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Friday, October 14, 2011

Citizen of Heaven

Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.

In a few weeks I will be traveling to Italy, Greece and Turkey. I am taking a group of people to visit the sites of Paul's second and third missionary journeys. It will be a wonderful time to focus on the Lord's work in anyone who is fully committed to Christ.

Of course, I will obey the laws of those countries while I am there but I will not become one of their citizens. My earthly home is in the United States.  My citizenship here obligates me to taxes and obedience to the laws of the country. It gives me privileges as a citizen in my protection overseas and here at home. Freedom of speech, freedom of faith and protected civil rights are granted to each citizen of the United States. These rights are not granted by every country, even those who call themselves democratic and free.  Many people died so that the citizens could have these rights. I will be grateful as long as I am alive on this earth.

However, I have a greater citizenship than that of the United States. I am a citizen of heaven. I have rights that are granted here as well. I am forgiven and will receive an eternal home and a glorified body because of this citizenship. Only one Person died so that I might have this citizenship. I don't really know how grateful I will be until I have fully realized my home in heaven.

Paul was a Roman citizen. There was no other country which one could have been more proud to be a citizen of at the time. He did not renounce this citizenship but also realized that it was not his eternal home. He called his present body lowly as he compared it to his heavenly body. It would grant the rights of never decaying, never desiring sin, never getting sick and never being injured.

Paul is obviosly looking forward to that transformation. He has said that he had not attained the resurrection yet but that he was mature. He told people to follow his lead and do what he was and had done. He had ministered long and hard and now looked forward to the culmination of all his hard work. He had not earned his citizenship in heaven but he had prepared himself for living there.

Should that be the desire of all believers? Yes, but only because they have been faithful to the work which the Lord has given them. How can anyone look forward to arriving when he knows that he has been disobedient, lazy or even belligerant toward what God has told him to do?

When I was sixteen years of age I wrecked my parents car. It was my fault; no one made me do it. I knew my parents would forgive me but I still had to go home and tell them that I wrecked the car. I felt the pain of the guilt even though the forgiveness was instantly granted. I couldn't unwreck the car.

I know that I could not look forward to heaven if my character did not reflect one who had prepared himself for citizenship. I also know that I am a sinner required by God to confess and make things right even though I am forgiven. I relate that to telling my parents I wrecked the car. Forgiveness was not in question but I still had to confess. I know that a life that looks forward to heaven must be a faithful life which makes each day a step closer to arriving home.

My earthly life has more behind it that in front of it. There won't be that many years before my home in heaven will come into view. It is good to know that I will have a place.

This lowly body is getting more aches and pains than ever before. I cannot run like I once did. I get up more slowly than when I was younger. But none of this matters because it is not my permanent body anyway, nor is this my permanent home. It is only temporary.

Years ago I had a believer in my church who had a terminal disease. I knew that God would heal him but I did not know if He would heal him on this earth. I wrote him to say that I was praying for him and fully confident that God would heal him either here (and that temporarily) or in heaven (permanently) I could say this because I knew his home was in heaven.

I am going to heaven and preparing for the trip even now. It is my home. I sure would like a lot of people to go with me.


Anthony Chia said...

Talking about this verse (Phil 3:20), which stated that we have citizenship in heaven, I believed quite a few people stumbled on this. I do NOT claim to have the full revelation to explain it, but nevertheless, because it is important to get people to think and NOT to accept blindly, the teaching of overly grace teachers on this, I would still say a thing or two on this subject.

The overly grace teachers are telling us, "See, it is written there, you have citizenship in heaven, and with a citizenship, you are ENTITLED to live there. On your born-again, you secure your citizenship automatically. Since citizenship (apparently following earthly logic) is NOT revoked when you commit a crime, you cannot lose your salvation, regardless what you do (sin).”

To me, such a teaching is assuming too much: 1) Citizenship of heaven is subject to the same rules as that on earth? It may NOT be true. Who say if one rapes his neighbor, he will at most, go to jail and he will NOT have his citizenship revoked, then it is the same for citizenship for heaven. There are certain places on earth, if you did that, you would be stoned to death or executed; not just revoked of citizenship, but that you lose your life! 2) Who say there are no crimes where you can possibly be revoked of your citizenship in a country? If you bother to check, there are crimes that can cause a naturalized US citizen to lose his citizenship. Our citizenship in heaven is similar in a sense to naturalized citizenship. Treason is no. 1 crime that can cause you to lose a naturalized US citizenship. If you understand the nature of treason, you can appreciate if you are NOT for God reign's then you are in treason against God. So, can you NOT lose your citizenship of heaven? 3) If you do NOT renounce formally, you cannot lose your citizenship? It may NOT be true. I used to be the citizen of another country, but I have, many years back, renounced that citizenship, on taking up that of my current country. But must it, also works that way for citizenship of heaven? It may NOT, God looks at the heart and the meditations of the heart; He does NOT need you to formally renounce to know your allegiance to Him and His Kingdom.

Talking about analogy or metaphor, perhaps, the citizenship of heaven, as a passport to Heaven, is better looked at like a qualification to, say, a university. A good "A" Levels, for example, can get you to a university, but once you are in the university, you cannot just sit around and do nothing; or do whatever you like; you will flung out or get kicked out. Think about it; are you not already in His Kingdom? I believe we are; it is just that we are in our earthly phase of His Kingdom. There are subsequent phases to His Kingdom, for example post-physical death, the phase is a different one; there is His Kingdom in Heaven, in which one who goes there, get to acquire the incorruptible body Jesus talked about.

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Anthony Chia said...

COntinue from preceding comment page

You could flung out of Harvard Uni, while in it, so, it is really NOT that inconceivable, that you can lose your citizenship in His Kingdom while in this earthly phase and NOT make it to Heaven. Sure, God wants you and I to be in Heaven with Him, but ultimately, He is a holy God, and He can only love you and I unto righteousness. If you treason against God or be a mutiny, you are wicked, and if you do NOT turn back in time, you can be lost. There is a cut-off, for all of us, and that cut-off is at the point of our physical death. If you only want to get right with God at the nick of time, before death, then you better be sure you know precisely when you are going to die! I do NOT think it is acceptable to just assume that we will just enter into salvation, and so, get a citizenship of heaven, and then do what we like or not do anything, but just bask in grace, and when we die, we will go to Heaven, as a better of entitlement! It may also NOT be right to just assume citizenship cannot be revoked or forfeited.

People should bear in mind that even in earthly setting, many citizens of country are executed as punishment for crimes, and royalty is NOT necessarily above the law. Rather, we should remember that we are equal, all sons of God, and so, we must NOT wrong another, and expect we will be accommodated easily, for the one we sinned against, is equally a son of God, and he has every right to complain against us, or God loves him even as He loves us, God does NOT want to see him hurt by another, even as He does not want to see us hurt by another. Bearing this in mind, we must tune our perspective; vis-à-vis one another, brothers and sisters, citizenship or sonship is NO big deal; it is only relevant when we are talking in relation to those outside of the Kingdom of God. Rather the exhortation should be if you want the rights of a prince, behave as a prince; if you want the rights of a citizen, behave as a citizen.

But it is of course, right to be extremely grateful for the citizenship of heaven granted us, for we did NOT merit it or earned it; Jesus died for it, as Ps Prentis said it, that we may have it. Come on, think about it, how do we repay this kindness and love of God; ought we NOT love Him back, ought we NOT serve Him; Talks of sonship and citizenship should behoove appreciativeness for God rather than claiming rights. John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech in 1961 said this: “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Well, likewise, maybe we ought to ask ourselves what we can do for the kingdom of heaven rather than asking so very often what the kingdom can do for us.

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Anthony Chia said...

COntinue from preceding comment page

I like Ps Prentis’ testimony and illustration of wrecking his parent’s car. Indeed we cannot “unwreck” the car, but we can attempt to refrain from “wrecking” some more of Papa God’s “vehicles”. Be eager to be transformed into the image of Christ Jesus, that is the surest way to love God back, and to be welcomed to Heaven.

Recently I lost a Malaysian Christian sister who had stage 4 lung cancer since June 2009, whom I had been following up and “ministering” over the internet. It was sad, and when I sent my condolence comment onto the blog site of this sister, for her husband, I could NOT help but leave a mention for this sister to welcome me when it is my time to go to Heaven. This sister exemplified the steadfastness to the Lord that touched my heart to “kind of know” that she would be in Heaven with her Lord, Jesus. Ps Prentis, you will surely have many welcoming you, when it is your time to go to the Lord. Like the sister, you will be in the welcoming party for many whom you have touched over the many years of ministry. Meanwhile, remain steadfast and trust the Lord that both His quiet and exceeding grace can see you through the roughest of circumstances. May God bless you, His faithful servant.

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