As I was studying for our current PM sermon series through the book of Colossians recently (“Jesus + Nothing = Everything”), I re-discovered an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting and life-changing truth. This little but powerful truth is so simple, yet it is also so easily forgotten. And because it is so easily forgotten I believe it is the reason that so many of us struggle to make sense of our walk with Jesus and the accompanying joys and responsibilities.
The truth I am talking about is simply this: as a redeemed Christ-follower you and I are no longer citizens of earth but we are right now citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20; Eph.2:9; Col. 3:3). Simple huh? But so profound and practical! Let me explain.
When you and I are born into this world we are naturally citizens of earth. We are born in sin as part of a race that has rebelled against its Creator (Psalm 51). Our sinful physical birth means that we are spiritually dead. This is why Jesus says to Nicodemus “you must be born again!” (John 3:3). Now I am quite certain that Jesus did not intend for Nicodemus to climb back into his mother but rather he meant ‘spiritual’ re-birth.
This re-birth occurs when we trust in Christ and receive the Holy Spirit of God. Only then are our spiritual eyes opened and are we made a new creation with a new heart. We are ‘born again’.
Like with any new birth we receive a new citizenship. If you’re born in Australia, you are an Australian citizen. If you’re re-born of the Holy Spirit of God, you are a citizen of God’s kingdom. With this new citizenship comes a cancelling of your old citizenship and the bestowal of a new heavenly citizenship.
What this practically means for us as heavenly citizens is that we are free to be radically generous because our riches are in heaven not on earth (Matt. 6:19). We are free to sacrificially serve and love others because our reward is not in what they can give us but in heaven (Matt. 5:46; 6:4). We are compelled to freely forgive because we have been forgiven so freely (Eph. 4:32). We are called to invest our time seeking to know and be made more like the King of our new Kingdom (Heb. 12:1-2; Col. 3:1-4; 17) and we are to invite all people to join (Luke 14:12-24) this joyous pilgrimage to the Heavenly City (Heb. 11:10-16).
Indeed, understanding that the earth is not your home will radically and irretrievably change the way you live on the earth, both individually and as a community.
So let me ask you, do you feel more at home on earth or do you long for the Heavenly City where your King awaits? Does your life look more like it is clothed in the things of earth or have you put off the old self with its practices (Col. 3:1-4)? Is Church an option in your calendar or is it a regular time to worship your King? Is laying up treasures on earth more important than investing them in heaven? Is seeking God in prayer and in His Word more important than The Voice or MasterChef? Is spending time on yourself more important than investing in others? Are you living as a citizen of heaven or of earth?
Obviously our journey towards heavenly citizenship will be a process until the day we die or Jesus returns but only as we continually re-discover our calling to be citizens of heaven on earth will we truly make sense of and get on with our mission to love God, love people and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). It’s the narrow road but because of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, it is the road that will lead to true and abundant life, both now and forevermore.