Philippians 3: Citizens of Heaven
In the third post in our Philippians mini-series, we're looking at how in Christ we have full assurance, full confidence, full belonging. We love this one! MP x
It was in September 2014, after returning from my gap year in Peru, and moving to England for the first time, that I found myself in Herefordshire with a group from the Durham Christian Union. As we stood, and sang the lyrics to the song ‘Worth It All’ by Worship Central, I somehow felt that there, in a group of almost complete strangers, in a room full of infinite unknowns, I belonged.
“I let go of all I have
Just to have all of You
Jesus, Everything I’ve lost, I have found in You.”
These lyrics are a picture of the truths in Philippians 3:7-8, that “everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ”; united in the assurance that because we are one in His flesh, we can discard all confidence in ours.
This is the assurance that I can walk into unfamiliar territory and belong, not because of who I am, but because I have found myself in Him, and have no need to find my confidence anywhere, or in anyone else.
Not me, but Christ in me.
Paul had more reasons for assurance than most of us, as we see from his list of pedigrees in verses 5-6. However, what I love about Paul, is that despite all these reasons for pride and self-righteousness, he counts each accolade as insignificant, not even worth-mentioning. Today Paul would have his own successful start-up, a 1st in his degree; be tremendously instafamous, and yet still be at every CU event possible. Regardless, all this “is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ… [therefore I counted] it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him”. (NLT v8)
The reason Paul mentions his accomplishments is not so that we may bask in his efforts or boast, but that we may learn that true righteousness, and oneness with our Father, cannot be obtained by any of these things.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.
Paul was the living example that it is ‘by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:8)
True, robust, wholesome Righteousness.
"I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness." (MSG v 10-11)
It is this wholesome righteousness that not only takes the pressure off of us, but forces us to give God total credit. Personally, this righteousness gives me complete freedom; for if God has achieved it ALL for me, and I can let go of all I have: to gain all that Christ has done, and all that God has promised.
Citizens of Highest Heaven.
While God calls us upward into ever increasing Christ-likeness, there are many tempters and temptations dragging us down to their level. Paul warns: “they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (ESV v20) It is common to hear people pridefully recounting shameful stories, but we, as Christians, no matter our shame or pride, “forget what lies behind (my past failings/my present accomplishments)” and do not stoop but “strain forward to what lies ahead”. (ESV v14)
I no longer place value in the earthly slant on success and status, rather, my status is defined completely by Christ. For our citizenship is in heaven – so let us act, Here on Earth, As in Heaven, remembering we are citizens of somewhere more.
As CS Lewis writes: If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country... I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” CS Lewis
During, and after, every daily flawed attempt at this, I will remember that it is not me, but Christ in me. Christ’s cross and God’s grace: the only way to true, robust righteousness and confidence. And with this confidence, (not in myself, but completely in Him) I will press on to Heaven. And as I submit my weak body to his upward call, “He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” (MSG v 21)
Abi has lived in 5 countries, and had the joy of calling them all home. She is also a Modern Languages student at Durham University and is currently on her year abroad in Italy. She’ll be going to the Middle East in March where she hopes to grasp some more Arabic, and learn how to cook tabbouleh and stuff vines leaves along the way (which she will most definitely take photos of).