July 5, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Philippians 3:20-21 (NRSV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
According to Philippians 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven.” This does not mean simply that we get to go to heaven after we die. Rather, it means that we are to live on this earth according to the values of heaven. We are committed to the agenda of the one who is sovereign in heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords. In all we do, we are to seek God’s justice and mercy, for God’s purposes and glory.
In the last Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the implications of the fact that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Though we are also citizens of nations on earth, we are supremely citizens of heaven, people whose ultimate loyalty and submission is to our Lord Jesus Christ. Because our citizenship is in heaven, we have a perspective from which to evaluate the countries of our earthly citizenship. We can celebrate when they reflect God’s goodness and grieve when they fall short. In all we do we can seek “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with God (Micah 6:8).
I’ve heard it said that our heavenly citizenship is mainly a matter of what we experience after death. I have no doubt that this is part of what it means to be a citizen of heaven. But, from a biblical perspective, heavenly citizenship is not just about the afterlife. It’s also about how we live on this earth in our cities and countries, companies and churches.
Once again, let’s consider the example of the Philippians, those to whom Paul wrote when he talked about our heavenly citizenship. The Philippians, as I noted yesterday, had a kind of dual citizenship in that they were citizens of their local city, Philippi, and also the imperial capital, Rome. This was uncommon in the Roman Empire. Because of their special class of citizenship, the Philippians received blessings from the Roman government and they were expected to live in a distinctly Roman way. They were an outpost of Roman power, law, and society in northern Greece. The fact that they were citizens of Rome did not mean they should move to the capital city. On the contrary, they were expected to remain in Philippi in order to advance the Roman agenda in that location.
So it is with those who are citizens of heaven. Our loyalty to heaven and to heaven’s Lord is something we live out right now, each day, in real, earthly time. In everything we do, we seek to honor God and advance his kingdom agenda on earth. In case you’re worrying that I’m making this up, let me remind you of how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus wants us to ask for the coming of God’s kingdom, both now and in the future. Moreover, right now, we are to ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. How is God’s will done on earth? Mostly, it is done by those on earth who are citizens of heaven, whose allegiance is to the Lord of lords. In other words, it’s done by you and me as we live out our heavenly citizenship right here and now.
When we are committed to doing God’s will on earth as in heaven, we will at times support the efforts of our earthly nations, cities, and other institutions. We will celebrate the goodness of God made known through these entities. At the same time, when we are committed to doing God’s will on earth as in heaven, we will oppose all that opposes the goodness of God. As citizens of heaven we will speak out against and work to overturn injustice. We will critique anything that rejects the dignity of every human being. We will seek to embody the justice and love of God in all of our institutions. We will repent of our own participation in unjust systems and use our authority to “establish justice,” as the U.S. Constitution puts it. Or, if you prefer, we will live today under the reign of the one about whom Isaiah prophesied, “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7).
In what ways do you live out your heavenly citizenship on earth?
Where do you have the authority to treat people justly and to establish justice?
Talk with your small group or a wise friend about what it means to live each day in real-time as a citizen of heaven.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Living Under the Power of God (Romans 13)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.