Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heavenly Homesickness (Living as Citizens of Heaven part 3)

There was a time in the early church when the church suffered from false charges leveled by the pagan neighbors. Christianity was not accepted because it was misunderstood. In seeking to win a favorable position for Christianity, some early church leaders wrote letters addressed to key persons in the government to explain their faith. One of these letters is Mathetes' letter to a certain Diognetus.

On Christian living, Mathetes explains:

~" inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities… and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life”

~“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.”

~“ As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.”

~”They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.”

~”They have a common table, but not a common bed.”

~” They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.”

~” They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.”

In an even older letter we read: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil.3:20-21 NKJV)

When Paul first arrived at Philippi, he met people who are proud of their Roman citizenship. One day, they brought him to the magistrates and reported: “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” (Acts 16:20-21). Yet some of these proud Roman Citizens were converted to Christianity. They now live differently from others. So they are now objects of persecution (Phil. 1:28). To encourage them in the faith, Paul tells them that their true and lasting citizenship is not earthbound. Their ultimate allegiance is not to Rome or any other nation. They are citizens of heaven. Their true emperor does not live in Rome. He is in heaven. And he is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before he left, Jesus promised a dwelling place for his followers. “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3 NIV). Based on this promise of Jesus Christ, Paul gives as another tip on how to live as citizens of heaven: BE HOMESICK FOR HEAVEN.

Meron akong isang kaibigan na nagtratrabaho sa Qatar. Minsan ay tinignan ko ang kanyang shout out sa Friendster at ang nabasa ko ay: “24 days na lang”. Ako’y medyo nakatunog sapagkat ang bukambibig ng taong ito sa aming chat ay kung gaano siya nangungulila sa kanyang asawa at sa kanilang dalawang supling. Nagpadala ako ng mensahe sa kanya: “Pare, ano ba yang count down na yan? Unsempet ka la amo?”. Ito ang kanyang tugon: “Unsempet ak la ta nadederal lay ulok dya”. Sa araw-araw na pananabik sa kanyang pamilya, masisiraan daw siya ng bait kung hindi siya uuwi. Iyan ang tinatawag na HOMESICKNESS.

Sa kabilang banda, meron rin naming mga nasanay na sa ibang bansa at parang wala nang balak bumalik pa sa Pilipinas.

The danger of feeling at home here on earth is that it blinds us of our heavenly calling; when that happens, we begin to live like enemies of the cross. The preposition at the beginning of verse 20 is somehow difficult to translate. If you are using the NKJV, what you see is the word “for”. The translators of the NKJV are much more better than me; they are scholars and I am nothing. But I have to make a decision, otherwise how can I teach you if I will not not exegetical decisions. I will go with the translations that translates this word as “but”. It seems to me that in context, Paul is emphasizing the difference between the lifestyle of two parties:

the enemies of the cross vs. the citizens of heaven;

their destiny is destruction; our destiny is salvation;

their god is their belly; we worship the true God;

they glory in their shame; we repent of the things that are shameful;

their mind is on earthly things; we look towards heaven.

Paul wants us to be constantly in a state of homesickness for heaven. Why? Because those who feel at home in this world will begin to develop sensual lifestyles. They will begin to worship their belies; they will start glorifying in their shame; they will be tempted to set their minds on earthly things. We must be longing for the day when Christ returns so that we will not fall into such worthless lifestyle. Though we cannot make a countdown for we do not know when the Lord shall return, we should be glad for every day that passes, for that means we are closer to the end. We are closer to our home today than yesterday.

J. Alec Motyer comments on the Greek verb translated as “eagerly wait”: “The verb (apekdechomai) expresses concentrated eagerness and persistence of expectation. It suggests an eye detached from every other object to watch only for him… ” (The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today Series).

There are many glorious things that we are excited about:

Ptr. Robbie is excited about having a pet lion in the Millenial kingdom;

some are excited about meeting biblical characters Paul or Abraham or David

some of you would like to have a chat with key persons in church history such as Augustine, Luther and Calvin;

I in particular would like to meet old friends from highschool, college, my former church; call it a heavenly reunion.

From this text we have two particular things to be excited about.

1. The Transformation of our Bodies

Paul describes this body as lowly (v.20), but on that day, it will be like his glorious body.

1CO 15: 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

“They are devoted to the body, worshipping and making a god of its appetites. But we, quite the reverse, look for its transformation” (J. Alec Motyer. The Message of Philippians, BST)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?" (NIV)

Where o cancer is you power?

Where o diabetes is your sting?

You’re such a loser leukemia!

Same to you heart disease & liver disease; hypertension; and tuberculosis.

My Lord is victorious over you.

Rev. 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (NIV)

Here on earth, doctors, nurses and other health workers are always busy because of the number of patients they have to attend to. But there will come a time when we will not need hospitals, clinics or health centers in heaven for no one will be sick there. Christian doctors, nurses and health workers will still be busy, but not with patients, but with gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.

There will be no more pains; all forms: financial difficulties, emotional wounds; bitter memories and shame, they will all be erased. It is the fulfillment of the promised glorification:

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day”

It is God’s testimony before all men that out faith was not in vain: 1 Cor. 15:19 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

2. The Subjecting of all things under God

V. 21: according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself

1 Cor. 15:24-26 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death

There will no more rebels against God; all nations, all kings, emperors, all politicians, all the world’s great shall bow down before the lordship of Christ. Even Satan himself will be rendered powerless. Every knee shall bow before him but it will be too late for them. They shall bow their knees in hell.

God’s Desired Effect in our lives

1. It must be a catalyst for holy living (1 John 3:2-3 But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.)

1 Thess. 5:4-6: But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (NIV)

2. It should be a motivation for Christian service- Paul’s conclusion in discussing the doctrine of resurrection

1 cor. 15:58- Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

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