This week Jimmy continued our series, To The Philippians, with a message on living for heaven and not this world. When we live with a heavenly perspective, we know Jesus more and we are free to love people.
3 ways to Apply This Week’s Message:
This week, pick a passage from the Bible and answer these three questions. If you aren’t already reading a specific book, start in the Gospels.
- 1. Know // After reading the passage, ask yourself what you now know about Jesus that you didn’t know before.
- 2. Be // Based on what you now know about Jesus, how do you want to be more like Him?
- 3. Do // What are the action steps you will take?
Living for heaven (3:12-4:1)
Paul beautifully outlined the fundamental truths of our faith in the previous verses. It’s the anchoring truth we acknowledge, but we also often live discouraged because our real world does not come into alignment. We know Christ died for us, we know the Spirit is transforming us, we know we are made for relationship with Jesus – so why do we seem to stay stuck in our old way of living?
Press On (3:12-14)
Verse 12 acknowledges this tension, “Not that I’ve already attained all this…but I press on.” He repeats this in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize.” The fact that we still struggle does not invalidate the truth of the preceding verses. Paul struggled to live out his faith, just like we do; however, he pressed on. He didn’t give up when things we difficult. He didn’t try to justify his failures by somehow saying it was God’s fault or that His Word was insufficient. No, instead, he pressed on.
We can take hold of it – a fully alive relationship with Jesus – because Jesus has already taken hold of us. We work because He worked. We take hold, because He already took hold. On the one hand, it’s going to be effort, hard work and endurance on our part, but it’s only possible because He already did His part.
Two concrete steps are given in teaching us how to press on:
- 1. Forgetting what is behind // When our focus is on ourselves, we become past-focused. Our past successes become a place of boasting which causes pride. Our past failures become a place of shame which immobilizes. To truly live a Jesus-centered life, we need to lift our eyes off our past and put them on Jesus.
- 2. Straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize // Our spiritual walk is compared to a race (see 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:1-2). Races require endurance and exertion, or straining. We need to let go of the past, and then we need to put on our running shoes and pursue Jesus.
These verses are very equalizing. Rather than presenting himself as a superhuman, Paul is showing that he struggled, just like we do, and that provides an example for us to follow.
Paul’s Example: Live for Heaven (3:15-4:1)
Spiritual maturity is rooted in our ability to understand that our sins are forgiven in Jesus through faith, that we are given power by His Spirit, and that we have a responsibility to “press on” and “work it out.” This is fundamental theology. And it’s also something we will spend a lifetime trying to learn. In the meantime, let’s trust God to reveal this to us in greater ways (verse 15), and let’s live up to what we already know (verse 16).
A predominate theme of the book of Philippians is the charge to follow Godly examples. We have Paul as an example, Timothy as an example, Epaphroditus as an example and ultimately Jesus Himself as our Chief Example. This point is driven home in verses 17-21. Human examples are given to us so we can follow them. And it didn’t stop two thousand years ago, we are invited to follow the examples of other people who live this way.
This is an important point for us in our spiritual growth. Yes, we need to think rightly (3:15) but we also need help to live rightly (3:16), and we learn to do this is by following right examples. Community is critical for discipleship; in fact, I don’t believe the two can be separated.
The difficulty is that most people don’t live this way; they are not examples to follow. As a result, most of us spend most of our time interacting with examples of what not to do. We face a constant tug in the wrong direction as we run our race. We need spiritual discernment and deep anchoring in the truth to stay focused in the right direction. We love those around us, but we cannot follow them.
Verse 18 is deeply emotional, a father pleading in tears with his children. We need to pay close attention to not follow the example of the world; it is an enemy of the cross and its destiny is destruction. The path of the world is broad and easy to follow, but the way of Jesus is narrow (Matthew 7:12-14).
Paul listed out several warning signs that we are following the wrong examples:
- 1. Their god is their stomach // Any philosophy or worldview that is primarily centered on self-gratification is going to lead to destruction. This perspective puts the appetites of man at the center, whether food or lust or money. Modern philosophy teaches us to pursue our natural instincts and that happiness is found in fulfilling our fleshly desires. But this only leads to death; Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and find life in Him (Matthew 16:24-26).
- 2. Their glory is their shame // What the world exalts is the opposite of what God exalts. We boast in our own achievement. Instead, this is actually our shame – rubbish even. When our identity is found in ourselves and our accomplishments, then we miss out entirely on the chance to have true confidence. We can mask the insecurity inherent in our sinful nature, or we can instead let Jesus stamp a new identity upon us and find a genuine confidence that comes from Him.
- 3. Their mind is set on earthly things // Ultimately, this is essence of the problem. Humanism and any other man-centered philosophy is rooted in finding fulfillment in this life. This can be altruistic or this can be entirely material, but either way it is all about self. Before blindly following the philosophy of this world, we need to ask ourselves: Does this make sense in light of heaven?
We counteract this trend toward willingness by fulling embrace verse 20, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” This revolutionizes our perspective; it transforms our way of living. It is the secret to Paul’s lifestyle. His life, and all the other examples listed, does not make sense if he only lived for this life, but it’s perfectly logical if he truly lived for Heaven.
Why pursue the appetite of our stomach for a short while if we have an eternity of satisfaction awaiting us? Why divide the church over our own selfish desires if we will one day be fully united in Christ? Why avoid suffering for the sake of Jesus if we will receive honor with Him forever? It all makes sense in light of heaven. And none of it makes sense if we follow the example of this world. This is the key point: To live is Christ and to die is gain, and this is made possible because 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 – Philippians 3:20.
By Jimmy Seibert – Senior Pastor