Philippians 3:1-14, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish…
That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:15, “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”
In verse 15 Paul is transitioning from his warning to guard against legalistic thinking by constantly “forgetting those things which are behind” in order to “reach forward” to Jesus and a work only yielded through a relationship with Him. He writes, “Therefore” (in light of the things he’s just discussed) if you “are mature” (if you desire completeness) “have this mind.”
Paul isn’t mixing words… He’s saying if you, as a Christian, really do desire the life Jesus saved you for this type of mindset is absolutely essential. Only the enthronement of Christ will remove the crown from self… Only a full dependency on Jesus will yield true and lasting Godliness. As the prophet Zechariah wrote (4:6) so many years ago describing this blessed life, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
As a matter of fact, Paul is so adamant to this point he boarders on the sarcastic. This line “if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” could be read as “if you don’t agree with what I’m saying, give it time and God will testify that I’m correct.” It’s as though Paul is saying, “If I can’t convince you of these things, I’m sure God will.”
Philippians 3:16, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”
One of the themes Paul is going to segue to as he works his way to the close of his letter is the basis for Christian unity - which is identical to the basis of our individual Christian joy. The reality of God’s grace and the indwelling of His Spirit should not only fill a person with a supernatural joy, but it should create an unbreakable commonality among the brethren.
Paul writes, “To the degree that we have already attained” (or literally wherever you are personally in this process of sanctification by laying hold of Jesus) “let us” and by implication Paul means all of “us walk by the same rule” and “be of the same mind.”
Notice Paul’s exhortation centers upon three things: A common direction (“let us walk”), based upon a common belief (“the same rule” - the true Gospel of Grace alone), which should motivate a common determination (“be of the same mind” - pursuing Jesus).
Consider… If we’re all individually pursuing Jesus based upon the amazing nature of His grace alone, “walking” together in unity should be the natural and logical result!
Sadly, so much disunity ends up occurring among Christians or within a church when instead of pursuing Jesus (“walking by the same rule” and “of the same mind”) we’re each pursuing either our own agendas or have ended up falling into the trap of legalistic thinking. So often disunity and separation occurs when we become self-consumed or depart from grace.
Philippians 3:17-19, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things.”
In these verses Paul does something bold… He specifically sets himself up as an individual these Philippians could emulate because he knew bad examples would fill the void. Note: This is not the only time Paul has done such a thing. Twice in his first letter to the Corinthians Paul encouraged them to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” ( 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1).
Before I continue I want to make two important points… First, the church needs more Christian men and women willing to assume such a mantle. In a culture full of worldly influences jockeying for such a position, the church needs role-models willing to step up and present their lives as an open book for younger believers trying to figure things out.
It’s simply a truth that you’re spiritually healthiest when you (A) have someone investing into your life, and (B) you’re investing into the life of someone else. Everyone needs a mentor and everyone needs to be a mentor. This is what makes church life and subsequently church involvement so important for it should afford opportunities for both to occur naturally.
Personally, I am so thankful God has placed older men in my life like Larry, Joe, Gary, Andy, and Chad… Men who have taken the time to open up their lives for me to see the good, the bad, and even the ugly - all the while teaching me the power of God’s amazing grace and in whom challenge me daily in my pursuit of our Savior Jesus! And to those I seek to do the same, it is my sincere prayer I illustrate these same powerful truths.
In writing to his young disciple Titus (2:1-8) Paul says, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things - that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Here’s the key… Find an example and be an example!
But there is a second point I want to make specifically for fathers of sons… Never forget, with the singular exception of Jesus who can trump everything, no other man has the power to influence your son in his walk with God like you do! A pastor or mentor can make an impact, but it pales in comparison to what a father naturally does. Because God our Father took His name tag and placed it on you, you have an incredible responsibility!
I know this is heavy, but it’s a truth… Your son will worship the God you actually worship. Not the God you say you worship, but the one you do! As a matter of fact, sons don’t always follow the directives of Dad, but they will always immolate the example you set. If you want your son to grow up and follow Jesus, you need to show him how this is done.
If you want your son to understand the amazing grace of God, you need to demonstrate the power of that grace in your own life. If you want your son to treat his wife like Christ loves his church, it is your responsibility to set the example while he’s still living under your roof.
If you tell him attending church and studying the Bible should be a priority but it isn’t a priority for you, what do you think he’ll do the moment he’s given the opportunity to make his own decisions? He’ll join you on the couch to watch the race or game instead of coming to church. You’d never say that’s your god, but he’s witnessed this is the god you worship.
For a moment let me speak personally… I love the Atlanta Braves and if you hang around me you know I am a die hard Dawgs fan. But what you might not know is this has occurred mainly because my Dad is both an avid baseball fan and Georgia supporter…
And while those things are largely trivial, I should also point out that I love Jesus, cherish His bride the church, have given my life to the ministry, want to serve my community, am determined to remain faithful and love my wife Jessica, am willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary for my children, and find character to be of the upmost importance… because this was largely the example for being a man my Dad immolated for me.
As a Dad with two sons of my own who watch and copy my every move, I am so deeply thankful my Dad showed me Jesus and didn’t just tell me about Him. In watching my Dad, even in his struggles and failings, I knew his faith was real and that the object of his faith (Jesus) wasn’t theoretical. Jesus was alive to him and the implications for me radicle.
Yes, we’re all free-willed creatures who ultimately have to make our own decisions, but I don’t want to be the type of Father who tells my sons to be the type of man I didn’t care to be! Instead, I want to be able to say to Q and Theo, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ!” You see, as Paul rightly knew, claiming such a role is so important for if I’m not interested in being such an influence for my sons some other man will take my place.
Once again it would appear that in this section of his letter Paul is simply reiterating in pen a lesson he’d already given in person. In warning the Philippians about these bad influences he writes, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping.”
In order to understand who it is that Paul is referring to look at the last line of this section. Paul describes these people as those “who set their mind on earthly things.” Though Paul began this chapter warning against legalistic Christians (those who adopt a “Grace, And” or “Grace, But” mentality to spirituality), it would appear he’s now transitioned to a warning against carnal Christians or what I’d define as the “Grace, So” I can do anything perversion.
Sadly, there are people who believe that since you’re saved and sanctified by grace, there is now no restrictions on the things you can do. The irony is that while these people do understand the freeing nature of grace (it’s true you can do anything as God’s favor is provided independent of the individual), tragically they end up distorting grace.
Instead of grace yielding greater holiness and a sanctified life as it’s designed to do, grace is seen as a license for whatever goes. Unmerited favor in place of sin plus Jesus’ complete forgiveness concerning sin is viewed as an unrestricted permit to sin!
It’s what I like to call the Romans 6:1 mentality… “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound!” While it’s true that if you're worried grace can become a license for sin you have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace, it’s equally true that if you see grace as a license to sin you also have an equally distorted and perverted view of grace.
You see if you truly grasp the True-Gospel of “Grace. (period)” you will understand that being saved and sanctified by grace transforms who you are and therefore what you want to do - for when the heart changes and you enter into a love relationship with Jesus your desires will naturally and organically transform! You no longer live to please Jesus because you have too… You live to please Jesus because you now want too!
Let me quickly illustrate this point… The quickest way you can tell a single man is in love is that he’ll make all the life changes his mom and dad have been harping on him to make for years. Because of love he’s now interested in getting a place of his own, a steady job, health insurance. Over night personal hygiene becomes important. He starts showering daily, uses shampoo with conditioner, shaves, even buys deodorant. Love naturally changes him.
Friend, here’s the truth… If the basis of your relationship with Jesus is “grace, so” I can do whatever I want, you not only fail to fully understand grace, but do you actually love Jesus? I don’t think so. You see Paul would say such an outlook reveals you’re actually making a mockery of the death and resurrection of Jesus! To those who take this approach Paul would simply ask in Romans 6:2, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
Though Paul would fight tooth and nail against the legalistic tendencies of “Grace, And” or “Grace, But”, as it pertains to this “Grace, So” warping of grace Paul simply grieves. He writes, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping…”
In the presence of someone who excuses carnal living under the pretense of God’s grace, Paul weeps knowing these people are in actuality “enemies of the cross of Christ… whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame.” Paul weeps for such people knowing that this particular outlook so misses the mark the end result would be their “destruction.”
In the Greek this word “destruction” can be translated as perdition. The word is very strong. The idea is a perishing, complete ruining, total waist, or utter destruction. It’s the same word Jesus used in Matthew 7:13 when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.”
Friend, never fall into the trap of believing that grace leads a person into sin. But also never fall into the trap of believing grace will excuse the life of sin you’re living.
Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
What a line! Paul encourages unity on the basis of grace before adding, “For our citizenship is in heaven!” In the context of Philippi being a Roman colony this Philippian church understood the core implications of what Paul was getting at. As a colony of Rome, while located in Greece, the very soil of Philippi was considered Italian. They were located 1000 miles from the center of the Empire, but they held all the same rights and privileges of Rome.
When Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” he’s not only saying our home isn’t on this planet and that our ultimate allegiance transcends any particular country, but that we’re governed by a heavenly authority. In Jesus we have been given a heavenly citizenship… One that completely transcends any nation, color, party, or creed.
And note Paul uses a present tense. This “citizenship” isn’t something we’re awarded once we leave this earth. Instead, this is a status we’re bestowed the moment we accept Jesus as our “Savior!” Today, you are a citizen - not of this earth - but of heaven! Incredible!
Over the last year our society has had this national discussion as to what it means to be a Patriotic American. Not only has the issue of what it truly means to be “patriotic” been argued at noisome, but even what it means to be “America” has become contentious in the context of illegal immigration. Yes, the last year has been nasty, politicized, and even polarizing.
And though I want to be clear that I personally appreciate this great country we’ve been given, cherish the freedoms - comforts - and opportunities it has afforded me and my family, recognize its faults but also its uniqueness in the context of world history, and believe the honorable thing is to demonstrate a sincere thankfulness to those who’ve served to insure this crazy experiment can continue free of tyranny - Christians have missed the point.
Yes, we all presently live in America. Sure, I believe we should participate to some degree in the political structure of this society because God has afforded us the opportunity to do so. As it pertains to this land and the leaders who’ve been elected by men but ordained by God to govern it, we should pray for them. No doubt you can be active in the square, speak with the voice God has given you, and stand for the Truth that supersedes the laws of mere man.
But we should never forget who we actually are! While I’m an American, may I never forget my citizenship is heaven! Though I have a 30-year mortgage on a house in Monroe Georgia, my home is in heaven! We all have county commissioners and state representatives, a governor, two senators, congressmen, judges, a Supreme Court, and a President, but may we never ever forget our King sits in heaven where we are all citizens!
In this debate about American Patriotism Christians have lost sight of the fact we’re been called to a Heavenly Patriotism! We are first and foremost “citizens of heaven!” Who cares if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Demican, or Republicrat? Who cares if you watch Fox News or MSNBC? Who cares if you’re a natural born citizen of these United States or an undocumented immigrant seeking a better life? Who cares if the President is a Kenyan named Barak or a secret Russian operative named Trump?
Seriously! I look around at this world going to hell and I take solace in one incredible reality… I’m a citizen of heaven! You see this is what should make Christians and the church not only unique, but dangerous. Not only is the church a colony of heaven as it’s made up of the citizenry of heaven, but our ultimate allegiance isn't to party or country, it’s to Jesus.
As a citizen of heaven and a colony on earthly our focus shouldn’t be on these trivial issues that don’t really matter in the context of eternity, but rather on two amazing aims… We’re to be “eagerly waiting for the Savior, Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” and actively “making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
The most dangerous force this secular world should be concerned about isn’t the illegals jumping a fence to invade a chuck of earth or who’s going to arrange the deck-chairs on the Titanic, but a group of foreign citizens seeking to win the world for Christ! China understands the danger of the church which is why there is an incredible persecution ensuing.
Christians in America miss the point when we spend our energies trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth as opposed to making lost earthlings citizens of heaven. Once again I’m not advocating apathy, isolationism, or fatalism as it pertains to politics; and yet, how so quickly we forget the fact the fate of America will be similar to that of the rest of the world. America will be destroyed, so it’s a good thing your citizenship and King is in heaven!
As we close we need to look at this passage from a different angle. Paul makes two incredible declarations about Jesus and what He can and will do in your life because of your citizenship. First, as your “Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ will transform your lowly body.” As a matter of fact, Paul continues by saying your body will “be conformed to His glorious body.”
How incredible it is to consider this “lowly body” or literally in the Greek this vial body that exists in the lowliest state it will ever be on account of sin will one day soon experience a radicle transformation. In the original text there is only one word Paul uses we have translated as both “transformed” and “conformed.” A better reading would be that “Jesus will take our lowly bodies and transform them into the same form of His glorious body.”
Not only does the wording imply our physical bodies will experience a transformation so thorough we’ll literally reformed using a completely different schematic, but Paul is telling us that our physical state will be similar to what we saw in Jesus’ post-resurrection experience.
Think about that… The new body Jesus will give you in eternity will still be human and that you’ll be recognizable as you, will be a body comprised of physical matter you can touch but one that can appear and disappear, walk through walls, teleport, fly, but still fill with food, and beyond all of this, will be a body that will never die and one in which you will live in forever.
And while that is amazing in and of itself… Paul also says of Jesus that as your Savior He “is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Though in context Paul is saying that Jesus’ might has no limitations, the word “subdue” meaning “to arrange under, subordinate, put into subjection, or to place under one’s control” possesses a more immediate implication.
In light of everything Paul has been discussing within this chapter I find this statement to contain an incredible promise. What Paul is saying is that there is literally nothing Jesus as your Savior and Lord does not have the ability to “subdue” or put under His control!
Think about what this actually means… Paul is saying that there is no struggle you could ever face that Jesus isn’t able to overcome… No fear He can’t calm… No insecurity He can’t master… No sin He can’t provide victory over… No wound He can’t heal… No addiction He can’t liberate you from. There is nothing you will face that Jesus isn’t able conquer!
While legalism ultimately fosters failure for you can never be good enough, the flesh possess no power in and of itself, and in your own energies things so quickly spiral out of control as I’m sure you know, if you lay hold of Jesus He’s more than able to “subdue all things to Himself!” Friend, give up and grab hold of your Savior. He’s more than able!
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