Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:17-4:1 and can be found on page 982 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
4 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Lord Jesus Christ is calling our church (and every church) to faithfully stand firm in both our doctrine as well as our devotion; our minds and our actions. Faithfulness to Christ in the midst of a hostile culture is not a modern oddity, but a perennial need.
Paul doesn’t have big head. He rightly understands that Christianity isn’t just doctrinal, it’s behavioral. All of Christ for all of life, and you need role-models. (v. 17) Not all who claim Christ truly belong to Christ and many will abandon their professed faith when it comes with real consequences. (v. 18) They want immediate reward; immediate gratification and will receive ultimate and eternal destruction. (v. 19)
Christians are resident aliens. We hold dual citizenship, but this world, in its fallen state, is not our homeland. We always feel like strangers. (Ps. 137) Surprisingly, we aren’t waiting to be jerked off this planet, but for the arrival of the one who will redeem it. (v. 20) When he comes, his irresistible power will bring everything into submission and transformation—us included. (v. 21)
Knowing Christ’s return is as certain as his resurrection, stand firm. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. (v. 4:1)
You do this by following faithful models, practicing the ministry of tears and personal discipline, and you eagerly expect the return of Christ.
“Become fellow-imitators” We’re all trying to copy our big brother Jesus who has already run the race set before us. (Heb. 12:2) If you are asking, “What’s my ministry,” you first one is to follow Christ, because you are someone’s example.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)
I learned lots of knowledge from seminary, but I learned how to be a Christian from my parents and our church. Faith from Antha Raines, Generosity from Frank and Louise Blythe, Commitment from Bob Kidwell.
THE MINISTRY OF TEARS
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
The cross of Christ has enemies. Paul had enemies. And he wept for them. We ought to both have enemies and we ought to weep for them. We ought not take any joy or satisfaction in the destruction of another human soul.
As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live
We are to want the utter destruction of porn, but not of those who use it. We are to pray for the end of transgender ideology (it reeks of sulfur), but the repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration of those who have been drawn into the lie.
Love without truth isn’t love, it’s sentimentalism that lets people kill themselves. Truth without becomes sadistic condemnation. We are to take no pleasure, no joy, no glee when we hear about the damage sin is doing to another human.
We, following the path of Christ and Paul, are to weep for and pray for our enemies. Friend, if you are caught in any sin, if you will turn from it and trust in Christ—there is full pardon and mercy to cleanse you. Come to Jesus.
“their god is their belly, their glory their shame, they set their minds on earthly things”
Reading Paul’s description of the enemies of the cross, we see the photonegative of what a Christian ought to be. We are warned of the danger of loving the earthly creation more than the eternal Creator.
I want to debunk a common misunderstanding: We are called to submit our bodies and our desires to Christ. Christianity does not pit the body against the soul: that’s Gnosticism. Jesus’s body was raised, and we are promised a new creation. So, the body with its desires isn’t something to shed, it will be redeemed and transformed—and that transformation begins now through the indwelling of the Spirit who helps you discipline yourself.
We don’t become holy by refusing to eat, but by refusing to worship food. We don’t become beautiful by refusing to bath or put on scent, but by refusing to make our beauty the measure of our worth.
Our governing authority is in heaven. The executive power of the universe lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit. His name is Jesus Christ. This means that our church, and every true church, is a colonial outpost, an embassy on behalf of that authority. We belong to a community of foreigners who pledge allegiance to our home country. Do you feel like an alien and a stranger? It’s because this nation isn’t your true home.
A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’ – Lewis
Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar. Jesus Christ is Savior, not the USA. Christians are not scofflaws. These statements are not so much a call to rebellion, as they are a reminder of where our hope lies. Our aim is to please Christ, not ourselves; to honor Christ, not the governor.
Contemplation on the authority and coming kingdom of Christ sustain us for our walk in this messed up world. Our hope is not in fixing this nation. Our hope is the establishment of Christ’s kingdom at the end of the age.
Are you suffering? Are you sick and tired of the way this world is going? Christ will transform everything by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (3:21)