Verse: Philippians 3:18-21
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul addresses the Philippians, speaking about the contrast between those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ and those whose citizenship is in heaven. Paul is so rattled by this contrast that he is moved to tears when addressing them on this topic. Paul, who has seen and endured so much, is brought to tears. That makes me pause before I start reading and signals me that he’s about to say something really important. Paul warns the Philippians about the danger of living a life solely focused on earthly pursuits and pleasures. He emphasizes that such a way of life leads to destruction and ultimately distances us from the blessings and promises of God. He was heartbroken at the prospect that these people could have their sights set on creation instead of the Creator. He knew all that they would be missing out on and wanted better for them.

Throughout all of history, the world has been present and ready to serve as a distraction. The world has always been filled with earthly things that seem good, but in reality take our focus from Jesus and will cause destruction. Especially in the world we live in today, the world is at our fingertips. With the age of technology, anything we could dream of is pretty easily available. The world is screaming things at us to pull our focus from the Kingdom. It is way too easy to become entangled in the pursuit of our fleshy  desires and to seek the newest material possessions. Or, you might be like me and find yourself seeking fulfillment in the approval of others, people pleasing, making sure you don’t make anyone else uncomfortable. Whatever form it takes for you, we all have fleshly desires that are not in alignment with the Kingdom of Heaven. Im not saying God doesn’t want us to have fun, that owning nice things is unbiblical, or that it’s blasphemy to want to make others comfortable. All those things can be good and Godly things. HOWEVER, the problem lies in the hidden heart behind these desires. Am I wanting to make people comfortable so they feel welcomed in my home, so that I might be able to share truth with them? Or, am I wanting to make people comfortable by sugarcoating the truth because the thought of conflict makes me anxious? See the difference there? I wish I could say the former is usually my motivation. In reality, I need to fight against the later almost constantly on a daily basis. What is it for you? What pulls your attention away from the face of Jesus and makes you want to indulge in the world, a little more each time?

Don’t miss this next part- Paul reminds us that our true citizenship is not of this world. We are not of this world. Hear that again friend, we are NOT of this world. I know some days it doesn’t feel true, but even when it doesn’t feel true, we can stand firm in knowing that our God has declared it so. As believers in Christ, our primary identity lies in being citizens of heaven. Our first, most important identity is not found in our occupation, character, or relation to others. It is in being a member of the Kingdom, of serving our Savior and being a member of His family. Our allegiance is to God’s kingdom, and as such our focus should be on eternal, spiritual matters rather than fleeting earthly ones. Again, easier said than done, right? I know it’s hard. The world is screaming at us to fix our eyes on it, instead of on Him. But, living as citizens of Heaven means aligning our hearts and minds with the values of God’s kingdom, not the values of the culture around us. It means placing Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and allowing His teachings to guide our decisions and actions… even if that makes us stand out and look different. In fact, we’re told that we should look different than the world around us. (Romans 12:2). That can be so, so hard. But, it is also what makes us stand out to those around us. It’s what makes people look at us and think “there’s something different about them”. It’s what reflects the light of Jesus to the broken, dark world around us. If we can get out of our own way, we can let Him use us as His citizens.

As we walk on in this rough, unpredictable, heart wrenching, amazing journey, let us remember that our ultimate hope lies in the return of our Savior. Our anticipation of His coming should fuel our desire to live holy and transformed lives. It should fuel our desire for those around us to also know him and join us in Heaven’s mission. We know that He will come with power and glory, and He will transform our mortal bodies into glorious ones, just like His. We will join Him in eternity, where our souls will find peace and joy. Our trials and temptations may seem so big and daunting right now, but in the perspective of eternity in the Kingdom it is just drop of water in the ocean. Fix your eyes on the hope of that future so that you may fight the good fight for your short time in this broken world. (1 Timothy 6:12). Start living as citizens of heaven. We can make a significant impact on the world around us, pointing others to the hope and joy found in knowing our Jesus. Let your life be a testament to the transformative power of His love, shining brightly in a world that desperately needs the light of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, help me to find stillness today. Help me to search my own heart to find that which is trying to pull my focus away from you. Thank you for the reminder that my identity is found in you, above all else. Holy Spirit, use me and guide me in being a light in the dark and broken world around me. I love you Lord. Amen

Author: Becca Artymenko