What Does It Mean To Be Citizens Of Heaven While Still Here On Earth?

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

IDEA: How we regard ourselves will have a great deal to do with the way we live and what we value.

PURPOSE: To help listeners reflect on what it means practically to be “strangers and aliens” in the world.

John Wesley observed, “The problem of problems is getting Christianity into the life.”

Would you agree? What makes it so difficult?

I. There is an attitude that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews commends based on the example of Abraham and his sons.

Hebrews 11:13-16 points out that Abraham and Sarah and those with them chose to be “aliens and strangers.” How do we know that?

They lived in tents because they were looking for a city with foundations that God designed and structured. Could they have settled down and settled in? Lot did in Sodom.

They could have gone back home where they wouldn’t be aliens or strangers, but they did not. Could they have gone back?

We choose our attitudes based on what we believe to be truth.

II. Having the attitude of expectant faith and therefore thinking of ourselves as aliens and strangers isn’t easy to maintain.

It was difficult for the young church. In the early second century in Rome an anonymous writer of The Shepherd of Hermas found it necessary to shame Christians in his time who apparently no longer thought of the city of God with longing: “You know that you who are the servants of God, are dwellers in a foreign land, for your city is far from this city (Rome). If then you recognize the city, in which you shall dwell, why do you prepare here fields and expensive displays and buildings and dwellings, which are superfluous. The person who prepares these things for this city does not intend to go to his own City.”

How do we live in our own countries as sojourners and yet bear our share of our responsibility as citizens?

Another second-century writer, Diognetus, wrote of a large number of Christians for whom “every foreign country is a homeland to them, and every homeland is foreign . . . Their existence is on earth but their citizenship is in heaven.”

What might that look like in the Christian community today?