We are not citizens of this world!
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 3:20).
Those who are of God are not citizens of this world. Jesus Christ sent us into this world just like the Father sent Him. (John 17:18). We, therefore, must live as sojourners and exiles here on Earth (1 Peter 2:11) refusing to conform to a culture that should be completely alien to us. (Rom. 12:2). We must remember that we come from a better country, a heavenly country prepared for us by God Himself, and that we are seeking to return there. (Heb. 11:16). But some of us have embraced this world, forgetting our heavenly country and seeking carnal pleasure and glory for themselves, thereby becoming enemies of the cross of Christ. (Phil. 3:19).
We should each take an honest look at ourselves. Do we primarily identify ourselves as citizens of Heaven, or do we primarily identify ourselves by our political affiliations, our nationality, our sexual orientation, our race, our gender, or our favorite sports team? When others find out we are citizens of Heaven, do we bring shame or glory to our King by the way we live? Do we give Jesus a bad reputation like the "ugly American" embarrassing the United States abroad? The Apostle Paul tells us that "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Phil. 3:18-19). I don't want to sugar coat this because it is important. If your mind is always on the cares of this world (wealth, fame, power, sex, politics, entertainment etc.) and rarely if ever on eternity, then you need to reevaluate your priorities. In other words, we need to stop living as citizens of the world and start living as a citizens of Heaven.
Those of us loyal to Christ live as exiles in this world. Since we are in this world we must interact with it, and to provide for our families we must to earn a living from it. However, we must not conform to it. We should have friends who are of this world, and demonstrate the greatness of our King by our good examples of love, charity, selflessness, forgiveness, and kindness. We should not be reluctant to earn vast sums of money from our labor--if our labor is honest and worth it--but use that money to help our fellow man and to glorify God instead of spending it all on selfish worldly desires or to glorify ourselves. We are allowed to partake of the pleasures of the world, after all God created pleasure for us. However, we must be discerning and not seek out entertainment which has been twisted and corrupted by wickedness. Furthermore, we must never become a slave to pleasure or else a harmless pleasure will become a deadly sin. For example, the harmless enjoyment of food and wine when left unchecked can become the sins of gluttony and drunkenness. The harmless enjoyment of sports and games can lead to the sins of vainglory and pride. And of course anything we enjoy too much can become a idol.
Never forget that the devil will do everything he can to keep us preoccupied with earthly distractions to keep our hearts and minds from returning to God. That is why Jesus prayed that God protect us from "the evil one." (John 17:15). And God will protect us from the evil one. He will help us fight off the temptations the devil distracts us with, but we have to want to fight them. If we do not care about heavenly things then we have no chance. If we care only for our earthly obsessions whether they be our own glory and ambition, politics, football, Facebook, or anything else, and find God, prayer, and Scripture much too dull to waste our time with, then God will give us over to our earthly desires. He will not force us to love Him. He will not force us to choose Heaven. Yes, we are citizens of Heaven living in exile in this world, but God will allow us to renounce our citizenship if that is what we really want. I pray that I never will.
Lord, help me to remember my true citizenship is not of this world, but with You in Heaven. Help me to be a good example of your love, mercy and grace while in this world, and please keep me from the clutches and temptations of the evil one.
R.C. VanLandingham has been a lawyer, Marine, and historian. He currently writes Christian fantasy novels. His Peter Puckett series has been described as "Harry Potter meets Narnia!" Find his books here!