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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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Living Jesus

by Paddy McCoy

The cell was cold, dark, damp, and filled with the moans and groans of other prisoners who had been beaten and tossed inside like garbage. The apostle Paul, beaten and bruised, with heavy shackles on his wrists and ankles, and nothing but a cold hard floor to lie on, struggled to find a comfortable position in which to write. In this hell on earth, this dark dungeon of a cell that was devoid of hope and joy, the man finally put down on paper a thought that had been going through his mind as he endured horrific events. That thought was “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” He then joined his fellow prisoner as they sang praises to their God and King.

Ellen White writes this about the scene. “With astonishment the other prisoners heard the sound of prayer and singing issuing from the inner prison. They had been accustomed to hear shrieks and moans, cursing and swearing, breaking the silence of the night; but never before had they heard words of prayer and praise ascending from that gloomy cell. Guards and prisoners marveled and asked themselves who these men could be, who, cold, hungry, and tortured, could yet rejoice.”1

Was this man crazy? Had someone slipped something into his water jug when he wasn’t looking? Didn’t he realize that what had happened to him was unfair and unwarranted? Didn’t he want to lash out at this injustice, and those who committed it, with fists ablaze and words full of rage?

It doesn’t make sense, does it? Not to us, anyway. Not in our world, where we repay evil with evil, blow with blow, injustice with injustice. Strike me on the cheek, and I’ll take out your knee. Take my coat, and I’ll see to it that you never take another coat again as long as you live. No, acting the way this man acted in prison simply doesn’t make sense to us, not while we still refer to this earth as our home.

In the book of Philippians the apostle Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome to a church he helped establish in the city of Philippi. In the letter Paul instructs the believers on how to live as followers of Jesus Christ. In the midst of that letter he writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself” (Philippians 3:20, 21).

Now, Philippi was a Roman colony, and as such its people were considered Roman citizens who enjoyed all the rights, privileges, and duties of Roman citizens. The Philippians took great pride in this identity. Many historians will say, in fact, that Philippi took more pride in their citizenship than any other culture before or since the Roman Empire.

I don’t know about you, but I might have to disagree with that statement. Google the words “American pride,” and you’ll find pictures of U.S. flags on cars, people, and yes, even dogs. It seems to me that many in our country also take great pride in their citizenship.

I remember well the first time I felt truly proud to be an American. I was a sophomore in high school when I took my first trip out of the country. The entire time I proudly wore a jacket with an American flag on the sleeve. Truth be told, I really didn’t need to wear the jacket for most of the trip, as it was plenty warm outside, but I enjoyed letting everyone know where I was from.  It was also comforting to know that should anything go wrong while I was away from home in this foreign country, should any injustices occur in that unfamiliar land, I knew that I could call on my country and they would race over to save me from . . . Canada.

Citizenship is an important thing. It’s a part of our identity.

Paul wanted the Philippians to know that as followers of the way of Jesus, they were no longer citizens of Rome, or even this world, for their identity had changed—their citizenship was in heaven, and they were given all of the rights, privileges, and duties that went along with it.

I love the way The Message Bible paraphrases 1 Peter 2:11, 12: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.”2

Paul was able to rejoice in prison because he knew that with Jesus as his Savior this world was no longer his home. He could rise above his circumstances, love his enemies, turn the other cheek, rejoice in sufferings, and share his possessions because he had learned how to live as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

Before an immigrant becomes an official citizen of the United States of America, they recite an oath of allegiance. Raising their right hand, they read a statement out loud in front of a witness. I’d like to suggest that as we come to know Jesus, love Jesus, and then start to live Jesus, we take our own oath of allegiance to His kingdom. It might read like this:

“I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, for Christ now lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in God’s Son, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am a new creation, and I declare this day that Jesus Christ has dominion in my life. Because of His life, death, and resurrection, I am robed in His righteousness. With His precious gifts I will do my best to surrender to His way daily, taking up my cross to follow Him. Through my actions and my words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may I go from this place and make disciples of all nations, knowing that He is always with me. Amen.”

1 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 214.
2 Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Padraic “Paddy” McCoy writes from College Place, Washington.

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