Citizens of heaven living that way right now

July 9, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Philippians 3:20 – 4:8

20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.
Loved ones, 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to come to an agreement in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I’m also asking you, loyal friend, to help these women who have struggled together with me in the ministry of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the scroll of life.
4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.

Reflection Questions

At times we may think our faith is just about the future (“Someday—if I’m good enough—I’ll be with my Savior in heaven”). In today’s reading, the apostle Paul clearly brought the future and present parts of our faith together. Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “We naturally suppose he means ‘and so we’re waiting until we can go and live in heaven where we belong’. But that’s not what he says, and it’s certainly not what he means. If someone in Philippi said, ‘We are citizens of Rome,’ they certainly wouldn’t mean ‘so we’re looking forward to going to live there’. Being a colony works the other way round….No: the task of the Roman citizen in a place like Philippi was to bring Roman culture and rule to northern Greece, to expand Roman influence there….The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord’s Prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth.” * Chapter 4 called (and calls) Christians to live as citizens of heaven right now.

  • Being “citizens of heaven” doesn’t mean we don’t care what happens to this deeply troubled world we live in. Jesus didn’t shrug off people’s needs, saying, “Someday I’ll make them all better” (cf. Matthew 4:23-24). Paul, Jesus’ committed follower, was in prison because he didn’t retreat to a quiet spot but traveled constantly, calling often-hostile citizens of the Roman Empire to the better life they’d have by making Jesus, not Caesar, their true Lord. Echoing the image of citizenship he used to the Philippians (who lived in a Roman colony city), he told another group of Christians, “We are ambassadors who represent Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). In what ways are you living as an ambassador, a colonist seeking to bring the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth? How can you join with others in your congregation to carry out that mission?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, you’re not going to be my Savior and Lord “someday.” You save me today, with work for me to do for your kingdom. Give me your heart for this hurting world. Amen.

© 2022 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 126). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

GPS Insights

Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill

Carol is the Executive Director of Mission and Outreach at Church of the Resurrection. She serves with and guides a gifted team of individuals as together they engage the congregation in serving, connecting and growing. She seeks to be used by God to help people on their journey to know, love and serve God and others.

I recently heard the story of the last living World War II recipient of the Medal of Freedom. Hershel W. “Woody” Williams passed away on June 29 at age 98. He was a Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts while fighting at the battle of Iwo Jima. Woody retired from the Marines after 20 years of honorable service with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 and then served in the Veterans Administration for 33 years. While receiving the nation’s highest honor for military service is certainly noteworthy, what struck me was the way Woody chose to live his life after being awarded this prestigious medal.

Woody Williams was a hero who had earned the ultimate prize for his service. During the horrific battle, Woody advanced ahead of his unit, clearing Japanese weapons positions. Rather than take the credit for his actions, Woody said he wore his medal in honor of two of his fellow soldiers who covered him with their gunfire and lost their lives protecting his. While it would have been easy to slip into the role of war hero, Woody’s life took a different direction. This humble man chose to dedicate his life to serving others. He’s been described as someone “who never quit giving back,” including continuing to support Gold Star families for the remainder of his earthly life.

During the interview two things struck me about his life. Woody lived in perpetual gratitude and he served others sacrificially. He had earned his prize and yet rather than resting on his laurels, Woody made every next day of his life count for something bigger than himself. His story inspires me, and I hope it inspires you.

Today’s passage reminds us we have gained the ultimate prize–our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We can look forward in hope to the day when we will take up our citizenship in heaven. We are also saved for a purpose meant to be lived out in the here and now. Part of that purpose is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, focusing our thoughts on what is true, holy, just, pure, lovely and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Yes, even today such things are evident if we look for them. We also avail ourselves to kingdom work. We are saved and God, in turn, uses people like you, and me, and Woody Williams, to help others who are stuck and in need of saving. May God open our eyes so we can see the opportunities in each day to bless and serve others as Jesus teaches us, and people like Woody model for us.