Our Citizenship Is In Heaven

Philippians 3:17 – 4:7

by
Chris Herd

INTRODUCTION

What a great topic to dwell upon, the one of our citizenship in heaven.  It takes your mind away from this world to a realm of a spiritual dimension. While here on earth we encounter many changes and for some people it will be the one of becoming a Christian.  Have you ever started a new job?  When everything seems so new to you?   Things that others, old employees, take so much for granted, you see as a nightmare?  It’s a bit like that for us all as we change our focus from living for the world and living for God.  We must give thanks to God for the Bible as it is a beautiful book, in as much as God has a complete understanding of our needs.  If you are a Christian and it’s your first day on the job that’s okay, God understands and He makes provision for us to learn and get closer to Him.  He understands 100% that we are humans and we need all the help we can get.  In fact He says to us, now you are my people, here’s what I want you to do, Step 1 -- step 2 -- step 3.  This can be related to by all Christians who can testify to the guiding hand of God right from the beginning.  The same as He tells us how to first begin, if you believe…then…Acts 2:38.  God as the great instructor and mentor to His people makes sure we understand how to continue once we have begun to walk down that road to heaven.  The focus I would like to address is walking to heaven.  Are you on that journey?  Do you have questions about how to walk there?  Let me tell you that you are not alone, the Philippian brethren also needed some direction.  Our God through the apostle Paul laid out some examples and pointers for them and us to follow. An example of walking is given (3: 17); The example of how not to walk is given (3: 18-19); A place to walk to is given (3: 20-21); An example of love toward fellow walkers (4: 1-3); A focus for our attitude of walking (4: 4-7).

AN EXAMPLE OF WALKING IS GIVEN (Living day to day, conduct). Paul encourages his brethren by stating, “Brethren, join in following my example” Philippians 3.17a.  The encouragement to be imitators of Paul the apostle. This is also encouraged by Paul in I Corinthians 4:16.  When Paul encouraged his brethren to be this way, he was not being egotistical.  By saying follow my example, the opposite to egotistical is understood, as there is a qualifying factor as to how much we follow others laid out in the Bible.  The apostle knew this: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1), in the case of following examples, Christ is the standard.  As for us in the church today, it is great to have “CHRIST-LIKE” examples to look up to and follow. Every single one of us must see that it is so important that we all seek to be good examples. Paul gave something special to the Christians who may have wondered, how do we walk?  He gave them a living example to follow, to shape their lives “Christ likeness”.  We read in Philippians 3:17b, “note those who so walk, as you have us as an example”, the word, note expressed in the Greek as skopeo, means to mark, observe and give close attention to.  What was to be so treated, what was to be marked and observed?  It was the example Paul set and the examples of others that so walk as Paul did.  The word “EXAMPLE” is in the Greek tupos, I Thessalonians 1:7, meaning a pattern or a model.  The model, pattern in this case, the apostle and his associates, “imitators of Christ Jesus”.

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW NOT TO WALK IS GIVEN

In Philippians 3:18, Paul is quick to warn that there are some examples we are not to follow, the one of the “False teachers”.  This tells us that it is important what we believe, and that some preach a wrong way.  If it did not matter as to how we walk, why are so many warnings given to avoid false teachers? Even though they were “false”, we cannot but notice Paul’s attitude, one of “WEEPING”. We can liken this to his attitude in Acts 20:31. He showed care for souls, for those in the truth and for the ones who are in Satan’s camp. Paul warned and he wept, he showed care but not compromise the truth. In essence he loved the sinner but hated the sin (we must abhor sin but caring attitude to the sinner). We must never follow the example “ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST”, as the very nature of an enemy is they teach and walk differently to Christ and the end is “DESTRUCTION”. These poor misguided souls have the problem of their god being their belly because they serve their own lust and not Christ “TO LIVE IS SELF”. Their glory is their shame, the things they pride themselves in are ungodly “SHAME” They profess to be godly, but remember the description in II Corinthians 11: 13-15, II Thessalonians 1: 8-9: These are those who set their mind on earthly things, Romans 8:5 “sensual pursuits”, professing to be Christian, they walk opposite to the Christian way and need to be avoided and definitely not imitated by the Christian.

A PLACE TO WALK IS GIVEN

“For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the savior the Lord Jesus Christ”  V. 3: 20.  Heaven to the Christian is our goal and our gift.  Let me ask you at this point, are you “EAGERLY” waiting for Jesus Christ?  Are you “SEEKING HEAVEN”?  Unlike those who walk seeking earthly things we are directed to heaven, Colossians 3:1-3.  The Christian has a focus to “Seek first the kingdom”, Matthew 6:33. A spiritual person will understand that this attitude is essential to truly experience the blessings of God.  The seeking first of the kingdom is not a sporadic on off type of action, it is more to the point of a “CONTINUAL FOCUS”.  We are as the Philippian brethren were, “Citizens of heaven”.  Temporarily  it is here in a foreign country “earth”, Hebrews 11: 13-16, John 14: 1-4.  We must never grow tired of looking for the Second Coming of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  At this awaited point we know from the Bible that we will be “CHANGED”, I Corinthians 15:44-53, I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Yes we will be clothed in apparel suitable for residence in the heavenly city.  Although the Christians were citizens of Rome, their true citizenship belonged to another King, Jesus Christ, in another country, heaven. This focus of looking to heaven is for those who: 

1)      Know that they live for Christ Philippians 1:2 

2)      In order to place citizenship in heaven, have died to Christ Galatians 2:20. 

3)      “Died to Christ” in baptism “if we are not baptized, we are not living in or for Christ”.

4)      Once the Christians are baptized we are “now Christ centered and not self centered”.  The true hearted servant of our Lord should remember that, as Christ lives in the Christian, our focus should always be is to see Him as He is, I John 3: 2.

AN EXAMPLE OF LOVE TOWARD FELLOW WALKERS

Paul starts this verse with “Therefore”  4:1. Here the apostle Paul refers to the future glories to be an inspiring force. In other words, because we have such a blessing to look forward to let us stand fast in the Lord. Notice the attitude of the man of God, “my beloved and longed for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord” 4:1. There is a similar address in I Thessalonians 2:19-20. He called the brethren “longed for” and there is a good reason why. This term impresses in our minds the deep sense of loss Paul felt of being away from his brethren. The lesson we learn is that love should be evident among Christians. The apostle was grieved for being separated from the brethren “imprisoned in bonds” unable to see them or to travel around and meet with them. The emotions he felt, Paul called his joy and crown “TENDERNESS”. 

The Christians at Phillipi, his fellow brethren in Christ, gave him a great sense of joy. In fact he looked toward the time their faith could be his crown.  This is almost like the “MENTOR” or “TEACHER” seeing those who he helped finally reaching the desired end. What a joy to know that we might have some influence or help in our brethren making it to heaven.  The appeal to “Stand fast in the Lord” is given to the Christians. The Lord is the element that standing fast required. We too must realize that we need to stay close to Christ Jesus and those about us who serve Him in sincerity and in truth. Paul then changes the tone somewhat to encourage unity among the brethren.  He says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord”.  These two women mentioned only here appear to have been at difference and disturbed the peace and harmony of church in Phillipi.  It is sad to see that some Christians show selfishness and disregard for God when they disturb unity only seeking their own gain and gratify self “LET US SEEK PEACE”.  Philippians 4:3 The attitude towards those who were his “FELLOW WORKERS”.  What we must realize is that we are fellow workers.  As Christians our names are in the book of life Revelation 3:5.  The book of life contains names of those baptized and faithful followers of Christ.  Let us love, the word, pursue peace and encourage one another also.

A FOCUS OF OUR ATTITUDE TO WALKING

The much quoted verse of Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”.  We quote it, we sing it and we love it.  Understand that when we surrender self and lose ourselves to God, the fountains of joy are opened up wide. Those who look to God in faithful obedience and “live in Christ” can then:

1)      Enjoy times even if surrounded by enemies…troubles…trials.  

2)      Overcome unrest with true assurance of salvation. 

3)      “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”

Philippians 4:4: Christians can!  We should have joy in Christ, the joy of salvation, the joy of forgiveness and the joy of Gods presence.   “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand” 4:5.  Gentleness is not referring to the gentle treatment of a kitten, or the gentleness of a mother hen with her chicks, though this is important.  Rather this word is better understood as having a forbearing spirit, just like Christ. Encouragement for those times we feel pressing personal needs – problems.  We fail to have a forbearing spirit if we become alarmed or embittered amidst the trials of life.  We should seek to remain calm and controlled in diverse circumstances, it’s a part of knowing that God is in control. The next part of the verse encourages the brethren that “The Lord is at hand”.  We are blessed with a near God, not a far God.  The next verse expands upon this thought in Philippians 4: 6-7.  That other much quoted verse of “be anxious for NOTHING”.  Anxiety is a joy killer and it is a Christian killer also. To be anxious shows a dependence upon self. Christians should not seek independence but more favorable for salvation is “God dependence” Romans 8:28.  To what limit can we give things to God?  The answer, “but in EVERYTHING” in prayer and supplication”. Prayer is communication and supplication is earnest pleading to an ever present God who cares for your soul, I Peter 5:7. There is absolutely nothing that we cannot lay at God’s feet.  And after laying our burdens down, we can have complete faith in His ability to help us.  And finally the ultimate encouragement is the peace of God. This peace which surpasses or exceeds our understanding should bring us joy. To have the peace of God means the peace inside of knowing that we are right with God. The sense of spiritual peace found only in, through and by Christ Jesus. If you are not a Christian then the encouragement is to seek spiritual rest and peace with God. As the peace of God can only be found in Christ. Are you in Christ (Galatians 3:27)? 

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