Last Sunday was the 4th of July – in the United States we celebrated the founding of our country. 234 years ago the Continental Congress, as it was called, declared our independence from Great Britain. We would no longer belong to Britain. And from then on, if you were born in this country you automatically became a citizen of the United States of America.

Just as being born in America makes you a citizen of America, there is a second birth that the Bible refers to that makes you a citizen of another world altogether. Let’s look at the discussion Jesus had with Nicodemus from John 3:

1After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, 2came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”

3Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”

4“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

5Jesus replied, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven.
John 3:1-6 (NLT)

Scripture tells us that being what the Bible calls “born again” or born of the Spirit “gives new life from heaven.” And the moment we are born into that new life, we have dual citizenship – citizenship in two very different worlds – the one we live in now and the one we will one day live in for all of eternity.

Scripture has more to say about this new citizenship. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes how we were once dead in our sins. A new birth would be required to raise us to life.

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NIV)

Do you see that – if you are in Christ (and I pray that you are) –if you are in Christ, although you are still here on earth, you are also seated with Christ in heavenly realms.

Paul goes on to tell the Ephesians to…

12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ…
Ephesians 2:12

That is, before you trusted Christ as your Savior. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, you are still separated from Him. Trusting Christ as your Savior means first agreeing with Him that you have lived your life separate from Him, going your own way, making your own (wrong) choices; then turning from your own way (repenting) and asking Him to lead your life. Here’s another description of the process.

remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12 (NIV)

When you were separate from Christ, you were excluded from the covenants and promises of God. Paul actually uses the word “foreigners” – we were foreigners to the covenants and promises –we were not yet citizens of heaven. But Paul continues:

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ….18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
Ephesians 2:13, 18-19

Through the blood of Christ, we have become citizens of heaven.

I learned last week that nearly 1 out of every 20 men aged 16-45 died in the American Revolution. They died fighting to win our freedom from Great Britain. Given the population then and now, that would be the equivalent of 3 million men dying today. Their death bought us our citizenship in a new country. I don’t want to squander that freedom – I don’t want them to have died for nothing. I want to live recognizing and enjoying the freedoms that come with being a citizen of the United States of America.

It was Christ’s death that bought our citizenship in heaven. I’m so thankful for that and I don’t want Christ to have died for nothing either. I want to live and walk in the freedoms that citizenship in heaven makes available.

Listen to what it says in Colossians 3:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. 3For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

I love this passage! Because you have been raised to new life – set your sights on the realities of heaven. Notice that it says the “realities” of heaven – heaven isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking, pipe dream. It is a reality. And we’re to set our sights on that reality – let it fill our thoughts instead of the challenges of this world. Why? Because your real life is hidden with Christ – where is that? Seated in heavenly realms at the right hand of God! Wow! Wow, wow!

Martin Luther, 16th century church reformer, founder of the Lutheran church, said this:

“Even in the best of health we should have death always before our eyes [so that] we will not expect to remain on this earth forever, but will have one foot in the air, so to speak.”
Martin Luther – 16th century church reformer

Let’s live, not only with one foot in the air, but with heaven filling our thoughts!

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