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Show Your Passport (16 of 21)
Series: Forever Living in A Whatever World
Introduction: I have in my hand my United States Passport. How many of you have a passport? You don't need one. In fact, I've only used mine once. A passport is a must have document when you travel in most places outside North America. I obtained mine in 1999 before traveling to the Middle East.
My passport is issued by the United States Department of State. It declares that I am a citizen of this country and am only a traveler in another country where I may happen to be. When foreign officials see my passport they know I possess all the rights and privileges of an American citizen. When we traveled in Jordan and Israel in 1999, the officials would confiscate our passports at the border crossings. Only after we had cleared their security checks would they return them. It gives you a nervous feeling to have armed agents of another country hold your passport and search your belongings. This passport is only a piece of paper but it stands for much more. My passport declares where I belong and where I am eventually headed.
That's the concept behind this text. Note verse 20. "Our citizenship is in heaven." To understand our text, we need to understand that phrase. The term translated citizenship is related to the Greek term from which we get our English word for "politics or political." This particular expression referred to a Roman colony, an imperial outpost of the vast Roman government. In fact, Philippi the home of the first readers of this letter was a very proud Roman colony. Such colonies were an important part of the Roman plan to maintain control of their conquered territories. Once the army had conquered a new land, a colony would be set up at a strategic location and then populated with Roman citizens, often retired soldiers. The colony was part of the empire's security system.
Philippi was eight hundred miles from Rome, but the colony maintained a thoroughly Roman society. A little Rome away from home! The city was organized and governed like a regular Italian city. They spoke Latin, dressed in Roman fashion, ate Roman food, and followed normal Roman customs. Roman colonists might live in Greece, Gaul, Persia, or Egypt but their hearts and loyalties were in Rome. They had the passport to prove it!
A similar thing happened among the English in the heyday of the British Empire. Whether in the jungles of Africa, the monsoons of India, or the outback of Australia, the British would salute the picture of the Queen, celebrate high tea every afternoon and play cricket on weekends. They might be ten thousand miles from Buckingham Palace, but they were British.
This is the spirit of our text. "Our citizenship is in heaven." If we are followers of Jesus, we may live here, but our hearts are elsewhere. We are tourists, not residents. "This world is not my home," the old gospel song said ...
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