Philippians 3:15-21, NIV
Following Paul’s Example
“15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
“17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Human beings are not only creatures of habit, we are creatures of time! Think about that for a moment. Remembering dates helps us to put our lives into perspective. Birthdays and anniversaries are major anchor dates for many of us. In families, a memory of something important might begin with something like, “Oh yeah, I remember the Civil Rights march – that was the year I was 16.” Sometimes it is an event itself which anchors time in our memories. Who doesn’t know where they were when the twin towers fell down?
We, in the British Commonwealth, have been mourning the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth. September the 8th was not a significant date in my life before – but it will be from now on. Just as February 6th, 1952, was a date I always remembered. That was two days after my 5th birthday – the day that King George VI died; the same day that Princess Elizabeth became Queen. For 70 years, almost all of my own lifetime, this woman whom I never met has been part of my daily life.
I go to church, there’s a picture of her on the wall. I buy something, there she is on the money I hand to the cashier. Her photo shows up on the Internet somewhere every day. For 70 years, Elizabeth R of the House of Windsor has been the weft of the fabric of the political structure of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the British Isles, and something like 150 other countries.
Now she is gone, and it is left to be seen how Charles the III will try to fill the huge hole left by Her Majesty, his mother. Though her feet were tiny, the Queen’s shoes will be huge ones for Charles to fill. He does not have his mother’s beaming smile nor her magnetism. He lacks her long-suffering, her patience, and forbearance. But it is in matters of faith that I believe we will see the real difference between the two monarchs. While Elizabeth R was, by all accounts, a true believer in Jesus Christ as Saviour, Charles III has already demonstrated that his faith is in earthly things, not things above.
When crowned Queen, Elizabeth prayed for the strength from God to serve the people faithfully. She asked for a heart like Jesus – a servant’s heart. One more example: Queen Elizabeth concluded her Christmas broadcast by praying for her people and inviting a practical, servant-hearted response to Jesus Christ’s message of love. She said,
“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent His only son “to serve, not to be served.” He restored love and service to the center of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that His example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others. The carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story of how God gave himself to us in humble service. The question is: What can I give Him? The answer: Give Him my heart.”
Was she a saved Christian? Only the LORD God knows the answer to that, but I think she demonstrated throughout her long life that she always endeavored to follow Jesus. For those who would throw shade on her, I would ask them to remember that no one, not even the shade thrower, is perfect.
So the Queen has left, and it remains to be seen what kind of king Charles will be. But this we do know. The King that is to come will make all the majesty, all the glory, all the goodness of our long-lived Queen pale in comparison. When King Jesus sets His beautiful foot on the Mount of Olives, there will be no more nostalgia for the “good old days,” for the evil that lives in our present world will be GONE! Oh! Can’t wait! What passes for beauty now will look like faded wallpaper when Jesus takes the throne in Jerusalem. What seems righteous now will look like filthy rags when Jesus reigns over the earth. It is the most glorious future we could ever imagine. So, while we may mourn the passing of a dearly loved Queen, our sadness must turn to infinite joy, thinking that the reign of Jesus on earth is now closer than it ever has been before.
Let’s visit the verses from Philippians and see what Apostle Paul has to say about those fabulous days that are in the future of every born-again follower of Jesus Christ that ever was.
Verse 15: “All of us, then, who are mature, should take such a view of things.” Let’s stop right there. Such a view? What is Paul alluding to? For that, we go back to the previous two verses in which the Apostle tells the Philippians that though he knows he has not achieved the state of perfection yet, he has figured out that he needs to forget the past and push on toward the future, his words, “straining toward what is ahead.” He tells the brethren that he does this by pressing on, always striving ahead toward the goal. That goal, my friends, is eternal life in Jesus Christ. Paul knows that nothing on earth in his lifetime is going to lead him to win the ultimate prize. Only by keeping his eyes on the prize, only by ‘storing up treasures in heaven’ is he or are we ever going to get there.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is stored, there also will be your heart” (Matthew 6:21). When we keep our eyes on earthly things, they are what become our heart’s desire. My friends, it is so important now, more now than at any former time of your life, to keep your eyes on heaven – on Jesus.
In 2 Chronicles 20:12, King Jehoshaphat prays: “LORD, we do not know what to do. But our eyes are on You.” That’s what Paul is talking about here: the ‘view of things’ he mentions that mature Christians ought to be taking.
The Apostle reassures the Philippians, and us, that when we do take that view, God Himself will make all things clear – make our paths straight, as it were. All the doubts and fears which daily invade our hearts and minds have no room to grow there when we are focused on Jesus Messiah and all that the LORD God has in store for us, through our Saviour. In other words, Christian, look up and keep looking up.
One way to achieve that, according to verse 17, is to align ourselves with like-minded people, those who would model their lives on Jesus, who attempt to live as He did, and as the Apostle and his cohorts were attempting to do. When we keep ourselves in the company of like-minded people, the danger of being pulled off track is minimized. In this world, we will need to interact with those who do not believe in Jesus Messiah, who will scoff at the LORD God, saying, “Where is your God?”
We are now entering a period of history unlike anything we have lived through before. Even during the world wars, there was a very large presence of Christians and Christian thought on the world stage. People still believed in God enough to pray in public places and say the LORD’s Prayer out loud in schools and before municipal councils and national assemblies. Today we are warned not to offend anyone with what ought to be our private thoughts about God.
Think about that! Is that not completely contrary to what Jesus’ Great Commission says, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 26:18b-20).
In today’s world, you could end up in a jail cell for preaching out loud, especially in places such as in front of abortion clinics. It would seem that today, more than ever before, it is necessary for birds of a feather to flock together – that is, those of us who love the LORD and want to keep His command to endure patiently as we await the Blessed Hope and His Second Coming.
And this means more than “safety in numbers.” As Paul says, “For I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (verse 18). The Apostle is warning us that one day we are likely to find ourselves surrounded by enemies of Our LORD Jesus. We need to be prepared for such an eventuality. While hanging out with other believers is one tactic, it is not always possible to do that. Some of you find that to be true at your workplace already, don’t you? You may be the lone Christian in the office, the only believer on an assembly line, the sole follower of Christ in the teacher’s lounge.
These encounters can be really uncomfortable, to be sure. However, if you are always looking up, keeping your eyes on the PRIZE of eternal life with Jesus, you may not know what to do, but your eyes will be on the LORD. And He will be your help and guide in real times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). His Spirit will give you the words you need to say (Romans 8:14). And by putting on the full armour of God, you will be able to deflect the slings, arrows and fiery darts the devil may throw at you through non-believers (Ephesians 6:10-17).
The Apostle then describes what these enemies of the Cross will look like, in no uncertain terms, so that you will recognize them in an instant. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”
Without going into another long sermon in the middle of this one, Paul tells us in Romans that God will eventually give over the reprobates to the desires of their flesh, which will doom them forever and ever. (Romans 1:28-2:4). Without pointing fingers in a way that could be interpreted as hateful, there is a whole rainbow of lifestyles now that seem to fit this passage to a ‘T.’ Some of them are recognizable because you couldn’t miss them if you tried. With clothing and make-up, they exaggerate and parade their sin. Please understand that we are all sinners. Those of us who are looking up have repented of our sin and have asked for forgiveness. I’m talking about people who say there is no such thing as ‘sin,’ who have no intention of ever repenting and who celebrate their sin and flaunt it.
It is very sad that some who have professed to be followers of Christ have bought into accepting these lifestyles under the guise of being ‘inclusive’ and ‘loving.’ Always remember that the most loving thing we can do as Christians is to lead people away from sin and eternal damnation. Jude says it this way: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt, save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”
Beloved friends, our citizenship is not of this world. The Apostle writes: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the LORD Jesus Christ.”
The refrain of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” speaks directly to what Paul is talking about. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” It is so true. As we keep our eyes on the ultimate PRIZE, eternal life with the LORD, earthly things lose their charm and attraction.
My brother is enamored of earth. He is a true nature lover and would spend most of his time outdoors if possible. He often talks about the beauty of the earth and longs to stay here forever. He’s right. Parts of Earth are breathtakingly beautiful. But here’s the thing – the earth is in a fallen state! Imagine how much more beautiful it will be when redemption comes with the return of King Jesus!
Paul writes in Romans 8:22-24a: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
In the final verse in our passage today, Apostle Paul writes: “And we eagerly await a Saviour from there (heaven) the LORD Jesus Christ, Who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
My friends, there is coming a day, sooner than you can imagine, in which our bodies will all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, and the LORD Jesus will call us with a loud voice like a trumpet, with the voice of an archangel, and the dead in Him will rise from their graves, then we who are still alive and left will rise to meet them in the air. Thus, we will ever be with the LORD. (1 Thessalonians 4) The very last sentence in that passage reads, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Oh yes, dear ones, there is so much comfort knowing that our King Jesus stands ready to come back to the earth, to give those of us who believe in Him glorious new bodies, which will fit us for eternal life in both heaven and earth, as His resurrection body allows Him to do.
And Revelation 5:10 and 2 Timothy 2:12 tell us we believers will reign with our King on the earth for a thousand years. If Queen Elizabeth was a true believer, she’ll already have the knowledge needed to rule. However, the rest of us will be, I’m sure, well tutored by Our King Jesus in the art by the time we return with Him at the end of the age.
Oh yes, the Queen has left, indeed, but King Jesus is right at the door. Be ready at all times and in all circumstances, for He could come at any moment! And all God’s people shouted the great AMEN!
Let us pray …
Dear Heavenly Father God
Our anticipation for the return of Your glorious Son is reaching fever pitch. We groan, as the Apostle Paul writes, inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. Please grant, LORD, that many of the millions who are currently lost will find salvation before it is too late. That they will come to know the ineffable love for them that only You can give them, and that they will repent of their sins, confess with their mouths that Jesus is LORD, and will accept the gift of salvation so freely bestowed by You through Jesus. This we pray in the precious Name of Yeshua Ha’Maschiach, Jesus Messiah. Amen.