During this election season, it just so happens that our study of partnership in the Gospel takes us right to the passage that talks about the idea of citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20). As one Greek New Testament dictionary defines it this way: “our home is in heaven and here on earth, we are a colony of heavenly citizens.” Does it mean, the ‘commonwealth’ of heaven just checks out and takes on a passive-aggressive posture on earth until we actually get there? Paul answers that quite clearly. Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus belongs to heaven and has already received this inheritance (“Christ has made me his own”), but we also “press on to make it our own.” In fact the image is one of an athlete overextending themselves to obtain the prize: “forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” In fact it’s more like we are slugging through 18 innings of Game 3 of the World Series to win 2-1 (to eventually win the entire thing). The only difference to the reality of the 2018 World Series, in Paul’s idea of ‘Game 3’, we already know that we’ve won the World Series. But the slugging through still needs to take place. This is the paradox of this heavenly citizenship. Earlier in the epistle (Philippians 2:15) Paul addresses that too. He says to us as “citizens of heaven” that we “shine like lights in the world” and strongly reminds us of the words of Jesus: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:15). We reflect the radiance of heaven on earth because we are citizens of heaven.
What does it mean to radiate this light of heaven on earth? We lead lives on earth as people of the Cross (I’m tempted to say the ‘party of the Cross’): emptying ourselves, humbling ourselves so that we might serve others (following in the footsteps of Jesus, Phil. 2:5-8 and of Paul, Phil 3:17) blameless, innocent, and without blemish (Phil 2:15). It means that before any political affiliation we might have, we remind ourselves that God always is on the side of holiness (see Joshua 5:13-15). We remind ourselves the Gospel is always about God reconciling sinners (aka opponents or enemies) to himself, rather than scoring political points.
Reflections for the week:
This year we as a leadership team are reading this little book, Evangelism by Mack Stiles (available at the TCC office) which plainly says that evangelism cannot be reduced to programs but is something that happens in the context of personal relationships. Maybe it’s time to invite your neighbor to church! Or if church is a step too far for them, have an initial conversation about the Gospel over a cup of coffee, invite them to your LIFE group, Mom-to-Mom or into your home for a meal. Let’s be the party of the cross in our neighborhoods. Let’s also take the side of holiness in our personal lives and in the way we conduct our professional and personal lives, knowing that God himself who is “at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).