Carry On as Kingdom Citizens!
“Carry on as citizens.”—PHIL. 1:27, ftn.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
Who can be Kingdom citizens?
What do we need to do regarding the Kingdom’s language, history, and laws?
How do Kingdom citizens show that they love God’s standards?
1, 2. Why did Paul’s counsel to the congregation in Philippi have special significance?
THE apostle Paul encouraged the congregation in Philippi to “behave in a manner worthy of the good news.” (Read Philippians 1:27.) The Greek expression that Paul used for the word “behave” may also be rendered “carry on as citizens.” That phrase had special significance for the congregation in Philippi. Why? Because it seems that Philippi was one of a select group of cities where the inhabitants had been granted a form of Roman citizenship. Roman citizens in Philippi and throughout the Roman Empire were proud of their status and enjoyed special protection under Roman law.
2 Members of the congregation in Philippi had greater reason for being proud. Paul reminded them that as anointed Christians their citizenship existed “in the heavens.” (Phil. 3:20) They were citizens, not of a mere human empire, but of God’s Kingdom. As such, they enjoyed unparalleled protection and benefits.—Eph. 2:19-22.
3. (a) Who have the opportunity to be Kingdom citizens? (b) What will we consider in this article?
3 Paul’s admonition to “carry on as citizens” applies principally to those who will rule with Christ in heaven. (Phil. 3:20) But by extension, it can be applied to those who will be the earthly subjects of God’s Kingdom. Why? Because all dedicated Christians serve the same King, Jehovah, and must live up to the same standards. (Eph. 4:4-6) Today, people work hard to qualify to become citizens of a prosperous country. How much more should we value the opportunity to be Kingdom citizens! To deepen our appreciation for that privilege, let us consider some similarities between the requirements for becoming a citizen of a human government and a citizen of God’s Kingdom. We will then examine three things we must do if we are to retain the honor of being Kingdom citizens.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CITIZENSHIP
4. What is the pure language, and how do we “speak” it?
4 Learn the language. Some human governments require that those applying for citizenship speak the dominant language of the country. Even after being granted citizenship, people may strive for years to master the new language. They may quickly learn the rules of grammar but may take some time to learn to pronounce the words correctly. Similarly, God’s Kingdom requires that its citizens learn what the Bible calls the “pure language.” (Read Zephaniah 3:9.) What is that language? It is the truth about God and about his purposes as found in the Bible. We “speak” the pure language when our conduct is in accord with God’s laws and principles. Citizens of God’s Kingdom may learn basic Bible teachings quickly and get baptized. Even after their baptism, however, they must strive to “speak” the pure language better and better. In what way? Each of us needs to close the gap between what we know about Bible principles and what we practice.
5. Why should we learn all we can about the history of Jehovah’s organization?
5 Study history. A person desiring to become a citizen of a human government might have to learn something about that government’s history. Likewise, those desiring to be Kingdom citizens do well to learn all they can about God’s Kingdom. Consider the example set by the sons of Korah, who served in ancient Israel. They took great delight in Jerusalem and its place of worship and in recounting the city’s history. It was not the stones and mortar that impressed them most but what the city and that place of worship represented. Jerusalem was “the town of the grand King,” Jehovah, for it was the center of pure worship. It was there that Jehovah’s Law was taught. It was to the people ruled by the King of Jerusalem that Jehovah expressed his loving-kindness. (Read Psalm 48:1, 2, 9, 12, 13.) Like them, do you have a desire to study and recount the history of the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization? The more you learn about God’s organization and how Jehovah supports his people, the more real God’s Kingdom will be to you. Your desire to preach the good news of the Kingdom will naturally intensify.—Jer. 9:24; Luke 4:43.
6. Why is it reasonable that Jehovah requires us to learn and obey Kingdom laws and principles?
6 Know the laws. Human governments require that their subjects learn and obey the laws of the land. It seems only reasonable, then, that Jehovah should expect us to learn and obey the laws and principles that govern all Kingdom citizens. (Isa. 2:3; John 15:10; 1 John 5:3) Human laws are often flawed and may be unfair. In contrast, “the law of Jehovah is perfect.” (Ps. 19:7) Do we delight in God’s law and read his Word each day? (Ps. 1:1, 2) The only way we can learn God’s law is to study it for ourselves. Nobody else can do this for us.
KINGDOM CITIZENS LOVE GOD’S STANDARDS
7. Kingdom citizens live by what higher standard?
7 To remain Kingdom citizens, we need not only to know God’s standards but also to love them. Many citizens of human governments say that they agree with the laws and standards of the country in which they live. However, when they find a requirement to be inconvenient and feel that nobody is looking, they break the law. Often, these people are “men pleasers.” (Col. 3:22) Kingdom citizens live by a higher standard. We gladly obey God’s laws, even when no other human is looking. Why? Because we love the Lawmaker.—Isa. 33:22; read Luke 10:27.
8, 9. How can you know whether you truly love God’s laws?
8 How can you know whether you truly love God’s laws? Examine the way you react when you receive counsel about what you feel is a personal preference—for example, on the matter of dress and grooming. Before becoming a Kingdom citizen, you may have preferred to dress sloppily or provocatively. As your love for God grew, you learned to dress in a way that honors him. (1 Tim. 2:9, 10; 1 Pet. 3:3, 4) You may feel that you now dress modestly. But what if an elder was to tell you that your preference in attire is causing serious offense to a number of publishers in the congregation? How would you respond? Would you become defensive, resentful, or stubborn? A foundation law of God’s Kingdom is that all citizens imitate Christ. (1 Pet. 2:21) Regarding Jesus’ example, the apostle Paul wrote: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even the Christ did not please himself.” (Rom. 15:2, 3) For the sake of peace in the congregation, a mature Christian is willing to yield without resentment to the consciences of others.—Rom. 14:19-21.
9 Consider two more topics of vital concern: our attitude toward sex and our view of marriage. Those who are not yet citizens of God’s Kingdom may condone homosexuality, consider pornography to be harmless fun, and think that adultery and divorce are purely personal matters. Kingdom citizens have abandoned such shortsighted, self-centered attitudes. Although many Christians formerly had an immoral lifestyle, they now view sex and marriage as gifts from God. They treasure Jehovah’s high standards and wholeheartedly agree that those who continue to engage in sexual misconduct are not worthy of being Kingdom citizens. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) However, they also recognize that the heart is treacherous. (Jer. 17:9) So they appreciate receiving specific warnings that help them to maintain high moral standards.
KINGDOM CITIZENS APPRECIATE WARNINGS
10, 11. What timely warnings does God’s Kingdom issue, and how do you feel about such warnings?
10 Human governments may provide health alerts regarding foods and medicines. Obviously, not all foods and medicines are bad. But if a specific product poses a threat, the government may issue balanced warnings to protect its citizens. If the government did not do so, it would be guilty of negligence. Similarly, God’s Kingdom issues timely warnings about specific moral and spiritual dangers. For instance, the Internet has become a useful way to provide communication, education, and entertainment. God’s organization makes use of the Internet and accomplishes much good with it. However, many sites on the Internet are morally and spiritually dangerous. Web sites that promote pornography pose an obvious threat to the spiritual health of Kingdom citizens. For decades, the faithful slave class has warned us about such sites. How grateful we are for these spiritual health alerts!
11 In recent years, another type of site has become very popular—one that can be useful if used with great caution. But these sites, known as social networking Web sites, also have the potential for being destructive. They can expose a person to bad associations. (1 Cor. 15:33) Little wonder, then, that God’s organization has issued balanced warnings about the use of such sites. Have you read all the recent material published by the faithful slave about the use of social networking sites? How unwise it would be to use such sites without reading that material!a It would be like taking a powerful medicine without reading the warning label on the bottle.
12. Why is it foolish to ignore warnings?
12 Those who ignore warnings issued by the faithful slave inevitably cause harm to themselves and to their loved ones. Some have become addicted to viewing pornography or have committed immorality and then deluded themselves into thinking that Jehovah cannot see what they are doing. How foolish to believe that we can hide our conduct from Jehovah! (Prov. 15:3; read Hebrews 4:13.) God wants to help such ones and prompts his earthly representatives to try to assist them. (Gal. 6:1) However, just as human governments can revoke the citizenship of a person who commits certain acts, Jehovah will revoke the citizenship of those who unrepentantly break his standards.b (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Nevertheless, he is merciful. Those who repent and change their course of conduct can regain a good standing with Jehovah and remain as Kingdom citizens. (2 Cor. 2:5-8) What an honor we have to serve such a loving King!
KINGDOM CITIZENS VALUE EDUCATION
13. How do Kingdom citizens show that they value education?
13 Many human governments work hard to educate their citizens. They organize schools that promote literacy and teach practical work skills. Kingdom citizens appreciate these secular schools and diligently learn to read, write, and support themselves financially. They value even more highly the education they receive as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Through the Christian congregation, Jehovah promotes literacy. Parents are encouraged to read to their young children. Each month, the faithful slave publishes a number of pages of Bible-based material in The Watchtower and Awake! If you read a couple of pages each day of the month, you will be keeping up with this vital channel of Kingdom education.
14. (a) What training do we receive? (b) What suggestions for Family Worship evening have you enjoyed applying?
14 Each week, Kingdom citizens receive training at their congregation meetings. For example, the Theocratic Ministry School has for over six decades helped students to be effective teachers of God’s Word. Are you enrolled in this school? In recent years the faithful slave has particularly promoted the weekly Family Worship evening. This arrangement strengthens the family unit. Have you been able to apply the suggestions published in our literature?c
15. What is one of the greatest privileges that we have?
15 Citizens of human governments will publicly rally support for a political party, even going from door to door to do so. On a much larger scale, Kingdom citizens vigorously support God’s Kingdom both on the street and from door to door. In fact, as mentioned in the preceding study article, The Watchtower, which announces Jehovah’s Kingdom, is now the most widely distributed journal on earth! One of the greatest privileges we have is that of telling others about God’s Kingdom. Are you zealously engaging in the preaching work?—Matt. 28:19, 20.
16. How can you prove that you are a good citizen of God’s Kingdom?
16 Soon God’s Kingdom will be the only government ruling the earth. It will oversee all aspects of daily life, not only spiritual but also civil. Will you be a good citizen of God’s Kingdom at that time? Now is the time to prove that you will be. In all the decisions you make each day, do all things for Jehovah’s glory and thus prove that you are carrying on as a good citizen of God’s Kingdom.—1 Cor. 10:31.
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Do you heed Bible-based warnings about the Internet?
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Like the sons of Korah, do you find delight in pure worship and its history?
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Your Family Worship evening can do much to make you and your loved ones fine Kingdom citizens