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A Better Country

By David A. DePra

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

A foundational Truth about NT saints is that we are, "strangers and pilgrims," on this earth. But this is more than simply a classification or meaningless definition. The reason that those who are born again are, "strangers and pilgrims," on this earth is that we -- through the new birth – are actually citizens of heaven, i.e., the heavenly realm. In fact, we might say that we are, through this new birth, a heavenly race.

Now note: A citizen of heaven is one who is BORN FROM ABOVE. So our citizenship is not determined by some legal document. It is determined by BIRTH. If we are "born from above," we are a citizen of above – a citizen of the heavenlies. As noted, this is the KIND of creature we are.

If we are born from above, this means that Jesus Christ has made Himself one with our spirit -- and He said, "I am from above." Thus, because we are in Him -- we belong to the above or spiritual realm; we belong to God Himself. This is the only kind of saint -- the only kind of Christian -- that there is.


What does it mean to be a citizen -- of any country? It means that we are under its government – under the laws of that country. Thus, we must give allegiance to that country, and order our lives according to its laws. But it also means that we derive certain RIGHTS from that country. Our citizenship governs our freedoms – or lack thereof – as well as our finances, ability to move about, our right to worship, and pretty much all of our outward life, to one degree or another.

We know that the Bible tells us to obey the laws of our country. And there is nothing wrong with benefiting from the rights we have as citizens of it. So this matter of being a citizen of heaven, rather than a citizen of earth, speaks to another, much deeper, issue.

There is the earthly realm and there is the spiritual realm. But these realms are not merely outward. They are inward. We have an earthly nature IN US. To be a citizen of heaven means that we can no longer live from OUT OF that earthly nature. It is no longer our resource – not in the outward and not in the inward. Indeed, we have been crucified to it.

To be a citizen of heaven means that all of our rights and all of our resources come from the spiritual – come from Him. That is because our LIFE comes from Him – indeed, Jesus Christ IS our life. NOTHING God has for us will come from our own natural man – with all of his supposed resources. All has been given in Jesus Christ, who is IN US. Much of what God is doing is intended to bring us into the reality of this Truth. We are to come to be governed by the heavenly government that is within us – a Person, Jesus Christ.

To be a citizen of heaven is really to be a citizen of Christ – we are members of His Body. To be a citizen of heaven means that my inner constitution is of another government – it is really ANOTHER LIFE: Jesus Christ is our life. He is our government – He is our Lord, or King. CHRIST IN US is our government – and is supposed to come to transform our thinking, our goals, our choices, and our living. It means that instead of being a slave to our old nature, we are one with Him. This means we are free to be governed by the Spirit of Christ unto God’s will and glory.

The key here is to NOT to find a new religious pattern according to which I can walk. No. The key here is to grow to know Jesus Christ – and then to walk with Him by faith. That is what Hebrews is getting at. I can religiously confess that I am a stranger and pilgrim on this earth, but it will never be real unless it is the outcome of seeing Jesus Christ. Indeed, if I walk with Christ in spirit and in Truth, the only possible outcome is that I will more and more live as a citizen of heaven, rather than earth. Knowing Christ will do that. Knowing Christ can ONLY do that.

The Grace of God

The government of the heavenly realm – which is the kingdom of God – is the Person of Jesus Christ. But not a Jesus Christ who is far off in heaven. No, but Christ who dwells IN US. We could just as accurately say that saints are to be governed by a growing realization of Christ – the forming of Christ within – an experiential knowledge of Him. This is, "the law of Christ." Not a law that is formed from dos and don’ts, but a law that is really the LAW OF LIFE.

There are practicalities from this. From a practical standpoint, this means we are to be governed by the law of love – whatever is love, yes, that is what we should do. But more importantly, love is always what God does – because God IS love. Of course, God’s love is not man’s love. God’s love is always His commitment to His ETERNAL highest on our behalf, regardless of cost to us, or to Him. Man’s love is earthly, with temporal goals.

There is a primary dimension to this love: The grace of God. We could say that God’s grace is His love in action. God gives freely because He is love. Herein we begin to see more closely the government of God – and our life in it. A citizen of heaven lives in -- and out from -- the grace of God. Practically speaking, this means that GRACE governs all. Grace is God’s attitude of love towards us – in all that He does. And as we go on with God, and become governed by His grace, His grace will govern our attitude. Or, to put it simply, quoting the words of Jesus, "Freely you have received. Therefore freely give." We will come to live that.

I don’t know if many of us have truly understood the full meaning of grace. We know grace as it pertains to forgiveness for sin and for salvation -- but not so much outside of that. Have we understood that EVERYTHING God does is by His grace? Sure. That is because everything God does is on the basis of Christ. This means that we are wasting our time trying to approach God, and walk with God, on any other basis. Again, if God offers all things by grace, solely on the basis of Christ, then how far are we going to get trying to receive them on another basis, namely that of OURSELVES, and our merits?

I want to repeat it: Grace governs ALL. Everything God does is by His grace. Everything. That is because God is the God of all grace; God is love. It is also because to say otherwise would be to suggest that man could do something for himself. No. "Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ." That settles it. Grace and Truth were not already here in man. Neither do grace and Truth come through US.

This is a matter of TRUTH, not religion. It is a matter of coming into fellowship with God and being able to live in Him. If God gives us all things freely, solely on the basis of grace through Christ, then if I am trying to receive on another basis, my problem is not merely that I am doing the wrong thing. No. I am deceived: I am in ERROR. I am walking contrary to the government of God. I am, in fact, living under my OWN government.

How so? To be under law – to try to walk with God on some other basis than grace -- is a religious form of self-ownership; self-government. Why? Because my faith is in myself. I think, through my works, that I am controlling God – I think that I am EARNING or I am MERITING. This would make God’s purpose, plan, actions, and attitude towards me, be determined by my works. That puts me on the throne, and puts me under my own government. I may think this is how God wants it, but I am deceived.

I realize that most people who are under law think that they are expressing submission towards God through their obedience. They think they have faith. Well, read Galatians. If you are under the law, you are not obeying God because your faith is in Christ – rather, you are obeying Him because your faith is in yourself. You are not in submission to God, but standing aloof from Christ. That is because you still own yourself. Instead of abandoning yourself to God, you have fashion a subtle, religious way of insuring the outcome of your life through YOUR OWN WORKING.

We break up Christianity into religious tenets and doctrines. But in the end, it is about a relationship with a Person who IS the Truth. Thus, you cannot be walking in error on one point without affecting another. Losing my life into the hands of Christ ultimately is equal to walking in the grace of God. Seeking to own my life for myself is ultimately equal to living under the government of my own works. It gets to that in the end.

Wherever our faith is – that is our government. That is a different way of saying it, but it is the Truth. The object upon which you place your trust and reliance will govern you. It comes down to that in the end.

God has never told us to govern our lives – not even through our own works or supposed obedience to Him. Rather, God has told us to LOSE our lives. Many of us are trying to walk with Christ on the basis of the WRONG LIFE – on the basis of OURSELVES – which is to say we are under the WRONG government. But the only way to walk in the Truth is to walk with Christ on the basis of HIS LIFE in us. Again, the government under which we must walk is that of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

If I truly grasp the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I will lose my life into His hands. I will leave myself alone TO HIM. I will be able to do so because I will see that nothing I do, or don’t do, can alter the finished work of Christ.

This one Truth explains so much. It explains, for instance, why God is often SILENT to us, and seems to be INDIFFERENT to us. We cry and plead for God to help us and He does NOTHING. Why? Well, without realizing it, we may be, yes, asking God to help and bless us – but we may have never lost our lives into His hands. In effect, we are asking Him to bless the wrong life – the life we need to LOSE. Jesus said, "You must lose your life to find real life in Me." Well, if we haven’t lost our life, but are trying to get God to bless it, what can He do for us? Not much at present. God is not going to bless self-government. He is not going to bless the life He tells us to lose. He will instead be silent to us – and seek to bring us to where we will lose ourselves to Him.

How many see that the problem here is not a lack of information from God? That the problem here is not that God is indifferent to us, or that God is slow to keep His Word? No. The problem here is deeper than we could possibly imagine – the problem is the very basis upon which we are living. We are unwittingly trying to get God to bless what hinders us. We are trying to get God to affirm what must be exposed as error. Without realizing it, we are trying to possess ourselves – and trying to get God to help us!

Never think the need here is doing or not doing. Doing will never solve this. Neither is the need a matter of knowing a teaching. No. The issue is here is seeing Jesus Christ and believing to the point where we absolutely abandon ourselves to Him – the issue is at the very core of our relationship with God. God has to bring us into this Truth – and thankfully, He has promised to do so. If you and I must pick up our cross and be crucified with Christ, then God will put that cross in our path. God will structure the situation wherein we will be able to LOSE ourselves to Him.

I don’t know if many of us grasp the foundational Truth and significance of this one issue. God CANNOT do much with us as long as we are operating from the basis of self-ownership. He cannot affirm it. He cannot bless it. He cannot come in under our government and help us try to live the Christian life on that basis. It cannot be done because self-ownership is the basis, not only of error, but the basis of all that is earthly and that is wrong with us. Instead, God has to get us on the basis of Christ.

This is why Jesus told us, "Whoever would seek to save (possess) his life, will lose it. But whoever would lose His life for My sake will find it." That is an absolutely utter and all encompassing statement. LIFE includes everything – your very existence. If you and I do not lose our lives – abandon ourselves – fully into the hands of God, then we are not on the right basis; not under the right government. We are trying to walk with Christ on the basis of the wrong life – OUR life, instead of HIS. And God, because He loves us, cannot help us do so.

It is an absolute fact: Self-ownership, even religiously, IS the earthly government. It is exactly what it means to be governed by the earthly. To the extent that I possess myself FOR myself I am being government by the earthly, and will, in one way or another, open the door for all else that is earthly. The earth is under a curse – we might even say the earthly is under a curse. Thus, if I am trying to salvage what is under a curse, I will have chosen a path contrary to the Truth.

As noted, if I possess myself FOR myself, I will open the door for all else that is earthly, because that is what an earthly life holds – and I am possessing that earthly life. I will have an earthly mind, with earthly goals, and even have an earthly religious life with God. Indeed, even what I think is the Spirit of God may be nothing more than my own soul power rising up in what seems to be a spiritual fashion. And yet ALL of this is made possible only because I have not lost MY LIFE. If I have not lost my life then my Christianity remains rooted in MY LIFE. And MY LIFE is earthly.

Again I ask: Have we grasped the magnitude of this issue? We are here talking about the necessity of coming to the Cross; of picking up our cross – which is exactly what Jesus said we MUST do, "if any one would follow Him." We are talking about life and death.

So if we wonder how God will seek to set us free from being governed by the earthly – we now have our answer: He must bring us to where we LOSE the earthly life. He must bring us to the Cross. We have to LOSE ourselves – abandon ourselves to Him. Information won’t do it. Religion won’t do it. Works won’t do it. Only DEATH – being crucified with Christ – will do it. And until we come to that place we are not going to get far in God’s purpose.

Of course, most of us don’t even realize that we are trying to possess ourselves. In fact, it is entirely possible to know the teaching about this – and seek to lose your life – but all the time continue to possess it. Why? Because once we know we need to lose our lives it is possible to turn EVEN THAT into a law. We try to crucify ourselves, as it were. No. God has to bring us to the place and situation wherein we pick up the cross HE CREATES for us – and lose our lives on HIS terms. By faith – because we see the Truth. By faith – because we desire Jesus Christ.

The way in which to begin losing your life is to tell God to do whatever it takes to make Christ your life. This is the Truth behind Romans 12:1. "Lord, I cannot bring this to pass, but I present myself to You. Do whatever it takes to bring me to where I will lose my life as Jesus described. I want Christ to be my life. I want to live as a citizen of Christ."

It has to be the greatest irony of all that Christians have turned even the losing of our lives for the sake of Christ into a law – or into something we do as a merit before God. No. We have not truly lost our lives for Jesus’ sake until we do it because we see that we have no merits and that the grace of God is the only Truth. Losing your life will mean losing YOURSELF as the basis for the Christian life. It will mean that Jesus Christ, and God’s grace in Him, will be that basis. Then you and I will be under the right government.

The Sovereignty of God

The sovereignty of God is the government of God – it is the kingdom of God through Christ. And the fact is, God’s grace and His sovereignty go hand in hand.

God’s grace means that He freely gives – but it also means that He is free TO give. In short, if God is my government, then He is free to do as He pleases in my life. He is free to give what He alone desires, or not give, as it pleases Him.

The relationship God desires is this: He wants to be free to give us all in Christ – and He wants us to be free to receive all that is in Christ. If we are able to FREELY receive – no strings attached – all that God freely gives, then we are in fellowship with Him. We are in the Truth.

God cannot freely give to most Christians. Why? Because we will not freely receive. We will try to receive on another basis. And the moment we try to receive on another basis, we are in error. We will take what is given by grace and drag it down into the earthly and corrupt it. So despite the fact that all things are freely given in Christ, the problem is US. We will not receive by grace.

A citizen of heaven has no rights. But this is NOT a negative. For it means we can receive nothing on the basis of RIGHTS – but can receive all on the basis of GRACE. Have we seen that GRACE does away will all entitlement? With all rights? Sure. But because of Christ, all that we try to obtain through merits is freely given. I have no right to anything – but God offers, solely by grace, everything. I do not determine the outcome or present condition of my life. But God does – solely on the basis of His own will and grace.

One example of this is the promises of God. God has made many promises in His Word. Often, when we find ourselves in need, we go to these promises and parade them before the Lord. We say, "You promised and You must do." Well, that sounds right. But can we see that it is possible to do that in unbelief? To be asking God to show that He is not a liar? It is possible to do all of that from the wrong life and the wrong government. Again – we want God to keep His promises on the basis of something other than Christ, and on the basis of something other than His grace.

Have we realized that God already has a plan and purpose – and has already apprehended us for that purpose? We will never drag God down into our purposes – which are usually religious, but earthly and temporal. Instead, He seeks to bring us up into HIS plan and purpose – which is the forming of Christ in us. This is a matter of sovereignty.

Is God, in His own self, trustworthy to do what He promised to do? Or will He do it only if we nag Him? Will God keep His promises only if we hold Him hostage to them? I would submit that an eternally sovereign God will not only keep His Word, but wants to keep His word more than we want Him to keep it. Keeping His Word is part of His plan and purpose. Thus, instead of trying to get God to keep His Word in response to our works or merits, we need to relinquish all of that and allow God to get us to where we can receive His promises upon the basis that they were given – that of grace.

If God’s promises are given on the basis of grace in Christ, then the only basis they can be received is upon the grace of Christ. Thus, the issue is getting us to the end of our government, and self-ownership, so that we will gladly receive all that God has given – solely by grace.

Because God is sovereign, He is already working a plan and purpose. He has apprehended us for Himself. Thus, we have no input. We have no rights. But we do have the privilege of being a recipient of grace. What else could be the Truth if God is God? If God is sovereign?

A Better Country

A NT saint does not live on the basis of, our out from, the earthly – at least we are not supposed to. A saint is not supposed to be governed by outward circumstances, even if they seem contrary to God. Neither is a saint supposed to be governed by his own earthly nature – which will often be contrary to God. Rather, because a saint is one who has Christ within, a saint is supposed to be governed by Christ – this is the kingdom of God and for this age – this is, "a better country."

None of this can be accomplished by religion – not even Christian religion. It can be accomplished only by a life received from above – a life that carries the better country. The saints of Hebrews 11, "came out," of their old country – lost their lives – and sought a better country, which is really a better life in a Person – because they came to see that it was indeed a BETTER one.

If we see the Truth we will see that all that God has for us really is BETTER – infinitely and eternally. This will actually bring us to repentance because we will see how foolish we were to hold to our own lives; to hold to the earthly. But it will likewise lead us to, "confess we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth," because we will not want to belong to this realm, but to Christ. It is when we grow to know and experience Christ that everything else is brought into the Light and is shown to be what it is. Confessing the Truth about anything is only possible if we see the Truth Himself.

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