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We just recently celebrated one of the greatest celebrations that we enjoy here in America.  It was the 4th of July, our Independence Day – the day that we celebrate our becoming a nation – I independent from any other nation of rulers.  Yesterday was the 233rd birthday of America.  I love the 4th of July not only because of the fireworks, picnics, and fellowship with friends and family but it falls on the day after my birthday so I get to have fireworks for my birthday.  My kids used to say, ‘How come dad gets fireworks on his birthday and we don’t?’

            We are privileged to live in the greatest county in the world and enjoy more freedoms and privileges than the majority of the people on the planet.  Where else can so many people with such a wide variety of diverseness live together?  In America we have different races, ethnicities, religions, social-economic diversity, political views and a whole host of other differences all living, working, and socializing with one another – only in America.

            In 1776, America declared to the world her independence from foreign rule and fought the War of Independence.  Those who called themselves American then became the first citizens of a new nation.  Except for Native Americas, the United States is a nation of people who left their home countries looking for a better life.  For this reason, America is sometimes referred to as a ‘melting pot’. 

We have people from all over the world gathered together into a great nation.  People from Mexico, China, Germany, Russia, the Mideast, Africa, India, and everywhere you can name have come to this great nation to live their dream. 

            Now just living in America does not automatically make you a citizen.  Residences of America are grouped into three classes: aliens, nationals, and citizens.

            Aliens are people who have left (emigrated) another country to come to the United States.  They have a lot of the same freedoms and legal rights as a regular citizen but not all.  For one, they cannot vote in any of our elections.

            Nationals or American Nationals are natives of American territorial possessions.  They have the same legal protections which citizens have, but they do not have the full political rights as US citizens.

            Then you have Citizens: persons who are either born here in the United States or born to U.S. citizens who are in foreign countries.

            So if you are not a citizen and you wish to become a citizen of the United States you must apply for and pass a citizenship test.  Once you meet all the requirement of citizenship you become what are called naturalized citizens.

            Citizens of the United States enjoy all the freedoms, protections, and legal rights which the Constitution promises.

            So we now what about citizenship in the United States but there is another type of citizenship that I would like to talk about.  One that has an even further reaching impact on an individual than being a citizen of the United States – that is being a citizen in God’s Kingdom.  Turn with me to Ephesians 2:19 and 20.  Here we read, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

            Citizenship in God’s Kingdom, becoming members of His household, that is truly awesome.  What a declaration that is.  To be a citizen in the greatest kingdom that ever was, is, or will be.  And the cool thing is that you can be a citizen of the United States or whatever country and still become citizens in God’s Kingdom.  It’s called ‘dual citizenship’.  We have people who are ‘dual citizens’ with other countries while being citizens of the United States.  Normally this type of citizenship is for individuals who are born of one US parent, while in a foreign county, with the other parent being a citizen of that country.  These individuals hold a special status of being citizens of two different countries at the same time but at some point in their lives, usually at the age of adulthood, they will need to choose which country they will place their full citizenship into.

            We too, as Christians, are dual citizens and while we follow the rule and precepts of our country we still follow the rules and laws set forth by God.  At some point we too will have to choose who where our allegiance lies.

            So how does one become a citizen of God’s Kingdom?  By accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior.  It’s as simple as that.  Romans 10:9 – 10 tell us how to become a citizen, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  It is so simple.  There is no special test or screening other than having our visa’s stamped with the blood of Jesus.  Remember I said that one of the ways to become a citizen of the United States was to be born here?  The same is true in God’s Kingdom also but our birth into His Kingdom is not just a physical birth but a spiritual one.  In John 3:5 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”  Then in John 14:6 Jesus tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”   Jesus is our way to citizenship.  He is the door that we enter through to become citizens and be born into God’s kingdom.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior be are born again.  Our passport is stamped and we are made citizens of His Kingdom.  Philippians 3:20 tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven.”  And we think that just being a citizen in the United States is great don’t get me wrong because it is.  But to be a citizen in God’s Kingdom is much, much better by far.

            So let’s take about our freedoms or rights as citizens here in America and citizens of God’s Kingdom.  When the Constitution was ratified in 1789 there was a concern that it did not protect certain freedoms so on December 15, 1791 ten amendments were added which guarantee certain freedoms and rights.  These amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.  Some of these amendments simplistically are:

            Freedom of Religion – the freedom to worship as we please without government intrusion or the intrusion of others who may or may not believe as we do.

            Freedom of Assembly – the freedom to meet together in public, and private, for whatever reasons we choose.

            To Keep and Bear Arms – the freedom to purchase and own guns and other types of weapons.

            Freedom of Speech – the freedom to say what we want and how we want without fear or reprisal from the government or other individuals.

            Protection for those Accused of Crimes – basically this means that an individual is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

            Those are just a few, very simply put, of those ten amendments to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  Many of us take these rights for granted because we have grown up with them.  But if you have ever been to another country, especially a third-world country, you will find there are no such protections.  In some countries, if you do not follow the religious belief of that country you will be put to death.  If speak out against the rulers or religion you will either be imprisoned or put to death.   And in many countries there is no protection under the law for those accused of crimes, just punishment.  Thank God that we live in American.  Like I said earlier, we live in the greatest country on earth.

            For Christians we have the same freedoms and rights as I just stated but ours go beyond that.  There are quite a few that we as Christians have and I just want to touch on a few.  Instead of reading each Scripture verse I will let you what the verses are after I let you know what our rights are. Otherwise we could be here for a long time today.  The first one that I want to bring to light is this:

            We have the right to worship Christ Jesus as our Creator, Redeemer, Sovereign Lord and Ruler of all.  This is found in Colossians 1:15-19; Hebrews 1:8, and Philippians 2:5-11.

            We have the right to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable and pleasing to God.  Romans 12:1 – 2.

            We have a right to train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Found in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Proverbs 22:6.

            We have the right to march daily on our knees in prayer; praying for our leaders in government; our church leaders; our fellow believers, our families; and the lost.  This is found in 1 Timothy 2:1 – 3 and Ephesians 6:18 – 21.

            We have a right to praise and glorify God according to how He has revealed Himself through the pages of His Word.  We have the right to worship God however we see fit. Colossians 3:16 – 17.

            We have the right to the accountability of the local church; to obey our leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over our souls, as those who will give an account.  Hebrews 13:17.

            And we have the right to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.  Matthew 28:18 – 20.

            There are many, many more rights found throughout the Bible.  All you need do to find out what they are is read and study His Word.

            We have talked about what citizenship is and our rights as citizens and a lot of people would end there but leave one of the most important areas untouched – our responsibilities as citizens.  Along with being a citizen we have certain responsibilities that we must also attend to.

            As a United States citizen some of our responsibilities are to:

            Participate in government – this process insures that power will always remain where it belongs – with the people.  Remember that it’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Not of the government, by the government, for the government.  It’s people who make up our great nation.

            We have the responsibility to vote – not only for our elected officials in local government but national government.   By voting people have a voice in government.  It is the people who decide who will represent them in government.  Each person who votes should be well informed about the issues and the candidates.

            To obey the law – Every person is expected to obey the laws of the community, state, and country in which they live.  All Americans are expected to respect the rights of others.

            These are just some of our responsibilities as citizens of this great nations but our responsibilities as Christians, in conjunction with our national responsibilities, are far greater.  Some of our responsibilities as Christians are:

            Our Moral Responsibility (It seems that a lot of people today have either forgotten this ne or they have tried to rewrite it) – Ephesians tells us in chapters 4 and 5 that we are to put away lying; prolonged sinful anger; stealing; corrupt communication; bitterness, wrath, anger, malice – instead we are to be kind, tender hearted, forgiving, and walk in love.  Galatians 5 and I Corinthians 6 along with other passages give us additional guidance on our moral responsibility. 

            Our Responsibility to our Families – Ephesians 5:22 – 23 talks about the responsibly of husbands and wives and Ephesians 6:1 – 4 talks about our responsibility to children.  Unfortunately many people leave teaching and guiding our children up to others instead teaching them what God’s view of family is in his Word.

            Our Responsibility to Christ and to the Local Church – Responsibility in prayer (Col 4:2 – 4; I Thess 5:17 - 18), Bible study (II Timothy 2:15), giving (I Cor 16:1 – 2; II Cor 9:5 – 7), assembling together to encourage one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:22 – 26) and in teaching unbelievers (I Peter 3:15; Col 4:5; Acts 8:3-4; Hebrews 5:11 – 14)

Our Responsibility to Put God First – God comes before possessions, job, and social affairs (Luke 14:15 – 24, 33).  God comes before family (there is a proper balance) (Matthew 10:37).  Seek Him first and He will provide (Matthew 6:31 – 34).

            As we have seen, citizenship is more than just belonging to a living in one county or another.  We have seen that we have basically two types of citizenship – in our country and in God’s Kingdom.  Being a citizen of the United States is a privilege that many people in the world outside our borders dream of, and it’s something that many people here take for granted, not realizing how important that can be.  But while being a citizen of the United States is awesome, being a citizenship in heaven means that we have been set free.  Free from sin and death.  Free from an empty life that is unfulfilled by the empty promises of this world.  In John 8:31 Jesus tell us, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  What better freedom can there be than being freed from the blindness and shackles of this world and becoming a citizen of His Kingdom.

            When you accept citizenship in God’s Kingdom, there may not be a fireworks display like we have on the 4th of July.  There may not even be any one other than God to witness your becoming Kingdom Citizen but you will have made the most important decision you will ever make – citizenship that will last an eternity.

            I give God the glory that I was born in the greatest county on earth and for the priviliges that I enjoy as an American.  I like to joke around sometimes that ‘I am an American by birth but a Southerner by the grace of God.’ 

But what I am really excited about is that I am not just a citizen of the greatest nation on the planet, but God chose me to be a citizen of His Kingdom.  Christ stamped my visa personally when I applied for Kingdom citizenship and I was forgiven by the grace of the Almighty God.

            How is your citizenship?  Are you a fully, participating citizen in our great nation?  Do you know all your rights and fulfill all your responsibilities as an American citizen?  If not I highly encourage you to become involved in government, in your community, and remember that our country is made up of people.  It’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

            Likewise, are you a citizen of God’s Kingdom?  Are you fully taking advantages of our rights as citizens and are we fully participating in our responsibilities as Kingdom citizens?  It will take my entire lifetime to explore all that God has in store for me and I will not fully know everything even then.  If you have not taken advantage of becoming citizens of God’s Kingdom I highly encourage you to accept Jesus as your Savior and become not life-long citizens but eternal citizens in God’s eternal kingdom.