Colossians 1: 9-14
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
This week we have been thinking about Heaven. Today I want to ask:
HOW DOES HEAVEN AFFECT OUR LIVES TODAY?
Northern Ireland is one of those few places in the world where you can have a dual citizenship. You can have both a British passport and an Irish passport. In the same way the Bible says that when you become a Christian you have dual citizenship. You take on a new identity, a new citizenship. As wee as being a British or Irish citizen, you also become a Kingdom Citizen, a citizen of Heaven.
Col 1:13 says: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves...”
Satan’s Kingdom is the Kingdom of Darkness which has a hold on this world. Adam and Eve were given authority by God over this earth but when they sinned they handed that authority over to Satan. That is why there is so much pain and suffering and hurt and heartache and addiction and abuse – because this world is under the dominion of another kingdom, the kingdom of Darkness.
But Jesus has stormed this Kingdom when he died and rose again and has rescued us from this Kingdom of darkness. He has snatched us out and brought us into a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Our identity has changed, our citizenship has transferred from one Kingdom to another.
Phil 3:20 says: “But our citizenship is in heaven.”
Philippi, where Paul wrote this to, was a city just north of Greece, but was a Roman colony. Even though the people who lived there weren’t in Rome they acted like Romans, they dressed like Romans, they spoke Latin, they used Roman coins, they had Roman customs and laws. Even though Rome was hundreds of miles away, Philippi became like a miniature Rome. And the people there considered it a great privilege to have Roman citizenship, to be identified with such a great city.
This is the imagery Paul uses when he tells the Christians that their citizenship is in Heaven.
We may live here on earth, we may be some distance from Heaven, but if we are Christians we are citizens of Heaven, we belong to another Kingdom, we adopt the lifestyle of heaven, we use the language of heaven, we live with the purity of heaven, our first loyalty is to heaven.
A number of years ago I became friends with the man who was at that time the American Consul to Northern Ireland, kind of like an American Ambassador. The thing about this man, and ambassadors in general, is this: They may not live in their home country, but everywhere they go they represent their home country.
I was at his house in Belfast for a BBQ and as soon as you drove up the driveway there was a big American flag. There were American security people. There was American food and music. It felt like you were in South Carolina, not South Belfast. Except for the weather.
He had come over here to a foreign country and turned it into a little bit of America. And everywhere he went, he carried himself with great poise and respect and impeccable behaviour, because he knew he wasn’t just representing himself, he was representing his country. He fully engaged in life in Northern Ireland, he lived here for 5 years, but he knew that this wasn’t his real home. It was just a temporary stay.
You might live on this earth for 100 years, but if you’re a Christian the reality is that this isn’t your real home, your real home is Heaven, you are a citizen of another Kingdom, you are an ambassador for Christ, and you are to live in such a way as to make every place you go a bit more like your real home, Heaven. You’re not just living for yourself or representing yourself, you are representing God and His Kingdom. And just as America was shown to Northern Ireland through my friend, we are to be a people who show Heaven to Northern Ireland through our own lives.
We have a firm hope in the midst of death, pain, suffering and sickness – this is not all that there is – God has more – so much MORE. So be faithful, persevere, and await with eager expectation the glory and joy and wholeness of Heaven.