Citizenship in Heaven

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I want to talk to you about a citizenship that is much more important than being a citizen of the USA or any other country – citizenship in heaven. One day, we will all experience death. Knowing where we will spend eternity is far more important than our citizenship here on earth.

To be a citizen of the USA you have to be born here or go through a process called naturalization. To be naturalized, you have to meet certain requirements and it can be a lengthy process. Thank God, being a citizen of heaven is much easier than becoming a citizen of the USA because God did all the hard work to help us get into heaven.

None of us are born citizens of heaven because we have all sinned against God. Our sin keeps us out of heaven. All of us are sinners because we have all violated God’s laws. The Bible says that ALL have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). 

One of the requirements to become a citizen of the USA is being a person of “good moral character.” However, God’s standard for heavenly citizenship is much higher. He is perfect! Since none of us can achieve perfection, God provided a way for us to be with Him even though we fall short of His perfection. He took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. He died the death that we deserved.

What did God do for us?

  1. He sent His only Son to earth to die on the cross for our sins.
  2. He resurrected Christ from the dead to demonstrate His power over sin and death.
  3. He gives us the opportunity to live for eternity in heaven if we will accept His free offer of forgiveness.

God’s gift to us is citizenship in heaven if we will accept it. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). God does this because He loves us and does not want us to be separated from Him. Ephesians 2:4-6 says,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”

To be a U.S. citizen, you must be a lawful permanent resident, have been in the U.S. for a certain number of years, and meet other requirements such as the good moral character requirement. Thankfully, God doesn’t make it so hard. You don’t have to go to church a certain number of years to be saved.

What are the requirements to become a citizen of heaven?

According to the Bible you must:

  1. Hear the message of Jesus Christ.
  2. Believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead.
  3. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.

(See Romans 10)

You Must be Born Again

By meeting these requirements, you become what the Bible calls “born again.” Jesus said that to enter God’s kingdom we must be born again (see John 3:1-21).

Think of being born again like becoming a citizen of the USA. First, you were born here on earth in your home country. But then you moved to the USA to start a new life. When you receive your citizenship, it’s like experiencing a new birth, hopefully a new birth of freedom and opportunity in your life. Likewise, we have all been born on this earth, but to live for eternity with God in heaven we must experience a new birth, a spiritual rebirth. We must be born again spiritually.

The link between you and God is faith. When you confess Jesus as Lord of your life by faith, you will experience what it means to be born again. You are born into a new kingdom, a new home, a new country. And now you have a citizenship certificate that no one can take away, citizenship in heaven. God gives you the right to live in His house for all eternity. Just like your U.S. citizenship, which you cannot lose, no one can take away what God has given you.

You Have a New Family

The Bible says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19).

When you become a citizen of heaven, you also become a child of God. You not only gain a new country, but you gain a new family. You have been adopted into God’s family. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Next Steps:

  1. Find a Bible-believing church where you can be in fellowship with other believers and grow as a Christian.
  2. Get a Bible and begin to read and study God’s word.
  3. Be baptized to show publicly your commitment to Christ.

“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…” -Philippians 3:20-21

Breaking the Spirit of Passivity

God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion (see Genesis 1:26-28). These are not passive words; they are active words, words filled with energy, vitality and even force. People who are effective for God’s kingdom are not passive in nature. They are active in their pursuit of Christ and Christlikeness. They are intentional in following God’s plan for their lives, having great marriages, raising their children, and in seeking to demonstrate God’s love for others.

Passivity is a problem that began in the Garden of Eden, and, in my view, is sometimes a problem in the church. God specifically told Adam and Eve to rule over the fish and the birds and over everything that moves on the ground (Genesis 1:28). Shortly thereafter, Satan came to them masquerading as a creepy, crawling, crafty serpent. The first thing Adam and Eve should have thought is – God told us to take dominion over this creature.

As soon as that serpent opened its mouth with deceit, they should have spoken to the serpent with authority and told it to be quiet! Perhaps even better, they should have picked up a rock and smashed it in the head. God gave the earth to Adam and Eve and not to Satan and Satan did not belong. Instead, they were struck by the blow of sin and Jesus had to come to crush the head of Satan by the cross.

Interestingly, the Bible says that when Eve was deceived and ate of the fruit she gave some to Adam, “who was with her” (Genesis 3:6, NIV). The dude sat by and watched his wife get attacked by Satan and did nothing about it. Instead, he became a partaker in the sin. God gave them a beautiful garden to live in which certainly provided for many opportunities for relaxation and contentment. But their contentment was not to warp into lethargic living. Their inaction was actually disobedience to God’s direct command. 

There are sins of commission and omission. There are things God commands us to do and things He commands us not to do. The active commands are far more thrilling than the inactive – be fruitful, fill, multiply, subdue, take dominion. That’s sounds like a lot more fun than “don’t eat from this tree.” If they had set their minds on doing the things God had called them to do, they would not have been lured into the enemy’s trap because they would have been busy about their Father’s work.

In contrast, when Jesus walked the earth he actively lived out God’s commands by his fruitful life of love, filling others with God’s healing power, multiplying through making disciples, subduing the forces of darkness as He drove out demons, and taking dominion by advancing God’s kingdom wherever he went. Jesus was not passive. He was active about His Father’s work.

People who are effective for God’s kingdom are not passive in nature.

It is sometimes our inaction that gets us into trouble more than our actions. As the old saying goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.” What got King David into trouble is when he took time away from the battle field and in his bored solitude was lured into the temptation to commit adultery. His place was on the battle field. I believe there was actually a demonic spirit sent to lure David into a slumbering condition. The king became prey because of a passive moment in his normally otherwise fierce life (see 2 Samuel 11).

God has called each of us to be on the battle field. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Of course, there are times to rest and relax, to vacation, but we cannot let our guard down when it is time to fight. If we will not actively resist the enemy, we will be devoured by him. There’s no middle ground.

Throughout the Bible, God calls His people to advance. Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12, NKJV). We are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy. We trample snakes and scorpions and every wicked thing (see Luke 10:19). We should be an advancing church not an idle church. Yes, we will face resistance, but that is when we need to grow stronger and “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psalm 110:2, NIV).

Contentment is not passivity. Passivity is not contentment.

The time leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion is called His passion week. We don’t call it Jesus’ inaction week. Even in laying down his life in submission to his Father’s will, Jesus was not passive. He was passionate. What are you passionate about? We need to break off the spirit of passivity and begin to advance boldly and passionately for God’s kingdom. 

What I’ve Learned in My Adventure with God – Part 2

In a recent article, I shared four lessons I’ve learned as I have journeyed with the Lord. In this article I will share four more lessons learned. Let’s get started!

#5 – God Leads by His Spirit in Different Ways

I have previously shared how God led me to Texas through a dream, but not every major decision in my life has been prompted by a dream. I am grateful that God has spoken to me through dreams, but you don’t need a dream from God to be led by the Holy Spirit.

God certainly leads us through His written word, but sometimes we need more specific direction when it comes to specific decisions.

When it comes to making these decisions, God may lead us by speaking directly to our spirits through an impression or inner voice. I think this is an area where Christians sometimes struggle because we have to learn the difference between our emotions and the voice of the Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to desire to be led by the Spirit, but to be sure to test everything to ensure you are really hearing from God.

God will also speak to us through the counsel of a trusted friend or pastor who can help us confirm that we are being led by the Lord. God may also lead through circumstances, such as open or closed doors.

Entire books have been written on this subject, so I’ll not go into great detail except to say that God always leads through peace. However, it is important to note that spiritual peace is not the same as emotional peace. I have made decisions where I felt emotional turmoil yet God’s peace was evident. Emotions can be wonderful but our emotions are a part of our flesh which needs to be dedicated to God. We cannot always trust our emotions, but we can always trust God’s peace and the leading of His Spirit.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” -Romans 8:14

#6 – God’s Kingdom is of Greater Value than anything of this Earth

When I was a younger man, I had such a hunger for God’s presence in my life. I wanted God like The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (see Matthew 13:44-46). There were times I would lie on my bed just crying out to God for more of Him. I also think I had an emotional void in my life that I wanted God to fill. As the years have gone by, I believe my hunger is still there but perhaps not with the same raw and deep emotional intensity I once had. Also, I can say that God has filled the void I once felt and, although there are areas where I still lack, I am a more full and complete man than I once was.

My desire to walk with the Lord has not changed. More than ever, I want my life to count for eternity. I want to be a man that walks with God. I want my sons to see their Papa as a man who seeks the Lord. The more I journey with God, the more I see that the value of the eternal is vastly more important than anything of this world. This world and everything in it is passing away. It is but a vapor, a brief moment in time. This life matters, but eternity matters so much more.

It saddens me when I see so many people who appear to be living for only this earth with little thought for eternity. We need to have an eternal perspective and live for God by investing in His Kingdom, seeking Him more than anything this world has to offer.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

#7 – God is More Concerned with My Character than My Success

When I was younger, I wanted to do something great for God. I remember reading David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade, and being inspired by how his commitment to prayer launched him into a powerful ministry. Yet, I have often found myself in places which seem so far away from my dreams. I worked for an employer for over 13 years and often felt like I was laboring in obscurity, unnoticed and underappreciated. Then I went to law school and now I’m a state of Texas employee and not in the ministry. Though I have served the Lord and have been involved in some form of ministry much of my life, I have yet to realize my big dream.

We named our first son Joseph in part because of the personal connection I feel to Joseph’s character in the Bible. Joseph displayed impeccable character in the face of great disappointments as he labored in obscurity until the day came for God to promote him. During that time, God proved Joseph’s character and proved His word true in Joseph’s life.

God wants us to face difficulties as opportunities to grow stronger in faith, love and character. As we grow stronger, we take further steps into our destiny in the Lord. The book of your life is not fully written. God has more.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” –James 1:2-4

#8 – God Loves Me and He is Proud of Me!

My Father really loves me, yes He does! There was a time where I struggled to believe that I am loved by God. Through the fires of adversity, God has given me a greater revelation of His love and my confidence has grown.

A few years ago, I graduated law school. Law school was tough, probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I don’t think I always handled the pressure well. I often had to study and/or attend class from morning until evening, six days a week, and sometimes I had to do school work on Sundays. Leslie and I also struggled in our marriage during this time and had too much conflict.

Despite everything, during the graduation ceremony the Lord whispered to me, “You are my beloved son, I am pleased with you.” I sensed His pleasure. Leslie was sitting in the crowd and told me later that she felt God speaking the same thing to her around the same time He spoke to me. It was an affirming moment. Despite the difficulties, we had persevered in obedience to God’s call and had passed the test. I emerged from law school with a greater confidence in myself and in God. Now, I do not doubt God’s love for me. I am His son, His beloved son. My Father is proud of me!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! -I John 3:1 (NIV)

Seeking Truth

In Spanish the word for truth (verdad) and green (verde) are very similar. Like the grass and trees are green, truth is all around us because it was placed there by our Creator. Truth is not complicated if we have an honest and sincere heart to seek and know truth. The problem is people suppress truth through unrighteousness and exchange God’s truth for a lie. Our foolish hearts become darkened where we can no longer see the obvious (see Romans 1:18-25). If you really want truth, you can have it. Be a truth seeker.

Be Filled With HOPE

Faith pursues what hope sees by the Spirit. I will not be disappointed but I will receive all that God has promised for me! The word of God is not chained by our circumstances or situation. We are not a retreating church but we are an advancing church and we will triumph even in the face of defeat. Be filled with hope and keep believing, God is doing something good!

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:5