Do you express more allegiance to your earthly country than to your eternal home? Using the book of Philippians, Nathan Wagnon asks four key questions that are helpful in identifying what citizens of heaven look like.
La Casa de Nuestro Padre (Bilingüe)
Church At Home
Citizens of Heaven
Love Your Neighbor
Three Things That Never Change
Making Room for Kids | Luke 18:15-17
Oh, But God
Oh, But God
Evening with the Elders
Do you express more allegiance to your earthly country than to your eternal home? Using the book of Philippians, Nathan Wagnon asks four key questions that are helpful in identifying what citizens of heaven look like.
Well, good morning, Watermark! How is everybody doing? Nice. Hey, happy fourth of July! God, baseball, and apple pie. 'Murica! There you go. I walked in here. This dude over here is rocking the red, white, and blue over here. That's what I'm talking about. I walked in. I was like, "Whoa!" I didn't know if I should shake his hand or salute, you know?
My name is Nathan, and this is a totally one-off message. So if you think that we're going to start a new series and you're going to have to listen to me all the time, you don't have to. It's all good. It's just today, okay? So it's all good. As we were talking about doing this message, some people were like, "Hey, you really ought to let people know more about you and stuff."
I've been up here a couple of times. I was like, "Yeah. All right. Great." My name is Nathan. I serve on the Equipping team. This is my family, right here. We are… Yeah, there you go. Cue the, "Aww." You can clap if you want, yeah. I'm clapping. It's awesome. So that was literally just two days ago. We were at a Fourth of July celebration. That's Nate and Miles and Jules, and then my wife Margaret is pregnant with our fourth, a little girl, baby Joy.
Yeah, come on. There's actually a crazy story about that you could ask us sometime. I'm willing to tell it. I just don't have time to today. Jesus actually named our daughter, so I'll just drop that there and leave it. You're like, "What the heck? Who am I listening to right now?" I'm not Jesus. I promise you.
So today is a one-off. When they asked me to do this, I looked at them and I was like, "Hey, are you guys asking me to do this because I'm like the token military guy around here?" They're like, "No…yeah." I was like, "Okay. That's fine." Here's just a little bit more about my story. I did serve in the military. I was in the army for about six years. I deployed twice to Afghanistan. Yeah. It's my pleasure.
Here are some pictures of that. This is me as a little butter bar lieutenant running patrols in Afghanistan. When you do that, you drink a lot of chai with a lot of village elders and leaders. So one of the things that I learned, though, about being in the army is one, I was a lot skinnier. Every time I look at that I'm like, "Dang. All right. I have work to do." It's all good.
Also in my time in Afghanistan, you have a very keen sense that you're the foreigner. I knew when I was running… Oh, look at that kid. I love that kid. We were actually… This is a quick story. So there are two different types of patrols: generally, dismounted and mounted. Dismounted just means you're on your feet. Mounted means you're in what they call an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected.)
Anyway, it basically looks like a big truck or a tank. Although all the army guys are going, "What are you talking about?" Anyway, we would drive around in these trucks, but we would go to these villages and meet these people. That kid… Throw that picture back up there. Because we walked into this village, and that kid was totally… I was like, "Dude, you're totally going to be the president of Afghanistan someday."
I mean, try to put yourself in their shoes. If some other country had their army in your backyard and came into your house constantly, how would that make you feel? Probably not great, right? But this kid… I walk into this compound and this kid is there, and he has that smile on his face. I was like, "Hang on, dude. This is a photo op." So I'm shaking his hand.
As I was doing that, it was very clear to me that I was the foreigner. Not only was I a foreigner, but there was a weight of responsibility on me as a citizen of the United States to be a good ambassador for our country in a foreign land, in a land that, frankly, did not want us to be there. I mean, if you pay attention to the news, you know.
There is a lot of chaos going on in Afghanistan right now. In fact, in between services a girl who was here (in Texas and at Watermark) for the very first time from Afghanistan was like, "You talked about my country." So pray for them because the church in Afghanistan has a really unique opportunity right now to bear witness.
As we talk about this, that weight of citizenship of like, "Hey, I am representing an entire nation to this other country where I'm a foreigner in their land." I started thinking about that for this morning, "What does it look like for us to be ambassadors for Christ in so-called enemy occupied territory, in territory where the Enemy of our souls, the Satan, the Adversary, the Accuser is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy?"
He is in a dominant position right now. (Right now. Not always.) Yet in the midst of that, there is this people, this church of Christ that was born that is bearing witness of a deeper citizenship, one that is citizenship in the kingdom of God and not in any of the kingdoms of the world. A lot of times you'll hear the words kingdom of God, and you're like, "Hey, what does that mean?"
You hear that thrown around. Jesus uses it a lot. He'll use kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. What does that mean? The simplest answer to that is just the entire world is God's creation, all of it, the entire cosmos, the universe. If there are multiple universes, those too, all of them. So all of it is God's, and yet there are places all over the world where what God wants to be done is not done. That's enemy occupied territory.
The kingdom of God is when, in that enemy occupied territory, when what God wants to be done is done: kingdom of God. Do you see what I'm saying? Now the entire Bible is about Jesus coming to liberate us so that we could be ambassadors for the kingdom so that kingdom of God people, ambassadors, citizens of the kingdom of heaven, start popping up all over the world.
Then one of these days, the whole thing is the kingdom of God. It's awesome. Today though, when we're talking about living in the kingdom of God or living in the kingdom of this world, I'm reminded of Paul. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, and that was a privilege for him. It actually saved his bacon a couple of times, right? People were after him. They were trying to kill him.
He was like, "Hey, by the way, I was born a Roman citizen." They were like, "Oh." Everything stops, right? They treat him with a lot of respect because it carries weight. Who you represent, the privileges that you have, the values you have, and what kind of laws you submit to, all of those things carry weight. Frankly, they carried probably more weight back then than they do now.
What I want to do this morning is I want to take us through this letter that Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, which is a Roman city in a Greek world. It was a Roman city that had an early church that Paul actually planted with Silas. This was when the whole earthquake happened and demons were getting cast out. That's where they met Lydia.
Later on, about 12 years later, Paul is a Roman citizen in a Roman jail in Rome. So he is not in a dominant position at all, like not even a little bit. He is chained either to a Roman soldier or to the wall. Yet he is writing this letter to the church at Philippi. A dominant theme… In fact, citizenship shows up a little bit in the New Testament, not a lot, but it shows up twice in Philippians.
So this is something that is driving what Paul is communicating to the church in Philippi. So what I want to do this morning is I want to walk us through the entire letter to the Philippians, all right? Now some of you all are sitting there going, "Oh dadgum! What did I just get myself into? We're going to be here until three o'clock!"
No, it's all good. I'm going to move quickly. What I'm going to do is I'm going to ask us some diagnostic questions that are going to assess for us, "Hey, what does my life look like? Does it look like I'm more concerned about the kingdoms of this world and being a citizen in good standing in that regard or does my life reflect a deeper reality of the kingdom of God and being a citizen in regard to the kingship of Jesus?"
So what I want to do is ask four diagnostic questions. There are four chapters in Philippians, so we're going to do diagnostic question number one in chapter one, then two, then three, then four. We'll draw some conclusions and we'll go eat some barbeque and sing the national anthem and all that kind of awesome stuff. All right?
You put something in it and you press it, and then lemon juice comes out. I like water, but water is always better with lemon in it. Can I get an amen? All right, that's what I'm talking about. So whatever. I was going to chase a rabbit there, but I don't have time. All right. So when you're pressed, what spills out of you?
One of the things that you're going to feel as we go through this content is you're going to feel like, "Oh, what spills out of me, or the answer to this question, is not the right one in my life. The reality in my life is not what it should be." You're going to feel the temptation to go, "Oh, I need to do something better. I need to work harder or try harder."
One of the things you're going to see as we walk through this is that Paul makes it really clear all the way through this letter that the power that somebody needs in order to bring about the change to live fully into their citizenship as a citizen of heaven does not come from you. When you feel that temptation of, "The reality of my life doesn't match up with what it's supposed to be. I need to try harder." Stop! You can't! It's impossible. What you can do is submit to the one who will allow you to do everything through him who gives you strength.
So when pressed, what spills out of you? Well, Paul recognizes and lived into this reality that he is like, "Hey, I want you to know, brothers, that what's happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." So here you have a dude who is pressed, right? He is in jail. He is chained and what spills out of him when he is pressed is, "Dude, the gospel is totally spreading! This is awesome!" Right?
That's not a normal response. I mean, he has a lot of good reasons to not respond that way, yet something has happened inside of him that has created and formed him in such a way that when he was pressed, what spilled out of him was thankfulness that the gospel is moving forward regardless of his circumstance.
Verse 14. Other people are being strengthened. They're encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly. So much so that Paul says, "Hey, it actually doesn't matter what my situation is. As long as Christ is proclaimed, I'm good." So, like verse 18, literally, "But what does it matter?" Whether people are trying to hurt me or trying to encourage me, the focus is not me.
It is on what my life is supposed to reflect, and that is a life that's yielded to the Holy Spirit who is producing in me a kingdom of Godness that is spilling and leaking out over on to other people. You become a blessing to everybody who you run across because of the reality of this deeper kingdom. Look at verse 27 in chapter 1. "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves…"
That's actually one of the citizenship words in Philippians. It's the verbal form. It literally means… If I was going to translate this, "Whatever happens, be a citizen, live as a citizen…" "…in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." That's your identity. As we'll see here in a minute, if you have been taken hold of by Christ, you are a citizen of heaven. So live into it.
"Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, [contending as one man] for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God."
So he is literally going, "Hey, one of the signs of the Spirit's work is that when opposition hits you, when you get pressed, you're able to stand firm." You don't cower away. You don't freak out. If you know anything about me, if you're around me for five minutes, there are multiple rules in our family. The top rule in the Wagnon household… Does anybody know it? Don't freak out.
Every other rule subsequent to rule number one is follow rule number one. Just don't freak out. It's okay. There literally is no reason to freak out about anything, especially when you're being pressed by opposition. If you recognize your citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, there is no reason to respond with anything but trust and peace and the fact that he has you. He is not out of control.
He actually says in verse 29, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but [to get pressed] for him…" It is a grace to you. That's literally the word, charis, grace. It's a grace to you that you're pressed for Christ. So the diagnostic question is, "When you're pressed, what comes out of you?"
I think if the answer is anything less than a living into the kingdom of God and a grateful attitude, then there is a deficiency there between who you actually are and what is functionally happening in your life. Now that's totally okay because the last thing you need to do is walk out of here and be like, "Man, I totally have to work a lot harder to be a good citizen of the kingdom of God." Right? Because like I said to start off with, you can't!
What you can do is just talk to Jesus about it. Be like, "Hey Lord, when I'm pressed, other John comes out. I can't do anything about that, but you can. Will you help me?" That's a good prayer. We should all pray that, like all day long. I mean, honestly, if the community of believers at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, got really, really good and was formed really deeply in this prayer, "Lord, I can't do anything about that! Will you please help me?" just put your seatbelts on and watch what happens. Because it's not about you. It's not about me. It's about Jesus. When we get out of his way, just watch. It's epic.
That means in your sphere of influence, you exercise power. The question is, what does it look like? Well in chapter 2, verse 3, it looks like this. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility [consider] others [better than] yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
When you exercise power, does the power that you exercise look like vain conceit or selfish ambition, or does it look like humility and deferring to the needs and the desires of other people around you? It's a good question. In case we needed an object lesson, and evidently we do, the ultimate exercise of power in the history of the universe looked like this.
In Philippians chapter 2, verses 6 through 11: "…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death…"
Even the shameful death of being nailed naked to a stake of wood. That kind of death. "…even death on a cross!" You're like, "Dude, that doesn't sound like power. That sounds like that dude just had a really bad day." The answer to that is, "Well, keep reading!" "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…"
That's like total cosmos, everybody. If you can think of it, it's them. "…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." You're like, "Man, that's like an upside down kind of power. You're humiliated and die naked on a stake of wood. How is that power?" The answer is, that's the way! That's the way of the cross.
That's what actual power, like the kind of power that ultimately every single knee in all the kingdoms of the world will bow to. That's what that power is. It's humble. It's self-sacrificial. Look, if that seems upside down to you, I think you might want to consider the fact that you might be upside down. That's the way that's right side up.
Power is expressed as we yield to the Spirit's work in our lives. Verses 12 and 13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…" Right, and here's the kicker. "…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."
As we yield to the Spirit's life, to God's work in our lives, then what's going to happen is he is going to, like he did with Paul, make us into the type of citizen of heaven who will be a good ambassador for him, who will exercise power in a way that brings the kingdom of God here on the earth like Jesus prayed it would.
Do you guys ever notice this about the Lord's Prayer? You know I always say this. I mean, I remember I played football, right? It's like the Friday night or Saturday, whenever we were playing, when everybody took a knee, most of the time that was how people prayed, once a week. They prayed the same thing. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…"
The whole time, people are thinking, "Man, when they kickoff, I'm going to nail that dude." It's like, "No actually, the Lord's Prayer is a lot more significant than a locker room pick-me-up before you go play a game. Jesus prayed, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…" Where? "…on earth as it is in heaven."
I think what Paul is showing us through his example in teaching the Philippians is the exercising of that type of power of the kingdom of God on the earth comes through self-sacrifice. It's not destructive. It's super attractive. Now if you're hearing this, and you're like, "Man, how do you do that? That's not real in my life."
I was challenged by a guy named Dallas Willard, who wrote this. He said, "…Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one's enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do. For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser just as it was for Christ. True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would."
That's the kind of transformation I'm talking about. What does it look like when your knee-jerk reaction or your exercise of power is not to dominate people but is to serve them? That's the thing that immediately comes out of you. What does that look like? You're like, "Man, I have no idea." What I would say is that's okay. Just talk to Jesus about it. "Lord, help me. It's difficult for me to respond or to exercise power the way that you would. Would you help me?" That's a really good prayer. You should pray that.
Now a lot of times we see this word flesh, which in Greek is sarx. A lot of times people will look at that and go, "Ah, that's like totally bad." I want to redeem the flesh here just for a minute. The flesh in the biblical conception is not always totally bad. The flesh equals just your natural human abilities. It's a lot more physical than we think it is. It's just your human body and the abilities that God has given to you. That's it. That's what flesh means.
Now if you put confidence in your flesh, what's going to spill out of your natural human abilities apart from God is not good. But what Paul has come to realize, and what he'll end up saying in Galatians 2, is when you're yielded to and in a dependent posture on the power of the Holy Spirit then what he can say is, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live…" What? "…in the flesh…" In my body. "…I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." That's Galatians 2:20.
So we don't trust or we're not motivated by our own ability. We are motivated, or should be motivated, by the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Now Paul does this really interesting thing here. He has this flesh list, but it's a nice thing. He is like, "Hey, I was a super religious guy. I was a Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, the tribe of Benjamin. I was flawless."
Everybody was like, "Dude, that's an awesome resume." He's like, "Yeah, but when you know Jesus, it's crap. Literally." "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing…" Gnōsis, a relational intimacy with. "…Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage…" Skybalon. The nice way to translate skybalon is just crap. It's crap in view of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
When you're united with the Messiah, then what ends up happening, what you're motivated by is this clear vision of the kingdom of God that's ultimately brought about by the resurrection of Jesus. When you're united with Christ, you share with him in the power of his resurrection. You're made new. You have a new identity, a new name, a new mission, new values, new laws. Not the law that restricts you, but the law that sets you free. The Spirit of God indwells you and you live free.
Verse 16 in chapter 3: "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Isn't that a cool line? That's a cool line, right? Hey, Jesus has already grabbed you. You're his. So live like it. You have been set free, so live free. When you think about this, C.S. Lewis has this great paragraph in The Grand Miracle, which is on the incarnation of Jesus.
"Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe."
Paul had such a clear vision of what is that he lived into the reality of what will be. So even though he was subject to Rome and chained to a wall or to a Roman guard, he is chained up, but in his mind, he was like, "Yeah, but that doesn't matter. I'm able to live now because of what I see, not because of all the laws I follow or because of these transactional things I make with God, but because of what is real now. I see it. So I'm going to live into it even though I'm chained to a wall." That's what motivated him.
He's like, "Hey dude, trust me. Trust me." Verses 6 and 7, which some of you may have memorized. I would encourage you to. I've quoted this a lot as a guy who struggles with anxiety throughout my life. I always used to think of where it says, "Do not be anxious about anything…" When I'm anxious, I'm like, "Well that doesn't help anything."
I'm like, "Don't be anxious. Ah! I'm more anxious now! Not only was I anxious, now I'm anxious about the fact that I can't stop being anxious. It's not helpful." Except that's not what it's talking about. It's saying that while anxiety may be present, there's actually no need for it because the Lord is near. If you bring your supplication with thanksgiving to God, then the peace of God, which surpasses your ability to understand it, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
That's who God is. He later says, "And the God of peace will be with you." He is with you. So to trust in anything else other than the reality of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit inside of us that brings us back and unites us to God, why would you trust in anything else? He even says in chapter 4, verse 19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
We don't trust in our circumstances. They're going to come and go. There are going to be good days. There are going to be bad days. What the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us as citizens of heaven is the type of reality that, regardless of what the circumstance is, we remain steady, our eyes fixed on Messiah Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, so that we also, with Paul, can say, "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me."
Let's go back to chapter 3 really quickly, and I'm going to tie it up. I skipped a major part on purpose. The centrality of the Christ event: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the historical event of Jesus's physical bodily resurrection. I just want to double tap on this so you guys are tracking with me.
Because the reality is as Christians we believe, if you're orthodox Christian, which just means you hold to the orthodox faith that's been passed down from the apostles… If you're orthodox, then you believe that there was a dude a couple of thousand years ago who lived in Palestine who was just a Jewish rabbi. That guy was nailed naked to a stake of wood, and he died on that piece of wood, like not just dead, but dead dead dead. A couple of days later, he was not dead.
Let that sit on you for a moment. That's the central claim of Christianity. There was a dead guy who is no longer dead. That's the power of the resurrection. That's the thing that will take us who are dead inside and bring us back from the dead. He is renewing all of creation. Paul does this stark contrast between what happens when our temporal vision can just see the kingdom right in front of us versus having a broader vision of the deeper reality of the kingdom of God that is present and alive and active now.
He says, "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…" Not good. It's, "…destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on [kingdoms of] earthly things. But…" That's a big but right there.
"…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." That's resurrection. The making of all things new so that, as Revelation, chapter 11, verse 15 says, one of these days all of the kingdoms of the earth: Spain and the Great Britain and all of the countries in Africa and the Middle East and China and Canada (even Canada) and the United States and all the ones in South America.
Every single kingdom of this earth that you can think of will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. Forever! So salute the flag. Go eat barbeque. Sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" and whatever else, but don't for one second ever think that your allegiance to the United States of America should ever trump (pun intended) your allegiance to King Jesus.
So we should do a self-audit, right? When you're pressed, what spills out of you? Is it fear and anxiety and control? You're like, "It's definitely fear and anxiety and control." What my answer to that is, "Hey, it's okay. Just talk to Jesus about it. You can't change yourself. Don't even try. Talk to Jesus about it. He'll change you."
How do you exercise power that God has entrusted to you? Do you jockey for a position, seek influence, manipulate? Do you dominate through your strength? Or do you serve? Do you give preference for others? Do you humble yourself and lead through weakness? If you're the former, it's okay. Just talk to Jesus about it. You can't change yourself. He'll help you. That's what he does.
He literally was like, "Hey dude, I have to go away because I'm going to send a helper, and he is going to help you. It's the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you and loves you." What motivates you to do what you do? Is money, achievement, social or religious status, marital status, whether you have kids or not or is it the beauty of Christ? Is it the advancement of the kingdom of heaven? Is it the prize, the call of the upper prize of God in Christ Jesus that everything will be made new?
Look, if the answers in your mind to these questions reflect somebody who is a little bit too concerned with citizenship in the kingdoms of the world, it's okay. Just don't stay there. Talk to Jesus about it. When you see that stuff spill out or you realize that's a motivation or you're living or you're exercising power in a certain way and you recognize it through the grace and the love of God, then just acknowledge it and go, "Yeah, I can't deal with this. Jesus, help me."
What will happen over time is you'll go, "Oh, I think there's a little more peace there. Oh, I think I'm responding in a way that my knee-jerk reaction in that was not to dominate or to get frustrated, but to love. Whoa! I didn't do that." As we yield to the Holy Spirit, then he is taking hold of us in increasing ways.
He has already taken hold of us by Christ, and now he is bringing about this transformation in our interior life so that we will live fully into the kingdom of God as citizens and ambassadors for him. But just know if you give Jesus an inch, he is going to take the whole thing. There's no compromise to this. He loves you too much. Like David said, he loves you too much to let you stay where you are.
In case we've forgotten, the kingdom of God is not a republic. It's not a democratic government, and Jesus is not an elected official. Jesus is the King. What he says, goes. In case you think that's some dictatorial thing, just look at the cross. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death. Why? Because he loves you.
So whatever that thing is that you're holding on to is like this dirty penny. Jesus is like, "Hey dude, give me your dirty penny." You're like, "No, I love my dirty penny." He's like, "No seriously, you really should give me your dirty penny." You're like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, "My precious." Right? It's like, "No seriously, give me your dirty penny." You're finally like, "Okay, dadgumit, it hurts too bad."
What he does is he takes the entire Federal Reserve… It used to be at Fort Knox. I don't know where it is now. He takes the entire Federal Reserve, and just goes, "Here you go. Boom!" Like Paul's statement in Philippians 3 when he says, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." That's not a lament. He is not sorry about this. That's a joyful exaltation of the glory and the grace of God.
"Whatever things were gain to me; I count them as crap because I have found something that is so infinitely greater. It's the kingdom of God." Jesus has elected and chosen and pursued and saved me so that I can live as a citizen in it. As I do that, I come to life more and more and more. Sometimes people talk about the cost of discipleship. "Count the cost. It's going to be hard."
I always remind them, I'm like, "Hey, maybe we should flip that. That's a good idea. We should flip that. Let's flip it." From now on when people are like, "It's so hard to follow Jesus." Just remind them. Tweak it a little bit. Be like, "What does it cost you not to follow Jesus? What does that cost you? Let's focus on that."
Willard said, "Non-discipleship cost you abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it cost exactly that abundance of life that Jesus said he came to bring. The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation…" It sets you free. "…and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul…"
Guys, your citizenship matters, and there's a deeper reality. There's a deeper kingdom here. Just like Paul was a Roman citizen and he enjoyed the privileges of that, Rome eventually enslaved him. They put him in prison. Do you know what? Rome eventually killed him. So look, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, if you think your status as a good citizen of the United States as a Christian is going to always be like this, I have news for you. It's not.
It may be later down the road as you're older or maybe your kids. I don't know, but the domination of the world is never friendly to Christ. It will cost you, but that's okay. What does it matter? We live in a deeper kingdom. We're citizens of a deeper King. So we risk. You risk being cancelled by cancel culture. You risk losing social status, economic deals. You may even risk your physical freedom. You may even risk your life.
As Paul said in another letter, these momentary light afflictions are far outweighed by the glory that is to come. So for me and my house, we will live a resurrected life, yielded in a posture of dependence on King Jesus to trust him as we seek to be ambassadors in this world, a city on a hill, and a light of the world.
Hey look, as one of you, as a human being and a United States citizen and also as a combat veteran who served this country, I'm telling you. There is a better kingdom. Whatever is great about the United States is a mere shadow of the kingdom of God. My encouragement to all of us is let the Spirit make you a citizen worthy of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. Through union with the Messiah, exercise power the way Jesus did.
Allow your motivations to be driven by the love of the God and the power of the resurrection. Trust only in the one who ultimately can meet all of your needs. This is not an exhortation to go do more. It's an exhortation to yield and an invitation to come to the one who will make all things new.
Heavenly Father, I pray that as we celebrate the birth of our nation that we would never forget that you have given us all of these blessings that we enjoy, and that they can also be taken away. I pray that in the midst of this you would give us strength, vision, clarity to see what you see, to live as you lived, and to love as you love. Help us, Lord, as ambassadors in a foreign land to represent you in a way that brings honor to you and life to others. In Jesus' name, amen.