Summary: Did you know that we have a citizenship that is greater than any national citizenship? We need to put our focus on spiritual things. When we have this spiritual focus the world grows dim. Then we are living consistent with our heavenly citizenship.
How much value do you place on your citizenship? We have several here who may be citizens of different countries. We have Canadians here. We have US citizens and Mexican citizens here. You have a citizenship in some nation. How much do you value or think about your citizenship?
We rarely think about our citizenship, but for those who enter this country as foreigners, they think much about what citizenship means. It is so costly for them to gain their citizenship. They are surprised when we take our citizenship for granted. There are so many rights and privileges that come with our citizenship.
There was a citizen of the United Kingdom that ended up in jail in another country. His country made an appeal to let their citizen go free from prison. The nation refused to let the citizen go so they rounded up ten thousand troops sent them overseas. They marched over difficult terrain went in and did battle and rescued their citizen and carried him back. That is an extreme example of the privileges of being a citizen.
Did you know that we have a citizenship that is greater than any national citizenship? The Bible says those who put their faith in Christ have a heavenly citizenship. That is what Paul is speaking about in these verses. He wants you to know that as a Christian you have a dual citizenship. You may live on earth and have a national citizenship, but you also have a citizenship which is in heaven.
Read: Philippians 3:17-21
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. 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.
This world ultimately is not your home. You are only visiting here. Your true home and your true citizenship is in heaven. That is what Paul is talking about in this passage of Scripture. There are two areas that go along with citizenship. There are certain rights and privileges that go along with citizenship but citizenship also means responsibilities. Do you know that you have responsibilities as a citizen? If you do not know that you will find out if you do not pay your taxes. You have a responsibility as a citizen to file your income tax. There are responsibilities that go along with citizenship.
You have privileges and responsibilities. Paul is talking about our rights and privileges as heavenly citizens but also responsibilities of heavenly citizenship. There are certain responsibilities in living as heavenly citizens.
The first thing Paul does is use his own life as an example. Look at 3:17 “17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Paul deals with the responsibility that comes with being a heavenly citizen. Some thought because they were Christians and experienced the grace of God that they were without responsibilities and moral obligations. They abused their freedom in Christ and abused their heavenly citizenship. Some thought that heavenly citizenship gave them a passport to sin.
Paul says follow my example. He is not living a life free of moral responsibilities. He said live according to the example of the life I live before you. Paul had been talking previously to those who were legalists, who wanted Christians to follow every letter of the Old Testament law. They wanted gentiles to first become a Jew and then only become a Christian. Paul had to deal with that and he had preached freedom in Christ. He had dealt with one extreme of those who were legal about Christianity. They would force others into their mold.
But when we preach freedom in Christ there is a danger. People are going to misunderstand their freedom in Christ and think they can do whatever they want regardless of what the Word of God says. So Paul is dealing with those on the other side who have taken their liberties and abused them as a license for sin. Paul has to deal with those on both sides. He is in the middle pulling each side in. He has those who want to go in the direction of legalism and those who want to use their freedom as a license to sin. Paul is in the middle pulling back both extremes. Neither extreme is healthy. Paul says look at my example for keeping the balance.