We just celebrated the 4th of July. This 232ndth birthday of our wonderful country causes us to reflect on the role that good citizenship plays not in our country, but in our own lives. Just as we need the 4th of July to remind us of our civic and moral citizenship and responsibility, the word of God has a clear statement on our true citizenship. The Bible tells us there is more to being a good citizen than paying taxes, voting, and staying out of trouble with the law. It speaks of a different kind of citizenship, one with a higher code and a greater allegiance.
In I Peter, the apostle is describing a world to those he calls strangers, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia and Bithynia,or to put it plainly everybody everywhere.. He refers to them as strangers because that’s exactly what they are....this world is not their home. He begins by saying that they are people that were redeemed, not by financial resources or great power or position, but with the precious blood of Christ. He talks about Christ being the chief cornerstone of God’s building.....and we are a part of that building as it says in
1 Pet 2:5
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
He then describes the fact that there are people in the world that find Christ a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, it sounds familiar to our day, when it is more fashionable to take offense at Christ, than to join him, it is easier to question than commit. God’s response to this worldview is clear.
He sees the Christian operating from a different framework, a different citizenship if you will than those who oppose Christ.....IN CONTRAST TO THIS WORLDVIEW PETER IDENTIFIES the characteristics of:
1. Citizen Christians have a High Calling
I Pet 2:9‑25
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
In our citizenship, most of us had no choice whether or not to come into the American society. Praise God we were born into it, no other nation boasts the wonderful citizenship that America affords, but in contrast to our natural born citizenship, this passage makes it clear that our heavenly citizenship is due to His choosing of us. We were allowed in!
10 Which in time past were not a people (foreigners), but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:10 PP3
"foreigners." It means, properly, one dwelling near, neighboring; then a by‑dweller, a sojourner, one without the rights of citizenship, as distinguished from a citizen; and it means here that Christians are not properly citizens of this world, but that their citizenship is in heaven, and that they are here mere sojourners. Compare the notes at <Phil 3:20>, "For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven."
(from Barnes' Notes)
I like the chorus that says:
Only By Grace Can We Enter
Only By Grace Can We Stand
Not by Our Human Endeavor
But by the Blood of the Lamb
Paul gives us a further picture of this contrast in Ephesians 2:
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.(NIV)
2. Citizen Christians have a Distinct Code of Conduct
11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
As we have been reminded in the past few years, war is deadly and terrifying. War causes conflict between not only between warring nations but in and between families. Rightly, we should reflect on the personal sacrifice and demand placed on our military and families as they served the fight for freedom around the world. Although we are thankful for the terrific victories America has experienced in all corners of the globe, we know all too well the cost in lives and family tragedy in pursuit of the price of freedom. In contrast to political wars, Peter describes the spiritual war that takes place on a person-by-person basis. The lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life declare war on the Christian soul. We are called on to abstain from these lusts whose guerilla warfare is swifter than an enemy missile, uncertain as a midnight raid, and deadlier than chemical weapons......while Peter states the code, Paul helps us to understand the nature of the battle
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.(NIV)
We can win the war with the help of God’s Spirit! Peter continues by helping us understand more of our Citizens Code:
12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
This is what makes our citizenship so unique, we are spoken evil against, but we combat that with the good works of God. Our citizenship should have an effect on those we come in contact with.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
ILL: This contrast is further illustrated by Paul’s address to the Galatians, he identifies all the works of the flesh, but then doesn’t stop there!
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
Crowns and Thrones May Perish
Kingdoms Rise and Wane
But the Church of Jesus
Constant Will Remain
Gaits of hell can never
Gainst the Church Prevail
We have Christ=s own promise
That will never fail
Onward Christian Soldiers
Marching as to War
With the Cross of Jesus
Going on Before
3. Citizen Christians have a Example in Christ 19-25
By Now we should all be familiar with the Evangelical trend of WWJD? Based on Charles Sheldons classic work In His Steps, the point is for the Christian to ask himself at each critical moment of temptation or decision making the question: What Would Jesus Do? Peter gives us this example as Christian citizens, we know only too well the example of Christ:
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.(KJV)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.(NIV)
When I was a child we had a singing group in our church that would come by from time to time and we’d have a whole Sunday night of just singing. One of the songs they used to sing communicated to me what my attitude should be toward my society and my culture. I learned that as a Citizen Christian I shouldn’t get too comfortable down here:
This World is Not My Home
I’m Just a Passing Through
My Treasures Are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
O Lord You Know
I Have No Friend Like You
If Heaven=s not my Home
Then Lord What Will I do?
The angels beckon me
From heaven=s open door
And I can=t feel at home
In this world anymore