Sermon on Philippians 3:17-4:1
Text: 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.
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Remember back in the day, before our GPS phones, when we had to find some place using a map. It helped if you had a navigator there to read the map. Otherwise, you had to sneak a peek at the map while you were driving. Of course, it was always better if you got directions from someone who had been there. Did you ever get directions like these? You go down the gravel road until you see an old barn on the left. Make a right there. Or, go down the street until you see such and such a restaurant. Turn there. Those directions were all good and fine until you tried to follow them. The person who gave the directions forgot that the old barn that they were talking about had been torn down years ago. The restaurant had been torn down and now a gas station stands on that corner. Trying to get to your destination was frustrated by faulty directions. This morning, the apostle Paul reminds us of our ultimate destination. He, also, warns about the many distractions that try to keep us from getting there. So, as we travel along life’s path, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT DIRECTIONS! 1. Good Guides Are Hard To Find. Thankfully, 2. The Best Guide Is Easy To See.
As you read through the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians, you can see that this congregation is near and dear to his heart. The majority of his letter is filled with joy. For example, in our text, Paul refers to them as “you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown.” This is not to say that everything was perfect in the congregation. The members still had some spiritual growing to do. Paul begins this section with the words, “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.” Paul holds up himself and the others who had come to them with the gospel message as ones these Philippian Christians were to model their lives after.
The reason for this encouragement is found in verses 18 and 19, “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. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” The reason for the encouragement to follow his example was the fact that some of the Philippian Christians were starting to follow other examples that were leading them away from the truth of God’s Word and the ultimate glories of heaven. Since these people were so important to him, he says, “As I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears.” When Paul heard about what was happening to some of them, it touched him deeply. He had told them this before. Some of them had refused to listen and it caused Paul a great deal of pain. It moved him to tears to hear what some of them were doing.
What they were doing caused them to be “enemies of the cross.” By the way that they were living, they were showing that the message of the cross was no longer important to them. They were living as though Christ had not come to be their Savior. The reason for this is that “their god is their stomach.” This does not mean that they were literally worshiping their stomachs. Rather, they were catering to all of the desires and appetites of their sinful nature: greed, gluttony, drunkenness, sexual immorality and anything else that satisfied what their sinful nature demanded. Even worse than living up to the standards Christ set before them and falling, they were living down to the levels of their sinful nature and succeeding. No doubt, they still claimed to be Christians, but their lives were showing something different.
One of the reasons for this is that they were imitating the world around them. They were influenced by what they saw and had been fooled into thinking that they could go along with these things and still call themselves Christians. They were influenced by the thought that, since God freely gives his grace, since he loves and forgives so abundantly, they could naturally do what pleased and met their needs and desires. They had been influenced by the world around them.
It is so easy for us to understand what Paul is talking about. We live in a world that tells us, “Have it your way.” It tells us, “If it feels good, do it.” Look at the people that the world clamors to be like. We read about the lives of movie and television stars. They seem to live life to the fullest. They are having so much fun, it seems, without all of the constraints of decency. They hop from one marriage to another, if they even bother to get married in the first place. They are out and about at all of the best parties. This is no longer the exception. It has become the rule. They are proud of their lifestyles. Paul correctly points out, “their glory is their shame.” Look at all of the advertizement that is out there. It feeds on our impulse that we do not have enough. We need to have this or that to have a better, fuller life. Another area of influence is what is passed off as entertainment. How have television and movies changed in the last 50 years? 20 years? 10 years? At first, we were shocked. Now, that’s what is normal. We can so easily be brought to think that there is nothing wrong with it and be influenced by it.
There can even be bad influences within what is called Christianity today. There are Christian leaders who accommodate themselves to the thinking of the world and the satisfaction of their sinful desires. They not only defend, but they openly and boastfully advocate what the Bible clearly calls sin. They say that biblical morality is irrelevant and out of date. Our sinful nature wants to listen them, because they are saying what it wants to hear.
It is good for us to hear this warning, because, as Paul says, “their destiny is destruction.” The destiny of all who pay homage to their “stomach” is destruction. Case closed! Paul is pointing ahead to the eternal destruction that follows these lifestyles of licentiousness, self-gratification, and self-indulgence. All of these things can so easily entangle us so that we are distracted and, ultimately, lose our faith. All of these things claim to be guides to happiness and freedom. In the end, they enslave us. My dear friends, may God help us to keep our eyes open to all of these influences and avoid being misled by them.
The fact is that all of these things are not permanent. This world is not our home. We are just passing through on our journey. Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, 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.” We are on our way to the heavenly home that Jesus won for us. We thank our God that Jesus was not influenced by the world around him. He faced all of the temptations that you and I do, but, never once gave in to any of them. He, then, went to the cross to pay for all of the times that we have been influenced by the world around us and gave in to them. Jesus’ resurrection tells us that all sins have been paid for and that eternal life is ours. As a result of all that he has done for us, we want to live lives that thank him.
Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” All of the things of this world are only temporary. Even the things that might give us a moment’s happiness on this earth will be gone. We know that heaven is our home. Paul, also mentions that, Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” When we get to heaven, our bodies will be perfect. We will no longer have to deal with any of the sickness or imperfections that now plague our bodies. More than that, we will be freed from all of the influences of our sinful nature. We will finally be able to serve him without the taint of sin.
It is because of this that “we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We long for that day when we will be with our Savior forever. We know that, while he is in heaven, Jesus is preparing a place for us. We will be in that place where there is no more hurting or sadness. We will be in heaven where there is perfect, uninterrupted joy. How we long for that day when we will be with our Savior for all eternity. We join with the hymn writer who penned, “I’m but a stranger here; heaven is my home.”
In the meantime, we will still face the daily struggles with all of the influences around us. Paul understood that. He wrote to the Philippians, and to us, as well, “My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” When Paul says, “Stand firm,” it means, “Keep standing firm!” There are going to be many things that try to distract you. They are going to be many voices that say, “This is better,” or “This is more fun.” These voices will come from outside us and from inside us. How can we ever hope to stand up against them? The truth is we cannot stand up against them by our own power or cunning. We would certainly fail. That is why Paul says, “Stand firm in the Lord.” We continue to lean on Jesus for the strength to say “No” to the worldly influences. He has promised to be right there beside us as we battle them. We know that, with his help, we will be victorious. We know this because he was victorious over all of them and he shares that victory with us. May God help us to be aware of these influences and, with his help, to fight against them.
There are few things worse than getting lost. You think that you know the way, but you can’t get to where you want to go. Sometimes, the fault is the directions we are given. Either way, whether it is because of our fault or wrong directions, we are still lost. When we have clear directions, we find the way to where we want to go. The world gives us so many bad directions. Our sinful nature would like us to follow them. In the end, if we follow them, we will be lost for all eternity. We thank our God that he has given us the clear directions to our home in heaven. We get to heaven through our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has told us all about what he has done for us in his Word. He shows us how we can thank him while we are here on this earth. He has given us the right directions to our eternal home. Amen.
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