2020-7-05 Where Our Ultimate Citizenship Lies

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 5, 2020

“Where Our Ultimate Citizenship Lies”
Philippians 3:17-21

            Yesterday we celebrated our national Independence Day.  The day marked the 244th anniversary of our declaration of independence from Great Britain—and, hopefully, you found opportunity to reflect upon the blessings of American citizenship and to thank God for the same.  I hope also that you enjoyed rest from your ordinary labors, the company of family and friends, and the usual activities of the day—perhaps even the fireworks display from Highlands Road last night.

            Today we note, amid the joy and blessings of American independence and citizenship, an even more fundamental citizenship that we who are in Christ enjoy.  Let us give ear once again to the reading and proclamation of God’s holy Word—in order that He may be glorified and we may be blessed indeed.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

            Our passage occurs within a larger context of pressing toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-4:1, esp. 3:14).  The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, elaborates further upon this in today’s text.  First, he encourages us through the Spirit to walk in a manner conformed to the Lord’s will.  Just as Paul urged the Corinthians to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), so he invites the Philippians to follow him and his associates—who together provide a model for the Philippian Christian households to follow.  That appeal comes down to us via the Spirit through the ages.  God not only has given us His Word, as quickened by the Holy Spirit, to our souls to guide us into proper Christian walk, but He also has given us Godly folk both today and in bygone days—in order that we may have models of proper Christian walk close at hand and close to our hearts.

            Second, the Lord calls us, through His inspired penman, to walk not as many others walk—who walk as enemies of Christ’s Cross.  Paul tells the Philippian church, through tears in an otherwise joyful letter, once again of those who walk contrary and hostile to Christ’s Cross.  The Lord describes such people through Paul’s pen.  Their end, or the outcome of their lives, is destruction (or waste, Greek apoleia [apwleia])—doubtless not only to themselves, but also to many around them.  Their god, the ruler of their lives and their object of worship, is their belly.  The carnal appetites rule, and they rule absolutely—to the exclusion of all else, especially the things of God.  Their glory, moreover, is their shame.  They not only approve such shame, and shameful behavior, in themselves and others, but also they encourage others to such shameful conduct.  Obviously, as Paul here declares, their minds are fixed on earthly things.  Every thought is on the horizontal, earthly plane, with nary a thought of God and no look upward to Him.  The Lord’s loving warning to us, through Paul, is this: Imitate not these.  Run, rather, from their example.

            Third, we are to walk in conformity with Christ’s will, shunning the example of those living as enemies of His Cross, because our citizenship is in Heaven.  As grateful as I am for all the rights and privileges incumbent upon American citizenship, I yet stand more grateful for those rights and privileges that flow from union with Jesus Christ, via faith in Him.  We see this in part as the passages unfolds.

            From there, from Heaven, we await a Savior—a Savior Who both promised to return (John 14:2) and is promised to return (Acts 1:11).  Our Savior, Jesus Christ, upon His return, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body—which He displayed to certain of His beloved by many post-resurrection appearances.  We wonder how He will accomplish such a wondrous work, and our text tells us.  He will work this change in us by the power than enables Him to subject all things and people to Himself.  This an argument from the greater back to the lesser: If Jesus can subject all things to Himself—and He can—then He can transform our lowly bodies to resemble His glorious body.

            There is an old confession contained in a Christian song; the song is “This World Is Not My Home.”  The first line of the refrain is, “This world is not my home/I’m just a-passing through.”  The first phrase is spot-on correct, according to today’s text.  Yet the second, alas, is an error; I’m not (and you’re not) merely passing through.  In fact, there remains much for us to do while we are away from our Home—and these may be summed by the single word ambassadorship.  We, like Paul and the apostolic band, implore others, on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).  What does ambassadorship on behalf of the Lord of the ages look like?

            Our Christian ambassadorship involves faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We trust Him to forgive our sins and to remit the just penalty we deserve for them.  We also invite Him to rule in our lives, rather than ourselves.  Ambassadorship involves worship of our triune God for Who He is and for what He does.  It also involves taking up our crosses, like our Master, and becoming His student-followers wherever He may lead.  Ambassadorship for Christ is this much, and more.

            We who would be Christ’s ambassadors much display obedience to His moral law.  We must conform to it generally and repent when we don’t—and both of these by the Spirit’s power.  Ambassadorship involves witness—and this may be the primary glimpse of Christian ambassadorship for most people.  We declare, with lips and lives, the good news that Jesus Christ came to call, redeem, and sanctify a chosen people for Himself—and that by His atoning work and resurrection life.  Ambassadorship for Jesus also involves a consistent display of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  We who represent Jesus would display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—to all, to be sure, and specially to the household of Christian faith.

            On this Independence Day weekend, let us thank God for all we enjoy as American citizens—even as we pray and labor to make our nation more nearly conformed to God’s will.  Let us, by these and other means, glorify our three-in-one God in this world—even as realize and praise Him for the fact that Home is elsewhere.                                                                                                                         AMEN.