Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Overcoming Obstacles: Philippians 1:18b-30
*This lesson can also be found at: http://www.faithandliferesources.org/Curriculum/abs/abs100801.html
Citizens of Heaven. A whole lot of theology is packed into that short phrase. It proclaims where our primary allegiance lies. It paints the landscape of our true home. It places the seal on our final destiny as sojourners in this world.
16th century Anabaptists lived as pilgrims in this world and citizens of heaven. Their primary allegiance was not to the countries in which they lived, but to God, the Ruler of the cosmos, and the realm of heaven. So, they made a clear distinction between their loyalties to the church and the state. Since their true country was not bounded by borders with walls or defended by armies and was ruled by a crucified Lord, they need not take up carnal weapons to defend the countries where they lived as resident aliens. And because their permanent citizenship was in a land that was no land, an immaterial realm of truth and light, they could face hardship, imprisonment, suffering, and martyrdom with the assurance and hope of a place beyond this mortal world.
Paul the apostle, a prisoner of the Roman Empire and a citizen of heaven, writes to the Philippian church. His citizenship in heaven keeps him from despair and he can even speak of rejoicing in the face of death. Because the believers at Philippi share the same citizenship they can face any obstacle life throws in their path. Their feet are firmly planted, not on this passing world and its transitory power, but in the Spirit.
One thing that growing older gives you is….perspective. I have seen many national leaders come and go. Trends and fashions change with the wind and circle back again. I have faced steep hills, roadblocks, and dead ends and have made it through them all. Everything changes and passes away, even this life. As my dear mother, a faithful Christian now passed, used to say as she faced her many difficulties in life, “This too shall pass”
My mother had perspective. It wasn’t that she simply saw life to be forever changing and ephemeral, but she stood solid on the landscape of the Spirit with feet firmly planted in the eternal realm. She lived a life worthy of the gospel to the end. She could face life….and death….with confidence as a citizen of heaven. Everything on earth may pass, but the realm of God is eternal. This is the confidence and assurance that Paul seeks to instill in the Philippian believers. As citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ….stand firm in the one Spirit.
• What does being a “citizen of heaven” mean to you?
• How does being a “citizen of heaven” shape your loyalties in this world?
• How does being a “citizen of heaven” help you to face obstacles and difficulties?