Text: Hebrews 13:1-16
We are in a climate in our country were allegiances are daily challenged. Even the idea of tolerance, to live next door peaceably with someone who differs from me, we are confronted with the question,”Whose side are you on?”
As Christians we have become citizens of a new country, with a new king. Scripture says we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to kingdom of light. We have new identity, new loves, new family, new values, and new allegiances.
That’s because we are joined to King Jesus. He is now our “affiliation.” We are clothed in Christ. We now identify with his blood and his righteousness. He is our Priest, our Prophet, and our King. All my privileges and rights are rooted in gospel freedoms.
Allowing verse 14 to anchor us, there are three encouragements from this text for us to apply today:
1. Our Heavenly Citizenship is Superior
Scripture always connects these reminders to believers – that we are temporary residents awaiting our true home with God, where all things will be made right. So we will endure, we will remain faithful, and we will keep our priorities in check.
When the boat we are on is rocking and feels we are going to go under, this truth stabilizes our hearts. We are told that creation will decay. Its groaning under sins plight, and the sons and daughter of God are waiting for redemption.
So when our country feels upended, and being torn apart, we remember this city is not a lasting one to begin with. We have hope, not despair. Peace, not fear.
One way God stabilizes us is to remind us of our citizenship by means of Jesus’ church. Though we cannot fully see our heavenly citizenship now, God gives us a glimpse marked by our connection to His church. Our citizenship is now expressed in our membership in God’s church.
So Christian, our primary and superior affiliation that will matter in the end is that we are connected to Christ. We are His citizens. We are living out now briefly what we will one day do eternally in His presence.
2. Our Earthly Citizenship is Shaped by our Heavenly One
Verses 1-8 deal with ethics, behaviors, and ways we should live as dual citizens:
Let brotherly love continue (v. 1). Our call to faithfully love one another in God’s community, and all our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world. Practicing hospitality (v. 2). Caring for those in prison, those who are mistreated or abandoned (v. 3). We could include now those who are elderly, infirmed, who could be neglected and overlooked. Holding to sexual purity inside and outside of marriage covenant (v. 4). Dealing with money and contentment (vv. 5-6).
Although we are far from perfect, because of the gospel Christians can be honest with our sins and failings, and live in such a way that there is a marked difference from what is acceptable or celebrated in the world around us.
But behavioral works or rule keeping will not bring life to my soul or anyone else. Out of loving obedience, flowing from a transformed heart by God’s grace, the power of Jesus’ cleansing blood in me – this is where I find forgiveness in my sin, and grace to obey.
3. Our Dual Citizenship will Require both Risk and Suffering
We don’t have to be crucified – Jesus did that for us. But we will be subject to scorn and rejection. Our association with Jesus now defines for us what is acceptable, what is good and right, what is just and true. He speaks to sexuality, and business, and being a loving neighbor, and using holy speech.
This will require being disgraced by a world that does not know or love Jesus. Joining Jesus will mean we must stand with convictional positions rooted in scripture, and are contrary to the world.
This is a call to die to self. It will require risk, to go “outside” the camp, beyond what seems safe and comfortable. We go and follow Jesus to do hard things.
Citizens of Heaven, let us look to our Savior, our True King and Leader. Let us remember Jesus is not a Democrat nor a Republican. He didn’t die on the cross for American democracy. He died to redeem a blood washed people to dwell eternally with Him in glory. American values will not hold us. The founding fathers don’t hold us. Christ holds us.
And His path that we follow as disciples of Jesus leads outside the camp…where things go to die. Where cross-bearing happens. Where grace comes in to humble us, to change us.
Focusing on our heavenly citizenship keeps our eyes fixed on Jesus, the perfect King and Ruler. He will one day will bring down to earth and establish his everlasting kingdom. Here and now, we have no lasting city. So let us seek that eternal City to come.