When you became a Christian, you took on a new citizenship. You no longer belong to this world. Your citizenship in now in the kingdom of heaven. Comparing non-Christians and Christians of his day, the apostle Paul commented, “Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:19-20). Being a citizen of heaven means a change in values and priorities—a change from the world’s systems and standards to those of your new king. It means a change in rules. You now live by God’s Word, not by the principles of the world.
No one sneaks across the border or bribes their way into citizenship in heaven. It is a free gift with many privileges and opportunities, and yet, once you’re in, important responsibilities come with being a citizen of heaven. Make sure you count the cost!
Jesus is a perfect example of someone who lived as a citizen of heaven while in this world. He was not of this world (John 8:23; 17:14, 16), and he reminded his disciples that neither were they (15:19). Neither the religious leaders, the disciples, nor Pilate understood Jesus’ true citizenship even though the kingdom of heaven was one of his favorite subjects to talk about. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. … My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).
You are called to live in this world and yet not be a citizen of it. Pastor, speaker, and writer Warren Wiersbe said, “Our sphere of life is not this earth, but heaven; and the things that attract us and excite us belong to heaven, not to earth.”8 You are called to live like Abraham, who “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).
Take a moment now to consider these tough questions, and perhaps discuss them with your small group:
- Do you live in this world like a foreigner or a native?
- Are you living your life in “tents,” not putting down roots because you know this is not your home, or are you settled in?
- Are you living in comfort here or in hope for your future home?
Part of living as a citizen of heaven is surrendering your own desires so you can carry out the will of the King. But how do you know his will? The answer is clear, even if it is not easy: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). When you surrender the things the world offers, no longer conforming to its ways, and when you allow your mind to be changed into a new way of thinking—a kingdom mindset—then God shows you his will for your life.
Try this today. Use Romans 12:2 as an acid test for every decision you make, everything you do, whatever enters your mind, every emotion that you feel. Does your decision, thought, emotion or action cause you to conform to the world’s ways or be transformed to God’s ways? This will take full attention and strict discipline, but it will help you know and understand God’s will.
What specific changes do you need to make to live as a citizen of heaven? Take time to reflect on each of the Bible passages in the table on the next page. What do you still need to surrender, and what are your new responsibilities?
One more thing in regard to your new citizenship. The King—the one who has made you a citizen of his kingdom—has given you a significant role. While you are here in this world, he wants you to represent him as his ambassador. He has given you the message about this kingdom, and he wants you to tell everyone you know about it (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). And—take note—this is not optional if you are a citizen of heaven. I’ll discuss this more in Chapter 4.
If you are surrendering your will, you’re off to a good start! That decision inexplicably leads to the next one, to surrender your assignment.
-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group