We’re in the middle of a 6-part blog series entitled “How to Live as Citizens of Another Kingdom”. You can find parts 1-3 near the bottom of our webpage at www.fbcpowell.org.
The first three parts of the series laid the biblical foundations for the remaining parts. The last 3-parts are more specifically to answer “how do we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God?” They are about the role we play, the attitudes we express, and the behaviors we’re to demonstrate to the world around us. As Christians, we’re commanded to live obediently as Kingdom citizens (John 14:15). To accomplish that, we must first understand the nature of the kingdom we’re part of.
Our understanding begins with identifying “what” or, rather“who” the Kingdom of God is. In Luke 17:20, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. That’s a fair question since they were looking for a physical kingdom. However, Jesus’ reply stunned them. He said, “You’re looking for the wrong thing. The Kingdom of God is already here. You’re looking at Him!
Luke 17:21 – 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
The Pharisees were looking for the Messiah to conquer and restore Israel as a physical kingdom that would never again be defeated or overthrown. But that’s not the nature of the Kingdom of God Jesus brought to us in our present age. There will be a physical kingdom after Jesus returns to rule the earth for 1,000-years (Rev 20:1-6), followed by a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21). Those are physical kingdoms that Jesus went to prepare and promised will come. However, until Jesus returns, the nature of the current Kingdom of God is a spiritual realm centered on a person, Himself. People enter and become citizens of this kingdom when they confess their sins, turn from them, and trust in Christ alone for our salvation. From that moment on, believers are found “in Christ” receiving all the rights and benefits of our newfound citizenry.
Ephesians 1:3 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Phil 3:20-21 – 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Hence, our present citizenship is inside a spiritual kingdom as we await the physical kingdom that is to come. And yet, we are full partakers of all the rights and benefits that are provided by our Lord and King, Jesus Christ, even now… even while we are also citizens of the earthly nation in which we were born, or we currently reside.
We all live somewhere. If you’re reading this blog, you are most likely living in the United States, most likely one of its citizens, and most likely able to vote. Some might look at this paradigm as the Christian has dual citizenship, one in the Kingdom of God and one in our residing nation, which is true. And yet, dual citizenship unavoidably leads to a question every follower of Jesus must answer – to which kingdom will I prioritize my allegiance? Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt 6:24). That’s not just an allegiant statement, it’s also a practical one. Every person possesses limited time and effort. Either we’re putting in the time and effort to demonstrate our allegiance to American interests or Kingdom interests. So, which are you going to prioritize?
The biblical solution to the answer is simple – which of the two kingdoms is greater? The Kingdom of God or the nation you live in? Which king is greater? Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Vladmir Putin, Xi Jinping, or Jesus Christ? From cover to cover, the Word of God says that Jesus is superior and eternal (Phil 2:9-11). Only Jesus is worthy to demand our entire allegiance, and he even commands it (Luke 9:23).
Some Christians, especially since the November election, desire to elevate their allegiance to earthly citizenship. They try to convince me that my duty as an American is to become immersed in the issues, exercise my right to vote, and to stand and fight when our freedoms are threatened. I agree with them!… to a point. I do vote. I am aware of national issues and can reasonably speak to them. I do push back when freedom is threatened, but my time and effort is limited. I love my country, but I will not nationalize my faith or my Christianity. That’s not where I’ve been mandated or where I choose to put my time and effort. My priority is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching people how to enter and live in the Kingdom of God. It’s all I have the time and strength for.
I firmly believe that the fate of every nation (including ours) is God’s right and responsibility, and he exercises that right freely, to suit His purposes, no matter what that nation’s citizens want or think. Certainly, our right to vote matters. However, so does the vote of others, and the majority wins. But even then, God is still the One who ultimately decides as He applies or withdraws His Spirit to influence voters. No election can truly be stolen under the sovereignty of God. He does what He wills.
Job 12:23 – 23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
So, how then are we to live in a country as a citizen of another kingdom? We live the way God’s people did in the Bible. We live as Abraham did in the land ruled by Abimelech (Gen 20). Abraham was a foreigner who lived peacefully with the ungodly as he was led by the Lord. We live as Daniel, who had been captured and enslaved as a teenager, carried off to Babylon to serve in the courts of King Nebuchadnezzar. He served with uncompromised character and integrity. Even though later in his life, Daniel had the chance to return to Israel, he remained where he was in service to pagan empires, but really in service to the Most-High God. We live as Paul did, as a citizen of Rome and Israel, and yet his concern for either was the furthest from his mind. His only goal was to bring people into the Kingdom of God, where an oppressive Roman empire only served to accelerate the growth of the church.
Most of all, we live as Jesus did, who although the overthrow of harsh Roman rule, and the restoration of Israel, was foremost on everyone’s mind (Pharisees, disciples, etc), it was those governments who killed Him. In modern day, people like to throw around Jesus as a political football, to justify their arguments for or against social justice or tyranny/freedom, when Jesus’ only concern was paying for the sins of the world that brought salvation and citizenship in His kingdom to those who believe in Him.
John 3:17 – 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Living as citizens of another kingdom doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility regarding the nation of our residence. We’ll talk specifically about that next week. But we first need to establish the nature of living as a Christian and citizen of the Kingdom of God. We need to maintain the right perspective and priorities that the Lord commands and is explicitly prescribed in His Word. Only then can we rightly and effectively influence the world around us in a way that honors the Most-High God.