Citizens of Heaven: Encouragement from the Book of Philippians

by Krystal Dickson

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a favorite amongst believers. This book is rich with gospel truth and practical encouragement. As you read this letter, you get a clear picture of how much this church means to Paul. And it is because of his love for this church that Paul continually points them to the beauty of the gospel and the new identity they have in Christ alone. 

Paul tells the Philippians that they are to live their lives worthy of the gospel as citizens of heaven (Philippians 1:27). He spends the rest of the book expanding on how their identity in Christ transforms everything about how they live. As we read Paul’s words, we too are encouraged to live in light of the transformative power of the gospel. Below are three ways that we are to live in light of the gospel. 

  • We are to model Christ

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. — Philippians 2:3

Philippians 2 is a beautiful display of the person and work of Christ. Paul says we are to model Jesus’s humility in our pursuit and care of others. Jesus took on the role of servant (Philippians 2:7), so we can serve others by counting their interests as more significant than our own (Philippians 2:4). We see examples of this as Paul commends Timothy and Epaphroditus for their love for others. Epaphroditus was deathly ill, and yet he was more concerned for the Philippians—because he heard they were concerned for him. What an incredible example of being others-focused, outdoing one another in showing honor (Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:10).

  • We are to fight with faith (Philippians 3)

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:12

Philippians 3 shows us that we are not to find our confidence in ourselves, but rather look to the cross for our worth. Paul contrasts the enemies of the cross with being citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:18–21). We are to set aside any and all things that hinder us in our wholehearted pursuit of the Lord. This holy pursuit is not out of our own strength but is only by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

  • We are to live with joy (Philippians 4)

This chapter is a favorite chapter for many of us, full of beautiful reminders of how the gospel should inform relationships within the church, our prayers, our thoughts, and our personal contentment. You have probably seen this verse cross-stitched or printed in some fashion: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). But have you ever considered the reason why Paul is able to say this? 

When Paul wrote this letter, he was not sitting in his home leisurely writing this letter to this church. No, in fact, Paul wrote this letter while sitting in a jail cell. Knowing that Paul is imprisoned as he penned this letter, the theme of joy throughout this book holds a bit more weight. 

Maybe you can relate to Paul’s situation. You might not be in a physical jail, but perhaps you feel imprisoned by your sin or suffering. Paul’s life was a dichotomy of hardship and peace, suffering and joy, persecution and contentment. He was able to not only endure difficult situations but to experience immense joy—first and foremost in the Lord but also in the edification of the church. This is an encouragement for us today as we walk through trials. Our joy is not found in having a perfect life, but in delighting in our perfect Savior. 

Philippians is a reminder for us to fix our gaze heavenward. In Christ, we are given a new identity and a new eternal home. Everything else in this world can be taken away, but our eternal hope is completely secure in Christ. We are citizens of heaven, awaiting the day we can go home. In the meantime, we live as exiles on earth, radically changed by the gospel and inviting others to experience the same.

If you want to dig deeper into the book of Philippians, check out our brand new study, Fighting with Faith.

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