Monday, May 21, 2012

Renouncing citizenship

Now that Facebook's IPO is over it's founder and a few other in the organization are multi-billionaires.  Shortly before the IPO a co-founder announced he was giving up his American citizenship to become a citizen of Singapore, a nation that does not have capital gains taxes.  Some Senators are questioning if this is a way to avoid paying taxes on his new found wealth and are looking into proposing new laws that would restrict such actions.  The co-founder is denying that he is trying to avoid taxes, but the fact is he will save millions of dollars in capital gains taxes by changing his citizenship to Singapore.

I have no way of knowing the reasons behind his desire to change his citizenship, but I see something similar happen in the lives of many Christians.  Christ reaches down into their lives, forgives them of their sins, helps them get their lives back together, and instead of serving Him they begin to slowly drift back into the life they left.  The excitement they originally had for Christ and all He did for them begins to fade.  They begin to find more and more reasons to miss church services.  They stop reading their Bibles and praying.  They may allow some old habits back into their lives, in moderation of course.  Their pleasures and desires take precedence over anything else.  In a very real sense, they have renounced their heavenly citizenship and became citizens of this world.  They may maintain some connections with the Christian faith, but it becomes increasingly a distant relationship.

The fact is that probably every Christian struggles with this at different times in his or her life.  This includes both clergy and lay people.  After all, the demands of the Christian life can sometimes seem overwhelming and the world always looks enticing.  We are bombarded countless times every day with the "good life" the world offers.  In contrast, the Christian life can come across as rather boring and limiting when it seems that it only consists of one long list of "Do nots."  Then there are those times when we wonder why we even bother to try to live a Christian life when it seems that our lives only get harder every time we try to do better.  (I wonder where those thoughts come from?)  More than a few saints had seasons in their lives when they struggled in their relationships with Christ, so we shouldn't be surprised when the enemy of our souls attempts to lure us away.  The key is to recognize that it's happening and refuse to renounce your heavenly citizenship.

It is critical to maintain a strong devotional life to counter the lure of this world.  If I get sloppy with my prayer life or my devotional life I find myself drifting spiritually.  I try to pray the Lord's Prayer the first thing before getting out of bed every morning and when I lay down at night.  That way my first and last thoughts of the day are on the Lord.  I pray throughout the day as well.  Most years I read through the entire Bible or at least the New Testament.  I read a lot in the area of apologetics as part of my devotional life as I find that keeps me connected with the truths about God.  If I allow any of these disciplines to slip, and sometimes they do, then I find my entire spiritual life slips as well.  I have to come back to the basics to keep the connection with God that I desire.

A second thing that each of us must do is to remember where we were before Christ entered our lives.  I sometimes look back on those BC days and wonder why He even bothered with me.  One Sunday during our observance of the Lord's Supper I began to weep as the cup was being passed.  I was just overwhelmed with all Christ had done in my life and I couldn't stop the tears.  When we spend time remembering what Christ has done for us it becomes more difficult to turn our backs on Him.

The apostle Paul wrote in Phil. 3 that he kept his focus on the goal that was before him and said that all mature Christians should do the same thing.  In that same chapter he declared that our citizenship is in heaven.  We dare not denounce that heavenly citizenship to return to our previous status as citizens of this world.  In 2 Tim. Paul wrote that one of his trusted assistants, Demas, had forsaken him because he loved this present world and had returned to it.  The enemy is always looking for leaders in the church who might renounce their heavenly citizenship.  Each of us in leadership has a target on our backs, because if he can get us to lose our first love for Christ and return to the world he will find it much easier to get those who follow us to do the same thing.

The co-founder of Facebook may be able to renounce his citizenship and keep much more of his new-found wealth.  The Christian who renounces his or her heavenly citizenship will not.  We might gain the world, but in the process we will lose much more.  Let each of us remain diligent and faithfully do the things that will keep our focus on the prize that has been set before us, an eternity in the presence of God and His Son who made this possible for us.

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