If you haven’t had the chance to see the movie, “The Greatest Showman,” I recommend that you do. I had the privilege of seeing the movie over Christmas break. It was not only an entertaining, wholesome and “feel good” story, it had a positive message about purpose, permanency and solidarity. This Hollywood story, in all its pomp and circumstance, created a picture of P.T. Barnum in two lights: one as a man so engrossed with his desire to bring happiness to his family that his focus became his work. However, in the second light, his work led him to bring the outcasts of society out of the shadows and into the limelight. Barnum made a home for the exiles and gave them a purpose and sense of family in the care of the circus.
While the lead character is not without his faults, for this illustration, he is recognized for having a Christ-like quality of calling the “least of these” to reach their fullest potential. He (whether intentionally or not) brought the peculiar together for a purpose greater than what they could have done on their own. He gave each of them a chance to use their oddities for good and gave them a place to call home. God does the same for us. He calls the poor, widowed, orphan, sick, lame, blind, prostitute, tax collector and me, a sinner, to take part in His heavenly glory. He makes us citizens of Heaven when we accept Him as our Savior, and He invites us into His cast of characters for the “Greatest Story Ever Told.” We no longer should feel abandoned, lonely and out of place in our everyday life, because our home is not here on earth but with Him in Heaven. So, for now, we are ambassadors of Heaven on earth. In Philippians 3:18-20, Paul said, “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…”
Heavenly Citizen: rights and responsibilities
Just as we would have rights and responsibilities as citizens in the countries we inhabit on earth, so it is with our citizenship in Heaven. Our first right as citizens is that we receive eternal life with Christ in Heaven (John 3:16). We can look to the letters of the Apostle Paul for guidance on living on earth as citizens of Heaven. Just about every letter Paul wrote to the Christian churches dealt with some aspect(s) of our walk with Christ. For a more pointed view on citizenship, I’ve found the third chapter of Colossians to be most helpful. Colossians 3:1-17 serves as the constitution of heavenly citizenship on the other rights and responsibilities we receive in addition to salvation:
- Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”Our first responsibility is to have a heavenly mindset. We no longer focus on earthly things but turn our attention upward to heavenly things, just as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:20-21 that our treasures are stored in Heaven.
- Colossians 3:3-4 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”Therefore, we are to abandon our earthly desires and align our hearts with Christ’s desires. As we live for Him, He promises to raise us up with Him. This is our second right as citizens of Heaven. We are granted newly resurrected bodies just like that of Christ: “…We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him” (Philippians 3:20-21, The Message).
- Colossians 3:5-9 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices…”So then, our second responsibility is to rid ourselves of sin. We are to keep ourselves pure from the desires of our human nature, for these are things we did in our old self before salvation transformed us anew. With our new life, we honor Him and wear our citizenship proudly as those who live in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and guides us toward righteous living.
- Colossians 3:10: “…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”We are granted the right to a renewed life in Christ, a chance to start new and fill ourselves with the knowledge of our Heavenly Father. In our renewed spirit, we are given the revelation of God and made aware of His presence in and around us. Thus, we are to fill our renewed spirits with His Word.
- Colossians 3:11 “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”This is perhaps my favorite right as a citizen of Heaven, because it erases all barriers – racial, religious, gender, social status, etc., and makes us equal in God’s eyes. We are one with HIM and with each other!
- Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”Another responsibility is for us to exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit in our daily life. The attributes of a good heavenly citizen will also be evident in the display of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and, most importantly, love for one another.
- Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”This can be both our right and our responsibility, as Christ grants us peace in our heart. It is a right because He gives us peace that passes understanding through his Holy Spirit. It is a responsibility to exhibit peace in all circumstances, even when the situation is anything but peaceful.
- Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”It is our responsibility to keep the message of Christ alive in our heart. We can do this through praise and worship and encouraging the saints among us. Therefore, it is good for us to have a church family to meet with regularly as we build each other up. When citizens of Heaven come together on earth, we can strengthen and encourage one another to walk in the Spirit. We inspire each other to continue onward, as we will one day advance upward.
- Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”Finally, this last verse in the passage reminds us that, in all we do, we do it in the name of our king…King Jesus. Everything we set out to do, we do for His Kingdom and His glory, giving thanks to Him each day for what He has given us.
In 2018, let us walk confidently and proudly in our citizenship status. If we have professed Christ to be our Lord and Savior and surrendered our life to His will, we can rest assured that we have a permanent place with Him in Heaven. Our life here on earth is but a moment in eternity. Thus, it is more beneficial to live on earth as we will one day live in Heaven – not only for us but for those who are still finding where they belong.