I am an American citizen.
As an American citizen, I take every precaution to avoid any and all unnecessary discomfort. I try to spend as much time as possible loving the wife and kids. I work hard, save money, exercise my right to vote and treat others the way I hope to be treated. I suppose I believe that it in some small way these values help shape the quality of life I will leave for my children. More importantly, though, I am also a sincere and serious Christian.
Something profound happened to me when I became a genuine Christian.
Did I trim back on the foul language, join the Republican Party and start watching Christian television? Did I grow preachy, judgmental and a little too self-righteous? What really happened to me? I found a metaphor for my change used in the Bible, so if you don’t mind a little abstract thinking—keep reading.
What really changed was that I was transformed from a “citizen of this world” to a “child of God.”
The Christian faith teaches me that when God changed my life, he did it so deeply and completely that my literal identity was transformed from a citizen of this world into a child of God. No longer a citizen. Now a child. After this change, I learned to see and experience my identity, family, friends, pain, politics, parenting and work more like a foreigner, alien and stranger. I am only temporarily here as I pass through town. I’ve learned how to see and live in my world under a God who relates to me like a loving Father.
So in this way (among other ways), Christians live this life different.
1. Different way to face suffering—with hope.
Christians wholeheartedly believe that both the Bible and nature testifies to a personal God with limitless power. With a heavenly Father like that, a child can endure suffering with hope because they know their Father is eagerly willing and able to help (or even heal) his child. Even better, the child can persevere with hope knowing that after this painful but temporary life ends here on earth, they will fully and finally enjoy the promises of their Father—to be with and enjoy him forever. We will experience all of His provision, protection and promises.
In contrast, when a citizen of the world is suffering, they likely believe it’s evidence that God doesn’t care about them, if He exists at all. Since they think “all I have and see is all there is,” losing it is unbearable.
2. Different way to live in the world—holy.
Since I believed and received the real Jesus, I am no longer attracted to or enticed by what our material world is offering. As a child of God I am satisfied and gratified by a new and better treasure—the generosity, goodness and grace of my Heavenly Father. I am set apart with a driving new appetite for what my Father values and loves. I don’t need the sexual and material mistresses that others crave, because I already have a thrilling joy that only Heaven offers. I’m able to live different.
In contrast, when a citizen of the world is living in our culture, they likely see themself first as an American, patriot, parent, spouse, Democrat, Republican, consumer, employee, etc. Citizens are driven to crave what our temporary material world offers, giving the best of their time, attention and wealth in the pursuit of more comfort, control, success or power.
3. Different way to treat each other—wholehearted love.
When a child is sure and secure in the unfailing love of their parent, they don’t need to manipulate or demand any love from someone else. Since I have all I need from the self-sacrificing love of my Heavenly Father already, I can turn my attention to treating others with wholehearted love and care.
In contrast, when a citizen of the world relates to someone, to some degree they may express their love in order to receive something back from them. Since they lack a more complete love, some of what they give is primarily in hopes to receive.
4. Different way to view death—heaven.
When someone is adopted in God’s family as his child, they are able to loosen their grip on this material life. I anticipate the pain and certainty of death, but even more I am comforted with the joy of heaven, where I will forever delight in the worship and love of my heavenly Father. No more pain. No more fear.
In contrast, when a citizen of the world is thinking about the end of life, they can be hyper-focused on clinging to their weakening bodies, failing to consider what might happen to their soul after the physical life ends.
I am forever grateful that with only a childlike faith in the Father, through resting my trust in Jesus, I experienced a transformation—from here to heaven.
And at North Central Church, we believe in and expect that the true gospel has the power to transform every heart, home and neighborhood. We know that the true gospel has the power to radically change lives for the better through the transforming work of Jesus. This transformation takes place for all who root their trust in Jesus and embrace their new identities as children of God.
Here’s more, keep going:
Are We All God’s Children, or only Christians? from Got Questions
How Can I Become A Child Of God? from Got Questions
1 Peter 1, The Holy Bible, New Living Translation