Special Report: Heavenly Civics
Vol: 48 Issue: 30 Friday, September 30, 2005
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
Paul’s admonition ‘not to think more highly of himself than he ought’ is one of those double-edged truths. A Christian need always be mindful his salvation was wrought by trusting in the completed Work accomplished at the Cross and not by one’s own merits.
But Paul’s admonition also means that we ought not to think LESS of ourselves than we ought. While we are utterly undeserving of the honor accorded us, we are still members of the Body of Christ, loved, cherished, and above all, forgiven our sins.
To continue to punish ourselves and wallow in our guilt is to deny the finished Work of Christ. Our obligation as soldiers in the Lord is, when wounded, to trust Him to bandage those wounds, pick up our weapon (which is the Word of God) and soldier on to victory.
Illegal immigration is fast becoming a global threat; consequently, citizenship is something we attach great value to. Citizenship is usually attained in one of several ways; it can be ‘inherited’ through one’s parents. It can be granted (or excluded) by membership in a particular group.
In the United States, citizenship is automatically conveyed at birth and is irrevocable, although certain rights and liberties can be revoked by conviction of certain crimes.
Citizenship, particularly in the United States, is a ‘pearl of great price’, something that people the world over would willingly exchange everything they own to obtain.
We see the value attached to citizenship in the case of John Walker Lindh, nicknamed, “Taliban Johnny.” Taliban Johnny was taken on the battlefield in combat against US forces as a member of the Taliban in the Afghan war, in a gunbattle that cost the life of a US CIA agent.
‘Taliban Johnny’ was singled out from the rest of the al-Qaeda captives, given immediate medical attention, afforded all the legal rights of a US citizen under the legal system, afforded the best lawyers money can buy, and is currently serving time in a relatively plus US prison.
Compare his plight to that of the average ‘Taliban Johnny’ now languishing for an indeterminate period, not to exceed his natural life, in a cage at Guantanamo Bay and the value of citizenship becomes even more valuable.
A Saudi terrorist who was born while his parents were visiting the US was also afforded all the rights given Taliban Johnny, although he returned to Saudi Arabia as an infant and subsequently took up arms against the United States.
They were treated differently, not because they behaved any differently than any of the detainees sent to foreign prisons where local jurisdictions could ‘interrogate’ them according to their somewhat less humane standards.
Under the American legal system, they had sinned the ‘unpardonable sin’ of taking up arms against the United States. Foreign nationals who commit the same sin are targeted with either death or capture.
‘Capture’ — however humanely it is seen from America’s perspective, is often a fate worse than death. It can mean a lifetime of dehumanizing captivity. But not for John Walker Lindh. He’ll be out in twenty years, less time off for good behavior.
Why? Because John Walker Lindh, traitor and killer of his own countrymen, is a citizen of the United States.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 3:20)
The word translated as ‘conversations’ in the KJV is translated from the word “politeuma” which is the root word for the English word ‘politic . It means, ‘community’ or ‘citizenship’.
At the moment when we are saved, that is, at that moment when we trust our lives and our eternity to Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead us, we become citizens of heaven. But the Bible notes that we are dual citizens; we are no longer ‘of’ the world, but we are ‘in’ it, and it is that dual citizenship that is our spiritual undoing.
Paul discussed the dual nature of the flesh and the spirit at great length in Romans 7, lamenting that they good that he wanted to do, he found he could not, but that which he hated, (that is, sin) was what he found himself doing instead. He cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Paul both answers his own question and summarizes the situation as it exists for all men, from the Apostle Paul to you and me.
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25)
When Paul was discussing how we ought to see ourselves, he appended a thought that eludes many Christians; saying “to think soberly, according as God HATH DEALT to every man the measure of faith.”
Each of us is different. We came to the Cross individually, each with his own measures of sin and guilt to leave there. Some had more to leave behind that others; many murderers laid the blood of their victims at the foot of the Cross and had their guilt washed away.
Others had lesser crimes, less guilt, but whatever they laid at His feet was washed clean and they were granted heavenly citizenship. Paul tells us that each of us ought not to think more highly — or, by extrapolation, less highly, of ourselves than we ought. That is why the Bible’s story is so compelling; it is the story of man, warts and all.
The great heroes of the Bible; Abraham, David, Solomon, Noah, Lot, Sampson; these were all men of faith who were also sinners. They saw themselves for what they were. David admitted his sin was against God, that God was justified in condemning him, but reminded God of his condition:
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” But he trusts God: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalms 51:5-6)
None of us really measure up to what we think we should be as Christians, although we think we know lots of other people who do. Each of us is sustained, “ACCORDING AS GOD HATH DEALT TO EVERY MAN THE MEASURE OF FAITH.”
“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9)
We are what God made us. Get over it. The truth is, we are each a work in progress, as each old sin falls away. Some sins fall away easier than others, some others we may well take to our graves rather than give them up.
But whatever we may think of ourselves, our citizenship is in heaven, and it is our heavenly patriotic duty to continue to do battle for the Lord and trust to Him for the healing.
As David reminds us, God desires truth in the ‘inward parts’ and, consequently, in that hidden part, He will make us to know wisdom. Heavenly civics says we are already citizens of heaven, but because of our dual citizenship, from our limited earthly perspective, it is an ongoing process; one begun, sustained and completed entirely according to the work of Christ.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
Trust Jesus! Pick up your sword and shield and get back into the battle. Maranatha!