This is the second week of a new series we are calling, “righteousness from God.” By righteous we mean we are in right relationship with God. It is a human quality but it takes on a divine presence when we allow God to make us righteous. We commonly think of it as being moral, being right in all that constitutes a moral persona. To be righteous we are right, we have right conduct which is pleasing to God. It can been seen as a state where you can be judged favorably by Jesus. If you are righteous you will receive a good judgement in the end, Jesus even refers to the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14)
God is a God who will do everything possible to make us righteous. We should also note our cooperation is required. We can’t be righteous if we do not accept it from God. God wants us righteous so we can be ever with God so now is the time to decide is we will accept righteousness from God, or not.
Last week we looked at righteousness from the perspective of the Word being near. The Word of course is the Word of God, which we see sometimes as scripture and we also know as Christ himself. Jesus is the living Word and his message becomes the living word. Through him we come to know the word, which is dear and knowing the word brings us near the Word. The old covenant readies us to know how significant God’s word is and can be, it leads us to be ready for God.
This week our readings push us to recognize we are citizens in heaven. Like citizens anywhere, to be a citizen of heaven comes with certain rights and responsibilities. We have the right to be treated equally, with freedom and trustworthiness. Also, we are responsible for living up to our citizenship by representing heaven well, encouraging others to immigrate (become citizens of heaven) and to be united with every other citizen of heaven. As we claim our citizenship in heaven how we live will ready us more and more to receive God’s grace of righteousness from God.As we claim our citizenship in heaven how we live will ready us more and more to receive God's grace of righteousness from God. Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Second Sunday of Lent; Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalms 27:1,7-8,8-9,13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1 and Luke 9:28b-36. The readings guide us this week to recognize that we are citizens of heaven and have certain rights and responsibilities, both of witch will improve who we are and encourage others to join.
In the verses from Genesis we read about the covenant God made with Abram (who he’ll rename Abraham.) In this era a covenant was agreed upon by splitting animal carcasses and placing them on two sides. Those making covenant, walk down the center of the split carcasses as a sign indicating they should become like these dead carcasses if they should ever break their promise, covenant. God passes through the carcasses to affirm the covenant with Abraham. God promises Abraham’s descendants would have a great land, that would be known as the Promised Land. Beyond covenant the reading contains the first time someone is referred to as righteous. Abraham’s greatest need is righteousness and it is our greatest need in the world today. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, we need righteousness from God to make up for our weaknesses. God demands we have perfect righteousness or we will not become receive eternal life. Abraham became righteous because he believed the Lord. Righteousness is put on account, imputed, to Abraham and us because of trust in God. Abraham stands righteous and forgiven before a holy God. Abraham proved his faith through his obedience to God; in the doing, not a promise of doing, not a prayer about doing, but in unconditionally following God’s requests. He becomes known as the Father of Faith, he believes and is credited with righteousness by God. Through God’s grace of righteousness Abraham, and us, become citizens of heaven.Through God's grace of righteousness Abraham, and us, become citizens of heaven. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from Philippians Paul compares those who are against Christ and those whom he is addressing who are for Christ. Those against Christ appear to be a community of people faithful to God but don’t believe in the Messiah and so are conducting themselves as enemies of Christ. The audience of the letter hear Paul calling them citizens of heaven. They are from the world but they are also from heaven, because they have come to be followers of Christ. It is like they are walking around with a passport which shows citizenship in heaven. They are associated with the Messiah, they worship their emperor who is the Lord and Savior. As citizens of heaven they are to act Christlike, to imitate Paul. They are members of the church, they live as a colony of heaven. They await a visit from the Savior Christ. As citizens of heaven, followers of Christ they will have their lowly bodies become conformed with Christ glorified body. A body that is not dead and then alive again, it is a body which is like a seed planted and from the ground grows a new glorious plant, they have a new glorious body. They will still be who they are but unrecognizable, they are transformed to the body of Christ glory. We are citizens of heaven as well. As citizens of heaven we pledge our allegiance to a Christ, we receive the benefits of being from heaven, we live with the pride of our citizenship, and we must live with the responsibility of representing the place of our citizenship and its ruler, Christ.As citizens of heaven we pledge our allegiance to a Christ, we receive the benefits of being from heaven, we live with the pride of our citizenship, and we must live with the responsibility of representing the place of our citizenship… Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from Luke we read the story of the Transfiguration, a word that means a change in appearance that comes from within, from it we get the English word metamorphosis. It is an event where Jesus gets public approval and encouragement from his Father. It occurs as Jesus is about to make his final trip to Jerusalem. It is a foreshadowing of what is to happen to Jesus in Jerusalem, after his death and resurrection. The apostles see a glorified Jesus which will happen fully after Jesus surrenders all he is to do the will of the Father. In time they will remember Jesus told them he would have to suffer before he could enter into glory. It is also an image of the spiritual transfiguration we can experience each day as we walk in the footsteps of our Lord. As we surrender ourselves to the Lord we are transformed from within so we are not conformed to this world but remain citizens of heaven. For us it is not called transfiguration but sanctification, the process by which we become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Father’s goal for all of his children.As we surrender ourselves to the Lord we are transformed from within so we are not conformed to this world but remain citizens of heaven. Click To Tweet
As we have recognized in these three readings, we are reminded that we are citizens of heaven. Those of us who have been baptized or claim Jesus as Master and Lord, are citizens of heaven, we stand out from everyone else. We must be imitators of Paul, more Christlike and transformed from within. But in all this we require action from God, so we must pray, worship and be in community. It takes grace to move toward righteousness and it requires perfect righteousness to attain life eternal. So for our part we must know who we are and whose we are, remaining connected, each day. This connection (as Jesus tells us; “I am the the vine, you are the branches.“ (John 15:5) puts us in a space where sanctification is possible. Being connected makes being an image of a citizen of heaven and accepting the grace of righteousness from God is readily available. It is our connection to our citizenship that allows us to go deeper each day, to become more Christlike in our life and changed to who we are to become.Those of us who have been baptized or claim Jesus as Master and Lord, are citizens of heaven, we stand out from everyone else. Click To Tweet
Citizen of heaven
It is known that a Roman citizen could go anywhere on the face of the earth free of any fear or molestation. Of course, the Roman Empire at the time ruled what was believed to be the entire know world and so this is a statement about walking in the Roman Empire or near its external borders. Within its borders and surrounding mileage where the reach of Rome was possible, Roman citizens were afforded a wide berth of courtesy and consideration.
We see an example from Paul, who was arrested and was about to be interrogated while being scourged. Paul asks a simple questions of the centurion; “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and has not been tired?“ (Acts 22:25) This changed everything, the centurion spoke to his commander who asked Paul if he was a Roman Citizen and when he was told yes everyone backed off. In fact, there was a certain fear from those who were going to interrogate Paul because they realized that he was a bound Roman citizen. Paul then was brought before the Sanhedrin for a hearing. Roman Law forbade under severe penalty the beating of a Roman Citizen. Paul had other privileges because of his citizenship in Rome.
The Roman Empire took so serious the meaning of citizenship that in the Roman Empire a citizen of Rome was safe everywhere. This came about because Rome would retaliate brutally if just one of its citizens where harmed. This became well known and so there was great freedom and safety in being a Roman citizen. Rome believed in crushing their enemy totally, and with such a reputation no one dared to cross them in any manner.
Rome would mobilize its entire army, all of its politicians, and leaders for just one citizen. How much more would God do for just one citizen of heaven. As citizens of heaven we should never fear or worry about ever being left unsupported, defended, or alone. God watches over every citizen of heaven and provides full support and courage as needed. God of course wants everyone to be a citizen of heaven so it is unlikely he will crush an enemy, but all citizens will be safe.
As Paul wrote to become a citizen of heaven we do so by becoming a follower of Christ. We recognize Christ as our Lord and we do all we can to support and promote the cause of Christ. We first do it my living a life that allows others to see Christ in us. We begin with love, which points between God and others. We love God by loving others showing our love for God. We do for the least, helping those who need help, feeding the hungry, visiting the ill or imprisoned, clothing the naked, all things Jesus tells us by doing, we do for Him.
As citizens we also trust Christ. We don’t try to control things or fix outcomes to our result, rather we trust that Jesus will do what is right in every situation. In our work life, our home life, our family life, we trust Jesus to guide and obtain the best results for all. Church people can become control freaks as we say. They need to have specific results and do everything to make those result occur even if they are not the best result for all. Citizens trust the Lord.As citizens we also trust Christ. We don’t try to control things or fix outcomes to our result, rather we trust that Jesus will do what is right in every situation. Click To Tweet
We also say citizens can come from the church, but the church may not be completely filled with citizens. Church can start strong in faith and the ideal of Christ. However with time churches can become more legalistic. Church people look around and decide who is in or out of the church. Some will feel welcome in the culture of the church an others may not. Church people tend to like people like them around the church. If you are different it is not comfortable and so you may not feel welcome. Those who judges others may not be citizens of heaven and it stands to reason some members of church are not citizens of heaven. There are others who are not of the church who do live as citizens of heaven. We depends on the judgement of Jesus for our citizenship, not the judgement of others. Citizens of heaven are open to accept others, help others, and become a brother or sister to all God’s children. In Jesus even sinners can be citizens of heaven if they seek forgiveness.Citizens of heaven are open to accept others, help others, and become a brother or sister to all God’s children. In Jesus even sinners can be citizens of heaven if they seek forgiveness. Click To Tweet
Finally citizens of heaven act likes citizens. They are proud of their citizenship. They want people to know where they are from. They wear their citizenship on their sleeve, almost as a lapel pin, when people see them they know that Christ is their Lord. It shouldn’t require an actual pin or sacramental jewelry but we should be recognized as citizens by our or actions. Citizens of heaven have humility, they want to make other citizens of heaven, in general their life is lived for others. Putting others first leads to certain suffering but a citizen of heaven is glad to do it so that others may have life.
We may be from the earth, but we must live as citizens of heaven, because in reality heaven and being with God is our true home. As citizens we have rights and responsibilities, we should live as if we are in heaven on earth and bring heaven to all who meet us. As a citizen of heaven we are assured that we have nothing to fear and we will never be alone.We may be from the earth, but we must live as citizens of heaven, because in reality heaven and being with God is our true home. Click To Tweet
Righteousness from God
The path to righteousness is a path to citizenship in heaven. We can behave a certain way to be a citizen of heaven, but it requires grace to be perfectly righteous in the eyes of God. To receive righteousness from God we must honor our citizenship in heaven. We must accept the hopefulness of God. We are someone that God points to and says to others be you can be a citizen of heaven too For God we are model citizens who model life so others may see.
We must act in reality to be citizens of heaven and receive perfect righteousness from God; we should stay close to others, brothers and sisters in Jesus and encourage one another. Know Christ and be Christlike. It requires spending time with God, quietly or in worship. Being with God communicates a message of who we are and who God is to us. Be present with God, and you will become familiar with your homeland.Being with God communicates a message of who we are and who God is to us. Be present with God, and you will become familiar with your homeland. Click To Tweet