship also necessitates exercising it! Look at what Paul says in the second portion of our text. He writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
The Greek word which is translated here as “citizenship” is a rather interesting and insightful word. Very literally this word refers to “the capital or native city, which keeps the citizens on its register.” (Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 804) Do you know what this means, my friends? It means that in the heavenly City of Jerusalem there is a Book which is called “the book of Life” (See Revelation 3:5; 20:12; 21:27). The “book of Life” contains all the names of all the citizens of the Kingdom of God. By the grace of God your name is listed in the “book of Life”! By virtue of your faith in Jesus as your only Savior from sin you have been given absolutely free of charge the greatest citizenship of all— Christian citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Treasure your Christian citizenship, my friends. Treasure it by exercising it each and every day!
How? How do you exercise your Christian citizenship? Paul answers that question when he says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We exercise our Christian citizenship by making sure that the attitudes of our heart and the actions of our life are anxiously anticipating the day when our journey as foreigners and aliens in this world comes to an end and we are welcomed into the heavenly Kingdom of God. We exercise our Christian citizenship by consciously remembering that nothing on this earth— absolutely nothing— compares to what our Christian citizenship guarantees to us in eternity. And what does our Christian citizenship guarantee to us? As Paul brings out in the closing words of our text, it guarantees to us that when our crucified, risen and victorious Savior returns to this earth at the end of the age He will raise our physical bodies from the grave and then He will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Now that is a healthcare plan! Our Savior God— the God who created all things through the power of His Word (See Job 38:1-11), our Savior God— the God whose powerful Word even the wind and waves obey (See Mark 4:35-41), our Savior God— the God who created the gift of saving faith in our heart through the powerful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (See Romans 1:16, 17)— our Savior God will “transform” these weak mortal bodies we have now and “change” them into perfect glorious bodies— bodies that are like His own resurrected body! That’s the guarantee that we have because our names are listed on the registry of the Kingdom of God. That’s the guarantee that we “eagerly await” to be fulfilled. That’s the guarantee that empowers us to exercise our Christian citizenship as we journey through this world as aliens in a foreign land.
I truly am proud to be an American. My U.S. citizenship is something that I honestly treasure each and every day. But, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that my American citizenship is not nearly as precious to me as my Christian citizenship. My hope and my prayer on this Fourth of July weekend is very simple, my friends. I hope that each and every one of you is proud of your American citizenship. Even with all of our difficulties and even with all of our disagreements this is still the greatest country on the face of the earth. But even more importantly, I pray that you will all treasure your Christian citizenship even more! Treasure your Christian citizenship by protecting it from those who are trying to rob you of it. Treasure your Christian citizenship by exercising it in your daily life. Treasure your Christian citizenship so that no matter how long or how short your journey through this world might be you will always stay focused on what your citizenship in the Kingdom of God guarantees to you.
To God be the glory!