Philippians 3 v 17 – 21
We live in a world of so much conflict. Despite the Lord telling us not to love the world, many of God’s people love the world and the things thereof. I observe that people claw to the old flesh as if that is all that there is. The problem of that is – although we must be good stewards of our bodies, time, talents and tithes, not wasteful and unwise people, we must always do so knowing that this world is not our home and you can hold onto it only so long then the LORD takes you home. Every day there is also the possibility that He would return before a single one of us goes home. But we are so focused on this world and it creates so much conflict as people fight and compete for the things of this world! The Apostle tells us that’s not the way it ought to be – our bellies are not our gods. None of our body parts is our god. God is our God.
In Paul’s Epistle of joy he discusses two different ways to walk in this life:
- The Walk of the Citizens of Heaven.
Paul gives us an admonition to walk like him and other believers who walked like him.
In verse 17 he says “join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”. Paul frequently encouraged others to follow his example. In 1 Cor. 4:16 and 11:1 he does the same. In what way were they, and in what way are we to imitate Paul and others around about us, who walk as he does? First of all to the degree that he tried to imitate Christ – 1 Cor. 11:1: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We are also to follow him in his devotion to the LORD Jesus Christ and according to the example they set. Just as there were people in Thessalonica who imitated Paul, so there were those at Philippi who did the same.
Most people are imitating someone – a role model. Most people seek to be like somebody that they truly admire. That can be beneficial or it can be not so beneficial. But it is beneficial to follow the example of Paul and other godly leaders round about us, especially when we consider the outcome of their conduct – how it works out for them – how better their lives are.
But we should also be good examples ourselves – especially true for those who teach and preach God’s Word and those who find themselves in position of authority – especially true for moms and dads. As parents we cannot keep our guard up all day, and in these days of lock-down our children see us all the time – in our good and bad moments. We need to be examples for them that they can emulate. I confess that I often fail dismally at that. But we need to be examples ourselves – including those who serve as Elders among us – we need to be examples to other people, as do the Deacons.
- The Walk of the Enemies of the Cross of Christ.
In verses 18-19, with tears he warns against people who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, for their mind is set on earthly things. He cautions us very strongly against these people. He pointed them out, warning not to be like them, and not to do like they do. Often one cannot tell people who came from a sports gathering or the movies apart from people who have come from a church service.
Paul often repeated his warning. It was also necessary to be negative at times. Some people would have accused him of being negative, but he tells this with tears. This is the heart of the Apostle Paul when he cautions us against those who are lost – those who live in this appalling way – he even does it with tears – why? I believe it is tears of compassion for those who are lost in darkness, but also of concern for those who might be influenced by that. Whichever way it is, negative preaching when necessary should not be done without compassion – even when we call out those who are heretics – those who are not living godly lives – it should always be done with compassion, not with anger and resentment. Even in this – being compassionate – he is setting the right example to us. He’s not teaching the Philippians to hate their enemies – enemies of the cross of Christ even! He came to them with compassion, showing us how to love our enemies.
Who are these enemies of the cross of Christ?
They are many – the enemies of the cross are not just a few odd ones – they are many – enemies of the cross in so many ways – walking in the wrong way, and we ought to not emulate them, but so often they influence us in one way or another, and that is wrong! It’s also dangerous, because we know their end – destruction! That’s a very sad reality!
Do you rejoice that these people are going to be destroyed? Are you happy about that? Are you glad, can’t you wait to see that happen? People destroyed!
2 Thes. 1:7-9: “[God considers it just …] to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might…”
Beloved, these are some of your family members! Does this put the fear of God in you? Some of your friends are among them! Some of your relatives! Parents, some of your children are among them! Children, some of your parents are among them! And it’s a terrible end, as you just saw! This is not to scare little primary school kids with!
This is the Almighty God of heaven speaking by His Spirit, telling us what the consequences are going to be for those who walk as the enemies of the cross of Christ! We need to have compassion on them. If you’re going to have compassion on your lost relatives who walk as enemies of the cross, you ought to be consistent and also have compassion on those who are the relatives of others who are your brothers and sisters.
The sad thing is we know who their god is – there’s so many eating places – their god is their belly – not just the belly, but those who are set on satisfying only their fleshly appetites and desires – it’s all about the old flesh – that’s wherein is their glory – it’s in their shame! They take pride in things that they ought to be ashamed of!!
How terrible to be proud of what you ought to be ashamed of. This is how blunted and deluded people can become.
They set their minds on earthly things. Advertising people tell us best what our minds are set on. They advertise feverishly because they know what people have their minds on – a new house, a new car, new clothing, new jewellery, full bellies – a new bed – on earthly things. We should have an appreciation for what is beautiful, true and right in this world, but the LORD means it when He says “love not the world and the things thereof.”
Let’s be good stewards of our treasure, our time, our talent and our tithes, and also of our bodies, but let’s not do that as though that’s all there is or even the best there is. That’s not the life of a believer, but the life of enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you – where is your mind? How we answer may determine whether or not we are enemies of the cross of Christ.
To motivate us not to be such, Paul in verses 20 – 21 shares with us reasons why we should walk like him and other believers:
a. Our citizenship is in heaven – this world is not our home. You cannot cling to this life forever. Our true loyalty is to that which is above, not that which is on earth. Beloved, you must hear what I say to you now, whether you’re young our old. Just because you’re old, don’t sit around and think you don’t have to do anything because you think you might just die tomorrow. You might not die for another number of years. Christ might have you lined up for some years still in His service, and so you need to be a good steward. But young people, don’t live like you’ve got years ahead of you guaranteed. We’ve seen enough young people suffer from diseases and die, or die in other ways to know that we can never take life for granted.
My Irish grandfather captivated me when he sang ‘This world is not my home…’.
I could see that he meant every word and that he yearned to be with His Lord. This world is not your home – you’re just a passing through! That’s why you mustn’t live like an enemy of the cross, but emulate those who seek to emulate the Lord Jesus.
Peter tells us that our inheritance is kept in heaven, so we have special responsibilities.
b. We eagerly wait for the Saviour who will transform our lowly bodies.
Even though He is now heaven, He’s coming again one day, and when He does, what glory there will be for those who are children of heaven! He will transform our lowly bodies – it will be conformed to His glorious body. We eagerly wait for the Saviour. If there was a more eager waiting for the return of Jesus, we would have revival, but we are so attached to the things of the world that some of us are almost afraid of His coming. Some of us gets very close to thinking (subliminally at least) ‘Just hold back a little longer Lord Jesus, I’m having a lot of fun here You know – I don’t want to go to heaven quite yet’. That’s not a Christian mind-set! A Christian mind-set eagerly waits for the Saviour, who will transform our lowly bodies. How will He do this? By the same power with which He subdue all things to Himself.
You look at everything arrogant, powerful and beautiful in this world – everything that enamors us, the LORD Jesus by His glory and power will subdue all of that to Himself.
Are these not good reasons to walk like Paul?
How are we walking in this life – as citizens of heaven or as enemies of the cross? May the LORD help us to walk in the right way – as those who are citizens of heaven, who eagerly await His coming and their transformation and not as enemies of the cross.