When you are a citizen of heaven …

Each month the congregations and teams in the Edge Network come together. We’re looking at a series of ‘identities’ that are ours in Christ. This time it was heirs of God. Here’s part three of what I said …

Look at Philippians 3:18-4:1:

I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 1 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

Paul talks about two kinds of people: enemies of the cross and citizens of heaven. In fact, he is describing us: what we were and what we are in Christ. Our identity says: ‘Jesus has set us free from the condemnation our rebellion deserves through his in our place.’ ‘Their god,’ says Paul, ‘is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.’ We used to live for our appetites (literally ‘their god is their stomach’). We were controlled and enslaved by our desires. Our sense of right and wrong was so topsy-turvy we bragged about shameful things. We were only concerned with getting on in this life, however we each defined that. Where were we heading: destruction, judgment, condemnation.

But now everything has changed because Jesus Christ is ‘our Saviour’. Now we are citizens of heaven.

We have an inheritance in heaven. ‘If we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.’ (Romans 8:17) God is our Father and all that is his now belongs to us. All the riches and treasures and glory of God are ours.

It’s not that our home is far away on some distant place beyond the skies. Our home is in the future when this world is transformed and heaven has come down to earth (Revelation 21:2). We don’t go to heaven to our inheritance. Our inheritance comes from heaven to us. Jesus comes to give us a new creation and to give us new bodies fit for a new creation (21).

But our inheritance is not just a renewed earth. We wait eagerly for him. Our inheritance is Jesus and his glory – our treasure, our life, our all.

In the meantime we wait eagerly for Jesus our Saviour. We live like refugees. We live like people who are not at home in this world. Our citizenship is not on earth, but in heaven. God has called us ‘heavenwards’ (14).

We don’t have the priorities or values or hopes of this world. We have a radically different agenda for life and that agenda is Christ: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Why?

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)