Kingdom Citizens

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As Christians, we have freedom and liberty as citizens of the Kingdom and yet we also have responsibilities to the Kingdom that cause us to refrain from how we could use those liberties!

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Well, as we are now moving at a fast pace through the month of December and since Christmas Day will be here before you can even blink an eye, I thought that I thought that I would do something to help some of you out. You know, some small and simple last minute ideas! (Please note that I am not advocating for the commercialization of Christmas Day nor am I suggesting that any of you should go out and buy anything for this day. However, since many people will be buying gifts and cannot think of anything to get certain people, I thought that I would help some of you out!)

Start slides for funny Christmas gifts
For that special someone in your life we have, “Dill Pickle Mints”.
Is there someone that you struggle to get along with at the workplace? Then buy them a pack of this.......”Get Along With Your Coworkers Gum”!
Is there a BACON lover in your life? Try one of these assorted goodies. We have
Bacon Air Fresheners
Bacon Candy Canes
Bacon Flavored Tooth Picks
Bacon Lip Balm (to really grease up those lips)
And if they have been indulging in too much bacon flavored goodness and their breath needs a little refreshing, then give them....”Bacon Mints”
Or Bacon Flavored Toothpaste!
And speaking of mints, there is also the “Memory Mints” for those who seem to have senior moments all too often!
And mints for the person that thinks it’s all about them, we have, “The Narcissist Mints”!
For the southern gourmet, we have, “BBQ Flavored Larvae”!
And if those little gourmet larvae didn’t set too well and you’re out and away from home, then we have the.......”Public Toilet Survival Kit”!
And if you were really in dire straits after all of that larvae goodness and then go south too quickly, then I give to you.......”Instant Underpants (Just add water)”!
Finally, for those who you think have everything, you can buy them......”A Plot of Land in Ireland” (Yep a literal one foot square plot of land registered and deeded to them for $50!)
Well, what if that certain hard to buy for person has traveled all over the globe and wouldn’t appreciate such niceties as land in Ireland, you might ask? No problem, go off the globe baby!
Buy them........”Moon Land” (Yes, that’s right, Moon Land. You can actually buy that person an ACRE of land on the moon that is deeded and recorded in their name with a map showing their acreage and other goodies that go with it!)

OK, there you have it. No thanks are needed folks, if I have done any of you a favor this morning! But seriously, let’s move on into today’s lesson, shall we?

You know, in lite of talking about “gifts” and especially at this time of year where “gift giving” it is soooooooo commercialized and advertised and it’s all about buying more and more and getting more and more; I came across a familiar passage in the gospels the other day that reminded me of something that myself as well as many others may take for granted!
And this certain thing, this “gift” (if you will), that I began thinking about, is tied in heavily with what Pastor Linus taught on last Sunday. How many of you were and heard the message that Linus spoke about last week?
He based his message off of , which reads,
Revelation 12:10–11 ESV
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
As we saw last week from this passage, every true believer in Jesus Christ, has power over our enemy, by the life giving blood of Jesus Christ, but also through the word of our testimony, which shows our trust and faith in Him!
I know that many of you who were here last week and heard the message , were very touched and received something from it, AMEN?!
But our testimony and the faith that we have backing it up, are directly related to our understanding of who we are and what we have been given though the “Blood of the Lamb”!
Namely, the gift of sonship and citizenship within the Kingdom!
So, with that thought in mind, I am going to move forward and into the main passage that we are going to be looking at this morning.

Would you turn with me in your Bibles please, to the gospel of ,

Matthew 17:24–27 ESV
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
Now, in true Pastor Chris fashion, before I get into the meat of this verse and give you the very simple take home point that I feel that Holy Spirit wants me to impart to you this morning, I would like to back up a little bit and explain a little bit of history that leads up to this Biblical account.
You guys should know me well enough by now, to know that I have more of a teacher’s heart and that I love to try explain and make relevant what I am speaking to you about, AMEN? So, that being said, let’s look at what this tax is that Peter was being questioned about in this verse, as Jesus uses this to make a point to Peter.
If you could travel all the way back to the time of Moses and the Exodus period, around 1,500 years ago, (or you could simply turn to Exodus, the 2nd book in the Bible), in , you will find God saying this to His servant Moses,
Exodus 30:11–12 NLT
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord. Then no plague will strike the people as you count them.
Exodus 30:11–16 NLT
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord. Then no plague will strike the people as you count them. Each person who is counted must give a small piece of silver as a sacred offering to the Lord. (This payment is half a shekel, based on the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs.) All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this sacred offering to the Lord. When this offering is given to the Lord to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less. Receive this ransom money from the Israelites, and use it for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring the Israelites to the Lord’s attention, and it will purify your lives.”
As we find here, the Lord, Yahweh, gave Moses the decree to take a census of the people, right in the middle of giving him all of the particulars about the tabernacle that they were to build. In this census, God doesn’t ask for an actual head count, but rather, He calls for a payment to be made. (A half of a shekel to be exact) Every man, twenty years of age and older were to pay this amount.
This payment, was called a “ransom” payment, by the Lord when He issued the decree to Moses.
The subject of a ransom, was nothing new to the people of Israel and Moses, as God had already stated in that all of the firstborn males (livestock and humans alike) belonged to the Lord, but yet, the human males were to be ransomed (bought) back from the Lord. Israel, according to God, was His firstborn, as God told Moses to tell Pharaoh in , “ 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn.”
How many know that the way the way the Pharaoh handled God’s firstborn was costly, and to this day, the way that we view and handle God’s firstborn is costly?!!!!!
This stemming from the final and devastating blow to the Egyptians as the Lord took all of their firstborn males during the passover.
So, God reminded the Israelites that because He had protected the firstborn of their people from the plague (death), their firstborn belonged to Him and that they MUST ransom, or buy back the firstborn!
So. God is stressing a couple of things to the people with what is going on here: 1) He is saying that the firstborn must be redeemed, but now, unless a plague would strike the people, all peoples under the census must pay the ransom. (This plague, although they didn’t understand it, would ultimately be known as out sin, which ,without a ransom being payed for each one, would bring death!) 2) God is saying to the people that He wants them to build for Him a tabernacle, (a place that is set aside and purified) so that He can dwell with His children, in their midst!
This all comes full circle and is ultimately fulfilled by the Messiah, the Anointed One, Jesus the Christ, as He, being the FIRSTBORN of all creation, would bring the kingdom of God to earth and thus, God would dwell in the midst of His people, through purified spirits. And this same FIRSTBORN would not be ransomed, but would become the ransom for all who would believe and thus avoid the plague of sin and death!
Do you see that Jesus would ultimately fulfill every part of God’s designed plan and His will to buy us back (ransom us), from the plague of sin and death. In fact, the entire tabernacle and everything associated with it, relates to or is fulfilled through the redemptive work that Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary!
So, this census and its associated ransom was given to the children of Israel and they moved forward with it.
In Chapter 25, God allowed the children of Israel, as a free will offering, to give of themselves all the amenities that were needed to establish and build the tabernacle for His presence and now in chapter 30, they are paying a census tax (a ransom) for its support!
And the majority, if not all, of the precious items that were needed to build this tabernacle and supply it, which the children of Israel donated, were actually provided by what was taken out of Egypt as the Israelites were leaving! (In other words, God had established it, so that the wealth of the wicked people of Egypt, was given to support God’s people and ultimately for His presence coming to dwell amongst men!
This has never changed, the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous, is what the Bible tells us.
Just as God allowed the children of Israel the opportunity to freely give of themselves towards building the tabernacle and thus bringing God’s presence into their midst, and then making a righteous requirement of them, through the census tax (a ransom), that would protect them from a plague (death), He does the same thing with us today; except we no longer pay the ransom; it was payed for us!
We are allowed to make the decision (just as they were), to give ourselves, completely to Him, (as living stones) and thus we become the temple of His presence, and yes, a ransom was required for this to take place and protect us from death, just as it was for them. But instead of God using the shed blood of a lamb as a ransom for the people, or anything that they could offer to Him, He used the shed blood of His Son, Jesus the Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, as the ransom that would be payed for ALL time and for all who would come to Him in faith and belief!
Jesus’ shed blood became the ransom for us and the covering that was needed so that when we freely give ourselves to Him as vessels for His use, He pours His righteous Spirit into us, (cleansing us of all unrighteousness) and turns our bodies into living temples that He dwells within!
And just like in with the implementation of the census tax, no one who comes to the Lord is of more or less value in His righteous eyes. Verse 15 says, “The rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less.” That is, no one could be rich enough to deserve it and no one could be poor enough to miss out on salvation. We are all found equal in His eyes as sinners and thus the same ransom was equally paid for all!
So, this where and why the census tax originated, that we see in and it is here that we will pick back up with our account with Jesus and Peter.
In , we find Jesus and the disciples making their way back to Jerusalem. In this passage they have stopped in Capernaum, which had become their base of operations, as well as where Peter’s home was located.
The odds are highly in favor that they were actually staying at Peter’s home.
RECANT WHAT HAPPENS WITH PETER AND THE TAX COLLECTORS AND HIS RETURN TO JESUS.

Now let’s look a little more closely at what took place here and the lesson that Jesus is making to Peter and ultimately to every single person who would ever claim to be a Christian.

Just a short time before this passage takes place, Jesus and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi and it is there that Jesus asks them the question about who people said He was, followed by His asking them who they thought He was.
It is here that Peter has the inspired revelation about Jesus, and he answers by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
So, both Peter and Jesus and knew who Peter had revealed Him to be and possibly when Jesus states to Peter that the sons are free, He may have kind of goaded or prompted Peter to draw the conclusion of what this truly meant.
You know, kind of like, “OK, Peter, follow me here. I am the son of God, right? And the temple is my Father’s house. That is, My Father is Jehovah and this temple is the place where He is worshipped and dwells. So, if the kings do not tax their own children and My father is the King of the Kingdom and I am the Son, then do you think that I should be liable for this tax?”
“Exactly, NO, because the sons are free! So, I am free from any obligation to pay taxes for the support of the kingdom where My Father is Lord over it and especially in His own house.”
If you remember, early on, Jesus had already stated that the temple was His father’s house when He was just 12 years old, as we find in , where He tells Mary and Joseph, His parents, “Don’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
So, Jesus says that the sons are free, because they are of the father’s house and not of the realm outside of His kingdom. They belong to the father’s kingdom and have all of the rights that go with it!
So what did this mean for Peter and the other disciples and what does it mean for you and I as well?
Well, let’s look at a few verses and see who the Bible says that we are.
, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.”
,, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”
John 1:12 NLT
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
, "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty.”
As true, blood bought, faith filled Bible believing men and women, we are also called “SONS and DAUGHTERS of Jehovah! And this being the case, according to His own word (which never changes and is never wrong), then you and I are entitled to the rights and privileges of the Kingdom as joint heirs and citizens of that Kingdom!
The continuation of that we just read that called us sons of God, says this in verse 17, “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
You and I have all of the rights as citizens and sons and daughters of God, through our TRUE and LASTING faith in Jesus.
And I am going to come back in a just a minute to that, as CITIZENSHIP/SONSHIP, is the whole point for today and what it does for our testimony and our effective walk in this world!

Now if you look at what happened with Peter at the closing of this short four verse passage, we can glean some information that is very relevant and pertinent for us as sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God.

Here is what I mean. Listen to the way that Jesus finishes making His point with Peter after He lets Peter know that being son comes with rights and privileges and power.
He basically says to Peter, “As a son to the King, I am exempt from this tax, but so that we don’t cause an offense (that is, so that we don’t do anything that will become a stumbling block for someone else and lead them away from My Father), we will pay the taxes Peter.”
Now look at how Jesus handles this tax and the vehicle for which Jesus uses to obtain the monies to pay it. (Keep in mind, that Jesus ONLY said and did as His Father was speaking to Him, through His Holy Spirit!)
TELL STORY OF JESUS SENDING PETER FISHING!
However, He told Peter to do it differently than Peter was used to. (Peter was used to using a net to catch a large number of fish, not a single hook as Jesus was instructing him to do! (God doesn’t operate the way that we do and He will challenge you to do things that different than how you are used to; just like the different methods of healing that Jesus did!
Remember, that Peter was a fisherman by trade before Jesus met him.
Jesus told Peter to cast A HOOK, not a net to fish with.
Holy Spirit will challenge us and ask us to do things that are different than how we are used, to produce what God desires for us! (Just as Jesus healed the blind differently each time!)
God could have had Jesus pull a coin out of Peter’s ear for the tax, if He desired. But we must understand that God will require you and I to move and actively be a part of whatever it is that we need in our lives!
Seek FIRST the Kingdom and all that we need will be provided!

Now, back to our part as sons and daughters (i.e. as “citizens” of the Kingdom).

It is IMPERATIVE that we understand who we are as citizens of the Kingdom of God (if in fact you are a son or a daughter).
You and I represent the God of all creation, His Son and His Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
Listen to what Paul says of us in ,
2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
You and I are the ambassadors of heaven in a strange and foreign land. (Mention of me being in another country as ambassador for the USA.)
As citizens of the Kingdom, we have been given the authority and power and rights of sonship to the Kingdom.
We have received, as His children, very special promises from the the Father. Listen to what Peter tells.
,
2 Peter 1:3–4 NLT
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
Now, right after this, Peter lists out eight things that we must strive to posses so as to not fall back under the power of sin and for get our role and authority as ambassadors of the King!
He then goes on and says this (READ FROM BIBLE)
And as sons and daughters of the King, we have been given the gift of liberty and freedom to exercise as part of our authority.
Only, we should never use that freedom as an excuse to justify how we want to live. Our freedom as citizens of heaven, is given to us so that we can serve others, not for our own personal gain. Jesus walked in this freedom perfectly!
, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.”
We have been set free from our slavery to sin and the all of the legalism of the law and yet if we choose to walk selfishly in this new freedom, then we once again enslave ourselves to sin and the law!
Paul said that even though it was legally within his right and part of his citizenship that he could be financially taken care of by those to whom he was an apostle over, he chose to not to exercise that freedom, so as to NOT CAUSE AN OFFENSE!]
Just like Jesus told Peter that they were going to pay the tax, so as to not cause an offense!
Paul goes on to say this about his freedom that he was given, in ,
1 Corinthians 9:19–23 NLT
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
There lies the point and the power of our citizenship within the kingdom. The GREAT GIFT that we were given as SON AND DAUGHTERS (CITIZENS) of the Kingdom, was a FREEDOM to SERVE within the kingdom!
Your effective testimony as a son and a daughter of God, should mirror that of Jesus, which is being a slave to all and mastered by nothing in this life!

Let me read , to close out this morning.

1 Peter 2:13–17 NLT
For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

Are you walking in the authority and freedom as a son or as a daughter, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven? Is the word of your testimony empowered and driven by your understanding of who you are in Christ Jesus? Do you truly walk in freedom to serve others and seek to better them, or are you still walking under condemnation and shame because you have been enslaved once again to your former life of sin?

Jesus’ spoke these words to those who would become sons and daughters of God, ““You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.   And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
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