Sometimes to have you stare tragedy in the face, grieve and reflect. In the past two weeks, I’ve had the blessing of doing that twice. On April 26, EFC’s mens’ ministry took a trip to New York City where we visited the 9/11 Memorial. It’s a sobering place: almost 3,000 people died on a tiny plot of land in Lower Manhattan. Then, this past Tuesday, I traveled through Boston for a meeting. On my way home, I felt compelled to visit Copley Square, the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. There is a make-shift memorial set up with flowers, running shoes, stuffed animals, cards, and pictures of the victims. Many signs read “Boston Strong,” and “Pray for Boston.” People were holding one another and weeping. I stood there dazed as tears welled up in my eyes.
Some of you may be thinking “Wow that’s morbid!” Well on Tuesday night in Boston, Ecclesiastes 7:2 echoed in my soul: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”
Brothers and sisters: we are not going to be here forever. And that’s why it’s appropriate to focus more attention onto eternity: the never-ending life that follows this one.
Now I confess that talking about eternity causes me some trepidation. One of the biggest criticisms of Christianity is that it is an escapist religion for non-thinking people who wish for pie in the sky. In response I quote C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity: “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.”
The Apostle Paul says that Christians are citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Heaven is our home country.
Our struggle as Christians is that we are citizens of a land we have never been to. We haven’t been to heaven and yet WE ARE citizens of Heaven. And so we tend to focus our time, energy and resources on the things of earth, because we live here, we know what its like. But we are only traveling through. This is not our home. So then, HOW then do we embrace and live out our heavenly citizenship on earth?
The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1—2 where he says “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” He says because Christians are citizens of Heaven we fasten our minds onto Heaven.
Even though Christians have never been to Heaven, we are citizens of Heaven because Col. 2:20 says “we died with Christ” and Col. 3:1 says we “have been raised with Christ.” That means Christians are united to Christ in his death and his resurrection. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we participated in his death and resurrection. We spiritually died and rose from the dead. Consequently, the Apostle Paul says in Eph. 1:14 that God has put the Holy Spirit inside of Christians as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.
That means that even though we have not been to Heaven, a small piece of Heaven resides inside of us. The Holy Spirit inside us is a sign demonstrating we belong to Heaven while also guaranteeing our access into Heaven. He is our passport to Heaven!
Now, let’s get practical. Theologian Curtis Vaughan says “Genuine Christians will see everything against the backdrop of eternity.” For example, think on your work. At your office, you are a citizen of Heaven. Ultimately, you don’t work to make money so you can buy a better phone, or TV or car. As a citizen of Heaven, you work for Jesus Christ by helping build his Heavenly kingdom. Therefore do your job with excellence and integrity: follow the rules, work hard, and serve your co-workers and bosses in sacrificial love. Be creative and make beautiful things. If you don’t create a tangible product, create a beautiful environment by being joyful. Bring flowers or fresh baked cookies to work. Your workplace should be a better and more beautiful place because you are there!