Citizens of Heaven
Open Your Bible
Philippians 3:17-4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12, Romans 16:17-20
BY Debbie Eaton
It is early in the morning as I sit on my back patio breathing in the cool air, sipping my coffee with my journal and Bible in hand. The light of day has taken over the dark of night. My view to the west takes in the expanse of the blue cloudless sky, majestic mountains rising up and a slight glimpse of the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
The expanse overwhelms me, and it is as though heaven and earth are connected in that moment. I know this life on earth is temporary and heaven is eternal, yet the struggle of living in the gap confounds me.
Paul knew this struggle well. It’s what drove him to write to the church of Philippi with passion, urging them to join him in recognizing and waiting expectantly for the eternal in the midst of the temporal. This was not written in arrogance but with humility. In Paul’s day, people didn’t have a Bible in hand to reference and cross-reference to the character of Christ. They needed an example to follow.
In humility, Paul pleaded with the Philippians to imitate his own relentless pursuit to mirror Christ. Moved to tears over the deception and dangers of false teaching, he warned them to be wise in their choices and steadfast in their conviction (Philippians 3:18). How could Paul presume to be a model for other believers to follow? Because he himself only aspired to know Christ and follow Him (Philippians 3:10-12).
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “imitate” as an act, “to do the same thing as someone; to copy.” Our world today gives us no shortage of examples to follow—from magazines and movies, television and social media, to celebrities, athletes, and politicians. Our potential influences are endless. We must be aware that these examples can easily promote a divided heart, drawing us into the desires and deceptions of earthly things, as Paul warned (Philippians 3:19). Temporary things cannot bring long-term contentment (Matthew 6:19-21).
When instead we imitate the ways of Jesus, we are transformed more and more into His likeness. As the Word of Life takes deep root into our minds, hearts, and souls, we are able to live as aliens in this temporal land. We are empowered to stand firm in the pain and mess of life with compassion and love, joyful and expectant of Christ’s return. Instead of merely surviving, we as believers have the joy and privilege of illuminating the character and values of Christ to a world that desperately needs to know Him. By the grace of Christ in us, we become someone to imitate—someone who points others to the hope of the gospel.
In the blink of an eye, our existence on earth will be gone and the expanse of blue sky will give way to the eternal. The earthly things will vaporize, “but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). And while we wait for Him, we rejoice in being His ambassadors here on earth—those who live even now under the rule of the one true KIng. Our citizenship is now, not just later!
So, along with Paul, I say to you, dear sisters, you who “are dearly loved and longed for, in this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends” (Philippians 4:1).