Tony Evans — Pursuing Your Heavenly Citizenship
When you know your heavenly Father is looking, when you know God up there is staring to see how you perform, it now takes you off of living a little bit here and a little bit there, shucking and jiving and playing around. Now you wanna get serious 'cause you know Daddy is looking.
Greetings, friends. And we're glad to be with you as we continue our series, "The Eternal Perspective." Today, we're gonna talk about your heavenly citizenship. Every believer is a citizen of two realms: a realm up there and a realm down here. But how do you work the two together so that you're not being unfair to either and you're prioritizing the one that must be prioritized most and that is your heavenly citizenship?
We're gonna talk about that today from Philippians chapter 3 so that you can have dual citizenship but know how to work 'em together in an effective way as a believer in Jesus Christ. Let's see what Paul has to talk about. Let's see what Paul has to say about our heavenly citizenship.
Paul is writing to the Philippian Christians, to the saints at Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony. They had been taken over by Rome, but the Philippians lived outside of Rome. They were a Roman colony outside of Rome, but they came under Roman governance. So Rome shaped their laws, Rome shaped their thinking, Rome shaped their world view, Rome shaped everything about their lives because, even though they didn't live in Rome, they lived under Rome.
Colossians chapter 1, verse 13 says that you and I have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. That you have been relocated and that you, if you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, are a citizen in heaven on temporary assignment on earth.
If you miss that, as we will see in a moment, you miss something big, huge. And if I can get you to switch it today, if I can get you and me and us to understand that we live up there, we merely work down here, a whole lot will change in your life and in mine.
Paul writes these Philippian believers, having established that they're citizens, and he wants them to know that "I have not already attained it or have become perfect," verse 12. Paul says in everyday English, "I have not arrived."
Now, wait a minute, he is the most spiritual, biblical, Holy Spirit-filled man in the New Testament. And the most spiritual, Spirit-filled, Holy Ghost-led man in the New Testament said, "I have not yet arrived."
So if the most spiritual, if the most godly, if the most talented, Christian man in the New Testament says, "I have not arrived," well, guess where you and I are.
What Paul is saying is, "I still have a ways to go. I still have not reached the point of spiritual maturity and accomplishing divine purpose that I was put here for. I am not there yet." And so, why are you telling us that?
Notice what he says in verse 12, in the middle of the verse: "I press on." Notice what he says in verse 14: "I press on." I press on. To press means to push on. He wasn't gliding through the Christian life, okay?
Let me explain something. Salvation is free. You get saved for free, because the price has already been paid by the finished work of Jesus Christ offering salvation free of charge to anyone who comes to him by faith to receive it.
Salvation is free. Spiritual development is not. You will never find your divine purpose, you will never grow up to be a spiritual adult by gliding. You must press.
In other words, it must be a determined decision to prioritize your spiritual growth and experiencing God's purpose for your life if you ever wanna have it. It won't just happen. You won't just wake up one day looking like Jesus. And you won't just wake up one day being perfectly fulfilling the purpose of God for why he saved you and left you here.
God will help you be responsible but he won't make you be responsible. God is not gonna force you on your knees to spend time in prayer with him today. He's not going to force you to do but he will cooperate with you if you do, which is why James 2 says: "Faith without works is dead." So he says, "I press on. I prioritize the spiritual."
Why? Remember, Paul is a citizen of heaven. Now, in order for that to happen, notice what he tells you and me. Hold on to your seatbelt because he says, "This one thing I do," verse 13, "forgetting what lies behind, reaching forward to what lies ahead." He says, "If you're ever gonna get to tomorrow, you gotta let yesterday go." Forgetting those things that are behind.
Many a Christian is crippled by yesterday. All of us have a yesterday and there are three things in most of our yesterdays. One, there are the good things that we're proud of, the great accomplishments we've made, the things that we positively have done that benefit us and benefit others.
We can look back and say, "There's some good stuff back there yesterday." But if you're like most of us, there's some stuff you are ashamed of back there yesterday.
Yesterday's got some things you're not proud of. Yesterday has got some mistakes you've made. Yesterday has some sins that you've done. Yesterday has some days you wish you could live over. So you got the bad of yesterday. So we've got good in yesterday, we've got bad in yesterday, and we've got ugly in yesterday.
Ugly is the stuff folk did to you that you had no control over, that messed you up. Yesterday involved people who abused you. Yesterday involves people who deserted you. So yesterday involves the good, it involves the bad, and it involves the downright ugly.
But Paul said, "If I'm ever gonna achieve the purpose for which God created and saved me, and if I'm ever gonna achieve the purpose for my life for why he left me here, I have got to let yesterday go.
Now, I got a steel plate in my leg because that did happen yesterday but I can't let that plate keep me from walking to tomorrow. You say, "But I can't overcome yesterday. Yesterday is so deep. Yesterday is so painful. Yesterday is holding me hostage."
He says, "Well, the way you get over yesterday is you've got to press on to tomorrow." He says, "I forget those things which are behind and the way I do that is my pursuit of what is in front of me."
Yesterday had some good, yesterday had some bad, yesterday had some ugly. But remember, whether it's good, bad, or ugly, it's still yesterday. Now, Paul had some great things in yesterday 'cause he was a learned man. The Bible talks about his education. It talks about his knowledge. It talks about his achievements. It talks about the greatness of how he climbed the Pharisaical ladder.
I mean, he had some things to be proud of from yesterday. Ah, but he had some things to be ashamed of for yesterday 'cause he used to kill Christians for a living. He used to murder-- we're talking about a murderer. We're talking about somebody who slew people who named the name of Jesus Christ and he never forgot that that happened but if he would have lived with the fact that that is part of his yesterday, he would have never become the great apostle of God that he became.
He had to overcome yesterday through his pursuit of Jesus Christ today. He had some things that weren't that good in his background. But he said, "I press on." And so I want to challenge you today to not let the devil do a play action on you.
Now, for you football fans, you know what a play action is. Play action is when a quarterback comes on to center. Hut, hut, hut! He receives the ball. He fakes it to the halfback and makes it look like he's giving it to the halfback so that the halfback can now run through the line. But he actually doesn't give it to the halfback.
He just fakes it like he's gonna give it to the halfback so the other team will think that the halfback has the ball. But actually, he just pretends to give it to the halfback but he keeps it himself. He comes and rolls around, and throws the ball downfield because he hopes that everybody on the other side of the line was faked out so that they wouldn't see that there was really another play.
Satan wants to fake you out and the football is called yesterday. He wants to fake you out to make you think you are chained to yesterday. You cannot overcome yesterday. That yesterday owns you. And if he can get you to believe it enough, act on it enough, move on it enough, he will throw a pass downfield to cause you to miss out on God's purpose for your life because he played a play action pass on you, and he duped you into thinking that you're defined by your yesterday.
Now, yesterday is real. Don't get me wrong. What was good was good. What was bad was bad. And what was ugly was ugly. I'm not suggesting that that's not real. I am suggesting that you are no longer to let the enemy hold you and chain you to it. But that doesn't just come from wishful thinking.
He says, "Forgetting those things which are behind, I press," I keep moving forward, I keep pursuing, I keep pushing forward, because I wanna become mature in Christ and I want to complete what God laid hold on me for.
What does he mean? He means the purpose. You have a purpose. If you're still here, God's not finished. God's not finished. Now, if you're still here, that means he has a purpose for your life, and he is not finished.