Citizens of Heaven

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Hebrews 12:14-29

14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. 15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. 16 And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. 17 For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.

18 For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned![a] 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.[b]) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written[c] in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.

25 Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. 26 His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.[d] 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace.[e] By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

I know this is Independence Day weekend. And I’m beyond grateful to be an American. But this day is the Lord’s Day, in which we gather to remember and worship our risen Jesus Christ. Now, as Christians, we know that to be a good citizen of these United States, we must be citizens of the Kingdom of God. To be useful here, we must belong there. To be fit to live here, we must be living as though we are already there (Philippians 3:20). Now, as direct as that is, there are dangers to our heavenly citizenship. Let’s consider those dangers in relation to the question: How Can We Be Good Citizens of the Kingdom of God?

 

  • Love of Stuff (Esau) 14-17

 

You remember Esau? Isaac had two sons Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first, and so he had rights to the family inheritance. Out of jealousy, Jacob schemed a way that he could steal his older brother’s birthright.

So…one day Esau came back from hunting, and was tired and hungry. Jacob was cooking soup and he made Esau a deal: I’ll trade you some of this for your rights to the family inheritance (Abraham, nations, God’s supreme blessing). Yall know the story. Esau sold his birthright for the soup. Now, I’m sure that in that moment, for Esau, the promise of that inheritance was just an abstract, distant, unreal, intangible idea. “What good is a it to me right now. Feel like I’m dying.” And so he trades. And it’s a trade that can’t be undone. It’s over, too late, finished.

Hebrews is telling you that Esau is a screaming loud warning of the kind of irreversible condemnation that we bring on ourselves when we trade God’s future blessings for present pleasures.

I know of a man who’s work computer was scanned and cleaned, but in the process discovered that he had been looking at pornography. Infrequently, but definitely. He was in ministry so he had to be fired. He was in his 50s. Now, some jobs don’t depend on your morality. His did. I’m sure in that moment he thought, “It’s just one time,” if he thought about it at all. Just a quick thing. He didn’t compare in that moment of weakness, the present pleasure of compromise with the tears that would come in the hours of coming marital counseling, the shame his college-age children would feel having to explain to their friends why their dad lost his job, the loss of his job, loss of respect, the potential total ruination of his career and its future. If he could go back, he would. But, like Esau, it was too late. And he had the face the disaster full on, even though he, like Esau, wished with tears, God would take it away.

If you could be made to understand all the fallout from exchanging future blessings for present pleasures, I doubt you would ever choose any way other than God’s. But we do it all the time. We trade the blessing of Sunday gatherings for sandy beaches, blessing of sobriety for the pleasure of drink, the blessing of generosity for the pleasure of stuff. I like money. And when I look at this text I don’t see you trading blessing for stew, I look at Esau and I see myself there, the fool. Prepared to give away my soul, if I could just have a little more cash. When the Lord asks me to give away money I have, my first thought is not, “Yes, Lord, and how much?” And I think, at times, that if Jacob had a wad full of cash instead of stew, I would trade the blessing of eternal rewards, for the security of a few extra dollars in my retirement account.

You can’t be a good citizen of the kingdom of God if you are making trades like this. Perhaps, you actually can’t be a citizen of heaven if you make Esau’s deal. You will find the opportunity for repentance has passed by. Don’t make the mistake of Esau, and love the Lord and his promises, rather than the love of the present and its pleasures.

 

  • Love of Nation (Mt. Sinai) (18-24)

 

Hebrews is here comparing the work of God through Israel under the old covenant to the work of God through Jesus in the new covenant. Comparing nations. When the nation of Israel and its constitution written, it was gloom, terror, fearful thing at Mt. Sinai. Dreadful time when God judged rebellious Israelites at the scene of the Golden Calf. Set Israel on a course of endless bloody sacrifices, to cover a seemingly never-ending cycle of sin.

But in this new nation at Mt. Zion, angels are dressed in party clothes, everyone has the inheritance same as Jesus (firstborn), people are righteous and made perfect, and Jesus blood speaks of an eternal sacrifice. No need for blood of animals; Jesus died for me.

The author has to remind them of this reality, because there were some there who wanted to go back to Judaism. Their hearts were so bound up in love for their earthly nation, Israel, that they had little love left for the Kingdom of Christ.

I love our country. I know you’re proud and thankful to live here too. But these verses are for us, today. I don’t know anyone who will ever say they love country more than God, but sometimes our emotions portray our priorities. For example, I see far more weeping and worrying about the state of the country than the state of the kingdom. I can get a handful of men riled up about the President, and they’ll show 10xs more emotion than they’ve ever showed about the sinfulness of their own soul. Where are the men, who will beg God to revive their hearts for him, where are their tears, where is their courage, where is their brokenness? Why are we so passionate to fix White House, and unwilling to lift a finger to cleanse God’s house? Be watchful over your heart, to make sure you have are not too devoted to the land of the free, than you are to the one who sets you Free. His kingdom, and this country is great, but his kingdom is better.

I hear so much frenzy, worry, and anxiety about how much we miss the days of Mayberry, what kind of world we are going to leave to our children and grandchildren. Not just this nation but all the earth will be shaken. And the only kind of thing that’s going to be left standing is the stuff that can’t get shook. Permanent things. Unbreakable things. Enduring things. And you are, brother and sister Christian, receiving a verse 28-29.

How do you become a citizen of this kingdom? Trembling and grace.

By trembling. God is a consuming fire (29). Friend, you may think God is a cosmic teddy bear, and you’re a decent guy by your standards, so he’ll wink at you when you die and stand before him. But you are wrong. He is a consuming fire. He sees straight through you, as he did me. Don’t think he’s an old grandpappy that you can manipulate and and whose justice you can mock. And I’m afraid that the self-deceit that thinks God will grant you some special privileges because you were a decent fella greases Hell’s skids. Tremble. Let the example of Esau terrify you. Come with trembling. Not just by trembling, but by grace.

By grace. (28). That boy worked, but his whole life was lived here with appreciation, love, admiration, and affection towards a people and a nation that saved his life. He didn’t earn a right to live here. He didn’t really owe the United States the full measure of devotion by serving its military. “How could I not? Because of what all this nation has done for me.?”

We’re not citizens who have a “buddy” for a governor. We have a King, with the power to destroy the body and the soul. And so we tremble, to watch our lives, lest we fall. But we’re also not citizens who earned our way into his kingdom. I don’t think anybody in the room would have the arrogance to say that you deserve to be an American. I definitely suspect noone has the stupidity to suggest that they deserve to be a part of the heavenly kingdom. In the kingdom that cannot be shaken, we exist there by his marvelous grace. And so we serve him joyfully. Doing, now like 13:14 says: Here we do not have an enduring city, and so we….live a life of devoted praise.

 

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