Two weeks ago we celebrated the Fourth of July in Big Lake. The lake was busy! The state parks were packed. The fire works were loud. The dogs were not happy! It is great being a citizen of the United States. We still enjoy many wonderful freedoms.
As a Christian, our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. The apostle Paul writes, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ….” (Philippians 1:27). Later he reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In Philippians 1:27-30 our heavenly citizenship brings four responsibilities….
First, we must stand for the truth. Verse 27 continues, “…so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm…” “Standing firm” was used of a soldier who stood bravely regardless of the cost. We are called to stand firm for the truth.
We live in a day when the truth is under attack. Many desire to repudiate our Christian heritage. Monuments are being torn down. Lawlessness is increasing. We must stand for the truth. Standing for the truth begins with knowing the truth. We cannot stand for something we do not understand!
The truth is in God’s Word. Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.” We must know the truth and apply the truth and proclaim the truth. Our first responsibility is to stand for the truth.
Second, we must share or be united. Verse 27 says, “…I will hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind….” We must be united. The devil desires to divide us. Our Lord Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25).
Patrick Henry signed the Declaration of Independence. Henry said, “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” At the end of his speech Henry collapsed and was carried almost lifeless into a nearby tavern. Two months later he died. Unity is very important.
Third, we must strive together. Paul continues, “…I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27) “Strive together” refers to athletics. An NFL quarterback recently signed a contract for $500 million. Most of that money is guaranteed. Whether he wins or loses he will be paid.
The Roman games were different. Gladiators fought to the death. Defeat brought not a pay check but certain death. We are called to strive together or to compete as a team. Great teams are selfless. They work together for the good of the team.
Philippians 2 gives examples of great teammates. At the top of the list is Jesus Himself Who left heaven and died for our sins. The apostle Paul, the young Timothy and Epaphroditus all sacrificed to the point of death. We must work together as God’s people.
Fourth, we must suffer. Verse 29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake….” Good citizenship involves suffering. Philippians 3:10 refers to an elite group “the fellowship of His sufferings.” We are a band of brothers. We are blessed to suffer for the cause.
Jesus said in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”
To suffer for the Lord Jesus is a privilege. Suffering for Christ is a proof of our salvation (verse 28) and a privilege (verse 29).
Every born again Christian is a citizen of heaven. We are called to stand for the truth. We must share or be united. We must strive together or compete as a team. Yes, we must also suffer. Let’s be good citizens knowing that the ultimate victory is guaranteed!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.