Summary: Our Citizenship Is In Heaven 1) Don’t follow the ways of this world 2) Live for blessings that are out of this world
If you have participated in any joint services with our sister congregations in Alberta, you probably know who Pastor Schultz is. Pastor Schultz served Mountain View Lutheran Church on the west side of Calgary for many years before taking a call to a large congregation in Wisconsin. Last summer he returned to Mountain View and upon his arrival many members eagerly asked: “Are you glad to be home, Pastor Schultz?” He gave an answer that would have delighted the Apostle Paul. “Well, I’m not in heaven yet,” laughed Pastor Schultz as he looked around just to be sure, “so I’m not home. But yes, I am happy to be back in Calgary to serve you.”
After church you will eventually return to a residence you call your home, but it isn’t really home. Our forever-home is in heaven because through faith in Christ Jesus our citizenship is in heaven. Because of that the Apostle Paul has these words of encouragement for us today: don’t follow the ways of this world; live instead for blessings that are out of this world.
When I meet new people they’re often surprised to learn that I’m not from Canada. Sure, I’m a Canadian citizen but I didn’t grow up in this country. Apparently I speak and act enough like everyone else around here that no one immediately pegs me as an outsider. But as the Apostle Paul points out in our text, blending in with the world around us is not necessarily something to be proud of. Paul wrote: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:17-20a).
“You should be more like me.” Such a statement doesn’t usually go over very well but that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul said without any apologies. And we’re willing to listen to him because Paul once called himself the “the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). This was no braggart. This was a humble follower of Jesus who knew that every Christian should strive to live in such a way that he or she can say to others: “Follow my example!” Is that a statement you feel comfortable making or are you more apt to mutter, “Do as I say, not as I do”? “Stop bad-mouthing your teachers, even though that’s how I speak about my co-workers. Don’t be so touchy, even though I overreact when I’ve been slighted. Be more helpful - though I don’t like to be bothered with other people’s problems.”
The reason we’re often not very good examples to others is because we forget that we are citizens of heaven. We live in a sinful, selfish world and have unconsciously adapted ourselves to it – the way a child who moves to the U.K. will quickly imitate the distinct accent of his new classmates so he doesn’t stick out. It’s not the end of the world if you start speaking like the Queen, but you’re in deep trouble if you start speaking and acting like those who think that this life on earth is the only one they’ll have. Listen again to Paul describe such people’s attitude and point out the danger they’re in. “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 1:18, 19).
People who think that this is the only life they have to live will naturally do whatever makes them feel good without concern for the consequences. They’re often not even embarrassed by lewd and crude behavior but actually brag about it. If you tune into the Oscars tonight, you’ll see obvious examples of this. Women will parade down the red carpet in dresses that don’t conceal very much. Men will march in with women to whom they are not married but with whom they share a bed and want everyone to know it. But friends, my message is not for them; it’s for us who can readily identify such celebrities by name and list off the movies they’ve been in but struggle to name the twelve disciples of Jesus or know where in the Bible we can find the book of Haggai or Galatians. If so, it’s time to stop following celebrities on Twitter and spend that time instead pouring over God’s tweets to you. Shouldn’t a citizen of heaven know the psalms better than he knows the lyrics of the current top ten songs? Look at what’s at stake. Those who keep their mind on earthly matters will eventually lose their faith in Jesus and if that happens, they will find their destiny to be destruction (Philippians 1:19).