Friday of Epiphany 3 – Philippians 3:17-4:3

| January 29, 2015 | 2 Comments More

Heavenly JerusalemPhilippians 3:17-4:3

St. Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that we are to set our mind on things in heaven, because our citizenship is in heaven.  But what happens when we forget where our citizenship is?

What if the U.S. soldiers in Iraq forgot who they are and whom they served?

What if they forgot about their U.S. citizenship and became citizens there?

What if they chose never to come back home to their families?

What if they forgot which side they were on?

Too often we forget who we are: our minds are set on earthly things, and not the things of heaven.  Too often, this is because we love the things of this world more than we love the things of heaven.  Sometimes we are not very loyal to Jesus Christ but are more loyal to the world than to Him.  And sometimes, we just find it hard it hard to see heaven or heavenly things.

I love the idea that I will get a new body and that I will live forever (verse 21.)  I especially love the idea that one day I will be more closely in the presence of the Lord.  But I find that for someone who grew up wanting to write stories and has tried his hand at novels, my imagination is dull.  It’s hard for me to think for very long about heaven when I think of it in this way.

But there’s another way to keep our mind on things in heaven: and that is to spend time living with the things of heaven as they are already here on earth.

There are at least 3 things of heaven that are already here: God Himself, His Word, and His house, which is His people

Though God is already here with us, sometimes we think and act as if He is only in heaven above.  We wake up without reference to God.  We do the things we want to do and live the life we want to live.  God is not in our thoughts throughout the day.  Some Christians even go to bed, and not a single thing that day has been consciously done for the love of God and so that He may be glorified.

I’ve discovered a little secret about myself (and you too!)  I have a little default-mode button in my mind.  Unfortunately, it has come with a factory preset that is set for self.  And when, by the grace of God, I have managed to switch my thoughts to God and stay tuned to the God station all day long, the day comes to an end.  Every night as I sleep, a little gremlin goes about resetting me to my factory setting, and the battle for the default mode in my mind continues.  At least I know what the goal is: to have God be the default mode of my mind so that whenever there is an empty or silent moment, it is thoughts of Him and His kingdom that I naturally turn to.

We are to set our mind on heavenly things, which means that we must set our minds on God.  We must seek to spend time with Him each day.  We should spontaneously thank Him for the many good things we experience each day: for His creation, for the day, for my life, for the people in my life, for the abundance I have, for helping me with my problems, for the salvation of my soul, and on and on.  You should constantly be asking Him for help; praising Him because you love to be with Him; and thinking about what He wants you to do and then doing it.

God allows us to remember where our citizenship is and to keep our mind on Him because He has given us not only Himself but also His Word.  We often hear about how much time children spend watching TV and listening to things that aren’t even real.  And almost three-fourths of adults aged 66 years or older watched more than 2 hours of television per day.  We find time to shoot the breeze with our neighbors and friends, and we even study to find out how to get better at golf or other sports, or at gardening, or at video games . . . and then complain that we don’t have time to read the Bible!

I used to do an activity in an economics class in which I asked the high school seniors at the Christian school I taught at to keep a record of how much time (a very scarce economic resource) they spent on various activities each week.  Granted they were busy high school seniors, but they spend virtually no time at all reading Bible or praying.  Of course school took up most of their time, but they found time for sports, the arts, hanging out with friends, etc.  But they found no time for God’s Word.

God’s Word potentially comes to you in many ways: the weekly sermon, the worship service (depending on how your church worships), Sunday school, Bible studies, daily reading and meditation, and sharing God’s Word with others.   If you want to keep your mind in heaven, then fill it with God’s Word.

A third way to live in heaven even now is to live in God’s house.  David says in Psalm 24:1

that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.  But too often we are like the Soviet cosmonauts who went up to space and when they didn’t see God they said, “See – we told you He wasn’t real!”

We look for just the right earthly house and carefully consider how much house we can buy; we look carefully at the neighborhood and environment we want to live in; we lovingly furnish our homes with things that please us; and we rearrange and permutate until we get it just right

But how much time do we spend thinking about and building the house of God?  We should be like David in Psalm 69:9 when he says that, “zeal for Your house has eaten me up.”  Of course, this was just what Jesus said in John 2:17 when He cleansed the house of God.  If you want to make heaven more real in your life, then spend more time in heaven on earth, which is God’s house, which is His Church, His people.

In seeking heaven on earth, our worship of God is essential, for this is the closest we’ll be to heaven in this life.  In the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer the priest says, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name . . . “ because when we worship as God’s people and His house, He inhabits us.

Our worship of God in His house should make us seek God so much that we seek to build His house, His people.  Both David and Solomon made it their purpose to build the house of God.  Ezra devoted himself to rebuilding the temple.  St. Paul spent his life building God’s house, the Church, the people of God.

And God has called each of you to devote yourself to His house, that is, to His people, at your local church.  If you don’t see enough of God and heaven in this life, then maybe we aren’t spending enough time among His people, in whom He dwells.

When we seek God Himself, especially through His Word and through His house, His people, amazing things happen.  With the technologies available to us, this can happen to us in ways approaching the miraculous.  When I started Give Us This Day, my Dad told one of his friends about it, a man my Dad has been friends with for 40 years.  So close was the fellowship of their small group at that church that 3 men from that group still keep in touch regularly.  The amazing thing is that my father’s friend (whom I actually knew growing up) has been reading Give Us This Day, and even corresponding with me about it.  And now we have a bond in Christ because we are seeking God, reading His Word together, and having heavenly fellowship, though separated by hundreds of miles.

You are a citizen of heaven.  You belong to God.  And while you are here on earth, you are to live in His presence.  Set your mind on things in heaven, by seeking God each day, by hearing and living by His Word, and by building His Church, His people.

If you set your mind to do these things, I guarantee you will see more of God and heaven, and so will others around you.

Prayer:  Thanks be to You, Father, that You have made me a citizen of heaven, which is where You live.  Thank You that You have given me ways to see You and be with You even here on earth.  Thank You for the promise of the resurrection of my body and my transformation into the likeness of Your Son, in whose name I pray.  Amen

Point for Meditation:  Meditate more completely on one way that you can practice setting your mind on heavenly things by seeking God as He may be found here and now. 

Resolution:  I resolve to find one practical way to be more heavenly minded today, by seeking God, by meditating on His Word, or by building His people.  If possible, try to relate this resolution to previous resolutions. 

© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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  1. Diane ehlers says:

    Spend my morning reading my devotional written by Fr. Erlandson, then go to my daily study bible, to be Sure I start my day in Gods’s presence! Hope to be be “taken by the sky” like Enoch & Elijah……..not experience death! God Bless Fr. Erlandson for all the time and thought he puts into these devotionals……

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