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" the Christian's Citizenship "

    "For many conduct themselves, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and who glory in their shame; who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Php3:18-20)
Our Salvation destination is "reserved in Heaven" (1Pt1:4) But in our present state in these bodies of corruption (1Co15:50) we cannot go there, because we "don't see Him yet" (1Pt1:8), nor have been "changed" (1Co15:51) to "become like Him" (1Jn3:2), but He is bringing it with Him "at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1Pt1:13); the Resurrection and Rapture. (1Th4:14-17) But Jesus is presently in Heaven...
    "Christ...who has gone into Heaven...is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (1Pt3:22)
And so, while on this earth, the world has what it calls "allegiances": "I pledge allegiance to the flag of..." It has national anthems: "O Canada...", "O say can you see...", "God save the queen", "My country 'tis of thee..."

At the Olympic games it is interesting to watch the Gold Medal winners, whose national anthem is played. People from different countries behave differently towards their flag and anthem. Some stand there, seemingly oblivious, but in quiet respect. Those from the USA often behave disgracefully, not facing the flag nor singing, but instead look around, waving, waving the flowers; not showing respect for their country, but glorying in their own pride. On the other hand, when Canada won Gold in hockey, the entire arena was on their feet, loudly singing the Canadian anthem.

Around the time the Lord laid this topic on my heart, a customer called to order some banners, one of which was for the "Sons of the American Revolution". Initially, I am thinking: Oh, good! a "patriotic" theme. I used to fly the flag in front of my house on national holidays. I have a little flag sticker on the back window of the truck, and next to the door of the business. As a couple of faxes were sent to me, and conversations were had, the banner came to include the SAR seal logo. A Maltese cross, with rays of the 'sun' emanating from it, and an eagle at the top. (In American symbology it might be an eagle, or sometimes equally an ancient Egyptian mythological phoenix) During the course of the project I also surfed the SAR website, looking at graphics, which included images of Freemasonry and other paganism; some -very- pagan underpinnings to this nation! (As the subscribers already know, I ended up not working with the logo; did the banner without it)

When an American veteran is awarded a medal for valor or injuries, what are those medals? Inverted pentagrams, Maltese crosses, and other symbols of paganism.

So, as Believers into Jesus Christ, to whom is our loyalty? To what is our allegiance? God commanded regarding idols (which is what pagan symbols are):

    "you shall not bow down to them nor serve them" (Ex20:5)
And as Jesus was on trial...
    "Jesus answered [Pilate], My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (Jn18:36)
On the other hand, both Peter and Paul give exhortations to the Church:
    "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man because of the Lord; whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. ...Fear God. Honor the king. (1Pt2:13-14,17)

    "Let every soul be subject to the higher authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are ordained by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will receive judgment on themselves... Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor." (Rom13:1-2,7)

When Naaman came to Israel to be healed of his leprosy, he is Saved. But presents his dilemma before Elisha...
    "So Naaman said...your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but unto Jehovah. Yet in this thing may Jehovah pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to bow down there, and he supports himself on my hand, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon; when I bow down in the house of Rimmon, may Jehovah please pardon your servant in this thing. And he said to him, Go in peace..." (2Ki5:17-19a)
Is this not a dichotomy. A contradiction.

Peter also encouraged...

    "Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though something unheard of was happening to you" (1Pt4:12)
As many Believers died at the hands of Nero and others, who tried to force Christians to bow to -them-, the emperor, AS GOD.

When the early Church leaders were on trial before the pagan leaders of Judaism for preaching Jesus Christ and the Resurrection (Ac4:2), they said...

    "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Ac5:29)
And as the opening verse says, we are talking about -CONDUCT-. As citizens of Heaven...
    "Do you not know that your BODIES ARE MEMBERS OF CHRIST? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Let it not be! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body? For the two, He says, shall become one flesh. BUT HE WHO IS JOINED TO THE LORD IS ONE SPIRIT." (1Co6:15-17)
Last month we talked about being "Church Members"; members of the body of Christ. Jesus is in Heaven, with the Father. Through the Holy Spirit we already presently have direct access to the Father, through Jesus Christ. (Rom8:26, Heb4:16) But our bodies and souls (flesh and blood 1Co15:50) are still stuck on this earth, where our feet sometimes get dirty. (Jn13:10, 1Jn1:8) And if anybody has ever walked along a dusty path, or driven a vehicle on a dirt road, you know how it is -impossible- to reach the destination and not have dust on one's feet, or on the vehicle where the dust is kicked up, swirls around, and clings. Even if the vehicle has been specifically washed and waxed, it arrives ALL DUST-COVERED.

How do we resolve the dichotomy? Fear God... Honor the king. Jesus said...

    "And do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who has power to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Mt10:28)
God's #1 Law is...
    "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Ex20:3)
Right now the devil has been given authority over the kingdoms of the world. He said so to Jesus, and Jesus did not refute it. (Lk4:5-6)

But Jesus has been given...

    "all authority...in Heaven and on earth" (Mt28:18)
But even though having authority, Jesus paid the tax. (Mt17:24-27) Even though having legions of angels at His disposal, He submitted to Pilate's judgment seat. He submitted to the judgment of the apostatized Jewish rulers. Jesus lived amongst pagan symbols, since Rome was the occupying authority of the day. But what Jesus made a whip and overturned the money tables about was the thievery and merchandising going on in the Temple, God's House. (Mt21:12-13)

Thus, a Christian would not purchase a Toyota for the purpose of deliberately -speeding-: Oh, sorry officer, the throttle got stuck! Liar! We obey the laws in America that say: Pay your taxes by April 15. If we find ourselves before the traffic court judge, we submit respectfully to "Your Honor".

Our behavior is also -above- the Law... that is to say, of Higher Standards. As earthly citizens, people sleep around with people not their mates, and get away with it; society condones it. But we (speaking to True Believers,here) are "one" with the Body of Christ. The only sleeping we should be doing is with one's own spouse, or alone. We are citizens of a Higher Place; of Heaven. We should behave like it.

People of the world horde up money, and contrive schemes to aquire riches and fame. That is the way of the world. Just as "not all Israel is Israel" (Rom9:6b); not all the [c]hurch is the [C]hurch of Jesus Christ. As the opening verse says, they might be -called- "church", but they are "enemies of the cross of Christ".

No... God's enemies do not always gnash their teeth, like those who lunged upon Stephen to drag him out to stone him. Many of them are all-smiles and ooze luuuuuuv. Some of the most oozy luuuuv I've experienced was in the presence of some of the worst cults. Just as satan and his ministers appear to be "righteous" (2Co11:14-15); his ministers also imitate that which Jesus said characterizes the Believer: Love. (Jn13:35) Some of the worst persecution I have experienced over the years was at the hands of those who continually quoted Jn13:35; who mantracized "grace, grace, graaaeeeesssss" They are tolerant of all beliefs, except the Believer who resolves to stand firm upon God's Word, and tries to maintain a holy life, away from the filth of the world and the apostasy that calls itself (falsely) "church", while accusing the Believer of 'hate'. But while they falsely accuse us of "hostility", notice that Paul was distraught over them, even to "weeping".

Heavenly Citizenship does not include the "walls come down" apostasy. In fact, as strange as this may sound, the True Believer can have a -closer- 'relationship' with the civic authorities of the world, than with the apostate so-called church. Until the end when he was beheaded by a Roman sword, where did Paul's persecution come from? Rome? They were the ones saying amongst themselves, "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or bonds" (Ac26:31) It was the unbelieving -JEWS- (Ac14:2) who continually stirred up persecution, stoning, floggings, etc. If you will, the Jewish '[c]hurch'. Just as Jesus promised...

    "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you -because- THEY DO NOT KNOW THE FATHER NOR ME. But these things I have told you, that WHEN THE TIME COMES, YOU MAY REMEMBER THAT I TOLD YOU OF THEM." (Jn16:2-4)
We are called upon to give due honor to the authorities, and obey the laws. But in no uncertain terms the Believer is commanded to "turn away from" those of the 'church' who go "contrary to the doctrine" (Rom16:17) We are stuck, presently, in the world; so we cannot help -but- have certain 'fellowship' (dealings) with people of the world. (1Co5:9-10) But Paul makes the specific point that our separation is from the "so-called brother...not even to eat with such a person" (vs11) In other words, our separation from the -pretend- [c]hristian is to be even more austere than our holiness in relationship to the unregenerate pagan world.

Why? Because our citizenship is in Heaven. Theirs is not. They are liars. (Jn8:44) Being pretenders, and not real, they are enemies of the cross, they are our enemies. We are NOT supposed to tear down walls to fellowship with them. There is no "unity in diversity". Their 'diversity' away from Christ makes them our enemy. There is NO UNITY with God's enemies. Harsh! ...you say? For such a stance they accuse us of "hostility". Here's what David said...

    "Do I not hate them, O Jehovah, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies." (Ps139:21-22)
Was David speaking of the Philistines? Most of David's enemies were FELLOW-ISRAELIS, who also partook in the tabernacle sacrifices and rituals; Saul and Saul's Israeli soldiers.
    "For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it. It is not one who hates me who magnified himself against me, or I would hide myself from him; but it is you, a man my equal, my friend and acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng." (Ps55:12-14)
Remember: "Not all those of Israel are Israel" (Rom9:6b)

And so, what about secular governments and their pagan symbols? As citizens of Heaven, what is our earthly citizenship? As we "render to Caesar" (Mk12:17), Caesar says, "Serve in my army" does the Believer obey? Insofar as it is -secularly- possible. Wearing the uniform that may have pagan symbols attached? Naaman had to accompany his king into idol worship, with Elisha's blessing. When I say "secularly" I mean: When allegiance is to the nation and its people, one's fellow-citizens. But when the nation's allegiances are to pagan gods? God says to have "no other gods". Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah served as ministers in Nebuchadnezzar's government, likely with pagan symbols decorated all over the place; but when they were required to bow to the statue/god, they refused, and "gave their bodies" to the furnace. (Dan3:28)

When a Believer, over time, comes to understand all the pagan symbols that are at the foundation of a nation, does one recite pledges to flags and sing its national anthems? Am -I- a "citizen" of such a nation? Flags and songs are -things-; just as meat is meat, whether or not it was sacrificed to the gods. (1Co10:25-28) Is it not also permissible to just stand politely, while others are in active participation of those pledges.

But when it comes to the pronouncement of -deity-, that is the line which a Believer cannot cross. As flesh and blood we are found within the government/s of this world. But there is One God, and we have only One Master. If our service to this world compromises our allegiance to God, there is no choice. We cannot, we MUST NOT compromise.

The Church of Jesus Christ has One Master, One Head. Satan tried to get Jesus to bow to him. Jesus replied...

    "Go away Satan! For it has been written, You shall do homage to the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." (Mt4:10)
Does the Church, which is 'membered' to Jesus Christ, do any less? So... if the world kills us, what more can they do after that? Our citizenship is in Heaven. They just did us a -favor-. They just sent us "Home" a little earlier than expected.

But while we are living in this world, what is the "cloud of witnesses" (Heb12:1) observing? Are we waving the flowers, looking around and proudly doing fist-pumps to our own greatness? Do they see us amassing earthly fortunes and futures. Or do they see us tired of this earth, yearning after Heaven, humbly living our lives as we are...

    "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...who is at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb12:2)
Amen!
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